Histoire de Bélisaire

Year: 1926

Author: Pierre Girard (1892 - 1956)

Publisher: Gondrexon

Histoire de Bélisaire, title page

The name Gondrexon may be more familiar to dog lovers than to bibliophiles, for they will be more likely to know the name of international dog expert Anne Gondrexon-Ives Browne than that of bibliophile and printer/publisher Jean Albert Gondrexon, who worked in the Netherlands and to whom she was married in 1933.

Gondrexon was half French and half Dutch: his father was Albert Charles François Gondrexon, an architect (Nomény 1871-Antwerp 1928); his mother, Johanna Maria Suzanna Adriana Kleyn van Willigen, was the daughter of a merchant and city councilor from Delft. Gondrexon was born in Brussels on 15 January 1905 and moved from Antwerp to The Hague in 1927, where he moved rapidly from one address to another. He lived in Paris for a short period from 1930 to 1932. After an internship at the Trio printing business, where A.A.M. Stols was then in charge, Gondrexon finally became the director Van Marken, the printing establishment of the Gist- and Calvé factory in Delft, which he left in 1967. He died some twenty years later in 1985. Besides being a printer, he was also an author, a bibliophile and a publisher.

Bibliophile and publisher

Initially, Gondrexon mainly collected books, which he would sometimes sell off again later. In this period he also had books published for himself and for his small circle of friends: a most exclusive company of six people at most. In 1925 for instance – he was twenty years old at the time – he was able to persuade printer/publisher Stols of Boosten & Stols to print a small piece of text by Jacques de Lacretelle: Mélanges sur l'amour et les livres terminés par un envoi. Six copies were produced on Dutch Van Gelder 'Pour les amis de Jean Gondrexon'. They were published in The Hague while Gondrexon was still living in Antwerp. These plaques are now obviously impossible to find. The Koopman Collection holds the Gallimard edition from the same year, which was printed in a slightly larger edition of 35 copies.

He established a publishing business in The Hague in 1926 named Le Bon Plaisir: the publisher's emblem was an image of a bunch of grapes. Only three editions are known to be in existence, and the colophon indicates that they were printed for the benefit of Jean Gondrexon. Each edition consisted of about 200 copies. The publishing business was run from his first address in The Hague: Van Aerssenstraat 58. The first book to be published was by Jacques de Lacretelle: Colère, suivi d'un journal. It appeared in March 1927. A sketch for the title page carried comments by the author, and was included as advertising material in the magazine Het Fransche boek ('The French book'), for which Gondrexon wrote occasional contributions: in this case Lacretelle's bibliography. Gondrexon also wrote a review for Het Fransche boek in 1927 of a book by Gaston Zelger, but did not become a regular contributor. He would later leave French literature for what it was and start assisting his wife with her translations of books about dogs.

Typographical masterpiece

The Netherlands-France Society published a review of Colère in which M.J. Premsela praised the publisher's 'genuinely refined taste' and the 'beautiful typographical work' of his books. This work relied heavily on the cooperation of Dutch typographers S.H. de Roos and S.H. Wijnhoven, who designed and etched the title, sub-titles and initials. The book was printed by Geuze in Dordrecht. Gondrexon's second edition was also reviewed by Premsela in Het Fransche boek, in which it was called a 'typographical masterpiece'. This work was Histoire de Bélisaire by the Swiss writer Pierre Girard, a poetic story about an imagined love that is crossed by an actual love affair.

For this second book, Gondrexon used the Erasmus font face by S.H. de Roos. This was again printed by Geuze in Dordrecht, who published the book in September 1926. The Koopman Collection copy is one of 26 special copies for friends: the one intended for publisher and typographer A.A.M. Stols. Gondrexon wrote a dedication in it: 'To my teacher, but above all to my friend'. Stols was also responsible for bringing Gondrexon into contact with the author Valery Larbaud, which led to the publisher's most beautiful booklet in June 1927: 200 chambres, 200 salles de bains, about life in luxurious hotels. This publication ended his short career as a publisher. But during the war, Gondrexon was able to do something for Stols in return, publishing the story Valken ('Falcons') by Jan Willem Hofstra clandestinely at Van Marken in Delft. According to the colophon, the book was printed for S. Sanders – actually Alexandre Stols – and printed by Jan Kanon – who was actually Gondrexon.

Bibliographical description

Description: Histoire de Bélisaire / Pierre Girard. - La Haye : Gondrexon, 1926. - 60 p. ; 23 cm

Printer: P.J. Geuze (Dordrecht)

Edition: 176 copies

This copy: Number E of 26 copies (marked from A to Z), printed for A.A.M. Stols, on Dutch Van Gelder

Type: Erasmus

Note: With autograph dedication from Jean Gondrexon to A.A.M. Stols

Shelfmark: KW Koopm B 1470


  • C. van Dijk, Alexandre A.M. Stols, 1900-1973, uitgever/typograaf: een documentatie. Zutphen, Walburg Pers, 1992
  • Het Fransche boek,6 (1926/27)
  • Het Fransche boek,7 (1927/28)