David Jones

The Book of Jonah



The Book of Jonah contains 13 wood engravings by Jones. It was originally published in 1926 by The Golden Cockerel Press, and reprinted in 1979 for Clover Hill Editions by the Rampant Lions Press. Here Jones is becoming master of his craft, with the images designed to both enhance and complement the text.

All images are © Estate of David Jones and from private collections.

A sample of text and image:


Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and
offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
                                             - Jonah 1:16

The blocks were cut with the text in mind.
The page proof to the left results in the final printed page at right.


Below are illustrations from page proofs. While we still find echoes of the medieval woodcut, we can see that Jones has developed a strong, modernist line to use in the telling of this familiar tale. In the upper right corner of the image with Gabriel, the depiction of Ninevah also functions as an expressionist depiction of a large modern city, complete with the stark shadows of pedestrians walking between the skyscrapers.

      Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

                        - Jonah 1:1

The city detail above suggests
modern skyscrapers, while the
one at right hints at architectural
styles through the ages.

According to David Jones: The Maker Unmade, by Jonathan Miles and Derek Shiel,
...this block is particularly interesting as it utilizes the two different wood-engraving techniques: the angel and Jonah, who is being touched by the word of God, are cut by the traditional black line technique, whereas the earth and the wicked city of Nineveh appear dark, engraved by the white line technique. The dramatic split caused by the use of two contrasting methods cleverly represents the two orders of heaven and earth. [p. 69]

The thrust and expressiveness of the lines below convey a sense of drama and calamity:

O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay
not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea.    - Jonah 1:15

    The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

                                 - Jonah 2:5


Additional resources:

Booksellers and auction houses offer glimpses on the net of The Book of Jonah. Below are samples of the 1979 Clover Hill Edition from McLean Arts and Books, and a sample of a privately bound copy from Bloomsbury Auctions.

from: McLean Arts & Books / www.mcleanbooks.com

THE BOOK OF JONAH Clover Hill Editions, London, 1979. quarter cloth. Second Edition. 19pp: A beautiful realization (effectively the second edition) of the 1927 original published by the Golden Cockerel Press, and a companion piece to Jones' later and more widely known "Chester Play of the Deluge" (1928). The text is taken from the King James version; Jones' woodcuts are printed from the original woodblocks; printed on heavy mold-made papers, bound in patterned paper boards with cloth spine. Printed at the Rampant Lions Press by Will Carter for Clover Hill and published in a LIMITED EDITION OF 470 COPIES (here, no. 54), in immaculate condition. Very fine.




Book of Jonah (The)...
number 78 of 175 copies on Batchelor handmade paper, wood-engraved title-vignette and illustrations by David Jones, some full-page, bound in black goatskin, by J.Franklin Mowery, ruled and blind-stamped L-shaped block on each cover and running across spine reflecting the format of the double-page border illustrations in the book, spine titled in gilt, edges of boards ruled in gilt, uncut, original printed and illustrated upper wrapper of dust-jacket bound in at end, signed "JFM '94" at foot of rear turn-in, board slip-case, 4to, 250 x 190mm., Waltham St.Lawrence, Golden Cockerel Press, 1926.

    One of the most limited of the press's productions. According to the binder the linear aspect of the blind-stamping reflects the storm which caused Jonah to be cast overboard..
Sale 543, 27th October 2005