Original handwritten manuscript of the first draft of Arcane 17 written in Québec and signed by André Breton. 20 August - 20 October 1944. Manuscript of the Ajours dated 1 June 1947.
In a cod skin binding made into a speckled, light tan mosaic, with a different hollow cutout on each cover plate revealing a sheet of glass under which is inserted on the front cover a collage made of the photograph of Elisa Breton’s face next to a leaf cut into the shape of a heart. On the back cover, small cutouts of round leaves are hung from a black wire, with the flyleaves and endpapers made of veneer, the spine carrying gold lettering and the casing made of imitation suede paper (Lucienne Talheimer).
Handwritten manuscript, 20 August - 20 October 1944.
- 48-page school notebook with an in-4° format whose right-hand pages are mostly reserved for the handwritten texts and the left-hand pages for photographs and collages of documents or various objects.
The manuscript begins with an image of a waterfall, no doubt the cover of the notebook, which is titled on the first page and bears the collaged dedication in the form of a calligram against a background of stars from André Breton to Elisa, who inspired Arcane 17.
‘Elisa, you before whom I ceaselessly find again the eyes I had aged 15 for Beata Beatrix, by the forever most luminous star of this 9th or 10th December 1943 and by the wing of the beautiful bird of Bonaventure pointing towards your country and when we heard that from mid-August the gannets were leaving for Chile, do you recall how this word kept trembling over the sea – this notebook for the great truancy is for you, my love, André 3 January 1945.’
The elements pasted opposite the text are highly significant, and are in a way the key for a better understanding of Arcane 17. Most of them are commented upon by Breton beneath the collages, whether these are cards, transport tickets, photographs, tobacco packages, a plastic found object or Tarot cards. The manuscript is written in a very tightly-spaced handwriting, including deletions and numerous corrections. It is signed and dated at the end.
‘In Elisa’s dream, that old gypsy who wanted to kiss me and from whom I was escaping, but that was Bonaventure Island, one of the largest seabird sanctuaries in the world.’
- A 6-page manuscript appendix follows the manuscript of Arcanum 17; it is initialled and dated 1 June 1947; the text ends with the phrase: ‘My only star lives.’
- The amazing binding with its ‘mermaid’ was designed and completed by Lucienne Talheimer, whose work was appreciated by the surrealists and especially by Breton.
Arcane 17 is one of the key works of surrealism and, as René Alleau shows in his remarkable study published in the Centre Pompidou catalogue, the manuscript is evidently ‘the unknown original manuscript of a famous masterpiece’. [Auction catalogue, 2003]
- Musée national d'art moderne / Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton, la beauté convulsive, Paris, 1991.
- Musée national d'art moderne / Centre Georges Pompidou, La Subversion des images: Surréalisme, photographie, film, Paris, 2009.
Adam Biro has published a facsimile, now out of print but available in a few bookshops.
Translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski
- Paris, Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton, la beauté convulsive, 1991, rep. p. 357 (images 7, 8, 29, 30, 32, 36, 38, 42)
- Paris, Musée national d'art moderne/ Centre Georges Pompidou, La Subversion des images : Surréalisme, photographie, film, 2009, rep. p. 208-209 (images 20 et 21)
- André Breton (Édition de Marguerite Bonnet avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas, Étienne-Alain Hubert et José Pierre), Arcane 17 enté d'Ajours, Œuvres complètes, tome III, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1999, pages 35 à 113.
- André Breton (Édition d'Henri Béhar), Arcane 17, Paris, Biro, 2008.
48 in-4° pages; 6 in-4° pages
- Paris, Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton, la beauté convulsive, 1991, p. 357 (images 7, 8, 29, 30, 32, 36, 38 and 42)
- André Breton, Arcane 17 enté d'Ajours, Œuvres complètes, volume III (edition established by Marguerite Bonnet and edited by Étienne-Alain Hubert with contributions from Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas and José Pierre), Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1999, pp. 35-113.
|Date of publication||1944|
|Physical description||Ms relié - encre noire, éléments contrecollés.|
|Method of acquisition and collection||Don Aube et Oona Elléouët à la bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, 2003|
|Number of pages||48 - 6 p.|
|Breton Auction, 2003||Lot 2254|
|Keywords||Arcane 17, Magic, Minerals, New York, Work notes, Poetry, Dream, Sacred or Religion, Tarots|
|Categories||Andre Breton's Manuscripts|
|Set||[AB's Manuscripts] L'Amour fou, Arcane 17, Les Vases communicants,|
|Exhibitions||André Breton, La Beauté convulsive , La Subversion des images | Photographie surréaliste|