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Rewolucja w Niemczech [Revolution in Germany]
BOOKS. Lodz—Warsaw, 1919. Very rare copy of Szyk's first illustrated political book, with poetry by Julian Tuwim.
FIRST EDITION of Szyk's first published book of political satire, mocking the German nation in the aftermath of World War I.
Arthur Szyk, together with the poet Julian Tuwim, presents an illustrated story of a mentally and spiritually skewed German nation lunging towards a nonsensical revolution. The Schlegel quote on the first page sets the tone— “Deutsch sein heisst charakter haben” [To be German means to have [special quality] character]. This is surely a cutting reference to the absurdity of German arrogance and characters such as Otto Gotlieb Schmock (pun is obvious), Schweinwanz (compound of “pig” and “bedbug”), Germainer (“uncouth”) and Schwanzenhund (“tail of dog”) continue the irreverent mockery. References to the German imperial superiority and status as a god-favored nation are presented with such tongue in cheek observations as “The German God is a sturdy castle”. By the end of the book, even God has become a good German; for inspiring Schmock, He is presented a high rank as well as a black, white, and red ribbon reading “The royal Prussian God of the royal chamber”.
Szyk's armed forces services. Szyk joined the Russian Army and served in the Battle of Lodz in the autumn of 1914. When the city was captured by Germans, he returned to his hometown and, surprisingly enough, was allowed to live normally and work as an artist. After the war, he directed his vibrant patriotic passions towards serving in the newly created Polish state. During the Polish-Soviet War of 1919—20, he was made artistic director of the Department of Propaganda for the Polish Army and was later decorated for his contributions to the war effort. It was during this tenure that he drew the illustrations for Revolution in Germany.
Julian Tuwim (1894—1953) was born in Lodz and is considered to have been one of the outstanding Polish poets of the first half of the 20th century. From a strong Jewish background, he was also politically well educated and possessed a vibrant Polish spirit. Like Szyk, he was enthralled with Poland's liberation and his books of poetry were filled with idealism and awe. Soon enough the harsh realities of life changed his outlook and his works became sharper, more angry and full of the dark comic sarcasm so evident in Revolution in Germany.
SZYK, Arthur. Rewolucja W. Niemczech [Revolution in Germany]. Text by Julian Tuwim, in Polish. Lodz—Warsaw: Ksiazka i Sztuka, 1919. 30 pp. Original wrappers with illustrations on both covers, bound with original burgundy cord. Top right corner of front cover shows evidence of prior folding, small adhesion mark to back wrapper, otherwise, Near Fine Condition.
Extreme rarity. The scarcity of this work cannot be underscored. At the age of 25, Szyk was only just becoming known, a fact—when coupled with the delicacy of the binding—that makes this item precious indeed. OCLC lists only two institutional copies: Hoover Institution and UC Berkeley.