Registrum Librorum Eroticorum  

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Registrum Librorum Eroticorum (1936) is a catalog by Rolf S. Reade. The books in the catalog mainly came from the British Library's Private Case.



THE death of Rolf S. Reade, the compiler of the Registrum Librorum Eroticorum before he had completed the final classification of his material prior to consignment to the printer made the question of arrangement somewhat difficult. Rolf S. Reade had spent some five or six years in collecting and tabulating material for this work and though we have been assured by those who assisted him in his labour that he considered the Registrum as complete as it was in his power to make it and ready for publication, nevertheless, from internal evidence it seems certain that the method of presenting the material would have undergone a good deal of alteration before being put into the printer's hands, yet, in the absence of any precise directions to this effect it has been thought best to present the material substantially as he left it, making alterations only when such were obviously necessary. Then, too, it would have been exceedingly difficult for a newcomer to the work to recommence researches with a view to perfecting the work already done. Different aims, a fresh point of view, would have necessitated retraversing ground already covered. Mr. Reade has recorded data collected by him for the purpose of this bibliography, but naturally his failures, his unsuccessful search, for data in some cases, nobody but himself could know, and to have begun all over again might have retarded the publication of the catalogue for years. So that omissions and imperfections which may exist in the present list will have to be left for future bibliographers to remedy. For there yet remains to be compiled a bibliography of erotica with the items classified according to subject matter—Tribadism, Onanism, Sodomy, Incest, etc.—one which would be of great practical value to sociologists and scientists. A life time might be devoted to such work in this field and even then leave much to be done.

The difficulties which beset the path of the bibliographer in his researches in this field are many and formidable. The very quest for books of this kind exposes him to the risk of prosecution if he should have the misfortune to encounter the malice or prudery which engender such prosecutions. The books he seeks are written in secret, they are printed and published in holes and corners, and their circulation is prohibited; their printers are prosecuted, the books seized, exposed to public scorn, burnt or Bowdlerised. And yet they survive. Few, so far as can be ascertained, become quite extinct. Then very often the date printed on the title-page is false, or there is no date at all, and the place of publication is fictitious, or misleading. Where Amsterdam, for instance, is given as the place of publication in the book it is found to have been published in Paris or London or Brussels, while on the other hand where Londres or Paris or some other town is given as the place of publication according to the title-page, the a&ual place is found to be Amsterdam. For instance "Le Balai/' by Dulaurens


has Constantinople on the title-page but was really published in Amsterdam. Again, purely fictitious names are given to the place of publication ; names made up from erotic ideas, with absurd dates, as in the case of "La Belle Cauchoise," published at Libidinibus, chez Sensualité, à la Délicatesse, rue du Tempérament, in the year 10308070 ; and "Le Bijou de Société," à Paphos, L'An des Plaisirs. Often important discoveries are made quite by accident in duSty corners of old bookshops or hidden away in their cellars. When the collections in libraries have been examined, there remain, apart from old bookshops only the private collections of bibliophiles. These acquire their finds quietly and are for obvious reasons chary of talking about their collections. Amassing the necessary data is a slow and arduous task. The bookseller cannot advertise or display erotic books which can only be sold secretly, and the bibliophile who has to buy in secret can hardly boaSt about his acquisitions.

Even the bibliographers of erotica use pseudonyms and the real names of the author and bibliographer remain in some cases conjectural. And not without reason, for they, as well as the writers of erotic literature, have suffered persecution and their work condemned to be destroyed. So, too, the writer of a preface to a bibliography preserves his anonymity under a pseudonym and it has become almost a convention for the preface to be in the form of a defence of this branch of literature though the tone of the defence has changed considerably of late years. All this secrecy has been made necessary by the fact that the production of these books is forbidden everywhere though the laws are not enforced every- where with equal Strictness. Yet in spite of the difficulties of production the field of erotic literature is very large. A hundred thousand volumes are said to be sold annually inNew York, and in France at least two thousand works of this kind were published between 1750 and 1825. Now, however, France publishes very little literature to which the law can take exception though it used to be the headquarters of the trade whilst Belgium, where legislation is not less severe, produces more than any other European country. In France it appears that only those books which are merely obscene are proscribed, and many works which in England come under the category of proscribed books, though many of them have real literary merit and are beautifully printed and illustrated and would be quite without suggestion of evil to any but those who would find evil in Paradise would be published freely in France. There has never been so much erotic literature issued by England as by France and Germany, yet England has a very extensive and secret literature in spite of the occasional seizure by the police of considerable quantities.

