Les jockeys camouflés

Year: 1918

Author: Pierre Reverdy (1889 - 1960)

Artist: Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)

Publisher: A la Belle Édition

Les jockeys camouflés, title page

The printing of texts in colour is the most striking characteristic of the publications by printer/designer François Bernouard. In Les jockeys camouflés he used green for the poem 'Les jockeys mécaniques', orange for 'Autres jockeys alcooliques', and blue-grey for 'Piéton'. The three poems by Pierre Reverdy are accompanied by five pen drawings by Matisse. This edition was in fact rejected by the author.

The Jockey polemic

While Matisse was at the peak of his artistic career shortly after World War I, Reverdy was mired in a deep crisis, isolated and struggling with his health. His friends had died (like Apollinaire) or had not yet returned from the battlefield. He waged war artistically on the enemies of Cubism. Les jockeys camouflés can be read as a polemical poem that has been set by the printer in surprisingly brightly coloured letters. Reverdy protested not only against this, but also against the title page in which both Matisse and himself are referred to as 'Monsieur'. He considered this grotesque. Bernouard printed a new edition with another title page and with all text printed in black. Nevertheless, the rejected copies were circulated, as was the copy in the Koopman Collection.

Typography and rhythm

Not only is the use of colour striking, but also the way capital letters have been employed. This typography gives the poems an extra dimension, emphasizing certain words that could be read both individually ans as a part of the whole. The drawings by Matisse also contribute to the diversity of possible meanings. They are not merely illustrations: both the typography and the illustrations in Les jockeys camouflés create the suggestion of a horse's gallop while being read. Reverdy's verses also gallop across the pages themselves on account of having many long lines of verse followed by a very short one.

A la Belle Édition: François Bernouard's rose

Printer François Bernouard (1884-1948), the publisher of Les jockeys camouflés, was an author himself. He wrote his first lines of verse at the age of thirteen during a summer tour of France. Once back in Paris he realized that he would not be able to make a living from his poetry. He briefly considered a career as a playwright. Displeased with the results of a poem he published out of his own pocket, he became a publisher himself. His first publication rolled off the presses in 1909. Afterthat time, Bernouard's publications appeared under his own name, La Typographie, or, as with Les jockeys camouflés, from A la Belle Édition. He chose a rose as his publishing logo, designed by Paul Iribe. Bernouard felt the rose was a better symbol for France than the lily.

Bibliographical description

Decription: Les jockeys camouflés: trois poèmes / par Pierre Reverdy ; agrémentés de cinq dessins inédits de Henri Matisse – Paris : A la Belle Édition, 1918 – [49] p. : ill. ; 25 cm

Printer: François Bernouard (Parijs)

Edition: 343 copies

This copy: Number 45 of 300 on Arches vergé.

Note: Published on the occasion of H.M. the King of Italy in Paris, December 1918

Bibliography: Bénézit 9-357 ; Carteret 4-340 ; Monod 9682

Shelfmark: KW Koopm L 504


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