Tableaux Vivants, completely translated from the original French by a Member of the Council … annotated.

Athens [i.e. London], ‘Imprinted by the Erotika Biblion Society for private distribution only’, 1888.

8vo, pp. [18], 142, [2, advertisements]; title-page printed in red and black, woodcut initials, head-, and tailpieces throughout; small marginal tear to p. 69 and some staining to pp. 98–9, otherwise a fine copy in modern quarter vellum over coarse-grain tissue, title and date lettered directly to spine in ink, fore-edge and lower edge uncut; modern pencil notes to front endpapers.


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Tableaux Vivants, completely translated from the original French by a Member of the Council … annotated.

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First edition, no. 162 of 250 copies, of this series of erotic vignettes printed by the Erotika Biblion Society, the second work printed by the society and the first of their Bibliothèque Française series.

The Erotika Biblion Society was founded in 1888 by London publishers Harry Sidney Nichols and Leonard Smithers. Their first printed work, an English translation of the Priapeia, was likewise printed in 1888 under the false imprint of Athens. The present work is an English translation of the French erotic work Les Tableaux Vivants, ou Mes Confessions aux pieds de la Duchesse. Anecdotes véridiques tirées de nos amours avec nos libertines illustres et nos fouteuses de qualité, first printed in Brussels (with an Amsterdam imprint) in 1870.

Twenty-eight-year-old Richard de la Brulet, self-described as ‘ready to love many women and caress all those whom I do not love, and who are good looking’ (p. ii) narrates the stories of his past erotic encounters to his current mistress, a duchess. He describes, inter alia, seducing a bride on her wedding day, surprising a pair of widowed sisters with a dildo, several ménages à trois involving strap-ons, and an accidental sexual encounter with his cousin; his lovers include nuns and courtesans, countesses and chambermaids, and men and women alike. Likely by Smithers himself, footnotes to the text (e.g. ‘putain: a female professor of horizontal philosophy’) and a comprehensive index clarify etymologies, explain decisions taken by the translator, and provide references to key nineteenth-century erotic bibliographies and dictionaries.

OCLC finds copies at the BnF and the British Library only.

Pia II, 1296; for the first French edition, see Gay III, 1174, and Dutel 835. See Nelson, Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson (2000).

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