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Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard - Image

Broodthaers, Marcel

Antwerp / Cologne. Wide White Space Gallery / Galerie Michael Werner. 1969
An excellent, crisp presentation copy of Marcel Broodthaers' important appropriation of Stéphane Mallarmé.

From the edition limited to 400 copies, with this one of 300 marked 'exemplaire catalogue' on white wove paper without watermark, inscribed by Broodthaers in blue ink, signed with his initials 'M. B.' (as usual) and dated 'déc. 69.'; the copies marked 'exemplaire catalogue' were not issued with a signature or number.

Broodthaers' inscription replaces his own name (he has crossed through it with a large 'X') in 'Copyright 1969 by Marcel Broodthaers Bruxelles' with an arrow from the 'by' to the new names 'Olga et Sandro', while beneath he has dated and signed it: 'déc. 69. / M.B.'.

Olga Morano (1935 - 1999) was a Paris-based conceptual artist, painter and sculptor. A close friend of Broodthaers and other Belgian artists such as Marcel Mariën, she owned a number of artist books by Broodthaers that included presentations. The present book, Broodthaers' appropriation of Mallarmé, with its presentation to 'Olga et Sandro' becomes Broodthaers' gift of his appropriation of Mallarmé: i.e. the appropriation of Mallarmé by 'Olga et Sandro', a further irony in the conceptual labyrinth of mirror images the book presents and represents.

'It seemed to me that I was looking at the form and pattern of a thought, placed for the first time in finite space. Here space itself truly spoke, dreamed, and gave birth to temporal forms.' (Paul Valéry on Mallarmé's 'Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira le Hasard: Poème').

In 1914, Stéphane Mallarmé’s ambitious typographical construction, the extraordinary poem, 'Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard: Poème', was finally published - in the form that Mallarmé had himself envisaged - by Gallimard's 'Editions de laNouvelle Revue Française'. A version had appeared during Mallarmé's lifetime, in 1897, in 'La Revue Cosmopolis' but the title aside, Mallarmé's vision for the poem - refused by printers at the time as unfeasible and absurd - was ignored. The original edition of 1914, seen through the press by Mallarmé's son-in-law, was printed as a limited edition in Belgium in 1,000 copies, 100 large paper examples and 900 ordinary copies (the ordinary copies unmentioned on the justification). The poem itself is a typographical caprice and a visual object of linguistic power that preceded Apollinaire's calligrammes by more than a decade. In Mallarmé's own words, taken from his introductory 'Préface': 'les «blancs» en effet, assument l’importance, frappent d’abord ; la versification... occupe, au milieu, le tiers environ du feuillet … '.

In 1969, Marcel Broodthaers took Mallarmé’s assertion at face value, and presented his own version of the poem. The covers in Broodthaers' artist book replicate almost exactly those of the 1914 edition albeit with three specific modifications: the replacement of Mallarmé's name with that of Broodthaers, Mallarmé's 'Poème' has become Broodthaers' 'Image', and the location and name of the original publisher has been replaced with those of the later edition, Brussels and Cologne in place of Paris, and Wide White Space and Galerie Michael Werner in place of Gallimard's 'N R F' (Nouvelle Revue Française).

Further, Broodthaers replaced the title (it reflects the changes to the cover), the 'Préface' in Broodthaers' version is the whole text of Mallarmé's original poem (Mallarmé's own 'Préface' has been removed), the justification mirrors that of the 1914 edition (including the omission of the details of the 'édition courant' of 900 copies as is usual with a French publication) and, of most importance, Broodthaers has redacted Mallarmé's poem throughout with a series of black effacements that exactly match the typographical arrangement of the original. Broodthaers’ process transforms Mallarmé’s 'Poème' into 'Image', from poetry to graphic, into a pure abstraction, a book without text.

'After a two-decade 'obsession' with Stéphane Mallarmé's seminal modernist poem of the same title, to which fellow Belgian René Magritte had introduced him, Broodthaers finally decided it was time to 'redo the roll of the dice'. Using the 1914 Gallimard edition of Mallarmé's 1897 work, he covered over his fellow poet's words - so carefully arranged on the page... '. (Artist Who Make Books).

[Ceuleers 33; Jamar 32; Werner 8; Artists Who Make Books pp. 50 - 51].
[16 unnumbered leaves, blanks included]. Folio. (326 x 250 mm). Leaf with Broodthaers' title, leaf with 'Préface' signed by Stéphane Mallarmé (a transcription in toto of Mallarmé's original verse replacing Mallarmé's original prefatory text), blank leaf, leaf with title cancelled with black line and 10 leaves with Mallarmé's verse with each line cancelled in black, final verso with 'Imprimé en Belgique' and final leaf with justification and copyright recto. Original publisher's white printed wrappers with titles in red and black to front cover within rules of black and red, printed 'exemplaire catalogue' to rear cover, original glassine dust-jacket as issued.

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