Oxford blue edition,
numbered from 1 to 2,000
$240 $
The Human Voice
French edition
Large format (20 x 10')

More details

Titre La voix humaine écrit de la main de Bernard Buffet

La Voix Humaine : Jean Cocteau masterpiece, illustrated by Bernard Buffet

I have your voice around my neck.

Jean Cocteau

La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice), with original illustrations and engravings by Bernard Buffet, is a product of the singularly remarkable union of two great creative minds of the 20th century.

This one-act play, first staged at the Comédie-Française on 17 February 1930, was composed by Jean Cocteau and directed by Jean-Pierre Laruy. The Voice is personified by Belgian actress Berthe Bovy, a former student of actress Sarah Bernhardt and friend of actor Sacha Guitry. It was written by Cocteau for her to play. The first performance marked a departure: it showed a young woman delivering a monologue through the phone and processing her painful break-up live in front of the audience.

The play inspired a rich tradition, as seen in the many famous adaptations. Cocteau often illustrated his own texts – drawing was for him a parallel mode of expression to writing. However, almost thirty years after the play’s run, he decided to entrust its illustration to a young painter with a unique talent, Bernard Buffet.

Livre ouvert de La voix humaine de Jean Cocteau

Reproduced for the first time since 1957

In July 1955, Cocteau praised the creative work of his illustrator in ‘Gisant debout’, a poem published in the exhibition catalogue of La Voix humaine (Galerie Lucien Blanc, Aix-en-Provence, 14 July - 15 August 1957).

Piège à loups que pose une main enfantine

Parce qu’elle voulut (sous notre soleil noir)

Fil de fer barbelé cueillir vos églantines

Saigne l’Ève aux cheveux de pomme d’arrosoir.

Se peut-il que du ciel un instrument à anche

Dans le lit-cage allonge un semble-lys des chants

Et que médiévale une Ève aux larges hanches

Quitte un jardin Éden en proie aux chiens méchants ?

Après le mort aux dents que reste-t-il à prendre ?

Peut-être le fauteuil fantôme où l’on m’assied

L’ombre d’un bec de broc sur la carte du tendre

L’auto-stop arlequin des pylônes d’acier.

Que son fidèle ami lointainement me sache

Bernard bourreau pensif accoudé sur sa hache.

Throughout the 1950s, Jean Cocteau enjoyed a level of public esteem relative to his boundless genius. He amazed audiences with unforgettable books, shows and films - La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), L’Aigle à deux têtes (The Eagle with Two Heads), Les Parents terribles, Orphée. He chaired the Cannes Film Festival in 1953 and 1954, and entered the Académie Française in 1955. At this point, Bernard Buffet was not yet thirty years old. He had begun to court success in 1948 when he obtained the Critics’ Prize (ex-æquo), established by the owners of the Galerie Saint-Placide. In 1955, he won first place in a referendum organised by the periodical Connaissance des Arts, defining the ten best painters of the post-war period. He was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts on 13 March 1974.

We don't talk about painting, we don't analyze it, we feel it.

Bernard Buffet

In 1957, Bernard Buffet’s twenty-eight etched and illustrated plates were brought together in a small book that was published in a run of only 150 copies. The edition was commissioned by Pierre Bergé from Parenthèses publishing, who had known Bernard Buffet since 1950. SP Books’ edition pays tribute to these two vivid creators by reproducing their creations in a beautiful large-format, boxed and hand-numbered set.

New format :

Nouveau format de livre

La Voix Humaine : a major play by Jean Cocteau

Our love came against too much.

Jean Cocteau

La Voix Humaine is one of Cocteau’s major works of theatre. Ever since it was written, the monologue has been performed consistently around the world. It presents a woman speaking for the last time on the phone to the man who has betrayed and is leaving her.

‘What is especially moving here is the situation itself, this drama of presence-absence, this dialogue-monologue; and what makes this fast-paced scene a real tragedy is the indifference of the apparatus, itself the image of fatality rather than the words it transmits and receives.’ — Pierre Bost, Revue hebdomadaire, mars 1930.

Astonishingly modern and universal, La Voix humaine continues to inspire today. In 1958, Francis Poulenc, a long-term close friend of Jean Cocteau, adapted it into a one-act opera, performed on 6 February 1959 at the Salle Favart in Paris with the soprano Denise Duval.

‘By a curious mystery, it was only after forty years of friendship that I collaborated with Cocteau. I think I needed a lot of experience to be able to respect the perfect structure of La Voix humaine, which has to be, musically, the opposite of improvisation’, wrote Francis Poulenc, to which Cocteau replied: ‘My dear Francis, you have fixed once and for all the best way of expressing my text.’

In 1964, the text of La Voix humaine was recorded in a single reading by Simone Signoret, in her apartment at Place Dauphine in Paris. According to producer Jacques Canetti, this recording was one of the most beautiful he had ever made or experienced. The same year it won the Grand Prix du Disque.

