La liberté des mers

Year: 1960

Author: Pierre Reverdy (1889 - 1960)

Artist: Georges Braque (1882 - 1963)

Publisher: Maeght éditeur

La liberté des mers, title page after the handwriting of Pierre Reverdy

In 1910, poet Pierre Reverdy moved from Narbonne in the south of France to Paris, where he met Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque within a year's time. Like the Futurists and other modern artists, they didn't use traditional symbols for their paintings, but everyday objects such as a guitar or a bottle.

Reverdy did the same thing with poetry: his poems may be compared to still-lifes, which are intimate and sometimes feverish, and in which objects like a window or a curtain are essential.

Braque and Reverdy produced various books together, including an edition of Les ardioses du toit (1918) and Une aventure méthodique (1950). On 5 April 1954 Reverdy finished a transcript of the poem La libterté des mers, and this strikingly large manuscript was reproduced actual size. The printing work with Braque's lithographs was finished five years later, on 15 June 1959. Braque was famous for his interest in the technical process of the graphic arts, and for the patience with which he awaited the best results. This majestic artist's book measuring almost 60 by 40 centimetres finally appeared in May 1960, a month before Reverdy died (on 17 June). It is named after Hugo de Groot's classic book on maritime law: Mare liberum ('The free sea').

Lithographs around or in the text

Braque's lithographs are calm, full-page illustrations in pastel tints. On some text pages, decorations were applied in black and green, which are darker, with a more intense atmosphere, and which were printed using a special process by printer Mourlot frères. Braque's lithographs appear to limit themselves modestly to the background in order to emphasize the text, which is a combination of prose and poetry, based in part on poems that had been published previously.

But at some points in the book, Braque's images penetrate the text. The poem 'Mirage' (Rain), for instance, is illustrated with the drops of a rain shower, and whoever reads the lines 'Il ne pleut plus que sur les arbres et sur ma tête' will experience a disruptive virtual rain shower by the vertical lines that run through the letters and lines: 'It is only raining on the trees and on my head.'

La liberté des mers, colophon

Bibliographical description

Beschrijving: La liberté des mers / Pierre Reverdy ; [lithographies originales de] Georges Braque. - [Paris]: Maeght éditeur, 1959 [= 1960]. - 164 p. : ill. ; 58 cm

Printer: Mourlot frères

Edition: 250 copies

This copy: Number 128 of 200 on Arches

Note: Signed by author and artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 2-745 ; Monod-9683

Shelfmark: KW Koopm E 38


  • 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
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  • Fernand Mourlot, Braque lithographe. Paris, Sauret, 1963
  • Jeniifer Mundy, Georges Braque, printmaker. London, Tate Gallery, 1993
  • Jean Schroeder, Pierre Reverdy. Boston, Twayne, 1981