Das Buch der Venus vulgivaga, (The Book of Venus Vulvigaga) an illustrated erotic manuscript from c. 1910, was the headliner at Christie's Fine Books Sale on March 21, 2012.
Estimated to sell for £800 - £1,200 ($1,269 - $1,903), it fell under the hammer for £15,000 ($23,805, incl. premium), a startling result.
Attributed to Fridericus Styrus and extensively and richly illustrated with 165 gallant and erotic drawings in pen, ink, and watercolor, the quarto manuscript, with tentative place of origin Graz, Austria, is written in black ink in a neat cursive hand on 199 pages, and bound in contemporary quarter red morocco.
The text, with a deft, delicate touch, considers various and diverse erotic themes. Women's shoes and feet are fetishized; the female netherland is discussed with variations illustrated; and a cavalcade of copulation postures populate some of the leaves.
How does an auction item wind up exceeding its estimate by over a factor of ten?
"The estimate was always ‘come and get me’ but still: the market for quality filth seems strong," Sven Becker, Associate Director and Book Specialist at Christie's, told Booktryst.
And fresh, highly attractive, artful material, new to the marketplace, will always find a comfortable home.
The Newberry Library holds a similar, shorter manuscript in its Special Collections, 4th floor, call number VAULT Wing MS 138.
Christie's was kind to provide Booktryst with multiple images from Das Buch der Venus vulgivaga but, while quite artfully executed and quite charming, a few are so charming that I've left them out of this report. My 85 yr old mother reads Booktryst and I'd like her to make to 86 without dying from charm.
The "Omnipotent Rose," above, with its sturdy stalk, is, amongst the explicit, original illustrations within the manuscript, probably the least objectionable to those of sensitive nature; perhaps a little worse for the "where in the world, Stephen," my mother will likely make it through without incident.
Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.
Of related interest:
The Floating World of Japanese Erotica At Christie's.
The Celebrated Stable of Erotica Writers, Part I.
The Celebrated Stable of Erotica Writers, Part II: The Perp Walk.