"WHO, IF I CRIED OUT, WOULD HEAR ME AMONG THE ANGELS' HIERARCHIES?": FIRST EDITION OF RILKE'S MAGNIFICENT DUINO ELEGIES, ONE OF ONLY 100 COPIES SPECIALLY BOUND IN PUBLISHER'S FULL MOROCCO-GILT
RILKE, Rainer Maria. Duineser Elegien. Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1923. Tall quarto, publisher's full green crushed morocco gilt, raised bands, top edge gilt, uncut; housed in a custom clamshell box. $12,000.
Deluxe limited large-paper first edition of one of the greatest volumes of poetry of the 20th century, number 83 of only 300 copies, this copy one of the first 100 copies specially bound in full green gilt-decorated morocco at the Wiener Werkstadt.
"Rilke may well be the apotheosis of the German language" (Gross, 186). This beautiful copy of Rilke's magnificent Elegies, the work he regarded as his finest and fullest expression, is one of only 300 copies of the first edition, and one of only about 100 of which were bound in full green morocco-gilt. It retains its original plain paper dust jacket and cardboard, morocco-edged slipcase, both often absent.
Rilke spent the winter of 1911-12 at Duino Castle on the Adriatic Sea as a guest of his friend Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe, who later related Rilke's account of the genesis of the Elegies. One windy night there, while pacing the cliffs above a raging sea, Rilke heard a voice from out of the storm: "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' heirarchies?" He quickly wrote down these words and some others that came to him and hurried back to his room where, that night, he completed the First Elegy. He wrote three others within the next year, another in 1915, and the rest in a great burst of creativity in February 1922, after which he wrote to a friend: "After several days of huge obedience to the spirit… I have climbed the mountain! At last! The Elegies are here, they exist… now I can breathe again and, calmly, go on to something manageable. For this was larger than life… I didn't know that such a storm out of mind and heart could come over a person!" With this work as well as his Orpehan Sonnets, Rilke "felt that he had fulfilled the demand made on him by his genius…. Beyond all doubt is his standing as one of the great poets of the 20th century" (Garland, 753). Copies from the first edition not among the hundred bound in full morocco-gilt—unlike the present copy—were issued in three-quarter morocco or in paper-covered boards. Text in German. Without original plain paper dust jacket and cardboard slipcase, often not present.
Interior fine, original deluxe binding with one faint scratch to rear board, very mild toning to spine. An about-fine copy.