Mes maîtresses

Jean Fayard (1902 - 1978)
Jean Lébédeff (1884 - 1972)

At the end of the nineteenth century, the production of low-priced novels had grown enormously in order to meet ever-increasing audience demand. For this literature- which was often illustrated- costs were kept to a minimum, and the quality of paper and printing methods was often poor. The editions ran in the tens of thousands and more. Arthème Fayard (1866-1936) took advantage of these developments by introducing the Modern-Bibliothèque in 1904. Publication as part of a series provided a certain level of customer fidelity, and the series was modestly priced at 95 centimes.

Fayard introduced another book series in 1924, this time under the name Le livre de demain (The contemporary book). Fayard wished to reach new groups of readers with this series, from sophisticated bibliophiles to the mass audience. It became an enormous success. The series was recognizable by its striking, dark-yellow dust jackets, it was printed on paper that was soft to the touch, and the typography also made for books that were easy to read. Modern artists provided modern wood engravings, which by the way were not printed from the original blocks but from clichés. Advertisements on the interior of the jacket also generated further income.

Mes maîtresses is about a mediocre man with a dull job. He attempts to rise above his frustrations by fantasising his own memoirs, narrating exciting encounters with charming women. The story by Jean Fayard was provided with wood engravings by Jean Lébédeff, who illustrated approximately 25 volumes in the series. This was volume 105. Jean Fayard was a journalist, and the son of 'Arthème the Great'. He took over his father's role as director of the publisher after his death in 1936, and established new series like 'Géographie pour tous' and 'Connaissance de l'historie'.

  • Title page and frontispiece by Jean Lébédeff

Bibliographical description

Mes maîtresses / Jean Fayard ; 43 bois orig. de Jean Lébédeff. - Paris : Fayard, 1931. - 124 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. - (Le livre de demain ; 105)
Louis Bellenand et fils (Fontenay-aux-Roses)
With autograph dedication from the author
Koopm A 134


  • Sophie Grandjean, 'Les éditions Fayard et l'édition populaire', in: Le commerce de la librairie en France au XIXe siècle: 1798-1914. Paris, IMEC: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1997, p. 229-232
  • Histoire de l'edition francaise, Tome IV: Le livre concurrence 1900-1950. Paris, Promodis, 1986