In 2021, Pedro Almodóvar marked his return to cinema with a 29-minute experimental short film loosely adapted from La Voix humaine, filmed in Madrid and starring Tilda Swinton in the lead role. In 1987, the final sequence of the play had already appeared in Pedro Almodóvar's film Law of Desire.

Le prince des fleurs de l’encre et du fil de fer

Jean Cocteau himself described Bernard Buffet’s calligraphy like a ‘praying mantis’, which captures here the cruel and public heartbreak, showing the face of the lover as in turn piercing and harrowing. Cocteau wrote later of the painter’s work that it was: ‘a pinch of Toledo, a secret weapon’ and ‘the prince of the flowers of ink and wire’.

Each of Bernard Buffet's drawings is reproduced in a large square format (18 x 18'). The boards, folded in half, are unbound, in respect to the original format.

signatures de Jean Cocteau et de Bernard buffet

A foreword by Dominique Marny

This boxed set includes a preface by writer and exhibition curator Dominique Marny. She has devoted five books to her great-uncle Jean Cocteau, including Jean Cocteau ou le roman d’un funambule (Rocher). She is vice-president of the Jean Cocteau Committee, dedicated especially to preserving the poet’s enduring legacy and influence.

With our thanks to Galerie Garnier (Paris).

Présentation de la voix humaine au MAM

Présentation de La Voix Humaine, dans une version encadrée, lors de son exposition au Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris.

The New York Yimes logo

Mrs Dalloway: Thanks to a new reproduction of the only full draft of Mrs. Dalloway, handwritten in three notebooks and initially titled “The Hours,” we now know that the story she completed — about a day in the life of a London housewife planning a dinner party — was a far cry from the one she’d set out to write (...)

The Guardian Logo

The Grapes of Wrath: The handwritten manuscript of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, complete with the swearwords excised from the published novel and revealing the urgency with which the author wrote, is to be published for the first time. There are scarcely any crossings-out or rewrites in the manuscript, although the original shows how publisher Viking Press edited out Steinbeck’s dozen uses of the word “fuck”, in an attempt to make the novel less controversial. (...)

Jane Eyre: This is a book for passionate people who are willing to discover Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë's work in a new way. Brontë's prose is clear, with only occasional modifications. She sometimes strikes out words, proposes others, circles a sentence she doesn't like and replaces it with another carefully crafted option. (...)

The observer logo

The Jungle Book: Some 173 sheets bearing Kipling’s elegant handwriting, and about a dozen drawings in black ink, offer insights into his creative process. The drawings were not published because they are unfinished, essentially works in progress. (...)

The Lost World: SP Books has published a new edition of The Lost World, Conan Doyle’s 1912 landmark adventure story. It reproduces Conan Doyle’s original manuscript for the first time, and includes a foreword by Jon Lellenberg: "It was very exciting to see, page by page, the creation of Conan Doyle’s story. To see the mind of the man as he wrote it". Among Conan Doyle’s archive, Lellenberg made an extraordinary discovery – a stash of photographs of the writer and his friends dressed as characters from the novel, with Conan Doyle taking the part of its combustible hero, Professor Challenger. (...)

The Chicago Tribune Logo

Frankenstein: There is understandably a burst of activity surrounding the book’s 200th anniversary. The original, 1818 edition has been reissued, as paperback by Penguin Classics. There’s a beautifully illustrated hardcover, “The New Annotated Frankenstein” (Liveright) and a spectacular limited edition luxury facsimile by SP Books of the original manuscript in Shelley's own handwriting based on her notebooks. (...)

the washington post logo

The Great Gatsby: But what if you require a big sumptuous volume to place under the tree? You won’t find anything more breathtaking than SP Books ’s facsimile of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s handwritten manuscript of The Great Gatsby, showing the deletions, emendations and reworked passages that eventually produced an American masterpiece (...)

Fine Books Magazine logo

Oliver Twist: In the first ever facsimile edition of the manuscript SP Books celebrates this iconic tale, revealing largely unseen edits that shed new light on the narrative of the story and on Dickens’s personality. Heavy lines blocking out text are intermixed with painterly arabesque annotations, while some characters' names are changed, including Oliver’s aunt Rose who was originally called Emily. The manuscript also provides insight into how Dickens censored his text, evident in the repeated attempts to curb his tendency towards over-emphasis and the use of violent language, particularly in moderating Bill Sikes’s brutality to Nancy. (...)

lit hub logo

Peter Pan: It is the manuscript of the latter, one of the jewels of the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library, which is reproduced here for the first time. Peter’s adventures in Neverland, described in Barrie’s small neat handwriting, are brought to life by the evocative color plates with which the artist Gwynedd Hudson decorated one of the last editions to be published in Barrie’s lifetime. (...)

Customer reviews

Jean-François P.

Les Editions des Saints-Pères nous surprend encore avec cet ouvrage longiligne et original. Manuscrit très graphique du plus bel effet avec ses planches détachées. Déjà possesseur d'une grande partie des manuscrits, je reste toujours à l'affut des nouvelles publications. Une collection qui s'étoffe peu à peu et que l'on regarde et conserve religieusement.
Bravo pour votre travail.