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La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France

Item date(s): 1913

Blaise Cendrars  - (poem by)
Sonia Delaunay  - (illustrated by)
Miguet Paris  - (bookbinding by)

Pages: unpaged
Size: see notes
Inscription: see notes
Edition: #9 on Japon

Place publication: Paris
Publisher: Editions des Hommes Nouveaux
Cat. 001 - MM1
Exhibition 2017

Additional notes:
DELAUNAY, Sonia. Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France. Text by Blaise Cendrars. Four flat, unbound and unfolded sheets with pochoir illumination by Delaunay, 572 x 384 mm. The parchment binding, hand-painted in oil by Sonia Delaunay, remains unfolded, 225 x 192 mm. PLUS; the original and exceedingly rare prospectus announcement, coloured in pochoir, 94 x 340 mm. With three original watercolours on vellum by Delaunay and the corrected proofs of the text on two sheets. Laid in a morocco binding in a matching slipcase by J. P. Miguet. Paris: the title in gold on the spine of the slipcase. [Case size: 593 x 435mm. Slipcase size: 604 x 438mm. Both measurements taking the bulge in the spine (which extrudes from the slipcase) into account].

Original Watercolours on vellum, numbered 1-3. [209 x 265 mm laid down on paper 243 x 268mm]:


Representation synchrome

Texte Peinture Simultanée


PROSE du TRANSsibérien et de


[it appears as if the 'h' is added as an afterthought. The 'h' does not appear in the prospectus but does in the title.]



This resembles the wording of the prospectus.

2. DELAUNAY. DEL in blue, AU in yellow, NA in red and Y in blue, over a wash in colours.

3. CONTRASTES SIMULTANES. Contrasts concurrent

repreSENTATION TOUR. Representation Tower (Eifel Tower?)


NOUS TOUS. All of us

ASPECTS vigies, villets, publicite. Aspects: lookouts, towns, advertising

[pencil manuscript, bottom left:]

A Maitre Matarano To Master Matarano

se feuillet de 1913 a sheet of 1913

sevic mon amiteie. ?

Sonia Delaunay 3/65.

ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE AND SPECTACULAR COPY... as fresh as the day it was issued of this landmark in the history of twentieth century art and poetry. This particular set was NEVER cut and pasted together; it remains in its original, large, loose printed sheet format. It was NEVER folded and bound in the Delaunay binding, and has NEVER been exposed to light. The Delaunay colours are preserved in the brightest tones imaginable. It has none of the cracks and folds through the imagery and text which mars nearly all copies of the work. The Delaunay binding is an original oil painting in its own right and is preserved in perfect condition in its rare, unfolded format. The prospectus is a sublime work of Delaunay's pochoir art by itself.

"One of the early miracles of the modern movement in poetry, painting and design," Sonia Delaunay's collaboration with Blaise Cendrars is a "measured delirium of colour and word." The Prose du Transsibérien stands pre-eminent along with Matisse's Jazz as one of the greatest illustrated books of the twentieth century. The Cendrars' modernist text, which precedes Kerouac's On the Road by almost fifty years, is one of the most important French poems of the twentieth century, and Delaunay's "simultaneous contrasts" of her colourful forms perfectly captured the mood of pre-war Paris. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of an icon of the modern illustrated book.

Delaunay, with her husband Robert, was fixated by the image of the Eiffel tower. It is vaguely discerned at the base of the Prose, and marks the end of the journey in Cendrar's text, where, after arduous travels across Russia, "La Petite Jehanne" arrives at the foot of the tower in Paris.

It is recorded that if all of the 150 copies were placed end to end, (normal copies of the work being cut, pasted and constructed in a long single sheet of almost two meters and folded in accordion style into the hand-painted parchment binding), when unfolded to their full length, they would equal the exact height of the Eiffel tower itself, which was an hommage from Sonia to her husband Robert and to his most famous painting, Le Tour Eiffel.

The printed justification announces that a total of 150 copies were to be printed; however, it is documented that only 62 copies were actually assembled. This is number 9 of the copies japon. It is a presentation copy from Cendrars to the Swiss publisher Albert Mermoud. It would be hard to imagine a more desirable copy of this twentieth century artistic landmark. We can presume that this copy belonged to Cendrars until he gave it to his friend Albert Mermoud together with the copy of the proofs of the his poem with his manuscript corrections. Albert Mermoud was originally an art dealer, who in 1936 founded La Guilde du Livre, which became a major publisher in the fields of art and literature. Among his close friends, in addition to Cendrars, were Picasso, Aragon, Cocteau and Leger. Cendrar's wife Raymone also inscribed it.

