Rolland, Jean-Christophe

Hymn on Beethoven
in the
Leather Inlaid Binding
of the Gutekunst Library

Rolland, Romain. Jean-Christophe. Nouvelle Édition. 4 vols. With sheet music illustration of a chanson and 3 further ones of 1-2 lines. Paris, Ollendorff, (1921). 8⅜ × 6¼ in (21.2 × 15.8 cm). Contemporary dark red leather inlaid master bindings on three covert bands with orig. wrappers incl. back bound with, the front of which in reddish brown & black. Gilt head edge. 2 edges uncut.

Verified collation: 3 n. pag. preliminary ll., IV, 455, 1 pp.; 3 n. pag. preliminary ll., 541 pp.; 3 n. pag. preliminary ll., 495 pp.; 3 n. pag. preliminary ll., 411, 1 pp.

Jean-Antoine de Baïf, Chanson

The chanson with the verses Le diamant dur je suis and Come le Fenix je suis by Jean-Antoine de Baïf (Venice 1532 – Paris 1589), set to music and published 1586 in the Chansonnettes mesurée de Jean-Antoine de Baïf by Jacques Mauduit (1557 Paris 1627). The former initiator and co-founder, the latter from 1581 principal musician of the Académie de musique et de poésie, that secret association under the patronage of Charles IX which aimed at reviving the ancient Greek metric in contemporary French poetry and music.

Rolland, Jean-Christophe / Imprint

No. 90/300 copies on van Gelder Zoonen (total edition 315 copies). – With mastiff’s head ex-libris


with written inventory number 2602(-05). – Spine of vol. I lightened to reddish brown and so tapering off in a strip of 1⅝ × c. 3⅛ in (4 × 8 cm, maximal) at the top of the back board.

As a result of a previous wrapper the far edge of the white sheet following next to the front free endpaper of vols. I & III with slightly shaded/discolored longitudinal stripe 3 cm wide and that of the 3rd volume besides with four faint small/tiny fox spots. In this vol. only the white back of the lower free endpaper correspondingly slightly striped, while the white sheet following next shows the stripe likewise, but distinctly brownish. Otherwise of perfect freshness.

Cf. Loubier, Der Bucheinband in alter und neuer Zeit, 2nd thsd. (1st thsd. 1903), pp. 177 f. with ill. 187:

“ Binding by W. Collin in Berlin. Designed by Peter Behrens (Hamburg 1868 – Berlin 1940) … The leather inlay binding ill. 187, designed by Peter Behrens and executed by Collin, is of subtle charm in the line and of great beauty of colors. ”

Nonetheless in its general composition evidently falling short of the one here:

Rolland, Jean-Christophe / Front Board

Lined by gilt fillets and crossing the spine and facing this,

gilt-tooled sparkling oscillatory lines

as inner and center part dominants correspond with

luminous inlaid oscillatory ribbons

of variously colored leather tapering off inwards from the outside, in turns from top to bottom mustard yellow – light reddish brown – blue – light reddish brown – mustard yellow – mustard yellow – light reddish brown – blue – light reddish brown – mustard yellow, each interrupted by the variedly wide dark red of the cover, with reddish brown uniting with the next reddish brown in the tip.

The lining fillet interrupted in the middle of the boards and top & bottom of the spine by four gilt dots each tapering off inwards horizontally and vertically resp., above and below the farest of the middle of the boards again one dot each, from which four horizontal and three vertical dots result. Four times three dots interrupt the tooled gold line, too, of the oval blue spine label R. ROLLAND / JEAN / CHRISTOPHE / I (to IV).

The edges of the spine-ends gilt tooled with I II I II I II I. The headbands with eight orange-colored linings. The leading edges with single, the inner dentelles with triple fillet lining the paste-down, of which the one in the middle is wider.

Rolland, Jean-Christophe / Endpapers (front)
Front endpaper of vol. III

The endpapers worked in iridescent subdued colors in cloud marble soft to the touch finally by their

unique hand-made eight varying

atmospheric nuances

a firmament interspersed by gold dots and gold ribbons ,

an ecstacy , a dream , world within as antithesis of the exterior pretense .

The one as the other incredible reflection of the content ,

only creating the complete artwork sui generis. Also see corresponding emphasis in the sample plates 6-9 of Paul Kersten’s (Breslau master binder) Der exakte Bucheinband, 4th ed., 1923.

Rolland, Jean-Christophe / Cover

In whose present Jean-Christophe Krafft

German philologists, apparently either not having read the multivolume novel (initially published from February 1904 to October 1912 in the Cahiers de la Quinzaine) and copying from each other or probably for Teutonic jealousy that a Frenchman dared to transform the original German composer, merely see now a “fictive German composer” (German Wikipedia Jul. 4, 2017), now someone who “reminds of Beethoven in some traits of his character” (Laaths, Geschichte der Weltliteratur, 1953). Susanne Igler actually refers to the “Flemisch-German composer”, yet without relating him even remotely to Beethoven (Metzler Lexikon Weltliteratur, vol. III [2016], p. 154) where the hints are many indeed:

Right at the opening the grandfather welcomes the newborn by the words “How ugly he is!” while “From behind the house rises the murmuring of the river.” And later then “… everybody who thought he had reason to be annoyed with Christophe … did not fail to call to mind that he was not in fact pure German. His father’s family, it was remembered, came originally from Belgium” (recte Flandres). And may artistic license not have meeting still alive the mother dying at Bonn as was not granted to Beethoven? And while from the death bed in Vienna a “The comedy is over” has come down, it is the “Tragicomedy” in Paris. And further

“ The sweetness, the tribulation of friendship opening up the great human family through conflict to the isolated heart … The murmuring of the river rises from behind the house … Once more Christophe stood gazing down from the staircase window. All his life flowed before his eyes, like the Rhine … And Christophe … saw the river overflowing its banks, covering the fields, moving on, august, slow, almost still ” (each from the English translation by Gilbert Cannan).