Though many of the proscribed books are negligible from a literary point of view yet in every country authors and artists of distinction have produced erotic works of real artistic value. And erotic literature, as such, has not been condemned in every age, else our knowledge of the manners and customs of the Romans, for instance, would have been very limited if the erotic works of their writers had not come down to us. Similar works of at least equal value of a later period, such as those of the Marquis de Sade, Andréa de Nerciat, etc., have been condemned as licentious and vicious, though they, too, reflect the customs of their period. It is to be noted, however, that due appreciation of such work has now been accorded, to these in the "Romantic Agony," by Mario Praz, and by Dawes and Gorer in their books on De Sade. This may, perhaps, be taken for a sign that a wider and better informed public has learnt to discriminate between indecent coarsely suggestive books which are an


abomination to every healthy-minded person of whatever sex or nationality, and erotic literature which conceals no purpose of coarse suggestion, but merely describes openly, without arrière-pensée, erotic emotions and usages and can have no ill effect on any but the evil-minded. The law, however, lags far behind enlightened opinion and continues to regard both kinds as equally offensive and liable to corrupt the morals of the masses though it is clear from even a cursory study of the history of erotic literature that in periods when the authorities permit or, at any rate, do not forbid its publication without persecution, the general public has little or no interest in erotic works as such, they have not the attraction of forbidden fruit and they pass without notice into the hands of bibliophiles and those whose work requires interest in these subjects. But they have no influence adverse or otherwise on the masses.

Prosecutions have the effect of drawing the attention of the prudish whose minds put evil where none exists and of the prurient who are themselves corrupt and read their own corruption into everything. Prohibition and suppression of erotic literature results in stimulating public interest not only in erotic works but in pornography ; for the masses in ordinary circumstances are too indifferent to discriminate between them.

In most erotic works the language relating to erotic acts contains words and expressions which are meaningless to the uninitiated—this is true in particular of French where there are so many special words of this kind that a whole dictionary could be and, indeed, has been devoted to them (vide "Delvau, Dictionnaire Erotique). But besides this special phraseology many contain the slang of prostitutes and the underworld, coarse expressions of the lower classes, though some, like Cleland's "Fanny Hill," though extremely erotic, do not contain a single obscene word. However, as Gay said in his preface to his Bibliographie, "Pour un esprit chaste, ajoutions-nous, les priapées d'Herculanum n'offrent rien de dangereux, tandis que pour un esprit corrompu, le plus léger sous-entendu, l'allusion la plus gazée équivaut à une obscénité grossière."

Erotic literature is of great interest and importance not only to the bibliophile, owing to the many works of outstanding literary merit and beauty of production, fine printing, beautiful illustrations, fine bindings, as well as the scarcity of individual works, a scarcity due in some cases to the limited number printed in the first instance, to there having been no subsequent reprints, and to the wholesale destruction of erotic literature which has taken place from time to time in many countries, but also to historians, philosophers, psychologists and scientists. It reflects the manners and customs of the particular period to which it belongs, gives valuable insight into the devious workings of the human mind, while the sexual aberrations and deviations from the normal recorded in erotic works make it an important field of research for scientists to whom we owe the present growing understanding that these aberrations and deviations are not necessarily vicious and that sexual normality, like truth, is not fixed and immutable. Every imaginable sexual aberration or perversion is described in these proscribed books. Lesbianism, pederasty, flagellation, incest, which always have been and no doubt always will be prevalent in society are described. One very important English erotic work, "My Secret Life," in eleven volumes, each containing 375 pages, describes almost every known form of sexual perversion or abnormality. Only ten copies of this book, which is believed to be autobiographical, are said to have been published, and of these only one copy, and that in a private collection, is known to be still in existence.


In the nineteenth century in England, perhaps the most prudish and hypocriti- cal period known to history, although historians such as Buckle and Carlyle had to get some of their material from what they called "indecent literature/' they each and all condemned it and spoke of the loathing and repugnance with which it filled them. D. H. Lawrence would h¿ve called this " mob reaction. ' It is difficult to believe that these shocked moralists could have pursued their repulsive researches without a redeeming spark of pleasure, interest or amusement ! To quote Gay again; "Les ouvrages erotiques peuvent, comme tous autres genres d'ouvrages, avoir non seulement leur agrément pour quelques personnes mais aussi leur utilité générale,"—our solemn professors, however, apparently missed the "agrément"—"Il y aun nombre de faits physiologiques sur lesquels ils attirent l'attention et qui sont quelquefois méconnus, même par les gens les plus expéri- mentés. D'ailleurs, ne trouvat-on dans quelques-uns, comme, par example, dans les ouvrages du Marquis de Sade, que des abominations, n'eSt-il pas utile de pouvoir découvrir ainsi des aberrations funestes, qui, sans eux, seraient restées secrètes, ignorées, ët auxquelles, par conséquent, il eut été impossible de porter remède? " Only the bibliophile seems untouched by these "ouvrages licen- tieux." He is neither scandalised nor corrupted by them ; indeed, as Gay says : "les amateurs qui les recherchent et qui en font collection sont généralement des personnes très réservées, très discrètes et de la conduite la plus exemplaire "

The moralists may be fewer now than in the nineteenth century but none the less they have the same old tyrannical urge to protect the morals of the masses. Gay very pertinently says of them: "C'est précisément le progrés et la vérité que repoussent sous le nom d*immoralité, bien des gens qui s'appellent moralistes. Espérer les faire revenir à la raison serait à peu près espérer qu'un borgne recouvrera l'usage de ses deux yeux. Ils continueront toujours à se fâcher tout rouge, à nous appeler cyniques et à s'écrier que nous voulons les empester."

