The Les Merveilles de la Vapeur from 1958 is credited to Philippe Ledoux (link to his biography) and is yet another beautiful example of his undeniable skill and gift as an accomplished illustrator and storyteller.
The Les Merveilles de la Vapeur as the title suggests marvels at and celebrates early steam engine inventions and the genii behind them.
Names of inventors and contributors to what would ultimately become the modern-day steam engine, are referenced on a banner that encircles the title of the scarf.
We find names of famous and perhaps more obscure inventors like Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot and Denis Papin, whose steam digester, was the forerunner to both the pressure cooker and the steam engine itself.
Thomas Newcomen (mistakenly spelled with two “m”s on the carre), who engineered the atmospheric engine in 1712 and thus making it the first practical fuel-burning steam engine, on the other hand, might be more widely recognized. Newcomen’s engine was a significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution.
In this tribute Hermès and Ledoux did not just focus on the masterminds and innovators but a number of their marvelous machines themselves.
In the lower left corner for example is the Samson (locomotive), built by Timothy Hackworth in Durham, England, in 1838. This railroad steam locomotive ran on the Albion Mines Railway in Nova Scotia, Canada. Retired now and restored to its former glory, it is on display at the Nova Scotia Museum.
The Burstalls & Hill Steam Car (1824) can be seen ferrying passengers in style, while the French Le Castor (1793) steam ship awaits passengers most likely in its home port of St. Malo.
The Goldsworthy Gurney steam carriage depicted at the top of the Ledoux design was engineered by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney. Gurney, a fascinating man, was an English surgeon, chemist, architect, builder, lecturer, and consultant. And according to Wikipedia “a prototypical British gentleman scientist and inventor of the Victorian era”. He designed his steam carriage in the late 1820s.
The Les Merveilles de la Vapeur is a fascinating composition with so much to discover and learn; a beautiful retelling of history with vignettes as lively and captivating as photographs are today. This carré has to my knowledge been re-issued once in 1986, thus making it a rare treasure not just for steam engine enthusiasts and Ledoux collectors , but for all Hermès aficionados and scarf lovers alike.
The Les Merveilles de la Vapeur is in my opinion an exceptional example of Ledoux’s legendary contribution to the Hermès carré!
THere is a recent post about the Limited Edition from 1986.