'If you could hasten the publication of my book a little, that would be very, very good!' Raoul Hausmann wrote these words to the now legendary publisher Iliazd in November 1959. At that moment the publisher had been working for five years on the book Poèmes et bois, which would finally be published in 1961. Hausmann was a predecessor of the Dada movement in Berlin, and was a pioneer of phonetic and visual poetry. Ilia Zdanevich already owned a publishing business, Grad 41, in his native country Georgia, which he would later continue in Paris. Poèmes et bois includes five colour wood engravings and five (French) poems by Hausmann. The typography is unusual: the poems have been set and spaced in such a way that the text follows the shape and movement of the wood engravings precisely. Only 50 copies were printed, all on imperial Japanese paper enclosed in a vellum cover.
Iliazd had an approach to the artist's book that was unique in France. In the tradition of the idealistic Russian avant-garde, the main thing about these books wasn't the fine quality of the editions, but the message they communicated. Iliazd attempted to revise these values. He valued the literary aspect of his publications highly, as opposed to gallery owners who published 'livres de peintres' simply to promote their artists. Of the twenty illustrated works to be published by Degré quarante et un, eight were written by Iliazd himself. For the other twelve he asked author friends or writers he admired (like Raoul Hausmann) for a text.
The editions published by Iliazd are sober in appearance (especially when compared to those of Vollard, for instance): Iliazd publications feature no decorative initials, ornaments or sets of extra illustrations. The typography on the other hand is overwhelming, and different for each book. Different typefaces and sizes and an unusual, imaginative layout with vertical or diagonal lines dominate the pages. The exterior finish of the book was also tightly controlled by Iliazd himself: he determined the number of blank endpapers, the size, the placement of the illustrations and the size of the edition. This yielded remarkable results, though it would sometimes take up to seven years before they appeared.
|Description:||Poèmes et bois / Raoul Hausmann. - [Paris] : Degré quarante et un [Iliazd], . - 5 bl. : ill. ; 45 cm|
|This copy:||Number 38 of 50 on Japanese paper|
|Note:||Signed by author and artist|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 6-806 ; Monod 5843|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm E 49|
- 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
- Iliazd. Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1978
- Audrey Isselbacher, Iliazd and the illustrated book. New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1987
- Adelheid Koch, Ich bin immerhin der größte Experimentator Österreichs: Raoul Hausmann, Dada und Neodada. Innsbruck, Haymon, 1994