Salvador Dalí Illustrates Montaigne: Sublime Surrealism from a Rare 1947 Limited Edition, Signed by Dalí
Two of history’s most formidable talents, at the intersection of literature at art.
By Maria Popova
In 1946, more than twenty years before his little-known and lovely illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was commissioned by the creatively ambitious Doubleday publishing house (who also released a number of books with stunning cover art by Edward Gorey and enlisted young Andy Warhol as a freelance artist) to illustrate The Essays of Michel De Montaigne (public library) in a special limited edition of 1,000 copies. Dalí, forty-two at the time and already an avid admirer of Montaigne’s mind, leapt at the opportunity. What resulted, published in 1947, was nothing short of a masterpiece — an intersection of literature and art, of two formidable talents, unlike almost anything else except perhaps Ulysses illustrated by Matisse and Sendak’s illustrations of Tolstoy.
I was fortunate enough to track down one of the last surviving signed copies, #101 no less, but unsigned ones — which are also respectably rare — can still be found online for gobsmackingly little — as little, in fact, as $6.99 at the time of this writing.
For our shared delight, here are Dalí’s color folios and black-and-white etchings — sensual, otherworldly, appropriately surrealist, just the right amount of bizarre — from my copy of the book, captioned after the original Montaigne essay they illustrate. (The essays themselves — timeless wisdom on life, morality, and the human condition — are in the public domain, thus available as a free download, and are very much worth a read.)
Try your luck at grabbing a surviving copy, and be sure to revisit Dalí’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland.
Published August 12, 2013