THE HISTORY AND STORY OF GISELLE, ‘ROMANTIC BALLET AT ITS BEST AND LOVELIEST’
POSNER, Sandy and Joyce MILLEN (artist). Giselle. The Story of the Ballet. Leicester: Newman Wolsey Ltd. [verso of title: ‘Sold by Boots The Bookseller’], 1945.
Small octavo in 16s (119 x 78mm), pp. 95, [1 (blank)]. Monochrome frontispiece, 2 colour plates printed recto-and-verso with illustrations, 17 monochrome illustrations in the text, 13 full-page, and 7 head- and tailpieces, all after Joyce Millen. (Outer ll. lightly spotted, a few light marks.) Original green cloth gilt, upper board lettered in gilt and blocked in blind with design of ballerina, colour-printed dustwrapper, not price-clipped. (Extremities very lightly rubbed and bumped, endpapers lightly spotted, dustwrapper lightly rubbed and marked, edges with small chips and short tear, neat adhesive tape repairs on verso). A very good copy in the dustwrapper.
First edition. Giselle transformed the dance world when it was first performed in Paris in 1841 by the legendary Italian dancer Carlotta Grisi and remains at the centre of the classical repertory until today. ‘The idea for the ballet Giselle originated with French poet and novelist Théophile Gautier, who took an interest in German poet Heinrich Heine’s retelling of a Slavic legend concerning the wilis, ghostly spirits of girls who have died before their wedding day. Gautier imagined a version in which a girl betrayed by her beloved dies of a broken heart but returns as a spirit to save him from retribution by the vengeful wilis. Her merciful act saves her from becoming a wili herself’ (Encyclopedia Britannica). The music was composed by Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856), who also created the Christmas carol ‘O Holy Night’ and the ballet Le Corsaire.
Published roughly a century after the ballet’s premiere, Giselle: The Story of the Ballet is based on the works of the British dance historian Cyril W. Beaumont and beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joyce Millen. It tells the story of Giselle’s creation and re-imagination by Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ and modern companies in the Soviet Union and at Sadler’s Wells, with the dancers Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn, and Vaslav Nijinsky, and the ballet-masters and choreographers Jean Coralli Peracini and Jules Perrot. According to Posner, Giselle is the ‘perfect example of the Romantic Ballet at its best and loveliest. It will endure as long as Ballet continues to delight its myriads of admirers in every land and clime’ (p. 53).
Giselle: The Story of Ballet forms part of ‘The Ballet Pocket Series’, a popular series of miniature books for adults, and this copy seems to have been an issue for Boots, since it bears the text ‘Sold by Boots The Bookseller’ on the verso of the title. Due to their small format and the poor quality of postwar materials, titles in ‘The Ballet Pocket Series’ are rarely found in good condition and frequently lack the dustwrapper. Library Hub Discover only locates 3 copies of Giselle in UK institutional collections (British Library, National Art Library, and Royal Holloway, University of London).
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