Libraire-expert de livres et manuscrits anciens
14 000 €/$15,500
Estimation d'un livre ou d'un manuscrit

Réalisme. “Numéro 0”, suivi des numéros 1 à 6

Paris, 11 rue de Seine, 10 juillet 1856-mai 1857







In-folio pour le “numéro 0” (490 x 310mm) et in-4 pour les numéros 1-6 (281 x 218mm). Selon une convention adoptée depuis les études de Gilles Castagnès, on nommera “numéro 0” le numéro de Réalisme du 10 juillet 1856, imprimé mais non mis dans le commerce. Il se distingue des six numéros suivants par son format et son nombre de pages.

COLLATION : “numéro 0”, 10 juillet 1856 : [1]-4 ; Premier numéro, 15 novembre 1856 : [1]-16 ; Deuxième numéro, 15 décembre 1856 : [17]-32 ; Troisième numéro, 15 janvier 1857 : [33]-48 ; Quatrième numéro, 15 février 1857 : [49]-64 ; Cinquième numéro, 15 mars 1857 : [65]-80 ; Sixième numéro, avril-mai 1857 : [81]-88

RELIURE DE L’ÉPOQUE. Percaline de soie prune, dos à la bradel

RARETÉ : à ce jour, seuls deux exemplaires complets des sept numéros sont connus dans le monde, en plus du notre. Tous deux sont conservés dans des institutions publiques :
1. la Bibliothèque nationale de France conserve un exemplaire du “numéro 0” [cote RES G-Z-309] et un exemplaire des six numéros suivants [cote RES M-Z-400] ;
2. la bibliothèque de l’Institut de France conserve également un exemplaire du “numéro 0” et des six numéros suivants [fonds Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, “Réalisme - 1856-1857”, cote D 767]. Ce second exemplaire comporte une note autographe d’Edmond Duranty sur le “numéro 0” : “Ce numéro ne fut pas mis en vente. Nous convînmes, Assézat et moi, de le supprimer parce que je voulais faire l’autre Réalisme, mes idées s’étant modifiées sur la question. Duranty. Le présent exemplaire doit être unique, à l’heure qu’il est, car je ne crois pas que nous en ayons donné plus d’une dizaine, si même ils ont été donnés. Avril 1877”.

PROVENANCE : “E. Duranty” (ex-libris autographe sur le “numéro 0”), suivi de la mention autographe “pas paru”

Occasional spotting

“The amazing thing” (Émile Zola)

The review Réalisme, in a few months and seven issues, operated a revolution in the history of art. Réalisme worked notably to free poetry from romantism by bringing together the most advanced avant-gardes under its name, but announced a revolution in painting which would come about years later. Its reading is essential to understand the movement which started with Gustave Courbet in the 1850s and ended in the triumph of impressionism in the 1880s. In 1856, Edmond Duranty was twenty-three years old when he founded the review with two of his friends, Jules Assézat and Henri Thulié. Twenty years later, Duranty would once again establish himself as the first defender of the impressionists in La Nouvelle peinture (1876). He would then rightly recall that he was already preparing their arrival in the few issues of Réalisme.

The thought conveyed by Réalisme like any real avant-garde idea, was only truly understood years later by the happy few, and had not yet finished surprising by its precocity. In 1856, the word of the young Duranty was preached in a near desert : “hardly fifty people I won’t say will admit, but only were aware of this magazine” (Réalisme, Numéro 2). We can even ask ourselves if Réalisme only had two subscribers, the only subscription letters that we found in the file put together by Assézat and completed by Duranty (kept at the library of the Institut de France) being those of one of their high school professors, and a professor from the École de Peinture de Montpellier. The trio of friends carried the review as far as they could, financing it at a loss, with an unfailing faith and energy. One of the stratagems they used to make believe in an international community united around realism, was to invent letters addressed to the magazine from all the regions of France, and even outside the borders from America and signed by pseudonyms. In the spring of 1857, after a “numéro 0” pilot and six issues, the magazine had to be discontinued due to lack of financing. Duranty’s farewell to readers in the final issue took the form of prophecies concerning painting.

