[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, first English translation, printed by Chas. Unsinger, bound by Jas. Macdonald Co., N.Y.]
9.75″ X 6.5, viii+392pp, three quarter bound in blue morocco over marbled boards, two raised bands, gilt boarders, gilt decorations on spine, gilt titles on red background on spine, paper label on spine, marbled endpapers, paper label with gilt title, hand laid Arches paper, top edge gilt, other edges deckled, a very rare mint-condition copy, beautifully bound after purchase by a contemporary NYC book binder.
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”.
Isidore Liseux (1835-1894) was a French bibliophile and publisher of erotica and curiosa. His publications were mostly rare texts of 16th to 18th century authors, hard to find and little known books which were usually translated and annotated by his friend and associate Alcide Bonneau or by Liseux himself. Liseux and Bonneau, both ex-priests, knew each other since seminary. His books were published in small numbers, on high quality paper, and with excellent typography. His usual printers were Claude Motteroz, Antoine Bécus, and later Charles Unsinger. Liseux’s books were published openly as the climate was more permissive in Paris at the time. His books were so well regarded that pirates of his books and even unrelated books bearing his imprint with a false date were published clandestinely into the 20th century. French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire wrote: “The publications of Liseux are more and more sought after because they are correct, beautiful and rare.” (Le flaneur des deux rives, 1918).
JAMES MACDONALD (1850-1920) was born in Scotland and trained as a bookbinder. In 1873 he came to the United States and worked with William Matthews, one of the pre-eminent binders. He left Matthews when he had saved enough money to start his own binding business. The Macdonald bindery, established in 1880, soon became one of the most sought-after binderies in this country. In an interview with the New York Herald in November 1910, James Macdonald acknowledged that hand- binding in the industrial age was a dying art, “…the world is moving away from the art of the book lover. The world is swifter now, but it is not so thorough in many things as it once was. The average man has become used to the product of the machine. Today he knows no other standard. He has lost his touch for half-tones – for the cover of a book has its half-tones.” After the Club Bindery closed in 1909 “James Macdonald purchased the largest part of the tools” (Thompson). Unaffected by the changing developments of the book and binding industry, the Macdonald bindery produced some of the finest bindings of its time both for themselves and for publishers and bookstores such as: Brentano’s, Scribners, E.P. Dutton and Co., Gotham Book Mart and others. The bindery continued to flourish under Ida Macdonald, Ronald Macdonald and Jacques Desmonts. Desmonts, a bindery employee since 1962, became President of the company in 1971 when Ronald Macdonald retired. For a century the Macdonald bindery had maintained a New York City address. In 1980 Jacques Desmonts moved the bindery to its present location in Norwalk, Connecticut.