4 grands oiseaux
Brunetto Latini
1220 to 1295
Christiane Vielle
Éditions du Rouleau libre

'The Raven is a black bird that doubts its young so strongly that it will only feed them and acknowledge them as its own if it sees a black feather: only then will it love them with care and dedication.' This is a quote from 4 grands oiseaux for which Christiane Vielle provided the illustrations. The text, which contains imaginary descriptions of four large birds, is drawn from Brunetto Latini's best-known work Li Livres dou Trésor.

The laboratory of Pierre Mréjen

4 grands oiseaux was published by Pierre Mréjen of Éditions du Rouleau libre. Mréjen, born in Morocco (1960), founded his publishing business in 1989. His workplace functioned as a kind of laboratory for many writers and poets: Mréjen often challenged artists by asking them to use a different method than they would usually employ.
The publisher's device of Éditions du Rouleau libre was also the result of an experiment, but this one was conducted by Mréjen himself. The image of the rider on the little horse was originally a pen drawing made by Elisabeth Burg, a girlfriend of Mréjen's. It dates back to the time before the publishing business had been founded in 1989, and was originally never meant to serve as a publisher's device of Le Rouleau Libre. Mréjen enlarged the pen drawing, completed it and reduced it to a smaller size in order to accentuate the tentative line in the bottom right corner of the device. This line represents the slightly ragged edges that are so typical of uncut deluxe paper.

Four large birds

Mréjen's experimental method is also evident in the way the text and engravings have been printed. He followed the original text about four large birds, a medieval manuscript written in the 'langue d'oil', but it has been printed on a contemporary kind of paper and has been set in a sans-serif typeface. Each separate text is printed in the same colour as the accompanying illustration. Both the text and the engraving of the 'ostruce' (ostrich) for instance are printed in red, the 'aigle' (eagle) in ochre, the 'fenix' (phoenix) in purple, and the 'corbel' (raven) of course in black.
4 grands oiseaux was the first book that Christiane Vielle produced in different colours. Mréjen gave Vielle, who mostly worked in black-and-white, the challenge of printing in colour for once. The engravings are fragments of larger engravings by Vielle, and are printed in 'fond perdu', without embossing. Because of this, the illustrations lack a frame, and seem to 'fly' off the paper just like a bird.

Bibliographical description:

Description: 4 grands oiseaux / [textes de] Brunetto Latini ; [gravures orig. de] Christiane Vielle. – Marseille : Editions du Rouleau libre, 1992. - [25] p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Printer: Éditions du Rouleau libre (Marseille)
Edition: 43 copies
This copy: Number 28 of 43
Note: Signed by the artist.
Bibliography: Bénézit 14-220
Shelf-mark: Koopm L 499


  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • *Chronique d'un petit cheval: les éditions du Rouleau libre, 1989-1993. *Marseille, Éditions du Rouleau libre, 1993
  • Julia Bolton Holloway, Twice-Told Tales: Brunetto Latino and Dante Alighieri. New York, Lang, 1993
  • Brunetto Latini, Li livres dou trésor. Genève, Slatkine Reprints, 1975
  • Christiane Vielle: L'œuvre gravé, gravures, livres illustrés, monotypes. Saint-Quentin, Ville de Saint-Quentin, 1997

Title page
Title page

Title page

First text 'ostruce' and verso with an engraving by Christiane Vielle
First text 'ostruce' and verso with an engraving by Christiane Vielle

First text 'ostruce' and verso with an engraving by Christiane Vielle

Second text 'aigle' and recto with an engraving by Christiane Vielle
Second text 'aigle' and recto with an engraving by Christiane Vielle

Second text 'aigle' and recto with an engraving by Christiane Vielle