Robert Crumb was brought up in a more or less strict Catholic family, reportedly losing his faith at the age of seventeen. Like so many aspects of his early life, however, the absurdities and inconsistencies of religion and spirituality remained lodged in his artistic mind, and some time around 2002 he draw made a couple of drawings of the Eve and Adam story (which we include at the end here) which must have clarified the wonderings of many – how did the couple discover that they weren’t as innocent as they were supposedly created? How did they discover sex, the key to procreation?

These two drawings led Crumb to Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, of which he originally intended to illustrate the first couple of chapters, depicting a deity who was an unambiguously self-obsessed and bloodthirsty despot, terrifying in his demands and brutality. Crumb’s move away from satire and his decision to ‘do it straight’ came from his sense that the sweeping, violent mythology lent itself to lurid illustration; he showed some of the early work to publishers, and was quickly commissioned by Norton to illustrate the whole of Genesis. ‘I stupidly said okay, I’ll do it; it took me four years. It was so exhausting that I knew by the end I’d earned every penny.’

We have included here the first ten pages – the first two chapters – of Genesis. The whole book extends to more than two hundred, some of the finest work ever created by this remarkable artist and story-teller.