About this Project

The remarkable book by poet Blaise Cendrars and artist Sonia Delaunay, La Prose du Transsibérien, was produced by letterpress and pochoir in 1913. It was a landmark achievement for its time and remains vibrant and modern today. Viewed as perhaps the greatest illustrated book of the 20th century, auction sales in the last five years ranged from €232,000 to €481,000 (the value in 2012 was $621,082). Several facsimiles have been printed in different countries by offset over the years. The most recent, the Yale University facsimile (2000 copies printed) has been sold out for years.

Kitty Maryatt plans to re-create La Prose du Transsibérien as closely as possible to the original book by using letterpress and pochoir. She has determined that thirty typefaces were used in the poem. She has permission to use scans of the type from the La Prose copy at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The type was printed by Richard Siebert in San Francisco from photopolymer plates. The pochoir will be done by hand at Two Hands Press in Playa Vista, California. Kitty Maryatt trained with Nathalie Courderc and Christine Menguy at Atelier Coloris in Ploubazlanec, France (the last remaining commercial pochoir firm in France). The binding and painting of the vellum covers will be done at Two Hands Press. A small pamphlet with details about the production methods will be included with the book. The book and pamphlet will be contained in an acrylic slipcase.

The edition will be 150 copies, with 30 copies hors de commerce, for the underwriters of the project. The sales price will be $3500 after January 1, 2018, with a pre-publication discounted price of $2750 from November 1 to December 30, 2017.

Kitty Maryatt has three compelling reasons for undertaking this grand project.

First, a faithful copy of the original will reveal the brilliance of the brushwork, correctness and vibrancy of color of the pochoir, which is muted or altered in photo-offset facsimiles. The re-creation would be attractive not only to collectors and institutions, but also to institutions who are reluctant to bring out an original copy for scholars to research or exhibit because of the value and fragility of the original. Maryatt wants colleges and universities to have a copy available for students studying the book arts.

The 2008 Yale offset facsimile is on the left; a sample of Maryatt's pochoir is on the right.

Second, the original methods of pochoir using pommes (short, wide brushes) and metal stencil plates are not well-known. Maryatt wants to revitalize pochoir as a widely-understood and useful technique for the production of vibrant color imagery for limited edition books. To this end, Maryatt intends to work further with Atelier Coloris on an updated book in French and English on the techniques of pochoir based on the model of the 1925 Jean Saudé book on pochoir. A video showing even the trickiest of techniques might possibly accompany the book. Workshops teaching the techniques will be planned, and special exhibits of early 20th-century books with images colored by pochoir would be sought. A documentary on the process of making La Prose du Transsibérien Re-Creation is being made by videographer Rosy Rhee.

Examples of pochoir brushes, or "pommes," used in this project.

Third, Maryatt desires to continue her research on the production of the original La Prose. Cendrars and Delaunay had planned an edition of 150 copies, but the edition was never completed. In an effort to understand what happened from a bookmaker’s point of view, she has been researching their production methods for several years. Her results to date are outlined in a recently-published article for the Book Club of California’s Quarterly Newsletter titled, “A Bookmaker’s Analysis of Blaise Cendrars’ and Sonia Delaunay’s La Prose du Transsibérien.” Forthcoming articles will be published in “The Codex Papers” in late 2018 and in “Parenthesis.”

During the process of re-creation of La Prose, Maryatt has been looking intensively at the highly painterly techniques Sonia Delaunay used and has considered the decisions Blaise Cendrars made in the choice of typefaces, the position of the lines and the spaces between words. That process helps one to develop further insight into the making of the magnificent book. An update on this research could be added to the projected book on pochoir. A long interview conducted in 2015 with Nathalie Couderc and Christine Menguy at Atelier Coloris might also be added to the pochoir book.

Some of Maryatt's early color swatches for La Prose.

This project would not be feasable if Maryatt hadn’t happily discovered the existence of Atelier Coloris in France and worked with them to make five copies of the first panel. The owners both worked at the venerable firm Daniel Jacomet in Paris before they started their own firm, so they learned the techniques that were in place when La Prose was made. A visit with Mme. Miriam Cendrars (then age 95) cemented the idea to re-create the book when she suggested that Maryatt should contact her son, Jean Gilou, for permission for the project.

If you are interested in receiving information about purchasing the book at the publication price of $3500, please contact Kitty Maryatt at twohandspress@gmail.com. A prospectus and reservation form will be sent to you, as well as a pdf showing images.

Kitty Maryatt, Two Hands Press

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