Un conte à votre façon

Raymond Queneau (1903 - 1976)
John Crombie (*1939)
Sheila Bourne (1940 - 2020)
Title page

Publisher Kickshaws started out in Paris as The Fantod Press (with two publications in 1979), but subsequently operated as Kickshaws and as Kickshaws & Co., run by the Scottish typographer John Crombie and the Americanartist Sheila Bourne.

The name Kickshaws is alleged to be a mistranslation of the French word 'quelque chose' ('something'), used by the English in the seventeenth century in reference to the culinary whims of the French. The word also has the meaning of elegance, and refers to games, frivolous pastimes, and nonsense. This publisher produces technically accomplished books that are never weighty. Raymond Queneau, for whom language and play amount to more or less the same thing, is an author who can challenge the ingenuity ofthe printer and the illustrator.

Alternative board game

Un conte à votre façon was first published in Le nouvel observateur in July 1967; the first book edition dates back to 1981 (in Contes et propos). One year later, Kickshaws produced an edition in French and a translation in English (Yours for thetelling). The story is presented as a board game ruled by the reader rather than the dice. On page 1 the reader is asked straight away if he wants to hear a story about three alert peas, 'If you do, then proceed to 4. If you don't, then proceed to 2.' The naysayers encounter a question on page 2 whether they want to hear a story about beanstalks, and are then given the chance to hear a story about three ordinary bushes on page 3. If the reader declines to hear about them as well, he is referred to page 21, where the story is brought to an ending resolutely.

The pages all share a single design, with violet lines and panes in purple, green and white areas. Little hands and prying fingers point the way to the last page. The reader can make a choice on every page, including questions about the colour gloves that the peas wear, and whether they are allowed to dream at night or not. The reader's choices are actually very limited, and the author tells exactly the story he wants to tell. The edition was set by hand and printed in moveable lead type. The illustrations are linocuts. This is one of 100 numbered copies signed by the printer and the artist.

  • Un conte à votre façon (1982): page 21

Bibliographical description

Un conte à votre façon / Raymond Queneau ; ill. par Sheila Bourne ; conçu par John Crombie. - Paris : Kickshaws, 1982. - [48] p. : ill. ; 19 cm
Kickshaws (Paris)
45 copies
This copy:
Number 57 of 100 on BFK Rives
Signed by the printer and the artist. Originally published in Le nouvel observateur, July 1967
Koopm C 3997


  • 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
  • John Crombie, 'Un conte à votre façon et One hundred million million poems des Éditions Kickshaws: deux éditions artisinales, et fières de l'être!', in: Livre/Poésie. Une histoire en pratique(s). Paris, Editions des Cendres, 2016, p. 89-99
  • Michel Lécureur, Raymond Queneau: Biographie. Paris, Les Belles Lettres/Archimbaud, 2002
  • Jaap van Praag, Kickshaws, 'n typografisch avontuur in Parijs. Amsterdam, Minotaurus Boekwinkel, 1997