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A rare monumental series of 41 folding colour lithographs accompanying a Croatian poem Jama (The Pit), one of the most powerful WWII lyrics, written by Ivan-Goran Kovačić. This 1982 version of illustrations was made by Croatian academic artists Edo Murtić and Zlatko Prica, the authors of the first illustrated edition, printed by a Partisan underground press during WWII.

Number 82 of 200 examples, with each leaf numbered and signed by the authors. 

1 in stock


Imperial Folio, [8] printed text on 4 unbound folded sheets, 41 folding lithographies in black and red, each sheet 56 x 96 cm when opened (22 3/8 x 37 6/8″) (folded: 56 x 48 cm / 22 3/8 x 18 7/8″), in original wooden clamshell case, linen with metal hinges and red printed title (Very Good, clamshell case slightly stained).


This rare series of 41 monumental lithographies was mada in 1981 and 1982 by Croatian artists Edo Murtić (20 lithographs) and Zlatko Prica (21 lithographs), to accompany a poem Jama (The Pit), written during WWII by a Croatian poet Ivan-Goran Kovačić, shortly before his death in 1943. The poem is considered one of the most powerful war lyrics ever written.

Murtić and Prica already illustrated the famous first illustrated edition of Jama, published in 1944 by an underground Partisan press.

This edition was only published in 200 examples. According to the imprint on the back of the text pages, the first 10 examples were kept by the authors, 20 examples were marked with roman numbers I-XX, and 170 examples were numbered with arabic numbers. This is example 82/170.  Each lithograph of this edition is hand numbered and signed by one of the artists.  

Edo Murtić (1921–2005) is known as one of most active and internationally most recognized Croatian artists of the 20th century. 


Background of Jama


The poem Jama (The Pit) was written during WWII by a Croatian partisan Ivan Goran Kovačić, and was first printed by a underground presses. The first illustrated edition was issued already in 1944, exactly a year before the liberation, and was accompanied with illustrations by Murtić and Prica. 


The author of the text, Ivan Kovačić, with a nickname Goran, was born in Lukovdol in Croatia, on the southern Slovenian border to a Croatian father Ivan Kovačić and Jewish mother Ruža, neé Klein. After unfinished study of Slavistics in Zagreb, he became journalist, writer and poet.


In 1942 he joined the Partisans and participated in battles through the difficult terrain of Bosnia. In the months of seeing cruel battles and slaughtering of civilians, he wrote his most famous poem Jama (The Pit). This epic poem was inspired by a genocide made by the Croatian Nationalistic Army, Ustashe, upon the Serbian people. In first person, with cruel, yet beautiful verses, he describes torture, and eventual death as a part of mass killings.


In 1943, only 30 year old Kovačić was killed in Case Black – a joint attack by the Axis, which aimed to destroy the main Yugoslav Partisan force in Bosnia, mostly known by its final phase final phase, the Battle of the Sutjeska. After the battle of Sutjeska, Kovačić was hiding in a farmhouse, weakened by a lung illness, listening the Serbian Nationalist Army Chetniks killing wounded Partisans. Eventually he was also tracked down by Chetniks, slaughtered and buried in an unmarked grave.


Kovačić’s death was accepted by the Partisans with great sadness. The journalist and politician Moša Pijade  (1890-1957) described his death:


Goran Kovačić did not survive the horrendous fifth offensive. This young Croatian poet, who in “The Pit” formed the strongest poem of a protest against the Ustasha massacres against the Serbs, was killed by “Serbian vigilante” Chetnik degenerates, these Swabian and Ustasha allies. They cut the throat, which had so sincerely and strongly thundered from the Croatian fraternal soul against Ustasha crimes against Serbian youth. Never before a more honest and humane work of a poet was punished and never a forehead of a murderer was tainted by more disgraceful crime. Reading the Goran’s “Jama”, hearts of generations and generations of Serbian youth will tear over the crimes, which caused such a cry of a poet, but also over the crime, which slit the throat of this beautiful seagull. 


The poem is considered one of the most beautiful war poems ever made and one of the greatest poems of Croatian literature.

The most known translation of the poem was made already in 1948 in French language, with a title La fosse commune. The illustration in it was made by Pablo Picasso. 

The first edition of the poem was printed in 1944 in a Yugoslav Partisan press in Bari, Italy, the area liberated by the allies, and in the same year the first illustrated edition was printed by a Croatian Partisan press, on so called “Liberated area”, or in the “Federal State of Croatia”, in the German occupied area. This underground state was founded on May 8th-9th 1944 in Topusko, Croatia, by the Croatian anti-Fascist movement and was not a constitutionally socialist state, or even a republic, as the war in Yugoslavia lasted for another year. The woody area around Topusko was at the time controlled by the Partisans, which enabled them to print this book with more time consuming techniques, then their colleagues in other underground secret presses could use. The artists of lithographs, Edo Murtić (1921–2005) and Zlatko Prica (1916-2003), were both famous Croatian academic painters. The work has been printed in 250 examples on normal paper and bound in parachute linen. The lithograph press has been constructed in a Partisan workshop. 


The most known translation of the poem was made already in 1948 in French language, with a title La fosse commune. The illustration in it was made by Pablo Picasso. 


We could only trace two examples of this work in institutions worldwide (MOMA and National and University Library of Croatia). 

Additional information


Place and Year