Unequivocally finally Romain Rolland himself , having conceived the work initially in Rome in 1890 and starting in earnest in 1903 after the publication of his biography Vie de Beethoven the same year, himself stating by letter of September 13, 1902 to Malwida von Meysenbug (Choix de lettres à Malwida von Meysenbug, Cahier I [2012], p. 313):

“ My novel is the story of a life, from birth to death. My hero is a great German musician who is forced by circumstances to leave when he is 16-18 years old, to live outside of Germany, in Paris, in Italy, in Switzerland, etc. The setting is today’s Europe … In a nutshell,

the hero is Beethoven in the modern world …

I beg you not to speak of all this to anyone. You know the bizarre/peculiar law that governs artistic imagination (at least with some artists). It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to continue a work if I knew that others know it in advance/up front, and know that I work at it. So retain me the absolute secrecy: it’s for you alone. - I would like it to be finished, and you can read it then. I think you would like it. ”

It would take another seven decades before East German director Horst Seemann would build on Rolland’s statement, having Beethoven marching behind his ancient moving van amidst modern-day traffic on Vienna’s streets in the 1976 DEFA production Beethoven — Tage aus einem Leben / Days in a Life.

Rolland, Jean-Christophe, Endpaper (back)
Back endpaper of vol. I

Announced only in November 1916, Romain Rolland was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 “as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings”, a statement particularly true for this epic roman-fleuve:

“ Romain Rolland’s masterpiece ,

for which he has received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1915,

is Jean-Christophe …

“ This book does not aim solely at describing the life of the principal hero and his environment. It seeks also to describe the causes of the tragedy of a whole generation; it gives a sweeping picture of the secret labour that goes on in the hidden depths and by which nations, little by little, are enlightened; it covers all the domains of life and art; it contains everything essential that has been discussed or attempted in the intellectual world during the last decades; it achieves a new musical aesthetic; it contains sociological, political and ethnological, biological, literary, and artistic discussions and judgments, often of the highest interest. The artistic personality which is revealed in Jean-Christophe is one of rare resoluteness and strong moral structure …

“ The character study of Jean-Christophe is an inspired creation ,

astonishing in spontaneity, with individuality

in every trait , every movement , every thought .

“ Around this central, monumental figure, we find a whole series of characters of great human interest. Rolland’s observation is precise and profound. He penetrates to the depths of the beings whom he describes; he studies their characters and paints their souls with incomparable psychological art. His portraits of women, especially, are masterpieces. His characters come from all walks of life and are astonishingly true to type … ”

(Sven Söderman, Biographical-Critical Essay, Presentation of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 [1916]).

Already in 1905 Rolland was awarded for Jean-Christophe the Prix La Vie heureuse (since 1922 Prix Femina), created by the all-female editors of the French monthly of the same name only the year before in response to the Prix Goncourt. And a century later the Encyclopædia Britannica extols

“ Rolland’s masterpiece, Jean-Christophe is one of the longest great novels ever written and is a prime example of the roman-fleuve (a long, multivolume novel cycle) in France. An epic in construction and style, rich in poetic feeling, Jean-Christophe presents the successive crises confronting a creative genius. The novel’s protagonist, Jean-Christophe Krafft, is a composer of German birth—modeled in part on Ludwig van Beethoven and in part on Rolland himself—who, despite discouragement and the stresses of his own turbulent personality, is inspired by love of life ”

(Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Jul. 17, 2017).

Rolland, Jean-Christophe

“ Leather mosaic

is formed either by applying most accurately pared, colored pieces of leather onto the cover leather (leather application) or (as here)

as mosaic proper by inlaying equally thick pieces of leather

fitted most carefully against each other in the contours

into the whole ornamental plane (leather inlay or intarsia) … Also in the 19th cent. the technique was still in full vogue among the virtuosic French masters ”

(Heinrich Schreiber in Löffler-Kirchner, Lexikon des Gesamten Buchwesens, II [1936], 303 f.).

And continuing into the first decades of the 20th century so fertile for the art of printing and binding as

documented so admirably

by the richness and the ultimate choice harmony of text and guise

of present copy of the Gutekunst Library. Among the holdings returned to the market recently aptly as regards the ex-libris also Ash’s Dogs. Their history and development of 1927 as no. 3/50 of the edition de luxe in pigskin. And the inventory number 8205, verified here for a juridical incunable, highlights the importance of this library grown in silence, her range and her beauty. Her Jean-Christophe dedicated

“ Aux Ames Libres , de toutes les Nations ,

qui souffrent , qui luttent , et qui vaincront ”

( “ To the free souls , of all nations ,

who are suffering , who are struggling , and who will triumph ” )

Beethoven was one of the purest

Offer no. 16,188 / price on application

Rolland, Jean-Christophe, Endpaper (back)
Back endpaper of vol. III

“ Hello Mr. Niemeyer, Parcel well received! Interesting (Ridinger) piece! Appreciate your good memory and service! Best regards ”

(Mr. J. R. L., July 17, 2012)