[Justine or the misfortunes of virtue] Opus Sadicum: A philosophical Romance | for the first time translated from the original French, Marquise De Sade (Isadore Liseux, 1889, first edition]
9 1/8″ X 6 1/4′, viii+392pp, top-edge gilt other edges heavily deckled, binding showing age, boards and spine heavily worn and unevenly darkened/sunned?, marbled end-papers
This book is the first English translation of de Sade’s Justine. This is the original edition with a contemporary binding. It was published by Isadore Liseux and printed by Ch. Unsinger, 83, Rue de Bac, Paris. It is exceedingly rare as most copies have been rebound or are soft-bound in their original “french wraps”. The “Opus Sadicum” title page is followed by a preface, then the frontispiece (the image a reworking of the original 1791 frontispiece) protected by tissue guard, then a second title page stating “Justine or the misfortunes of virtue” “At the Associated Booksellers’ | 1791” (which was printing date for the original french version).
There were apparently two other editions of this “first translation”. After Liseux’s print run, printer/bookseller, Harry Sidney Nichols bought some sheets from Liseux and had Unsinger strike of 50 sets of prelims (opening and title pages) for his Erotika Biblion Society edition. This edition is also very rare, if not impossible to find. The more commonly seen edition has an all black title page and lacks the frontispiece and states that it is limited to 250 copies with the limitation number hand written in. It also states the address but not the name of the supposed printer “83, Rue du Bac, Paris”. This is the most common edition in circulation and is possibly an early pirated edition (Liseux’s books where often quickly pirated in the US and elsewhere with black & white titles).
The story is about Justine from age 12 to 26 and recounts all of her attempts to be virtuous no matter what life throws at her. She is constantly presented with sexual lessons hidden under a virtuous mask. She seeks refuge in a monastery but is forced to become a sex slave of the monks. After she helps a gentleman who is robbed in a field, he takes her back to his chateau on the pretext to have her help care for his wife. He confines her in a cave where she is subjected to more punishment. When she goes to a judge to beg for mercy in her case as an arsonist, she then finds herself openly humiliated in court, unable to defend herself.
The moral seems to be (especially when juxtaposed with the “companion story”, Juliette) the acceptance of a small bit of vice for the common good. The more Justine tries to resist temptation and be virtuous the further she was plunged into a life of vice and torture, while Juliette (her sister) submitted to a brief period of debauchery and vice and eventually lived a comfortable, happy existence.
The Marquis de Sade wrote the first version of Justine (Les infortunes de la vertu, “The Misfortunes of Virtue”) while imprisoned at the Bastille in 1787. In 1791 an expanded and more explicit version (the one presented here) became Sade’s first published work. In 1797, an even more detailed version was published along with a story of Juliette (Justine’s sister) that comprised of 10 volumes and nearly 4000 pages. This final version, “La Nouvelle Justine”, departed from the first-person narrative of the previous two versions, and included around 100 engravings. Most editions are taken from that 1797 Holland edition. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette, and as a result Sade was incarcerated for the last 13 years of his life. Napoleon called the work “the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination”.