Saint-Paul, A.-M: Les Cahiers du Contadour, [n.d., 1939].
First edition in French, one of a very few copies printed. With headpiece after woodcut by Alexandre Noll and two plates. 512, , xx pp. 1 vols. 8vo. 'Je m'appelle Ishmaèl" — véritable édition originale de Moby Dick en français. Nut brown half morocco with gilt decorative paper sides, spine gilt, t.e.g., wrappers preserved, by Devauchelle. Textblock lightly toned, else fine OCLC: 459465908 (BnF); 97456850 (Harvard, Kentucky). Item #305175
The first notice of Moby Dick in French dates from the first volume of the Revue des Deux Mondes (1853) but Melville’s vast novel was not translated into French until the 1930s. Jean Giono (1895–1970) was deeply influenced by American writers of the nineteenth century, starting with Whitman. “The second great American Giono discovered (in the 1930s) was Melville … translating Melville was a labor of love — for years Giono would read him in the open fields” (Edmund White). He began his translation in 1936; Joan Smith worked up a first draft that was rewritten by Giono and her friend Lucien Jacques, publisher of the Cahiers du Contadour. The translation appeared in pre-publication serial form in numbers V-VIII of the Cahiers, (May 1938 to February 1939).
The first edition was published in the first half of 1939 in a small print run (variously described as only thirty copies or 600 copies), here in a choice contemporary binding with the wrappers preserved. The outbreak of war put an end to the literary efforts of the Cahiers du Contadour. Giono’s translation gained wider distribution in the Gallimard reprint in May 1941. Giono’s fictional reflections on Melville, Pour saluer Melville, were also published in 1941.
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