Author: Paul Valéry (1871 - 1945)
Artist: Jean Marchand (1883 - 1940)
Publisher: Éditions Eos
Experienced book illustrators
The illustrations for this edition were produced by two artists: the 15 lithographs were made by Jean Marchand, and the 24 decorations and 7 vignettes were done by the Polish artist Sonia Lewitska. Both were extraordinarily active as book illustrators: Lewitska for instance worked on Veillées des hameaux by Gogol, and La traduction de Tristan et Yseult by J. Bédier. Marchand also illustrated Valéry's Le cimétière marin, and tried his hand at work by Paul Claudel and Francis Jammes.
In the preface - written especially for this edition- Valéry expressed his thanks to the artists. Valéry considered the illustrations in two different styles (Marchand's dramatic and natural, and Lewitska’s more primitive and subtle) a good match for his poem. He also thanked publisher Eos,emphatically and quite unusually, for publishing this beautiful book. The edition was indeed exquisitely designed down to the smallest detail, and had even been provided with a cover made of (imitation) snake skin.
The symbolism of the snake is a recurring motif in the work of Valéry. In La jeune Parque, the snake showed up as the antagonist of one of the Fates. In Le serpent, the cunning reptile symbolises temptation, referencing the biblical story of Adam and Eve. But the snake (which continuously grows a new skin) also symbolises various aspects of human existence. The many meanings of the words are typical for Valéry's hermetic poetry. His poems have occasionally been described as crossword puzzles, and whoever fills out the right meaning of the word in the right spot, holds the key to the poem - and to Valéry's philosophy.
Description: Le serpent / Paul Valéry ; ill. de 15 compositions orig. en lithogr. par Jean Marchand et de 24 bandeaux et 7 culs-de-lampe dess. et grav. au canif par Sonia Lewitska. - Paris : Éditions Éos, 1926. -  p. : ill. ; 34 cm
Printer: Coulouma (Argenteuil) (tekst en houtsneden) E. Desjobert (Parijs) (lithografie) R. Pichon, Charpentier & Riby (Parijs) (omslag)
Edition: 230 copies
This copy: Number 168 of 169 on Dutch Van Gelder
Note: Signed by the author and the publisher, With two extra sets of prints of the illustrations
Bibliography: Bénézit 8-614 ; Bénézit 9-187 ; In liefde verzameld 165 ; Monod 10905
Shelfmark: KW Koopm A 439
- Maurice Bémol, La parque et le serpent: essai sur les formes et les mythes. Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1955
- Denis Bertholet, Paul Valéry 1871-1945. Paris, Plon, 1995
- 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
- Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voix et visions. La Collection Koopman et l'Art du Livre français. La Haye, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Bibliothèque nationale des Pays-Bas; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
- Georges Karaïskakis, François Chapon, Bibliographie des oeuvres de Paul Valéry. Paris, Librairie Auguste Blaizot, 1976
- Paul Valéry... aux sources du poème: La jeune Parque- Charmes. Paris, Honoré Champion, 1992
- S. Vestdijk, 'Valéry en het duistere vers', in: Forum, 11 (1933), p. 761-779
- Nevile Wallis, 'The art of Jean Marchand', in: Apollo, 64 (1956), p. 120