Year: 1985

Author: Georges Perec (1936 - 1982)

Artist: Paolo Boni (1926 - 2017)

Publisher: R.L.D. [Robert et Lydie Dutrou]

Métaux, title pages

Robert Dutrou, one of the most important French printers, learned his trade in the Lacourière studio and was head of printing company Levallois- and later the Arte studio- from 1960 onwards, which handled the printing work for art gallery Maeght. In 1973 Dutrou's wife Lydie, who was also a printer, founded the RLD studio. The couple worked as publishers, especially of illustrated limited editions. In 1985 they published seven poems by Georges Perec: Métaux. The book contained seven engravings by Paolo Boni. This Italian artist had lived in Paris since 1954 and became famous mostly for his engravings, made out of a mosaic of various pieces of metal. Old electrotypes and coins, for instance, were sawn-off and filed down, after which each one was inked separately and used as an engraving plate. He had used this technique since 1957; from 1970 onwards he referred to the engravings, for which he often used blue, ochre and reddish-brown as colours, as 'graphisculptures'. In the heavy paper on which they are printed, the pieces of metal leave indentations of various depths, giving the prints a three-dimensional impression.

Perec, who became so famous after his death that an asteroid was even named after him, wrote a number of highly distinct works, which have in common that they are based on game rules, on limitations that rule out coincidence. He wrote a story for instance in which the vowel 'e' does not appear, and the knight's move (from the game of chess) determines in which order the various rooms of a house are described in La vie mode d'emploi ('Life, a User's Manual). He also wrote so-called 'heterogrammatical' poems, written with a limited number of letters: a, e, i, l, n, o, r, s, t, u, adding one other letter of the alphabet for each poem (the so-called 'joker'). The author therefore uses a special alphabet of only 11 letters for these poems. The poem is presented in a square of 11 x 11 letters, in which the letters he uses may only appear once in each line and each column. For clarity's sake, the poem is also presented in more traditional form, with the addition of punctuation marks, accents, spaces and blank lines. In 1976 Perec published 176 such poems under the title Alphabets. He changed his spelling rules for Métaux: these are seven poems for which he used a 14-letter alphabet: 12 regular letters (a, d, e, i, l, m, n, o, r, s, t, u) with one additional letter for each poem, and another 'joker' letter.

Pages 'C' with graphisculpture by Paolo Boni

Bibliographical description

Description: Métaux / Georges Perec, sept sonnets hétérogrammatiques ; Paolo Boni, sept graphisculptures. - Paris : R.L.D. [Robert et Lydie Dutrou], 1985. - [40] p. : ill. ; 44×61 cm

Printer: Dutrou (Paris)

Edition: 135 copies

This copy: Number 1 of 135 on Moulin de Larroque

Typeface: Garamond; Univers

Note: Signed by the artist; One of five copies with an extra set of eight graphisculptures and an original drawing, signed by the artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 2-523

Shelfmark: KW Koopm E 46


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  • 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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