Friday, June 17, 2011

A Beautifully Illustrated Baudelaire

by Stephen J. Gertz


A gorgeous edition of selected poems by Charles Baudelaire has recently come to my attention. It's a stunner out of Munich, 1922, featuring hand-painted vignettes to the cover and endpapers and twenty-one engravings by Josef Eberz, six of which are full page. The text is entirely engraved.

Artist Josef Eberz was born in Limburg/Lahn in Germany on June 3, 1880 but the family soon moved to Frankfurt/Main, where he finished school in 1901. His father, a post office clerk, asked for a transfer to Munich so his sons, Josef and Ottfried, would have an opportunity to further their education.

From 1901 to 1903 Josef studied at the Munich Art Academy with Hugo von Habermann and Franz von Stuck.  In 1905 he became the student of Christian Landenberger in Stuttgart. Eberz, however, spent his most important student years with Adolf Hölzel at the Stuttgart Academy from 1907 to 1912. He met the painter, Gertrud Alber, at the academy and married her in 1917.

Hand-painted endpaper.

The artist permanently settled in Munich in 1918. A year later Eberz participated in an exhibition of the radical left-wing  Novembergruppe in Berlin. He formally joined the November Group in 1920, and took part in their 1924 and 1929 exhibitions.

Together with Max Beckmann, Kasimir Edschmid, and  Ludwig Meidner the artist was amongst the first members of the Darmstadt Secession. Additionally, he showed works in the first exhibition of "Das Junge Rheinland" (The Young Rhineland), the artists' association in Düsseldorf.

Eberz was also active as book illustrator, providing the art (thirty-three etchings) for an edition of Josef von Eichendorff''s Ahnung und Gegenwart in 1920, as well the as etched illustrations and the full-color hand-painted vignettes for this edition of Baudelaire in 1922.

Hand-painted endpaper.

In 1928 he was appointed as a professor. After 1933, however, almost all of his works in German museums were confiscated by the Nazis; they were, as was all modern art, considered degenerate and unworthy of superior German culture. He was fired from his teaching position.

Impoverished, Josef Eberz died of congestive heart failure  in Munich in August 1942.

This is an extremely rare edition, wth OCLC reporting only five copies in libraries worldwide, three in Germany, one in France, and the other in the National Library of Israel. Only one copy has come to auction within the last thirty-six years.

BAUDELAIRE, [Charles]. EBERZ, Josef (illustrator). Poemes Choisis. [Munich: Recht-Verlag, 1922]. Limited to 100 copies (of a total edition of 200) printed on Japanese paper with engraved text and twenty-one woodcut engravings, including six full-page and numerous  head- tail vignettes. Hand-painted watercolor design to upper cover, and four (2 x 2) hand-painted watercolor designs to endpapers. Quarto. 28, [4] pp. Cream boards. Engraved text.

All images courtesy of the William Reese Company with the exception of the header, which is courtesy of Blackwell's Rare Books. We thank them both, particularly Leslie Arthur at Reeseco (not to be confused with Ronco, maker of the Rare Book Rotisserie - Set It, Forget It, You Read It! Perfect books, perfectly rare, every time. It's E-Z!).


  1. What a fantastic find! Thank you for displaying it. Looking forward to researching Josef Eberz further.

  2. just beautiful...thank you for writing!


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