Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Two Scarce Erotic Novels From 1787 Exposed (May Be NSW)

by Stephen J. Gertz

A couple of extremely rare erotic books recently came into the marketplace, wowsers both, each from the eighteenth century and scarcely seen but when seen goggle eyes and boggle mind.

Mémoires de Saturnin (1787), is one of the best of the many reprints of Histoire de Dom B***, Portier des Chartreux by lawyer Jean-Charles Gervaise de Latouche (1715-1782); “one of the most celebrated French erotic novels of the 18th century” (Kearney). It is the most important erotic novel in the period immediately prior to Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748) and one of the most frequently reprinted books of all erotic literature.

Originally published in 1741 in two editions (true first not firmly established) it has become an old warhorse, a classic anti-clerical erotic novel that under its original title went through seventeen editions  between 1741 and 1960.

"Saturnin" is the surname of the protagonist, Dom Bourge, "the fruit of the incontinence of the reverend Celestine Father of the town of B," and a porter in the convent at Chartreux.  As you might expect from  a so surnamed person, saturnalias ensue. "My heart is agitated - is it through fear that I shall be reproached with revealing the mysteries of the Church? Alas! I must overcome this compunction. Who does not know that all men are men, and especially the monks? they have certainly the faculty of cooperating in the propagation of the species; and why should we hinder them…?"

Why stop there? The biblical story of Sodom is considered  slanderous to homosexual activity, which gets a workout satisfying to all concerned. The book was banned not so much for its pornographic nature as its  anti-religious aspects, a greater threat to civilization than indecency.

Patrick J. Kearney notes seven editions 1772-1946 under the title Histoire de Gouberdom; three as Histoire de Saturnin; twenty-three as Le Portier des chartreux 1784-1954; five editions 1787-1815 titled Memoires de Saturnin; and eight English editions 1743-1930. Most may be aware of the novel as published by Maurice Girodias' Ophelia Press in 1958 under the title The Life and Adventures of Father Silas by Beauregard de Farniete, apparently a reprint of the London 1907 (i.e. Paris: Charles Hirsch, 1910) English edition with the same title. During the 1960s, a slew of paperback reprints based upon the Ophelia Press edition was issued under various titles by American pornsters. There are undoubtedly editions that have yet to be recorded. Mr. Kearney's checklist is the most complete to date.

The edition under notice is one of the most highly desirable, with twenty-four unsigned engraved plates by François Rolland Elluin after designs by Antoine Borel. It was anonymously published in Paris by Cazin in 1787 as two parts in one book, in octavo and 18mo issues. The volume under notice is one of only three known large paper octavo copies.

“C’est la plus belle edition que l’on puisse trouver de ce roman érotique et l’une des plus réussies dans les productions de Cazin” (Cohen. “This edition is the most beautiful that you can find of this erotic novel and one of the most successful productions of Cazin”).

Of the engravings, Pascal Pia, in Les Livres de l’Enfer, notes “Les Meilleures que l'on ait faites pour illustrer ce classiques de l'érotisme” (“The best that have been made ​​to illustrate this classic of erotica”).

Publisher Hubert Martin Cazin (1724-1795 was the son of a bookseller in Reims, a trusted member of the community of booksellers and printers of the city.

He followed in his father’s profession but with a taste and clientele for prohibited books. As a result he was enjoined from bookselling in 1754. In 1784, he moved to Paris and began his career as a publisher.

Cazin editions were, and remain, highly regarded for their production quality and licentious character. For his efforts Cazin earned many fines and two involuntary vacations in the Bastille.

The anonymously written “by a sacrificer to Venus,” Les Heures de Paphos, was published in 1787 with four subsequent editions 1864-1875. The 1864 edition was anonymously issued by Auguste Poulet-Malassis in Brussels and falsely dated 1787. The 1872 edition was falsely dated 1787. The 1875 edition was falsely dated 1789.

The illustrations - twelve engraved plates plus frontispiece - are in the manner of Claude-Louis Desrais (1746-1816), painter, illustrator, engraver, and student of Italian painter, Francesco Casanova (Giacomo's younger brother). Desrais was particularly known for his gallant/erotic illustrations to contemporary novels.

Today’s post is false-dated 2013.  It was actually anonymously written in 2074 with false imprint Santa Monica-in-the-Sea, CA  (i.e. Ulan Bator: Mongol Art Editions).

GERVAISE De LATOUCHE, Jean-Charles. Mémoires de Saturnin, écrits par lui-même. Nouvelle édition, corrigée & augmentée avec Figures. Premiêre [and] seconde partie. Londres [Paris]: n.p. [Cazin], 1787. Later edition, two parts in one volume. 235 pp. Twenty-four engraved plates by Elluin after Borel.

Pia 622. Dutel A-523. Cohen 431.

[DESRAIS, Claude-Louis, illustrator]. Les Heures de Paphos. Contes moraux par un sacrificateur de Venus. Paris: n.p., 1787. First edition, large paper. Octavo. 74 pp. Frontispiece and twelve engraved plates after Desrais.

Pia 611. Dutel A-496. Cohen 486.

Illustrations courtesy of Camille Sourget Livres Anciens, currently offering these titles, with our thanks.

Title pages from Dutel, Bibliographie des Ouvrages Erotiques...1650-1880.

Of Related Interest:

The Wages of Sin: : $80,000 For Rare Fanny Hill.

Hey Rare Book Guy! Is It Pornography, Erotica, or Curiosa? 

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