Notes: The second to last of Ward's "wordless novels"—this more a short story—about motherhood and fascism told in twenty-one original wood engravings (printed from the wood blocks).
The story begins with a woman realizing she is pregnant and then thinking of all the horrors in the world of the 1930s: children behind barbed wire fences adorned with swastikas, a child dead on the end of a bayonet, children taken away by the government. The imagery is of graveyards, skulls, rats, vultures, and other grim metaphors. Ward often tackled big questions in his proto-graphic novels: the role of the artist, freedom, race relations, the dignity of work, and so on. Song Without Words, his only wordless novel with a female protagonist, could have been one of his most important works, except the main character is naked throughout. One could argue that he was simply drawing on similar depictions of strong women, like the Venus de Milo, which stretch back to ancient times. However, in Madman's Drum, by contrast, a book with a central father figure, the men all manage to keep their clothes on; he doesn't link them to, say, Michelangelo's David.
21 leaves with original wood engravings (printed one side only), plus front matter. Limited to 1250 signed and numbered copies made from the original blocks.
Edition + Condition: First edition (first printing). A very good to near fine copy in a metallic, copper-colored paper over boards binding in a buff-colored slipcase with copper accents. With an early bookplate (Joan Blair) once affixed to the front free endpaper and now loose, leaving a quarter-sized glue stain. Lacking the very scarce belly band with the title and original price. This is copy 1128, signed by Ward.
Publication: New York: Random House, 1936.
Item No: #85094