“THE SAME RELIGIOUS FORCE AS THE BIBLE ITSELF”: CHAGALL’S STUNNING ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE BIBLE, FIRST AMERICAN EDITION, WITH 105 HELIOGRAVURES AND 28 LITHOGRAPHS
CHAGALL, Marc. Illustrations for the Bible. Text by Jean Wahl. With an appreciation by Meyer Schapiro. New York: Harcourt, Brace, (1956). Folio (10-1/2 by 14 inches), original pictorial boards, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6500.
Scarce first American edition, published the same year as the first Paris edition, of Chagall’s extraordinary illustrations for the Hebrew Bible, with 105 etchings reproduced in heliogravure, as well as 12 black-and-white and 16 color lithographs prepared by Chagall especially for the present work and printed by Mourlot Frères, in very scarce original dust jacket.
A breathtaking blend of Chagall's childhood experience of the world of the Hebrew Bible as "another world that still existed behind the world of workaday reality" and his experience of Palestine during a 1931 trip, the artist's 105 etchings—together with 12 black-and-white and 16 chromolithographs composed especially for this book—constitute an "astonishing unity of word and image, of visual representation and nonvisual suggestion… The picture is not there to cover, sustain or adorn the event, but to report it plainly and yet in all its temporal and eternal significance… Chagall's Bible etchings have the same religious force as the Bible itself" (Meyer, 383, 388, 393). The massive undertaking occupied Chagall off and on from 1931 to 1956, when the first, two-volume Paris edition saw print. Printer Fernand Mourlot ran a lithography press where such greats as Braque, Matisse, Picasso, Miró and, of course, Chagall came to have their designs printed and to learn about this still nascent medium. See Sorlier, 62-81; Cramer, 100-101. Owner signature and ink stamp to front pastedown, embossed stamp to title page.
Very faint dampstain just affecting very edge of title page; text and plates clean and fine. Boards with a hint of toning, mild wear to spine ends only. Very scarce dust jacket, typically not present, with edge-wear, substantial chipping, and tape reinforcement, very good.