Year: 1920

Author: Jean Cocteau (1889 - 1963)

Design: Louis Kaldor (printer) Atelier Marty (pochoirs)

Artist: André Lhote (1885 - 1962)

Publisher: Editions de la Sirène

André Lhote, Jean Cocteau, Escales (1920): cover with illustration by André Lhote

André Lhote and Jean Cocteau met when the author was looking for a painter for the decor of Songe d’une nuit d’été in 1914. Three years later, the two started on Escales, a collection of mildly erotic poems and illustrations. It was the first time that either of them entered into such a collaboration. André Lhote's name is the first on the title page and a right hand page ('la belle page') is reserved for each of his illustrations, but it is not clear who took the initiative for the collaboration.

Jean Cocteau en André Lhote

Poem and illustration influence ine another in different ways. Occasionally, the one will bring out an insignificant apect of the other. A drawing of a long street with a girl leaning against the wall, is accompanied by a poem describing an unnoted woman in the crowd. Sometimes, this is taken further, when the poem or illustration provides a reinterpretation: an innocent girl by Lhote changes into a girl of easy virtue in the poem by Cocteau.

André Lhote loved popular subjects, such as the port and the brothels in its vicinity ('escale' refers to a stop-over in a harbour). For that reason, and because of his simple use of colours, he was seen more as an illustrator than as an artist. Cocteau said about his illustrations: 'Lhote, ferocious anti-Cubist! […] his illustrations for our "Escale" will be excellent'.

Eleven of Lhote's illustrations are in colour. They are bright, although these prints are less colourful than his usual work because of the many white spaces. Sometimes the colours emphasise the lines; in other cases the colouring makes the figures more angular (more Cubist).

In this book, the colourful illustrations are accompanied by a striking typography, made possible by the method that Cocteau said he used. He would have loved to use the type that he knew from the children's books published by Mame at Tours, but the printing workshop of Escales did not have this type. His solution was as follows: 'Once I have photographically reproduced the text of a children's book, cut out the letters, pasted them side by side and then reproduced them again'.

André Lhote, Jean Cocteau, Escales (1920), p. [12]: visual typography by Jean Cocteau

The effect is that the lines are not always neat and straight, and that capital letters appear in unusual places. It gives an enormous typographical freedom, which Cocteau used to typeset some of the poems in an original way: there are poems set across the page, while others have become visual poetry. One poem, for instance, coils over over the page like a snake. After each caesura, the poem changes direction, enhancing its rhythm.

The emblem of Editions de la Sirène

The book was published by Les Éditions de la Sirène, whose emblem is always a siren. According to Greek mythology, the siren is either a woman/fish, or a woman/bird, and both appear as a logo. Andre Lhote's siren is more woman than fish, and her split tail could be taken for two legs with funny feet. Her position is somewhat defiant, connecting her to the poems, in which several sirens occur to illustrations depicting prostitutes. This suggests (as the emblem does) that the word 'siren' is used as a euphemism.

The watercolours were handmade in the Marty workshop using the pochoir technique. The two copies in the Koopman Collection show that the colours are different and that, where the stencil has moved a bit, the colour patches come out differently in relation to the printed lines.

Bibliographical description

Description: Escales / [ill.] Andre Lhote ; [texte] Jean Cocteau - Paris : Éditions de la Sirène 1920 - [72] p. ; 31 cm

Printer: Louis Kaldor, Parijs

Edition: 440

This copy: No. 25 of 400 on vélin pur fil Lafuma ; No. 346 of 400 on vélin pur fil Lafuma (bound by G. Crès)

Bibliography: Carteret V-51 ; Édouard-Joseph III-394 ; Mahé I-537

Bookbinder: G. Crès

Shelfmark: KW KOOPM A 585 ; KW KOOPM A 586


  • Frédéric Barbier, Paris, capitale des livres: le monde des livres et de la presse à Paris, du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle. Paris, PUF, 2007
  • André Lhote, 1885-1962. Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003
  • Pierre Caizergues, 'Notice', in : Jean Cocteau, Œuvres poétiques complètes. Paris, Gallimard, 1999, p. 1604-1608
  • Jean Cocteau, 'Impression', in: Éric de Grolier, Le portique; 2 (1945), p. 1-4
  • Jean Cocteau, 'Lettre du 30 août 1918', in Lettres à sa mère; I. Paris, Gallimard, 1989, p. 416-417
  • Pascal Fouché, La Sirène. Paris, Bibliothèque de Littérature française contemporaine de l'Université Paris, 1984