The front cover of Bilitis

Master engraver François-Louis Schmied and Georges Barbier had worked together for several years on La guirlande des mois, but for some time they had had a much grander project in mind. Paris publisher Pierre Corrard had suggested a lavish Barbier-illustrated edition of Pierre Louÿs’ Les chansons de Bilitis as early as 1913, and when Corrard was killed in action in 1914 his wife Nicole was instrumental in keeping the publication on track. Although production was not finished until well after the end of the First World War, many of the illustrations are dated to 1914 and are some of Barbier’s finest early work.

Bilitis was published on 30 September 1922 in a limited edition of just 133 copies. It was illustrated by 42 colour plates, of which nineteen are full-page, designed by Barbier and engraved on wood by Schmied.

The result is one of the finest Art Deco interpretations of the book envisaged as a complete integration of words and images, emphasised by the use of bright colours embellished with gold and silver.