This is a very nicely-produced volume (in French) of 143 prose-poems by Pierre Louys, first published in 1895, and here issued in a limited edition of 1250 copies. This was the author's second publication, the first being a volume of erotic verse. Louÿs claim that the poems were the work of an ancient Greek courtesan and contemporary of Sappho, Bilitis, translated by himself, was soon refuted, but this did little to tarnish the book, which was praised as a fount of elegant sensuality and refined style, even more extraordinary for the author's compassionate portrayal of lesbian (and general female) sexuality.. The pieces are generally short, and the charming illustrations have a delicacy which in no way offends the eye. Our copy may be the only one currently available in the UK.
Pierre Louys (1870–1925) was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings, and seeking as a writer to "express pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection." Louÿs started writing his first erotic texts at the age of 18, at which point he developed an interest in the Parnassian and Symbolist schools of writing. A close friend of Andre Gide and Oscar Wilde, he knew well the homosexual world of Paris at the end of the 19th century. He was made first a Chevalier and then an Officer of the Légion d'honneur for his contributions to French literature.
Gaston Barret (1910-1991) was a French engraver and illustrator.
Our copy is in very good condition, and is no. 510/1200 copies, the first 216 of which were produced in slightly different formats; this is on vellum paper, with rough cut edges, contained in a pale grey-blue card cover, and stitched in small gatherings of just a few pages. Some pages remain uncut at the top. The binding is generally firm (one slight weakness at pp 104/5 - see photo), there are no external markings, and the title is plainly printed in red on the front, appearing again on the spine in red lettering, with the author and illustrator's names in black. The volume is contained in a stiff cream-coloured cardboard outer cover with a gilt mesh design overall and the title in gilt on the spine. The whole is protected by a slipcase of the same pattern as the outer cover, and this also shows very few signs of wear apart from some slight damage and loss at the angles. One for the collector of erotica.