A purgatory of twenty years would ensue before a new generation of novelists, poets and painters, hardly younger than that of Duranty, would recognize its veracity. Émile Zola, with the lucidity for which he is known, was the first to pay homage to the champion of Réalisme in two articles published in 1878 :

“M. Duranty had therefore been a pioneer of naturalism. Everything that we are saying today, he had the intuition of before us… For me, Réalisme is a date, a very important and significant document of our literary history… But making a noise is nothing, the amazing thing is that these three young men brought about a revolution, formulated a whole body of doctrine” (Le Bien public).

The two reasons that harmed “the revolution” initiated by Réalisme since that time to the present day are a poor understanding of what the term “realism” covered and the historic circumstances of its appearance :

“Why are these early realists still so poorly considered ? They actually suffer from a double handicap. The first comes from a widespread distrust of an art that claims to represent reality… a misunderstanding consists in believing that they wanted to reproduce the real world in a photographic manner, even though all their writings show the opposite. The rejection of the daguerreotype in Champfleury, the importance of feelings and sensations in Duranty testify to this. The second handicap is their position in the chronology of the realist-naturalist movement. They make the mistake of being stuck between four giants : two “precursors”, Stendhal and Balzac ; two masters, Flaubert and Zola” (Gilles Castagnès).

A third essential reason is material. It was very difficult to consult all six issues of Réalisme put on the market, and totally impossible to have access to the famous “numéro 0”, until their very recent re-transcription (partial in 1970, without the “numéro 0”, then in 2017 with the “numéro 0”). It is therefore only in recent years that in-depth studies have given Réalisme back a prominent place :

“To read the magazine Réalisme, is indeed to dive back into a world which saw the birth of modernity at the crossroads of a romantism that we thought was dying but which is still triumphing thanks to the lyrism of Victor Hugo, of a Parnassus that declared itself with the Émaux et Camées by Gautier, of a symbolism and an impressionism in preparation. It is discovering forgotten authors and meeting those that have become immortal : studies on Rétif de la Bretonne, G. Sand, Balzac, Hugo, Champfleury or Flaubert, the commentary on the translations of Edgar Poe by Baudelaire and those of novels of Dickens that we are starting to read or the pictural analyses of Duranty would suffice to satisfy our curiosity” (Gilles Castagnès).

Or :

“one can maintain without exaggeration that between 1850 and 1860 this little magazine represented the most considerable effort that was made to become aware of the esthetic ideal of which evolution would later lead to naturalism” (H. U. Forest).

Despite this impossibility of consulting the sources, the legend of the magazine preceded it.

The “numéro 0”

In 1853, Edmond Duranty was appointed third class clerk in the Administration des Domaines et Forêts de la Couronne with a salary of 1,800 francs per month. He had just finished his studies at the Ecole François Ier (the future Chaptal high school) with his friend Jules Assézat, the son of a typographical worker (a useful quality to found a magazine). After his work days, Duranty frequented various literary cafés including the Brasserie Andler, Gustave Courbet’s headquarters on rue Hautefeuille. In 1856, his mother introduced him into the salon of Louise Colet that Champfleury frequented. The essential meetings took place during these three years. In the spring of 1856, Edmond Duranty and Jules Assézat decided to launch a magazine bringing together and promoting the ideas that they had been developing for some time. The trial run was a master stroke. The first issue, conventionally called “numéro 0”, actually bore a number “1” printed on its upper angle. Its rarity makes it extremely precious as does its contents. It already had in substance all that would be developed in the other issues : “the tone was set in this first issue which contained some important ideas just waiting to be taken up and developed” (Gilles Castagnès).

