Kirchner’s drawings for the French magazine Je sais tout

by Eric Verbist (Brussels)

Thanks to the Internet, many magazines of the Belle Epoque that published drawings by Raphaël Kirchner are readily available online. Up to now, however, this does not seem to be the case for the major part of the issues of the French publication Je sais tout, for which the artist made some interesting drawings that appeared from November 1911 to February 1912.

Je sais tout ‐ literally "I know everything" ‐ was a French popular monthly encyclopedic magazine launched in 1905 by the Editions Pierre Lafitte & Cie in Paris. The content was very eclectic: vulgarized scientific articles (sometimes close to science fiction), articles on historical subjects, health issues, cultural topics, sports events, etc. Furthermore, the magazine regularly published short stories and novels, the latter appearing in serial form. Thus, one could read in Je sais tout some of the adventures of the famous gentleman thief Arsène Lupin (a creation of Maurice Leblanc) and of Sherlock Holmes (by Arthur Conan Doyle).

Less well-known, on the other hand, are four short stories by the (nowadays almost forgotten) British author Henry Augustus Hering (1864-1945). They were translated from English into French by Madeleine Bonnaud-Diaz and illustrated by Raphaël Kirchner.

These are the four titles and their publication dates:

  • Le Portrait du Kaiser in Je sais tout No. 82, November 15, 1911 (pages 439-450).
  • La Machine à extorquer la Vérité in Je sais tout No. 83, December 15, 1911 (pages 621-628).
  • La Tabatière de Napoléon in Je sais tout No. 84, January 15, 1912 (pages 765-773). In fact, this short story is a sequel to >Le Portrait du Kaiser published in No. 82.
  • La Pièce de M. Pewter in Je sais tout No. 85, February 15, 1912 (pages 119-127).

You can see scans of Kirchner’s illustrations below. Most of them have a caption (a title and a quote from the short story in which they appeared).

There are, however, some editorial inaccuracies which we want to point out.

In the table of contents of issue No. 82 (short story Le Portrait du Kaiser) we learn that there are 7 drawings by Kirchner; in reality, there are only 5.

This unsigned illustration of Maurice Level’s article Les Arsène Lupin de la Réalité on page 713 in issue No. 83 is obviously by Raphaël Kirchner. It was probably originally meant to be published in Le Portrait du Kaiser, where the drawing matches perfectly with a scene in the beginning of the short story, when a burglar with a pocket torch creeps up on a sleeping man. The editor of the magazine clearly "recycled" the unused drawing and put a caption underneath referring to criminals who drug their victims with chloroform or ethyl chloride.

Le Portrait du Kaiser, Je sais tout No. 82, November 15, 1911 (pages 439-450).


Last updated on January, 30th, 2023