Roger Caillois: The Writing of Stones (1970/1985)

17 December 2013, dusan

The Writing of Stones is a fascinating meditation on the human imagination contemplating the interior of stones. Caillois examines patterns that are revealed by polishing sections of minerals such as agate, jasper, and onyx. He considers the impact these configurations have had upon the human imagination throughout history and he reviews man’s attempt to categorize and explain them.

Marguerite Yourcenar [in her introduction] points out that ‘there had taken place in [his] intellect the equivalent of the Copernican revolution: man was no longer the center of the universe, except in the sense that the center is everywhere; man, like all the rest, was a cog in the whole system of turning wheels. Quite early on, having entered ‘the forbidden laboratories,’ Caillois applied himself to the study of diagonals which link the species, of the recurrent phenomena that act, so to speak as a matrix of forms.’ Caillois found the presence throughout the universe of a sensibility and a consciousness analogous to our own. One way which this consciousness expresses itself is in a “natural fantasy” that is evident in the pictures found in stones. Man’s own aesthetic may then be no more than one of many manifestations of an all-pervasive aesthetic that reveals itself in the natural world.”

First published as L’ecriture des pierres, Editions d’Art Albert Skira, Genève, 1970
Translated by Barbara Bray
With an Introduction by Marguerite Yourcenar
Publisher University Press of Virginia, Charlotesville, 1985
ISBN 0813910501, 9780813910505
108 pages
via pink panter

Commentaries: Marina Warner (Cabinet), 50 Watts.
Interview with author (video, 26 min, 1974,, in French, via Véfa Lucas)

PDF (5 MB, updated on 2020-11-19)

5 Responses to “Roger Caillois: The Writing of Stones (1970/1985)”

  1. Paul on December 17, 2013 10:40 am

    Stunning acquisition! Have been after this one ever since I came across it, but the secondhand copies are prohibitively expensive. Thank You!

  2. Thor on November 20, 2014 3:28 pm


    It seems that link for this wonderful book doesn’t open any more. It does seem completely broken. Please, is there any chance to fix this, as book is not obtainable any more virtually anywhere?

    Thank you kindly for any help.

  3. dusan on November 20, 2014 4:09 pm

    Strange, the link seems fine, try a different network connection perhaps?

  4. Oulipo on June 9, 2017 12:30 pm


    Surely a magnificent book it is. Any chance to add other works of Caillois? Especially I’m looking for The Edge of Surrealism.

    Thank you for making the web a more worthy space to spend time in

  5. Peter Conlin on October 9, 2020 11:08 am

    Thank you so much for post this amazing book.I feel there is a lot of learn from Caillois in our current moment.

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