Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with Illustrations by Willy Pogany, Dana Estes & Co., ~1908

A couple months back Books and Vines took a look at an amazing 1920 publication of Faust by publisher Julius Schroder as part of a series called Meisterwerke der Weltliteratur mit Original-Graphik  (Masterworks of World Literature with Original Artwork). Recently while browsing books at Book Gallery in Phoenix, I stumbled on another old, beautiful edition of Faust, this one illustrated by the great illustrator Willy Pogany.

William Andrew Pogany (1882-1955), born in Hungary, illustrated over 150 books in his career. He is most famous for Art Nouveau style illustrations of classic myths and legends.  I find his work colorful, representational and simply beautiful to look at, with an almost dream-like quality about it. Pictures below will highlight what I mean.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is considered the foremost German writer of modern literature, with his Faust often being thought of as the greatest long poem in modern European literature.  His written works cross many genre’s, including poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science.  Besides Faust, his best known works are Wilhelm Meister’s ApprenticeshipThe Sorrows of Young WertherItalian Journey, and his many poems (such as Marienbad Elegy).  Goethe was a German da Vinci, being an artist,  biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath, in addition to being a writer. His work on plant morphology and color theory are especially noteworthy.  His interests were vast and his influence has been profound across many fields, be it literature, science, philosophy, music and culture.

Faust was first published in 1808, and revised by Goethe himself in 1828/29. The story is familiar to almost all.  Faust makes a deal with the devil. The devil will serve Faust while Faust lives on earth. In exchange, Faust’s soul belongs to the devil; Faust will serve the devil in hell.  Goethe’s Faust has been enormously influential in literature and also in music. Goethe wrote a second part for Faust, called Faust Part Two, in 1831. It was published posthumously in 1832.

The illustrations by Pogany are just fantastic, as you can see below. The binding of this edition is classically beautiful, as is the type.  Best of all, just look at the decorations around the initial letter for each chapter!

About the Edition

  • First US edition, first printing; Originally published in the UK in 1908
  • Printed in Great Britain by A.C. Fowler
  • Illustrated with 30 color illustrations by Willy Pogany with printed tissue guards, plus initial letters and decorations
  • Preface by Roger Ingpen
  • Appendixes & notes


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Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Spine and Cover
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Spine Macro Detail
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Front Cover
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Cover Macro Detail
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Side View
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., End Papers
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Frontispiece
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Title Page
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Macro Detail of Title Page ‘F’
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Sample Text #1 with Initial Lettering
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Macro view of Sample Text #1 with Initial Lettering
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Macro view of Sample Text #2 with Initial Lettering
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Sample Illustration #1
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Macro view of Sample Text #3 with Initial Lettering
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Sample Illustration #2
Faust, Dana Estes & Co., Macro  Illustration #3

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5 thoughts on “Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with Illustrations by Willy Pogany, Dana Estes & Co., ~1908

  1. I sell the original frontispiece to this work by Pogany… i have to disagree on which are more suited. The frontis I sell matures. It is not a quick fix, like with Delacroix or Liezen Mayer, but the sheer transformative quality of love is displayed so well in the work. Of all the work I sell, it is one of the pieces I keep coming back to. Lets not forget that love is the main theme of the book, and the key that love is into mystic realms and deeper scientific knowledge. I feel the work was painted through the eyes of Gretchen, and not through the eyes of Faust. I find the colours suiting the mood of Margarete.

  2. Robert:

    I agree that Willy Pogany’s illustrations for Faust are beautiful but I find them inappropriate and greatly prefer Harry Clarke’s illustrations in your copy of the George J. Harrap limited edition. Pogany’s illustrations have a soft, dreamy, melancholy feel to them that are far more effective in the fairy tales and German legends (Parsifal, Tannhauser, etc.) that he illustrated for George J. Harrap’s editions. Pogany’s work has a look and feel that I find quite similar to the art of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

    Harry Clarke’s art nouveau illustrations, akin to Aubrey Beardsley’s work, have much more bite, more angst and malice to them, perfect for a cautionary tale of a mortal trying to cut a deal with ol’ Beezlebub. The LEC Faust with Rene Clarke’s illustrations is one of my favorite LEC’s and the flat coloration and Art Deco feel of his illustrations work quite well for me. In fact, I do not understand why this LEC book is not appreciated as much as I believe it should be. It is very much of its time (1932 – Art Deco) and the binding design, page layout, typeface, and Clarke’s illustrations combine to form a gorgeous Art Deco edition of Faust.

    Regardless, Goethe’s Faust is one of those classic works that lends itself to many different and wonderful private press editions and sets of imaginative illustrations.

    1. I have to agree that Pogany’s illustrations are not ideal for Faust, as lovely as they are; they lack the satiric bite of Goethe’s retelling of the legend. The droll sarcasm of Mephistopheles reminds me of Gloucester’s exuberant villainy in “Richard III.” Fritz Eichenberg might have done a fine job, though humor is not his strong suit, but looking through my LEC Tartuffe, Tales of Hoffman, and my Heritage Don Juan, and Poems of Poe, I couldn’t help thinking that Macy missed a great chance in not having Hugo Steiner-Prag have a go at illustrating Faust. I also have a reprint of Meyrink’s The Golem which shows how creepily effective Steiner-Prag can be, and his illustration of Poe’s “Israfel” give one an indication of how good he could have been illustrating the “Prologue in Heaven” opening of Faust.

  3. Beautiful edition, Chris, and I’m with you about Pogany–I find his illustrations invariably beautiful. The classic Faust illustrations are, of course, by Delacroix, and were featured both in the Heritage Press editions and the recent special Folio Society edition. I have only seen a few of the ones Rene Clarke did for the LEC Faust, and while I thought they were very remarkable as art, I wasn’t sure how apropos they were to the play (and Macy expressed his own disappointment with them). I also have the famous George Harrap limited edition with Harry Clarke’s bizarre illustrations, which make quite a contrast to these by Pogany.

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