Letters from Aubrey Beardsley to Leonard Smithers.
By Aubrey Beardsley.
Published by First Edition Club, London (1937).
Original black cloth boards decoratively ruled gilt, slightly rubbed and bumped in corners. Pages tightly bound no cracking, pages clean except for a little yellowing on edges from age. Inscription on first free end paper by owner. Title page with illustrative design by Aubrey Beardsley, 2 photogravure portrait plates of both Beardsley and Smithers, decorated endpapers, printed on hand-made paper.
Leonard Smithers was born in Sheffield, he worked as a solicitor, qualifying in 1884, and became friendly with the explorer and orientalist Sir Richard Francis Burton. He published Burton's translation of the Book of One Thousand and One Nights in 1885. He collaborated with Burton in a translation from the Latin of the Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus and Priapeia, a collection of erotic poems by various writers. He also published a limited edition of the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter.
Smithers published works by Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Aleister Crowley, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons and Oscar Wilde and lesser known figures such as Vincent O'Sullivan and Nigel Tourneur. With Symons and Beardsley, he founded The Savoy, a periodical which ran to eight issues in 1896. In partnership with Harry Sidney Nichols, he published a series of pornographic books under the imprint of the "Erotika Biblion Society". He was notorious for posting a slogan at his bookshop in Bond Street reading "Smut is cheap today".
When Beardsley converted to Roman Catholicism, he asked Smithers to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings...by all that is holy all obscene drawings." Smithers ignored Beardsley’s wishes and continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley's work.
After the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895, Smithers was one of the few publishers prepared to handle "decadent" literature, such as Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898, and The Savoy.
He went bankrupt in 1900, and died in 1907 from drink and drugs.