Lot 234
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Jacob Cow le pirate ou Si les mots sont des signes. Paris, Au Sans Pareil, 1921.
In-16 square : cloth printed with blue and beige patterns à la Bradel, brown morocco title page, untrimmed, yellow head, cover and spine preserved (period binding).
First edition.
Limited edition of 525 copies; this is one of 500 on Lafuma vellum, not justified.
Paul Eluard's copy enriched with an autograph letter and four letters from the author.
The friendship between Eluard and Paulhan was coupled with a literary admiration. Thus, after reading the Dada poems of
Animaux et leurs hommes (Au Sans Pareil, 1920), Paulhan wrote to Eluard: "What fi ne and violent relations you have with words - that you can thus miss them - or else this extreme sweetness." (Letter preserved here.) He had already marked his liking for the Poems for Peace, published in 1918. The two writers also shared an interest in proverbs, to which Eluard devoted a review from 1920 to 1921. Paulhan published a text on syntax in the magazine.
The first blank page of the letter reads: to welcome to Paris
Paul Eluard, who is a much better friend of words than I am
Jean P.
Eluard had the letters bound in two different places: those before their meeting at the top, those after their meeting at the end.
The first two long letters betray Paulhan's impatience: "But I don't yet know what your real name is. Paul too, isn't it? So I won't see anyone before you. Besides, I think I'll be able to get demobilized in Versailles."
Literary considerations: "Words should [...] no longer be held as signs, imitations of ideas or things. That makes sense. It is here that I work, in this precise place. I would like to be more worthy, later on, of our friendship."
He says he is late in meeting them, mentions an idea for a review, but warns that he writes little: "for another year I will be preoccupied with this 'semantics of the proverb', until I have fi nished it."
In the two letters linked at the end, Paulhan mentions in the first a misunderstanding with Aragon about the meaning of the word image, and argues that he "suffers from the heart, as after my wound. I am defended for one or two months from errands, work, almost conversations."
The last one begins in a very funny way: "Shouldn't we be on familiar terms?" "I saw Picabia in the end. At the Certa. (I expected to hear from you there. No.) He didn't say much. Aragon resented him for having had a 'too Parisian' opening night, he said."
He is in Madagascar and wonders, "I don't know which way to take Jacob Cow back. Won't you tell me exactly what you don't like about it? There is certainly a flaw."
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