Yvette Guilbert represents a milestone in the history of illustrated books. Conceived as part of a proposed series on Parisian cafe singers (although it was the only book completed), this book was conceived by publisher Andre Marty, who had great success producing limited-edition print portfolios during the 1890s. The text by Gustave Geffroy uses the subject, the famed singer Yvette Guilbert, as a pretext to discuss the living and working conditions of her primary audience, members of Paris’s working class. Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithographs show scenes from the singer’s daily life. This unconventional pairing was a break from the traditional format of the illustrated book, as these images complemented, rather than replicated, the text.
The design of Yvette Guilbert was also groundbreaking because the images are fully integrated into the text and both are printed in the same olive-green color. The result is a book truly unified in both concept and aesthetic execution.