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The Gourary Töpffer Manuscript of Monsieur Jabot: A Question of Authenticity. With the Dating and Distribution of Rodolphe Töpffer's First Published Picture Story, and the World's First Modern Comic Strip

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The purpose of this essay is dual and makes for a two-part division: the first, after a physical description, argues for the authenticity, genesis and dating of the Gourary manuscript album of drawings for Monsieur Jabot. The existence of this manuscript, which I believe to be by the hand of Rodolphe Töpffer, is scarcely known, and its authenticity has been questioned. This first part describes the circumstances and rationale of its making, the intricacies of dating, the delay in distribution, and the very slight (with one or two more significant) improvements made in the printed version of 1833–1835. This latter represents Töpffer's first essay in autolithography of a sequence of humorous drawings, an histoire en images, Töpffer's invention within the controversial genre of caricature. The second part, in a connected account, uses the newly published correspondence to establish and confirm the chronology of the various stages of production of Jabot:1 redrawing (in the Gourary manuscript), transfer to lithographic paper, printing (1833–1834), and, finally, a long-delayed distribution through the author's peculiar private system de proche en proche ['gradually, by degrees']. I explain the delay and the changes made during production, and document the private distribution through friends from October 1835. The whole story has to be fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle in which some pieces are inevitably missing.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • European Comic Art is the first English-language scholarly publication devoted to the study of European-language graphic novels, comic strips, comic books and caricature. Published in association with the American Bande Dessinée Society and the International Bande Dessinée Society, European Comic Art builds on existing scholarship in French-language comic art and is able to draw on the scholarly activities undertaken by both organisations. However, our editorial board and consultative committee bring expertise on a wider European area of comic art production and the journal will emphasise coverage of work from across Europe, including Eastern Europe.
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