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25936: Corbett (announce and ask) New intriguing library acquisition on Haitian art and Voodoo
From Bob Corbett
About 10 or 15 years ago (hey, at my age to know something to within
15 years is a good thing) I was offered a strange book. It was called:
VEVES VODOU, Serie II and was by one Philippe Sterlin. It was printed in
1954 by Philippe Sterlin in Port-au-Prince and he listed his own shop at
102 Rue Des Miracles as the place of publication.
This is an 8 1/2 by 11 book with a soft cover, and held together by
rivets. I kid you not. The text is hand script and then come pages of
weird dark colored veve of Voodoo with text (in French). The images are
all full page 8 1/2 x 11, and are in reds and blacks mainly with other
primary color used to a lesser extent.. They are mysterious, even
ominous, dark, even frightening at times. I don't recall
counting how many of these drawings are there, but a bunch.
I put them in my Haitian art book collection (which now has more than 300
entries) and seldom got them out. When I did I just felt disturbed by
Well, then just a few weeks ago I was contacted by a dealer who offered me
this Veves Vodou by Philippe Sterlin, but then he said the magic words:
SERIE I. I about freaked out. That's like drawing the middle card in a
straight flush!!! The luck of it. I didn't tell him I had Serie II
already (I'm afraid the price of Serie I would have doubled on the spot!)
but I just calmly agreed to buy the book.
It arrived today. Well this one is a numbered copy (I guess Serie II is
also, but I didn't get it out this morning to see) this one is numbered #
191 of a set of 250. Just a minute, I'll look at the Serie II volume:
Okay, Serie II says it is 270 copies, but doesn't say which one this is.
Oh, yes it does. It is handwritten in: This is copy C. Don't know how
they were numbered. And this copy is signed by the author to one Shirley
Schelbla on Nov. 27th, 1956. He also says he was planning a Serie III on
Petro Loa. Good grief, if these dark images are Rada, I think I'd be
terrified to see this planned Serie III!!! By the way Serie II was
published in 1954.
My new one I got today, the Serie I was published in June 1953. It is in
boards, and has a magnificent colored Veve on the front cover. Clearly
there is Damballah, but then a sort of United Nations of flags, the
Haitian flag three times, the French flag and a black and red version of
the Haitian flag plus three more: a solid red flag, a solid green flag
and a yellow and black flag.
The text in this one is not hand written print, but regular type-set print
and the veve are simply STUNNING. Much more color than in Serie II.
I just can't help feeling this is some powerful and really mystical and
excellent art work.
So, I'm here to ask: Who is Philippe Sterlin? Does anyone know of this
set? Was there a Serie III (if so anyone want to sell one to me?)
and any other relevant information would be appreciated.
I probaly spend more time than any other human hunting books and such on
Haiti and in doing this obcessively for 25 years these two volumes I have
are the ONLY two of Phillipe Sterlin I have ever seen for sale.
I know people will say: put the images on line. But I can't. These two
volumes are published in 1953 and 1954 they are under copyright
protection and thus could only be copied and posted with permission.
Can you provide me with any info? I'd really appreciate it.