Other Currencies

Max Ernst — One of Three Known Copies

Partition de Joe Bousquet, XXII dessins de Max Ernst. Traduction de Paulette Bellime. Full Score.

[Paris]: Jacques Damase, January 20, 1950. Octavo (24 × 18.5 cm). Original pictorial gray paper wrappers over blind wraps; unnumbered leaves of text in English and French and [22] leaves of plates. A fine copy.

Exceedingly rare edition of a bilingual volume of poems (in French and English) by Joë Bousquet, with twenty-two illustrations by Max Ernst, based on a series of gouache drawings with collage elements prepared specifically for this edition. Although the colophon mentions a print run of 600 copies, the collaboration with the young publisher Damase (1930–2014), who had approached Bousquet while only 17 years old, was abandoned for not entirely clear reasons. Bousquet had fallen silent for weeks after receiving the proofs, and in January 1950 Damase finally printed only two copies for the 1950 exhibit of Ernst’s graphic works and book publications at the La Hune bookstore and gallery.

According to Damase’s 1976 memoirs, he ultimately abandoned the project and no additional copies were ever printed. Damase does mention that Heinz Berggruen prepared a “magnificent” re-edition of the work the following year, but no such book is known to exist. He is perhaps referring to the deluxe version of the catalog for Ernst’s exhibition at Galerie Drouin in March–April 1950, which contains part of the project (eleven of Ernst’s illustrations in color and Bousquet’s text, under the title “Absolument ou Le vide a l’envers”). This catalog (the trade edition with black-and-white plates) is also included in the present offer. Ernst furthermore owned the printing plates and would use them in subsequent years for his frottages, but the book as originally conceived was never reprinted.

A recent researcher notes that the book is absent from practically all bibliographies and exhibition catalogs of Ernst’s print oeuvre (“Partition… est à e jour un livre presque inconnu,” Krechting 147). Bousquet’s works are printed in French and English translation. The surrealist poet and art collector (1897–1950), who was paralyzed and bedridden following frontline battle during WWI, passed away shortly after the publication.

On the genesis of the collaboration and its sad fate, see Martin Krechting, “Un ‘livre de dialogues’: Partition” in Max Ernst: L'Imaginier des poètes (eds. Julia Drost, Ursula Moureau-Martini, Nicolas Devigne), pp. 147.

As of March 2022, KVK, OCLC only show a copy held at Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet. Apparently not held by the French National Library.

Book ID: 51850

Price: $17,500.00