The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono with Photogravures by Martine Franck, Limited Editions Club

The Man Who Planted Trees (L’homme qui plantait des arbres) is an allegorical tale of a shepherd’s extensive effort to  single-handedly cultivate a forest in an abandoned and desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps near Provence. The anonymous narrator is hiking in 1910 and gets lost, runs out of water, and is saved by a shepherd.  The shepherd tells him about his quest. The narrator leaves to go home, returning in 1920 after fighting in WWI.  He is amazed to see the transformation happening in what used to be a desolate area.  The shepherd plants trees for nearly four decades, before passing away in 1947, having turned the valley into a beautiful near paradise.

French author Jean Giono (1895-1970) is best known outside of France for The Man Who Planted Trees, though he is famous in France for many more works, as he was quite prolific and critically acclaimed.  Because of this work, he is often thought as an early founder of the modern ecological movement. According to his wiki entry, he choose to not receive any royalties from this text, and granted free use to anyone who wanted to distribute or translate it.

Like most of the livre d’Artiste books published in the later years of the LEC, this one from 1996 shows complete mastery of book design and production craftsmanship.  The cover is fantastic, covered with mulberry bark together with a Nigerian goatskin spine. Besides looking nice, the tactile sensation holding it is very unique. The photogravures by Martine Franck are visually very beautiful and exude nature perfectly; though I do wonder if starting with black and white and ultimately finishing with color may have been an interesting touch representing rejuvenation. In any case, fans of Giono, Franck or this story should track this edition down, it is as good as will ever be published.

{Ed. Note:  My understanding is that Limited Editions Club does have a few copies of The Man Who Planted Trees still available to order. You can call Jeanne Shiff at 212-737-7600 or 800-701-8870 to inquire about price and to order, if interested.}

About the Edition

  • Published in 1996
  • 14″ x 17″
  • Five photogravures by Martine Franck
  • Original French text alternates, line by line, with the English translation
  • The book is covered with mulberry bark
  • Nigerian goatskin spine with title stamped in 22-carat gold
  • Slipcase covered in black Italian cotton
  • Designed, Set in Monotype Garamond, and Printed by Michael and Winifred Bixler
  • Edition limited to 300 copies, each signed by Martine Franck

Pictures

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The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Spine and Cover
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Front Cover
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Close-up of Text
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Second Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
The Man Who Planted Trees, LEC, Colophon

9 thoughts on “The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono with Photogravures by Martine Franck, Limited Editions Club

  1. I am a sucker for beautiful black and white photography and Martine Franck’s images are otherworldly. Also, the concept of doing a bilingual edition with the native French language printed directly below the English sentence using a smaller, italicized typeface in red ink is innovative and greatly enhances this edition. Certainly, this is preferable to having the left page in French, the right-hand page in English, and constantly swiveling one’s head back and forth as if it is on a swivel.

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