Ange Heurtebise

Jean COCTEAU   |   MAN RAY

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WITH A FULL-PAGE HELIOGRAVURE BY MAN RAY: COCTEAU’S HALLUCINATORY POEM L’ANGE HEURTEBISE, 1925

(MAN RAY) COCTEAU, Jean. L’Ange Heurtebise. Paris: Librairie Stock, 1925. Slim folio, modern white paper boards, original stiff cream paper wrappers bound in.

Limited first edition of Cocteau’s masterpiece, one of only 50 copies on Vélin Blanc (of a total edition of 355 copies), marked “H.C.” (not for sale), with a magnificent heliogravure of the angel Heurtebise by Man Ray.

Cocteau declares that he found the name “Heurtebise” on the brass plate of a control lever in an elevator (“Elevator Heurtebise”), one day while on a visit to Picasso’s apartment. He was in an opium haze at the time. “The elevator episode disturbed him day and night and the perturbation grew worse. ‘The angel was living in me without my realizing it, and I needed the name Heurtebise, which gradually grew into an obsession.’ For a week, the fabulous creature became unbearable, even diabolical, and forced the poet to write against his will. At 7 p.m. on the seventh day, Cocteau adds, ‘Angel Heurtebise became a poem and freed me. I was still groggy and looked at the form he had assumed. He was distant, proud, totally indifferent to anything outside himself. A monster of egotism, a mass of invisibility” (Charles Guenther). Of his poem Cocteau posits that, “If someone proved to me that I would be signing my death sentence if I didn’t add or subtract one syllable, I could not touch it. I would refuse, and die… I have written only one poem in my life with luck favoring me to the very end: it is L’Ange Heurtebise” (Steegmuller, 352-53). As a frontispiece to this first edition, Surrealist photographer Man Ray has been able to capture the angel’s “mass of invisibility” in one of his famous “Rayogrammes.” Text in French. Crossland, 223. Not in Mahaffey.

Light, inoffensive toning to margins of text. Corners restored on original wrappers. A near-fine copy. Scarce.

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