According to Drujon (Catalogue des Ouvrages Condamnés, 1878), most of the French works and French translations mentioned in this register have been suppressed by the French police and prosecutions Still take place. Original editions are consequently very rare, but in recent years reprints have been issued in limited editions of 300 or 500 copies, usually printed on hand-made paper, and published at a high price. Also the "Mâitres de l'Amour" series and the "Coffret du Bibliophile" collection are good reprints of rare works. Since 1900 finely produced reprints of outstanding works, such as "Un Eté à la Campagne," Forberg's "Manuel d'Er otologie," "Les Sonnets Luxurieux d'Aretino," and Nerciat's "Les Aphrodites," have been published in France and even these, too, have become quite scarce and command a high price whenever they are offered for sale.

Erotic illustrations, too, form a large part of the interest in erotic subjects. A separate book could be compiled concerning erotic plates and illustrations by eminent artists. Many erotic works published in the nineteenth century contain illustrations by F. von Bayros, Gillray, Rowlandson, Beardsley, and a large number are illustrated by Rops, and probably the best record of these and illustrated erotic works generally is the second volume of the "Bilder-Lexicon," vide Bibliographies.

The "Registrum Librorum Eroticorum" does not claim to be exhaustive, though it is far more complete as regards English erotica in particular than any other bibliography of its kind hitherto published. Until Ashbee published his Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1877 no catalogue of English erotica of any real value existed. There were various bibliographies of erotic works in foreign


languages but these owing to the difficulty of collecting data did not include English erotica. Since Ashbee's book there has been no attempt to catalogue later works in this field or to remedy the omissions in the Index Prohibitorum. It is true there have been one or two bibliographies such as Perceau's "Biblio- graphie du Roman Erotique du XÏXe. Siècle" and "L'Enfer de la Bibliothèque Nationale/' but in them very few English erotic works have been included. The present work, however, as will be seen gives very full information regarding English erotica and it includes also all the important foreign works to be found in European collections.

The books mentioned in this catalogue are to be found in museums, libraries, or in private collections. When not definitely Stated it may be taken that the earliest mentioned edition is the first. Where this is known to be the first edition this is indicated. The catalogue does not pretend to give all the editions that have been published of any given work, but to record practically every edition of importance. There have been many reprints of important items, but many have not been reprinted and are consequently extremely difficult to find. It may be interesting to note that between 1833 and 1928 there are recorded 41 different editions of De Musset's "Gamiani." Innumerable editions of "Fanny Hill" have been published, whilst De Sade's "Histoire de Juliette" has not been reprinted apart from the selection in the "Pages Choisies" in the Maîtres de L'Amour series, and is very scarce. Only the moSt important books have been included in the present catalogue, that is to say, slight and minor works have not been recorded, and no attempt has been made to record books with erotic illustrations unless the books themselves can be classified as erotic or proscribed in the meaning of the title of the catalogue.

The "Registrum Librorum Eroticorum" will be found, it is believed, to have fairly complete records of the moSt important works down to the present day, many of which have not hitherto been described in any bibliography. The editor in collecting his data visited the moSt important libraries in Europe and had the advantage of access to several valuable private collections.

The entries have been arranged without any regard to subject. Where the author is well known his name is given followed by a list of his works with the appropriate data, otherwise the title is given and author, place and date of publi- cation as they appear on the title-page, whether they are false or not. When they are known to be fictitious, correct name, place or date are given in brackets if known, but when doubtful, followed by a note of interrogation.

Information as to illustrations, if there are any, is also given. Where the title is given firSt the Index will be found to cover the author's name, pseudonyms, illustrators, editors, and other names mentioned in the entries. In many cases where doubt is caSt on the authenticity of the place and date of publication given in the title-page there is no real evidence that the place or date is false, and it may indeed be correct.

No attempt has been made to show the commercial value of any of the books mentioned in the list. Prices of rare books in general have fluctuated a great deal in the last decade and reference to book-auction records will show that this is true of such erotic works as are exposed to sale by auction. These are really the only erotic works, the price of which has any degree of Stability. In cases (the vaSt majority) where the buying and selling are furtive and secret, prices range from high to fantastic, and are governed by no known Standard. The bookseller tries to get as high a price as he can and the buyer knows that he will have to pay dear.

T. O. I.


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