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Often writers and artists take creative cues from each other and start to collaborate on joint projects. Henry Miller (1891-1980), the author of a number of great, sometimes very controversial, novels broke into the world of literary greats with his icon novel Tropic of Cancer in 1934. Known as an expatriate writer, living in Paris at the time,the same title was not published until 1961 in the United States because of the sexual overtones throughout the book.

The book cover shown above is the original combined acetate/paper cover designed by the Spanish/Catalan artist Joan Miro for the 1965 first  German translation of Miller’s book The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948.)

The German edition is a very nice hardly known example of the collaborative efforts between a famous author and an equally famous or more so artist.

The hardcover book format is 23.5cms H x 20cms W and contains 47 numbered pages. All the illustrations are by Joan Miro, they are in order; a title page in red ink which is a duplication of the front cover, 2 single page illustrations, a full double page spread and 2 more single pages, plus the inside cover both front and back with a double page spread and a hardcover front illustration. A true gem of a little book published in 400 copies and later reprinted with different covers. Twenty-four different covers of this title can be found here on Librarything.

the inside front spread

the inside back cover spread

the hard cover front illustration with August the clown climbing the ladder.

The left hand side of the double spread with the clown’s face

A very typical for Miro illustration on the hardcover back.

A great story about a circus clown who tries to impart a whole range of human emotions to his audience. A superb look at our own inside! Currently Catalonia (Catalunya) is again the news trying to gain independence from the Spanish stranglehold. The short video below is another way of bringing the quest of this aspiring nation state to the forefront of important events happening throughout the world.

Update: Just after I posted the above I found a rare English version of the original  book title by chance It was published in the Netherlands and restricted for sale only there. The black and white illustrations are by the well known Dutch graphic designer Dick Elffers and reflect the destiny of the clown very well. Elffers’ work was highly respected in post war Holland and he became one of the leading graphic artists in the country with his expressionist style.

 

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