The two friends decided however not to have it printed, preferring to further deepen their ideas for the marketing of the review. Very little information remains on the circumstances surrounding this “numéro 0”, if not the note that Edmond Duranty would write, in April 1877, on the copy kept at the Institut de France :

“This issue was not put up for sale. We agreed, Assézat and I, to delete it because I wanted to make the other Réalisme, my ideas having been changed on the question. This copy must be unique, at this time, because I don’t believe we had given more than about ten, if indeed they had been given”.

Edmond Duranty’s ideas were not so much modified as developed. As for the possible ten copies of this “numéro 0” having perhaps existed, Duranty recants immediately : “if even they have been given”.

Romantic lie : “Hugo deceives us” (Duranty)

From this “numéro 0” of July 10, 1856, Edmond Duranty threw a stone in the lying mirror of romantism (“Echo or mirror seeking of itself”, wrote Coleridge). He even announced a broader death sentence for poetry :

“And I propose the following law : Article 1. All poetry is prohibited on penalty of death. Any verse brought into the world will be destroyed. - Article 2. This law has no retroactive effect. - Article 3. Verses composed prior to this law will be removed from circulation and put into locked and sealed drawers. Any person who attempts to open these drawers shall be punished with a large fine”.

A poetic revolution was called to see the light of day whose vehemence of tone would find itself at Lautréamont then, in the following century, in the Dada and Surrealist manifests.

Duranty overturned a hitherto well-established opinion by affirming that the romantics when speaking of feelings in fact go precisely against feeling. He called this lie of romantism “the affectation, the dryness, the chatting, the puerility, the manner” (fifth issue, p. 69). Duranty’s words obviously lack nuance and moderation but they point the finger from this “numéro 0” on, to what would become one of the great problems of modernity in art : the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity, universality and singularity. In 1856, it is still far from “I is another” but Duranty scratches the mirror of romantism by declaring that the romantic poet is not sincere. Rimbaud would later condemn the “subjective poetry [… ] always horribly bland” of the romantics, in his Lettre du Voyant (May 13, 1871).

Edmond Duranty would continue by castigating the imposture of false prophets powerless in “changing lives” (Rimbaud) :

“as the romantics were all poets, the poet was the most perfect God. The poet saw more clearly in life than all of humanity ; the poet was, to him alone, the historian and the prophet, the scholar and the seer ; he was the philosopher par excellence, and his most grotesque imaginations were the precepts of wisdom and the rules of common law” (Réalisme, Cinquième numéro).

Victor Hugo was the first target of Réalisme. Through him, it was poetry as a whole that was targeted. The young trio excessively supported the blows that they dealt to him which Émile Zola excused in his articles of 1878 :

“Consider that they are lost in the middle of romantism and that they are bound to accomplish a work of reaction” (Le Bien Public, April 22, 1878).

Duranty first paints a long vitriolic portrait of Victor Hugo :

“In a salon, there is a man who still seems young, who is straight, spry, full of mannered bearing, who seems to have beautiful teeth, beautiful hair, a beautiful beard ; all this gleaming, shining and like new… This man finally returns home, and then false teeth, false hair, a corset, false manners, everything falls ; he is no more than a tired, completely discolored being who worries about the effect he might have produced… Voilà Hugo, an actor of poetry, a masked spirit where nothing is sincere, not even vanity… Hugo deceives us” (Réalisme, p. 39).

Edmond Duranty embraced Les Contemplations which had just been published (second, third and forth issues of Réalisme). One of the three articles by Duranty, while unfair, is striking in its surprisingly modern form and its writing which recalls the poetic experiences of the second half of the 20th century :

“there are only one hundred words in all this poetry, I take note of them conscientiously and deliberately : shadow, - dark, - immensity, - zenith, - blaze, - ray, - enormous, - giant, - lair, - hurricane, - sphere, - prodigy - flower, - perfume, - monster, - unknown, - thinker, - morose, - rose, - cry, - chasm, - abyss, - lightening - nadir, - fairy, - wing -, claw, - periwinkle, - globe, - dazzle, - fierce, - whirlwind, - pit, - skull, - Verb, - love, - flame, - depth, - forehead, - mouth, - eyes, - skies, - delirium, - ship, - skiff, - fold, - muck, - angel, - ocean, - Satan”.

