La Valse Grégorienne; Quatre poèmes de Georges Hugnet - Les Écrevisses, Grenadine, La Rosée, Le Wagon Immobile [cover title]
[Paris: L'usage de la Parole, 1940]. First Edition. 4to, 6 unpag. leaves loosely inserted in stiff wrappers. Spine split; corners bumped; some general soil, one very small tear at the top, but otherwise without significant wear. Item #206211
Thomson first set Hugnet's poems to music in 1927. They were his first French songs. Here the songs are printed, for the first time, in lithographic facsimile of Thomson's handwriting on S.A.V. Vélin, scored for voice and piano. The lithographic front wrapper is by Pablo Picasso. As near as we can ascertain, a small number of copies were produced to send as gifts to friends and to subscribers to Hugnet's short-lived periodical, L'usage de la parole. It seems likely that the songs were intended to be included in a fourth number of the magazine (number 3 in April 1940 announced Thomson as a contributor to the next number) but the magazine ceased publication before a fourth number could be completed, when German armed forces marched into France in May. It is unclear how many copies might have been produced and actually sent to subscribers. The small number of institutional holdings suggests that the wartime conditions must have curtailed the effort. There was also a limited edition, said to be only 40 copies, signed by Hugnet and Thomson (but not Picasso) and specially bound. In April of 1940, Thomson wrote to Maurice Grosser: "My Picasso cover for La Valse Grégorienne is quite handsome. It is just the words of the title as I gave them to him and a couple of curlycues added, no picture or anything, which is exactly what I wanted, also the signature large and impressive..." Later, in his autobiography, Thomson confessed that had feared that Picasso's artistic power might overwhelm his own and so he asked him specifically to limit his cover to the text provided. Thomson's musical 'portrait' of Picasso, "Bugles & Birds," was composed in April, 1940 as a gesture of thanks for this work. Very scarce and fragile. Not recorded in Bloch's Catalogue Raisonée.