Large Paper Copy

ELSKAMP (Max)

Maya.

Anvers, J.-E. Buschmann, 1923.

Large 8vo, contemporary ivory half vellum over marbled boards, original wrappers bound in.

30 pp., (2) pp., vignettes, head- and tailpieces, decorative borders in ochre yellow by the author-artist. Complete.

First edition.

One of 50 numbered copies on Hollande Van Gelder of a total issue of 150 copies (this copy without number).

Fine publication by the outstanding Belgian folklorist, Symbolist poet and illustrator Max Elskamp, a close friend of Henry van de Velde.

Max Elskamp (1862-1931) was something of a dilettante and illustrated his works with his woodcuts. Like most Belgian poets of his generation, he was deeply influenced by literary developments in France; he had personal contacts with both Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé. Of dual ancestry, both Walloon and Flemish, he came from a wealthy Antwerp family. At secondary school, he started a life-long friendship with Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) that influenced some of his aesthetic conceptions. His first books, L’Éventail japonais (1886), still Parnassian, and Le Stylite, an elegiac story in prose, not devoid of Mallarmean influences (1891), were published in a confidential edition. Elskamp joined forces with Henry van de Velde to support the fine arts; this led to the creation of two important associations, L’Art indépendant (1886) and L’Association pour l’Art (1892), which focused on modern painting. Shortly afterwards, the writer went through a severe psychological crisis from which he emerged transformed, with a mystical conception of art and the search for a new language; he broke with his bourgeois environment. The mutation is evident in Dominical (1892), which caused the wrath of La Jeune Belgique impervious to the writer’s innovative research. This title inaugurates the first period of the poet’s literary career with, from 1892 to 1898, Salutations, dont d’angéliques (1893), En symbole vers l’apostolat (1895) and Six Chansons de pauvre homme pour célébrer la semaine de Flandre (1895), illustrated with woodcuts by the author. In 1898, Le Mercure de France published a collected edition of his works under the title La Louange de la vie, ensuring, for the first time, a wider circulation of his poetry. Favourably received by critics, this first cycle sealed his reputation as an imagier of a happy Flanders, of which he realistically described the ordinary people and naive piety. The dominant image of the city, a central theme of his work, became the obsessive metaphor with which he identified. There followed a long silence of about twenty years during which Elskamp devoted himself to activities as a folklorist interested in the traditions and objects of popular art; he bequeathed his collections in 1907 to the city of Antwerp. This same period was also marked by the confirmation of his Buddhist faith and the beginning of his friendship with Jean de Boschère, with whom he maintained a long correspondence. After an exile in The Netherlands during the First World War, the books followed one another again: Sous les tentes de l’exode, Chansons désabusées, La Chanson de la rue Saint-Paul, Les Sept Notre-Dame des plus beaux métiers, Les Délectations moroses, Chansons d’amures, Maya, Remembrances and Aegri somnia (arllfb.be).

Fine illustrated bookplate of Henri Lavachery (1885-1972), Belgian archaeologist and ethnologist, the first professional archaeologist to visit Easter Island, curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History during the 1940s, and founder of the Society of Americanists in Belgium in 1928.

A fine copy.

Ref. Pascal de Sadeleer, Max Elskamp, Catalogue raisonné d’un ensemble exceptionnel de son œuvre littéraire et graphique, (1985), 52-53