The realists advocate a return to simplicity. They think a little naively that there is a direct equivalence between the world of things and that of words. Objectivity, sincerity and truth would go hand in hand. Figures of style, in particular the metaphor and the analogy on which poetry essentially rests are the most visible marks of mechanic manipulations that they denounce. By the time Réalisme was published, the first action was to free itself from the tutelage of romantism. Edmond Duranty therefore took the perfect opposite view of the popular poets. Later, traditional means of poetry would experience a return in favor but poetry, in the meantime, would become aware of its own pitfalls. It is also remarkable that this refusal by Duranty of the artifices of writing found an echo, one century later, in the white writing of the New Novel :

“M. Champfleury does not use big words, long tirades to explain a situation and the feelings that arise from it ; no moral analysis, no psychological research : his process is simpler, he makes do with the scene as it happened, without commentary” (Réalisme, fourth issue).


The newspaper Réalisme was published at an eminent date in the history of literature. Edmond Duranty would be among the first to publish a review of Madame Bovary in Réalisme. Flaubert’s novel, in spite of Duranty and Flaubert himself, gave new wings to the notion of realism.

Madame Bovary, a novel by Gustave Flaubert, represents the obstinacy of the description. This novel is one of those that is reminiscent of linear drawing, so much has it been done with a compass, with meticulousness ; calculated, worked, all at right angles, and ultimately dry and arid… There is neither emotion, nor sentiment, nor life in this novel, but a great strength of an arithmetician who has evaluated and put together all that he could have of gestures, steps or accidents on the ground, in the characters, events and countries given. This book is a literary application of the calculation of probabilities… Too much study does not replace the spontaneity that comes from feeling”.

The precision of Flaubert’s descriptions is no more appreciated than the play with the linguistic material that makes up Hugo’s poetry. With the romantics like Flaubert, Duranty points a finger at the absence of feelings but in different ways : the absence of feelings with the romantics comes from mockery and invention (so false feelings) while with Flaubert it would be a question of aridity. Edmond Duranty thus finds himself in the complex situation of wanting to link an objective description of the real and an expression of feelings. The key would be in the feeling.

Feeling is born from sensation :

“Knowledge and judgement being the product of feelings, we can only rely on them to understand the world ; and as they are relative to each individual, each one will have his own perception of what surrounds him, and will express it in his way” (Gilles Castagnès).

For Duranty, feeling will not find its best expression in literature but in painting :

“It is especially in the artistic field that the realists will soon find the illustration of their conceptions” (ibid.)

We will also note that Rimbaud, with the Illuminations – that is considered as the culmination of his poetic work – had for ambition to create “coloured plates”.

From Courbet to the Impressionists

At the end of the sixth and final issue of his magazine, Edmond Duranty takes leave of his readers. He lists all the subjects that he would have liked to broach and mainly that of painting :

“By entitling a series of articles “Maîtres Peintres”, we would have opened two or three paths for people who don’t like to lose their way or walk towards the setting sun”. (p. 88)

Like poets, painters apply only learned recipes and are incapable of seizing life in an individual and original way. Duranty had such faith in his ideas, that he thought that his articles on painting would lead to the closing of Luxembourg. In the “numéro 0”, he was already recommending setting fire to the Louvre to free contemporary painting from ancient models.

The origin of realism, before being theorized by Duranty, was precisely found in painting, and mainly that of Millet, Corot, Ingres and especially Courbet. Courbet’s first exhibitions highlighted “vulgar” subjects in huge formats :

“The scandal broke out in 1853 with Les Baigneuses, a painting that Napoléon III would have hit with his riding crop, according to Courbet himself, and when L’Atelier du peintre was refused at the Universal Exhibition of 1855, Courbet opened his own “exhibition avenue Montaigne. He wrote a prospectus to present his work, introduced by a one-page text entitled “Le Réalisme” (Gilles Castagnès).

