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GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749--1832)
[Faust. Part 1. French]
Faust, tragédie de M. de Goethe, traduit en Français par M. Albert Stapfer, ornée d'un portrait de l'auteur, et de dix-sept dessins composés d'après les principales scènes de l'ouvrage et exécutés sur pierre par M. Eugène Delacroix.
A Paris chez Ch. Motte, éditeur; et chez Sautelet, libraire, 1828.
[2], IV, 148 p., litho. port., [17] litho. pl. ; 40.0 cm (2º)

The first edition in German of the first part of Goethe's Faust was published in Tübingen in 1808; the second part, which Goethe did not complete until 1831, first appeared in 1832. Friedrich Albert Stapfer's French translation first appeared in Oeuvres dramatiques de J.W. Goethe, 4 volumes, Paris: A. Sautelet, 1821--25. The plates in this first issue are signed 'Delacroix invt et lithog.' and bear the imprint 'Ch. Motte, Impr Editeur a Paris'. The frontispiece portrait of Goethe is printed on india paper. Delacroix was initially commissioned by the lithographic printer and publisher Charles Motte to produce an album of prints independently of the text of the play. Goethe was shown proofs of 'Faust and Mephistopheles on their way to free Margaret from prison' and 'Auerbach's Cellar' towards the end of 1826 and is reported by Eckermann to have commented on 29 November of that year that 'M. Delacroix ... is a man of great talent, who [has] found in 'Faust' his proper aliment. The French censure his wildness, but it suits him well here. ... And if I must confess that M. Delacroix has, in some scenes, surpassed my own notions, how much more will the reader find all in full life, and surpassing his imagination.' (Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret, translated by John Oxenford, London: Smith Elder & Co, 1850, vol. I, p. 298). When asked much later about the genesis of his lithographs for this edition, Delacroix recalled that although he had seen and been impressed by Moritz Retzsch's acclaimed series of outline illustrations to Goethe's Faust (which had first appeared in 1816), what had really attracted him to the idea of working on the story himself was a production of the play that he had seen in London in the summer of 1825 (about which he wrote to his friend J.-B. Pierret on 18 June 1825). It is interesting to note that he remembered in particular that 'the actor, named Terry, ... was an accomplished, if gross, Mephistopheles, but that did not detract from his agility and his satanic character.' (letter to Philippe Burty, 1 March 1862, quoted in Gordon N. Ray, The art of the French illustrated book 1700 to 1914, New York 1986, p. 208; for text of original see A. Joubin (ed.), Correspondance générale d'Eugène Delacroix, 5v., Paris 1935--38, vol. 4, pp. 303--304). There is a rather odd review of this edition in The Athenaeum (vol. I, 1828, p. 184) which was almost certainly written by someone who had not in fact seen a copy of the book. This at any rate would seem to be the only logical explanation for the fact that the reviewer makes no reference at all to Delacroix's illustrations, expresses astonishment at the book's high price ('seventy-two francs, nearly three pounds!'), and is misled therefore into thinking that Goethe's high opinion of it must relate to the literary qualities of Stapfer's translation. On the hostility that the bold 'ugliness' of Delacroix's illustrations of Faust for a long time provoked among conservative circles in France, and the very high regard in which they have been subsequently held, see Ray (op. cit., pp. 208--210, no.143), who concludes with the assessment that 'few would now deny that [this] is one of the supreme illustrated books of the world.' For catalogue descriptions of the lithographs see Loys Delteil, Delacroix: the graphic work, new ed., translated and revised by Susan Strauber, San Francisco 1997, nos. 57--74. Hooked on Books 6.5.

Copy Notes Bought for £2 0s. 0d. from J. Williams in April 1831. (Priv. Corr. XVI.E.7.14).

Binding C19th half maroon morocco-grained sheep, thick gilt-ruled borders and spine, marbled-paper boards.

Reference Number 3835


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