"Prometheus Bound" Illustrated with Fire

Aeschylus. Prometheus Bound. Translated from the Greek by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), illustrated by Russell Maret (New York: Russell Maret, 2007). Copy number 5 of 50, signed by the artist. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2007-0067F

The Greek drama, Prometheus Bound, is thought to have been written by Aeschylus around 430 B.C.E. It is a tragedy, based on the myth of Prometheus, who was punished by Zeus for giving fire to humankind.

Henry David Thoreau was only 25 years old when he undertook a modern translation of the play for the January 1843 issue of the Dial magazine. In preparing a 21st-century edition of Thoreau’s text, Russell Maret experimented with drawings made from smoke rising directly into white paper. Not only did it produce beautiful images but the drawings were emblematic of Prometheus’ dramatic theme.

The result is a book printed letterpress in three colors from photopolymer plates using Fred Smeijers’ Quadraat type for the text and an original “Promethean” alphabet by Maret on the title page. Each copy has one original smoke drawing as a frontispiece. The edition is bound by Judith Ivry in quarter goatskin and paper over boards with a second smoke drawing on each cover.

For the earliest edition in RBSC, see Aeschylus. Aischylou Tragōdiai hex: Promētheus desmōtēs. Hepta epi Thēbais. Persai. Agamemnōn. Eumenides. Hiketides = Aeschyli Tragoediae sex (Venetiis: In aedibus Aldi et Andreae soceri, 1518 mense Februario) (ExKa) Special 1518 Aeschylus