Courbet had the same rejection of poetry as Duranty. It appeared from the first issues of Réalisme :

“Painting doesn’t exist as yet, Courbet would date the new era… It’s through the voices of MM. Courbet and Champfleury that the practical tendencies of realism are “roughly” exposed. Here’s what Courbet said (prospectus for the private exhibition of 1855) : “Knowledge for power, such was my thought. To be able to translate the morals, ideas, aspect of my era according to my appreciation, in one word, make art living, such is my goal”. This is clear”.

The final issue of Réalisme thus corresponds to its origin : painting. Duranty was one of the first to have understood the impressionist revolution, and we haven’t as yet sufficiently emphasized to what extent the painters of the new school confirmed his theoretical position. There is nothing surprising therefore that he defended them notably in his essay entitled La Nouvelle Peinture (1876).

“We could believe that Duranty who praised this “nouvelle peinture” in 1876 was no longer the virulent young man who had founded, twenty years earlier, the magazine Réalisme, and that his esthetic conceptions had evolved. On the contrary, impressionism perfectly illustrates the principles he had stated so early : the careful observation of reality, particularly the effects of the decomposition of light on the landscape, objects or living beings, constitutes an objective approach of the world, based on scientific data, but that the subjectivity of each artist expresses : “the most knowledgeable physicist could not reproach anything to their analysis of light” (La Nouvelle Peinture)” (Gilles Castagnès).

Duranty insisted on the continuity between realist principles that he defended in the 1850s and the artistic tendencies of the 1870s, retracing the genealogy of the actual movement, since the precursors passing through the “Salon des refusés de 1863”, without forgeting the role that he himself played :

“he who wrote these lines contributed in determining the movement of which he was one of the first to give the net esthetic formula nearly twenty years ago. Painting is bound to enter this movement that artists of great talent that have been trying to imprint since Courbet had, like Balzac, traced the furrow so vigorously” (La Nouvelle Peinture).

As for the refused of the 1863 Salon, they were “researchers”, the true innovators, those that knew how to face the outside and its bright light.

It seems indispensable to finally consider the original and determining place that these first theoreticians of realism occupy, not only in realist-naturalist movement as a whole, but also in relation to the esthetic evolution of the end of the 20th century :

“they are the first – Duranty especially – to have felt the direction that modern art should take. Their hatred of “materialistic” art and poetry is the expression of an intuition that they themselves may not be able to fully realize in their works but that others, impressionist painters notably, will undertake to accomplish”. (Gilles Castagnès).

BIBLIOGRAPHY : OCLC : n° 457443050 -- Gilles Castagnès, Réalisme (1856-1857). Journal dirigé par Edmond Duranty, Paris, 2017 -- Gilles Castagnès, “Edmond Duranty et le journal Réalisme (1856-1857) en guerre contre les poètes matérialistes”, in Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France, Paris, janvier-mars 1920, pp. 123-138 -- Gilles Castagnès, “L’antiromantisme des premiers réalistes : originalités et contradictions”, in Romantisme, 2018, n° 182-- Marcel Crouzet, Un méconnu du réalisme : Duranty 1833-1880. L’homme, le critique, le romancier, Paris, 1964 -- Louis-Édouard Tabary, Duranty. Étude biographique et critique, Paris, 1954 -- H. U. Forest, “Réalisme, journal de Duranty”, in Modern Philology, vol. 24, mai 1927 -- É. Gros-Kost, Courbet, souvenirs intimes, Paris, 1880-- Courbet, “Discours à l’exposition d’Anvers”, publié dans Le Précurseur d’Anvers, 22 août 1861

WEBOGRAPHY : exemplaire du “numéro 0” de Réalisme consultable sur gallica : :/12148/bpt6k10509546