Paris: F. Bruchman for Editions de la Table Ronde, 1932. Limited edition. Hardcover. 1/50 (estimated extant). Copy "#156 of 500" (planned). Folio. Complete with 48 leaves (47 leaves, plus 1 blank). 15 x 12.5". Blue buckram boards with red label printed in gilt pasted on the spine. Illustrated paper bookplate pasted on the interior front cover. Includes the “Page of Certification,” with the author’s signature, the “Finis Libri” page, the enumeration page, and an initial blank. The plates were originally mounted on tabs, but most are now loose.
Arthur Szyk’s “Statute of Kalisz” his first major manuscript project, was his most highly acclaimed work to date. The majority of the plates contain the complete original Latin text of the Statute, side by side with its translation into French, each lavishly illuminated in miniatures by Szyk in his evocative and characteristic style. His images here celebrate the history of Polish-Jewish relations and cooperation in the years since the enacting of the Statute, which give the text added historical context and importance. The main running portion of the text is illuminated with miniature scenes of Jewish daily life and political emancipation, serving as visualizations and examples of the Statute's various provisions. There are also images depicting various scenes of Poles and Jews working together to achieve glorious military and political victories ranging from the medieval period to the Revolution of 1905.
The text of the Statute is also hand-lettered in full English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish translations (in significantly smaller typefont), with each of these languages having its own dedicated plate, replete with additional original illuminations by the artist. All of the content of the portfolio is finely printed in heliogravure and embellished with sumptuous gold and silver metallics by the renowned F. Bruchman firm (from the watercolor and guache of Szyk's originals).
In contrast to Szyk's earlier miniature illuminations which reflected the influence of orientalism, “The Statute of Kalisz,” is in the tradition of Northern European illuminated styles and artists. Jean Fouquet in particular is cited as a source. Fouquet’s work as an illustrator of manuscripts was more of a model for Szyk’s portraiture while Szyk’s page design is much more sophisticated and modern. The degree to which each page is laden with illustrated commentary is far advanced and often more explicit than Fouquet.
The planned run of 500 copies was never printed in full, and a large portion those printed were destroyed in the German bombing of Warsaw (see the website of the Kosciusko Foundation). Szyk himself stated that only fifty copies existed and some sources place the number as low as thirty. An informal census produced fifteen library holdings. A search of the holdings of Jewish Museums and Art Museums would likely reveal additional copies. However, the number of surviving copies is certainly less than one hundred. The copy held by the Central Judaika Database is lacking the plate with Spanish text.
Joseph Ansell in his work “Arthur Szyk: Artist, Jew, Pole,” includes a description of the content of the work and also includes quotes from contemporary reviews of the work (Ansell p.56, 77-78). There is substantial dispute as to the correct ordering of the plates which were issued loose. Many copies lack the initial blank present in our copy. P.G. Konody in his 1933 review “Artist’s Great Work Worthy of Medieval Examples,” Daily Mail, 30 May 1933, p.7, mentions “45 magnificently ornamented pages,” which offers a contemporary concurrence of how the material was seen at the time of publication. (Ansell, p.78). The “unbound pages were contained in a red portfolio emblazoned with the Polish eagle printed in gold and silver.” (Ansell, p.60).
The Statue of Kalisz (also known as the General Charter of Jewish Liberties, or the Kalisz Privilege) was originally issued in 1264 by Duke Bolesław the Pious, and is considered a fundamental document in the history of Jewish autonomy and civil rights in Europe. The 36 articles of the Statue laid out rights and responsibilities in four areas: legislative power regarding Jews, aspects of loans and pledges, trade, and Christian-Jewish relations. It stipulated that Jews were obliged to pay tributes to the duke and in return the duke would guarantee their safety and protect their property, liberties and religious freedom ("servi camerae"). It granted independence to all Jewish communities under Bolesław's jurisdiction. Jews were free to trade, transact financial dealings and travel. Anyone causing harm to Jews would be subject to punishment. "Thanks to the Statute of Kalisz, the Jewish population was guaranteed freedom of practicing Judaism, organizing religious communities according to Judaic rules, full economic freedom and protection of their property and their lives" (from "History of the Statute", p.6).* These legal provisions resulted in a sociopolitical atmosphere, which attracted significant Jewish emigration from across Europe and led Poland to become one of the world's major Jewish centers.
Binding with minor rubbing to extremities. Interior with most plates completely pristine. A few have the most minor marginal smudges, and/or minor rubbing/closed tears along the edges. Near fine condition overall. A very nice and complete copy of a remarkable work. Extremely scarce. Near fine. Item #44855
From our print ad:
The rarest and most important work by Arthur Szyk celebrates The General Charter of Jewish Liberties, which granted civil and religious rights to Polish Jews when issued in 1264 by Duke Bolesław the Pious in Kalisz. Szyk hand-lettered its text in Latin and French, and reiterated the 36 statutes in seven additional languages. The illuminated and historiated initials, geometric, figurative and floral borders plus miniature paintings of historical and mythical events are influenced by French, Italian and Flemish late-medieval manuscript styles. Exquisitely printed in heliogravure and embellished with gold and silver metallics to both subtle and spectacular effect. With wit, painted figures include Szyk’s family and two self-portraits. Begun during the 1926 Polish coup and aided by research support from Józef Piłsudski’s Polska Partia Socjalistyczna government, Szyk’s masterwork is rich with detail and symbolism highlighting the ideals of justice, equality and freedom.
- Ungar, Irvin (ed.) "History of the Statute of Kalisz issued by Duke Boleslaus the Pious in 1264 and its illumination by Arthur Szyk in the years 1926-1928", The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, CA, p.6.
- Ansell, Joseph P. "Arthur Szyk: Artist, Jew, Pole", the Littman Library of Jewish Civiliation, Oxford, 2004, p.56.