The print album L’Epreuve only existed for one year.
It was published ten times between December 1894 and December 1895, in editions of 200 regular and 15 deluxe portfolios.
The aim of the publisher Maurice Dumont was twofold: to produce an especially lavish album, while also forging a link between printmaking and literature.
Both young and established artists contributed, including most of the up-and-coming figures drawn from Symbolist circles, such as the Nabis.
Exclusivity and finesse
Each instalment consisted of a portfolio of ten prints and a deluxe portfolio with a bonus print.
The deluxe edition was printed on fine and varied paper, signed by the artist and featuring remarques in some cases.
The portfolio also included trial proofs and different states.
An employee of L’Epreuve talked of ‘painstaking selection from hundreds of types of paper and countless trial proofs in order to achieve perfection.’
While the affiliation with literature was a key element from the beginning, it was only from the third instalment onwards that the print album was accompanied by a literary supplement consisting of several pages of poems and fragments from contemporary literature, by Symbolist authors like Paul Verlaine.
The supplement was produced in collaboration with the magazine Pan, which had a similar concept.
It was not very successful, however, and L’Epreuve ultimately remained first and foremost a print album.
L’Epreuve, 10 dln., 1894-1895.
Janine Bailly-Herzberg, Dictionnaire de l'estampe en France. 1830-1950, Paris, 1992.
Jean-Pierre Seguin, Maurice Dumont (1869-1899): peintre-graveur, illustrateur, poète et éditeur de L’Epreuve, Paris, 1991.