Stéphane Mallarmé is 55 years old. An admirer of Poe and translator of The Raven, he removes any narrative from poetry for developing free lines, sonority and also repetitive emotions brought by the juxtaposition of words. He reportedly told Valéry: "Do not you think that this is an act of insanity?".
Mallarmé is close to artists and had composed texts for musicians. With "Jamais un coup de dés n'abolira le hasard", he properly becomes an artist by designing the arrangement of the words within the pages. This poem is the forerunner of a great tradition by which French speaking poetry became inseparable from art, through Apollinaire and Cendrars.
Ambroise Vollard is 31 years old. His gallery in Paris is already well established and he is determined to shake up the art world by unprecedented initiatives. He meets Mallarmé.
Mallarmé authorizes a first edition of the Coup de dés without the participation of Vollard. The format of the magazine does not please him. Vollard proposes to do better. He imagines that the poem can be illustrated by Redon and chooses as printer the Firmin-Didot company.
Mallarmé is a perfectionist who requests that his typographic instructions are executed in the smallest details. Firmin-Didot prepares five successive states. The last proof is done in November 1897 but unfortunately Redon has not yet provided his illustrations.
On October 15 in Paris, Sotheby's is devoting a sale to the library of Mallarmé.
Lot 160, estimated € 60K, is the autograph of a preliminary draft for the Coup de dés.
Lot 163, estimated € 500K, is the autograph model prepared by Mallarmé including many instructions for the typography.
Lot 164, estimated € 100K, gathers six prints spanning the last four states of the Firmin-Didot proofs. One of the two sets from the last state is again corrected by the hand of Mallarmé for further improvements.
The project is abandoned by Vollard after the sudden death of the poet in September 1898.