The Sofa, a moral tale by Crébillon fils, trans. Bonamy Dobrée, illus. Robert Bonfils (The Folio Society, St. James’s, London, 1951)
6.75″x9.25″, v+256, red boards with silver gilt decorations on spine, spine only slightly sunned, slipcase
The Sofa: A Moral Tale (French: Le Sopha, conte moral) is a 1742 libertine novel by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (Crebillon fils). It was first translated into English in the spring of 1742. The story concerns a young courtier, Amanzéï, whose soul in a previous life was condemned by Brahma to inhabit a series of sofas, and not to be reincarnated in a human body until two virgin lovers had consummated their passion for him. The novel is structured as a frame story in an oriental setting, explicitly evocative of the Arabian Nights, in which Amanzéï recounts the adventures of seven couples, which he witnessed in his sofa form, to the bored sultan Shah Baham (grandson of Shehryār and Scheherazade). The longest episode, that of Zulica, takes up nine chapters; the final episode concerns the teenage Zéïnis et Phéléas. Amanzéï, witnessing their innocent pleasure, is edified and freed through the experience of virtuous love. Many of the characters in the novel are satirical portraits of influential and powerful Parisians of Crébillon’s time; the author takes the opportunity to ridicule hypocrisy in its different forms (worldly respectability, virtue, religious devotion).
Although the book was published anonymously and with a false imprint, Crébillon was discovered to be the author and was exiled to a distance of thirty leagues from Paris on April 7, 1742. He was able to return on July 22, after claiming that the work had been commissioned by Frederick II of Prussia and that it had been published against his will.
Robert Bonfils started his illustration career in Chicago in the mid fifties, doing various commercial art assignments such as advertisements, lunch box decorations, catalog illustrations, magazine covers, interior story illustrations, record jacket covers, and book covers. He is best known for his covers for erotic, pulp fiction paperbacks.