“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”
-André Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism
EXCEEDINGLY RARE DELUXE SET OF AVANTE-GARDE WORKS BY FOUR LITERARY MASTERS CONDITION. Each copy one of only 15 deluxe issues. Includes the deluxe issue of Duchamp’s important collection of aphorisms, “Rrose Sélavy”.
This extraordinary and complete collection (collectively “Biens Nouveaux”) of works by Marcel Duchamp, Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka and Gisèle Prassinos demonstrates the significance of absurdism, magical realism and surrealism across Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Published in April 1939 by Guy Lévis-Mano, one of the most creative French printers of the twentieth century, this complete series includes Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy, Lewis Carroll’s La Canne du Destin, Franz Kafka’s Le Chasseur Gracchus, and Gisele Prassinos’s Sondue. Each copy is one of only 15 of the deluxe issue printed on high-quality Vieux Japon.
This original edition of Marcel Duchamp’s book of aphorisms, Rrose Sélavy, is numbered two out of only fifteen copies on Vieux Japon. Duchamp’s female alter ego Rrose Sélavy was an artist, muse, and creative experiment that brought to life his symbolic use of language. Her name, as pronounced in French, sounds like “Eros, c’est la vie”, meaning “The passion of love [sex], such is life.” The playful puns and witty satire in this text provide clever commentary on society and the art world, offering the reader a glimpse into the mind of a revolutionary artist who believed in the joy to live and roam free in thought.
Lewis Carroll’s La Canne du Destin (The Cane of Destiny) is numbered thirteen out of only fifteen copies on Vieux Japon. Published posthumously in 1939, translator André Bay believed it was written in 1848 when Carroll was only 16. La Canne du Destin features two barons, a magician and a man named Blowski who dies and is transformed into mashed potatoes (!). It is notable for its fantastical storytelling and whimsical wordplay, a style which predated and foreshadowed Carroll’s most famous work Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. His writing inspired the work of surrealists, like Duchamp and Prassinos.
Le Chasseur Gracchus (English: The Gracchus Hunter; German: Der Jäger Gracchus), numbered seven out of fifteen copies on Vieux Japon, was translated by Henri Parisot in 1939 and is one of the earliest Franz Kafka’s stories published in French. A six-page story written in 1917, it was found posthumously among Kafka’s papers. The tale is about the long-dead Hunter Gracchus who is destined to wander aimlessly and eternally at sea, unable to find peace. The surrealist dreamlike imagery of the story explores themes of loneliness, alienation, and the human condition. This work represents a model for Kafka's later writing and a Kafkaesque dilemma, “two worlds that cannot make themselves understood by one another.” (Emrich)
Sondue (Sounded) by Gisèle Prassinos is numbered two out of fifteen copies on Vieux Japon. A French artist and writer she was discovered by André Breton in 1934, who declared “the tone of Gisèle Prassinos is unique: all the poets are jealous of it.” When she was just fourteen, her first book, La Sauterelle Arthritique (The Arthritic Grasshopper) was published. For many, her personification of animals in this story was reminiscent of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Hailed as a prodigy by the surrealists, Sondue, a novella-length narrative, was published when she was just 19 and considered macabre humor. Prassinos used automatic writing, sometimes referred to as free writing, a common surrealist technique. This was the last story she published before the start of World War II. She would not publish any writing again until 1958.
This “Biens Nouveaux” collection was beautifully printed on Vieux Japon, known for its velvety texture and substantial weight and only used by Guy Lévis Mano for premium projects. René Char, French poet and member of the French resistance explained, “When the passion to give life to a collection…unites with…the art of printing, it brings us admirable successes and restores the object to its lasting plenitude. Guy Lévis Mano is the only one today who satisfies this haughty concern. He devoted his faith, his competence, his generosity and his enthusiasm to it.” (Char 745)
1. Marcel Duchamp. Rrose Sélavy. Paris, G.L.M., 1939. First Edition. Small quarto (165 x 115 mm), original wrappers; glassine. Small closed tear to glassine at front base, otherwise fine. One of 15 original copies on Vieux Japon, this one number 2.
2. Lewis Carroll. La Canne du Destin (The Cane of Destiny). Paris, G.L.M., 1939.
Small quarto (165 x 115 mm), original wrappers; glassine. Fine condition. One of 15 original copies on Vieux Japon, this one number 13.
3. Franz Kafka. Le Chasseur Gracchus (The Gracchus Hunter). Paris, G.L.M., 1939.
Small quarto (165 x 115 mm), original wrappers; glassine. Fine condition. One of 15 original copies on Vieux Japon, this one number 7.
4. Gisèle Prassinos. Sondue (Sounded ). Paris, G.L.M., 1939. First edition. Small quarto (165 x 115 mm), original wrappers; glassine. Fine condition. One of 15 original copies on Vieux Japon, this one number 2.
André Breton. Translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. Manifestos of Surrealism. University of Michigan Press, 1969.
René Char. In the Poet's Studio. Gallimard “Quarto” collection, 1956.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Franz Kafka.” Encyclopedia Britannica, December 2, 2022.
Wilhelm Emrich. Translated by Sheema Z. Buehne. Franz Kafka. Frederick Ungar Publisher, 1961.
Alexander Hawkins. “Meet Rrose Sélavy: Marcel Duchamp’s Female Alter Ego.” AnOther Magazine. December 1, 2015.
Gisèle Prassinos. Translated by Ellen Nations. Surrealist Texts. Black Scat Books, 2014.
Rachel Rivenc and Kendra Roth, eds. Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art. Getty Conservation Institute, 2022.
Price: $9,500 .