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
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.
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