La Genèse

La Genèse, translation by le Maistre de Sacy.
Paris: Chez Jean Porson, 1949. (10634)

Numbered 246 in an edition of two hundred fifty. Bound in are two preparatory pencil and ink drawings by Jacques Houplain. 

This twentieth-century edition of Genesis from the Bible of Port-Royal, the French translation of the Vulgate prepared by the imprisoned priest and theologian Louis-Isaac Le Maistre de Sacy (1613–1684), was illustrated with eighty engravings by Jacques Houplain (1920–2020). Houplain studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and later at the École des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d'Art in order to learn book techniques. From 1947 through 1994 he produced suites of engravings for nine publications, and wrote thoughts on his art in a book published in 2010, Rêveries d'Un Graveur Solitaire.

Houplain’s third-person statement regarding his approach to La Genèse precedes the opening of the biblical text. “The engraver never went to Asia Minor or Egypt. Despite the lack of artistic testimony of the Hebrew people (from the period of Israel’s splendor represented by the temple of Solomon nothing has reached us), he does not ignore the primary monuments of the upper and middle empire of Egypt. What the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Mesopotamians produced was not entirely foreign to him, but he felt that all this documentation was of no help to him in translating the message of the Genesis.” Houplain explains that his goal was to remain true to the words of the text, depicting characters as they were, not heroic, but whose acts reveal knowledge of higher truths essential to moral life, as people who were witnesses to the redemptive promise.

The type, Vieux Romain, was cast by Maison Radiguer for this edition and set by Raymond Jacquet. Houplain painted a pair of fierce lions passant on the binding and provided a design for the slipcase and chemise. An undated letter from Jacques Houplain is laid in this copy.

La Genèse is open to the beginning of the scriptural text showing the world without form and void.

© 2021 Jacques Houplain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

La Genèse