HISTOIRE DES GIRONDINS, ou les Hommes Illustres de la Révolution Française. Lion Editeur. [Paris, Chez les Libraires det Mds de Nouveautés, n.d. but ca.
1850.]. Boxed set of three puzzles together with accompanying 8vo; comprising three hand coloured and gummed lithograph sheets each depicting 10 Revolutionary figures, laid down on thick card/ply and then dissected, puzzles interleaved with card trays edged on right side with silk pull tie (all a little fragile and one torn) ; together with 8vo text, pp. 16; text a little soiled, with small nick affecting upper fore-edge throughout; puzzles with some occasional light foxing and soiling, paper peeling away at corners of a couple of pieces, with small loss to one blank piece of Gensonné portrait; text stitched as issued in the original yellow printed wrappers, covers lightly soiled, small nick affecting rear wrapper at fore-edge; all housed within the original decorative box 280 x 418 x 28mm, upper cover with chromolithograph sheet by Antoine Bourgerie laid down, finished by hand and gouache, depicting proud Marianne (the personification of liberty, equality, fraternity) surrounded by the main figures of the Revolution, with embossed and gilt ribbon edging, small label with ms accession number adhered to inside lid, internal box lined with yellow glazed paper, left hand corners split but holding, upper cover somewhat soiled and darkened, some wear and rubbing to extremities, gilt edging somewhat faded; still an appealing set. A rare and most attractive boxed jigsaw puzzle set depicting some of the great figures of the early days of the French Revolution, though not, as the title would suggest, confined purely to the Girondins.
The present game, published by the noted Parisian manufacturer Lion, appears to have drawn inspiration from Alphonse De Lamartines (1790-1869) popular eight volume work of the same name, published in 1847. Whilst many of that famous republican political group are depicted, the portraits included are in fact not limited to the Girondists, with other prominent figures depicted, notably Mirabeau and Robespierre. In all thirty characters are represented, ten on each puzzle: Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Mirabeau, La Fayette, Bailly, Philippe-Égalité, Roland, Madame Roland, Dumouriez, Péthion / Vergniaud, Gensonné, Brissot, Guadet, Barbaroux, Charlotte Corday, Marat, Danton, Camille-Desmoulins, Santerre / Robespierre, Couthon, Saint-Just, Billaud-Varennes, Collot d'Herbois, Carnot, Cambon, Fouquier-Tinville, Tallien, Barras.
The Girondins played a leading role between 1791-1793 and included lawyers, intellectuals, businessmen, merchants and financiers. Their most prominent spokesman was Jacques-Pierre Brissot, and for a time some of the group held government positions, notably Jean-Marie Roland. His wife Marie-Jeanne held regular salons that were important meeting places for the group. At the time, they had the support of Thomas Paine. Through the summer of 1792, they vacillated their position towards the existing monarchy under Louis XVI, which was coming under serious attack. The storming of the Tuileries Palace on August 10th, which overthrew the monarchy, took place without their participation and marked the beginning of their decline, as more radical groups such as the Montagnards and Jacobins came to direct the course of the Revolution, and by the end of 1793 many had been denounced and executed or committed suicide, including Brissot, Gensonné, Guadet, Vergniaud and Madame Roland, and Charlotte Corday (after her assassination of the Jacobin leader Jean Paul Marat). Never an official organised political party, the name itself was originally bestowed by the Montagnards - many of the leading figures having been deputies of the department of Gironde. Contemporaries called them Brissotins, or Rolandins, but the term Girondins became standard after Lamartine’s publication.
The earliest examples of what we now call jigsaw puzzles were dissected maps, originally intended as educational games. John Spilsbury (1739-69) is associated with some of the earliest examples of dissected maps for teaching geography produced during the 1760s, and he is regarded as one of the first commercial producers of puzzles. Other early manufacturers of ‘jigsaws’ include William Darton & Son, and John Wallis & Sons in England, and Martin Engelbrecht in Germany. Throughout the Victorian period the number of puzzle makers increased, with names such as John Betts, Arthur Parks and William Spooner coming to the fore. Lion, operated in Paris between 1851-1885 and produced a wide variety of games, including historical and geographical lotteries, chess sets, and puzzles. Other puzzles produced included a History of France, and the History of Napoleon. Though undated, it may well be that the 1848 Revolution, which saw the collapse of the July Monarchy and the foundation of the Second French Republic, inspired the makers to celebrate some of their Republican forebears.
Bibliography: See http://www.jeuxanciensdecollection.com/2017/06/jeux-lion-a-puis-lion-fils.html