Antoine Coron, Keeper of Rare Books at the Bibliotheque Nationale, who has been compiling a census of copies of La Prose du Transsibérien , knows of no other unfolded and uncut copies on japon.

Comment by Peter Kraus: There is no connection at all between the two owners of this copy and the copy in Ursus catalogue 255, 2005.

Sonia Delaunay by Arthur A. Cohen. (1975) p29-33. [Text]

Sonia Delaunay by [Arthur A.] Cohen. p24-26 [actually p24-27. Illustrations]

Robert et Sonia Delaunay by Michel Hogg p78. [this refers to Musee Nationl d'Art Moderne, Direction des Musees de France, Inventaire des Collections publiques Francaises #15.]

A Century of Artists Books by Riva Castleman p168.

See references to items:

GB/06383 Creating French Culture. Marie-Hélène Tesnière. Item 198. p441-3.

GB/14561 This item of the Original Work

GB/14572 Sonia Delaunay. By Arthur A. Cohen. (1975)

GB/14573 Sonia Delaunay. Artist of the Lost Generation

GB/14574 Sonia Delaunay. The Life of an Artist

GB/14575 Sonia Delaunay. Art into Fashion

GB/14576 Sonia Delaunay. Exhibition Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris AND Tate Modern

GB/14577 Sonia Delaunay. Alphabet

GB/14578 Sonia Delaunay. Works of the Teens and Twenties.

GB/14579 Sonia Delaunay. Fashion and Fabrics

GB/14580 The New Art of Colour. The Writings of Robert and Sonia Delaunay

GB/14582 Trésors de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

GB/14590 Color Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay

GB/14721 Inventaire des Collections Publiques Françaises Robert et Sonia Delaunay

GB/16438 Sonia Delaunay. Art; Design,; Fashion. See p35 for the Prospectus, illustrted.

GB/14722 Sonia Delaunay. A Retrospective

0908 Ampersand. Vol 07, #2

0987 Le Peintre et le Livre. François Chapon. p136-7.

0124 A Century of Artists Books. Riva Castleman

1683 Ursus Rare Books. Catalogue 255.

1956 Trans / Prose. Conference. Metaphor Taking Shape, Poetry, Art, and the Book. 13/3/08-14/3/08.

2810 A facsimile of the monumental artist's book originally published in 1913, made after an original copy in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Internet research:

In 1949 Albert Mermoud published “The Outskirts of Paris” or “The Suburbs of Paris” [‘La Banlieue de Paris’] by Robert Doisneau and Blaise Cendrars in an edition of 4300. Mermoud considered this the first photographic album of La Guilde du Livre. For his photographic albums, Mermoud wanted something new, “something which is neither literature or photography but which owes as much to the one as the other”. His intention was to show how image and text, rather than being in competition, could complement one another rather than valuing the importance of the one over the other.

The inscriptions:

FRENCH transliteration:

á Albert Mermoud á l’ami d’ourhy et de cette chamber d’hotel ou je dormais comme un bébé dans les bras d’un jazz.


août 1953

ENGLISH translation:

To Albert Mermoud, a friend of Ouchy and the hotel room where I slept like a baby in the arms of jazz.


August 1953

The following are comments from:

Dr. Christine Le Quellec Cottier

Maître d'enseignement et de recherche (MER 1)

Directrice du CEBC

Faculté des Lettres – Section de français

Littératures francophones

Anthropole, b. 3177

1015 Lausanne-Dorigny

About the second inscription :

It is not Cendrars writing but his wife : Raymone Duchâteau (they married in 1949).

She wrote : À Keks

then a drawing of a heart (perhaps at the top one "R" and below the "B" for Blaise then the signature "RAymone

"Keks" is the nickname of Mermoud (I don't know why)

At this time (1953), Cendrars was often in Lausanne, Ouchy is a district of the city, by the lake, tourist ; he had his hotel room at the "Château d'Ouchy" (a former building, with restaurant, hotel and bar), invited by the Radio which made numerous interviews. In some of them, Cendrars explained that he slept well because jazz was played throughout the night!

See YouTube: For exhibition

Reference note:
See file with documentation.

Exhibition notes:
Item 001 - MM1 on Booknesses: Artists' books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection.

UJ Art Gallery, University of Johannesburg

25 March to 5 May 2017

The entire exhibition was conceived and curated around this work

Ref: GB/14561

© Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts (JGCBA). All rights reserved.