The Wordless Novel

Created by artist Lynd Ward, God’s Man is the first American wordless novel. Published in 1929 by Jonathon Cape and Harrison Smith in New York, the book is an example of the wordless novel, a narrative genre made of only captionless pictures, usually woodcut and other relief printing techniques. While graphic novels typically use captions and dialogue, wordless novels tell a story without text. The genre began in Germany, with Frans Masereel’s earliest example published in 1918, which inspired Lynd Ward. The genre grew out of the German Expressionism, one of the most influential art movement in the twentieth century. The wordless novel influenced  the development of the later graphic novel.

God’s Man, is comprised of 139 woodblock-prints. The narrative is about an artist who acquires a magic brush that brings wealth and power to the user. The artist begins to suffer from hallucinations when he realizes the world is corrupted by money.

The first printing of God’s Man was published in two versions, a deluxe edition and a trade edition. The signed, limited edition of 409 copies was printed from the original wood engravings, but the first trade edition was printed from electrotype plates made from molds of the original boxwood woodblocks.

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