Walt Whitman and Vojtěch Preissig

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Salut au monde! Illustrated by Vojtěch Preissig (New York: Random House, 1930). Copy 129 of 360. Graphic Arts GAX 2010- in process.

The Czech artist Vojtěch Preissig (1873-1944) went to Paris in 1897 to work under Alphonse Mucha. When he returned to Prague in 1903, he opened his own printing studio and published the review Česká Grafika. From 1910 to 1930, he lived in the United States teaching graphic arts as well as acting as the director of the School of Printing and Graphic Arts, Wentworth Institute, Boston. Preissig worked with the resistance movement during World War II and died in a Nazi concentration camp.

One of his last project in the United States was an edition of Salut au Monde! (Hello to the World!) by Walt Whitman (1819-1892). He not only illustrated the poem, but designed a new type cut and cast by the State Printing Office in Prague.

O take my hand Walt Whitman!
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next,
Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all.

What widens within you Walt Whitman?
What waves and soils exuding?
What climes? what persons and cities are here?
Who are the infants, some playing, some slumbering?
Who are the girls? who are the married women?
Who are the groups of old men going slowly with their arms about each other’s necks?
What rivers are these? What forests and fruits are these?
What are the mountains call’d that rise so high in the mists?
What myriads of dwellings are they fill’d with dwellers?