Manual of Classical Erotology (de figuris Veneris) by Fred. Chas. Forberg, trans. Alcide Bonneau (Privately Printed for Viscount Julian Smithson M. A. and Friends [Charles Carrington], 1884, one of 100 copies)
vol. 2 only, half-bound in tan vellum over marbled boards, spine is labeled “Carrington” who is the presumed publisher. Top edge gilt, other edges deckled, binding loose but holding.
De figuris Veneris (On the figures of Venus) was an anthology of ancient Greek and ancient Roman writings on erotic topics, discussed objectively and classified and grouped by subject matter. It was first published by the German classicist Friedrich Karl Forberg in 1824 in Latin and Greek as a commentary to Antonio Beccadelli’s (1394-1471) Hermaphroditus (commonly referred to as Antonii Panormitae Hermaphroditus), an erotic poem sequence of 1425 in renaissance Latin, though it was later also published as a separate work.
First edition of this important parallel English, Latin and Greek version.
This very rare edition was translated by Alcide Bonneau and published by Charles Carrington. Each page has latin (and where appropriate, Greek) on the right side and the English translation on the left. This is the second volume only and includes the following chapters:
IV. —Of Masturbation
V. —Of Cunnilingues
VI. —Of Tribads
VII. —Of Intercourse with Animals
VIII. —Of Spintrian Postures (a list of 95 sexual positions)
Considered the gold standard English translation of the time, this edition followed a poor piracy of 1882 badly translated from Liseux’s French edition of 1882. The name of the publisher is missing (most likely to avoid prosecution) and the limitation statement says 100 copies were “printed for Viscount Julian Smithson M. A., the Translator, and his Friends” and further states that “None of these Copies are for Sale” (also to avoid prosecution). Through later statements (mostly by association) we know it was published by Charles Carrington and translated by Alcide Bonneau. Carrington, in his 1902 catalogue, Forbidden Books wrote (thus promoting the sale of his clandestinely published book): ‘Were I a bookseller, I do not think I should ever take the trouble to print such a book as I have now before me. Here is a Latin work, full of notes, and bristling with Greek quotations. A most careful and masterly translation has been placed opposite every page of the original text, and it needs no literary critic to see that no one but a real classical scholar—an old Oxford man—could ever have successfully struggled with such a task… The two stout volumes have evidently been printed on the Continent—and for very good and valid reasons, as no English printer would dare to undertake such a work,— therefore each page would have to be submitted to the translator, at least three or four times, foreign compositors working mechanically. Many months would thus pass in wearisome proof-reading, and when at last the hundred copies are struck off, and each man receives his due, what margin of profit awaits the silly bookseller-publisher? He is insulted in every way and laughed at if he dares to wonder that the British Customs seize any copies…’
In 1882 Forberg’s work was translated into English and published by Charles Carrington as De figuris Veneris, Manual of classical erotology, and again in 1907 by Charles Hirsch, and into French, German and Spanish. The French edition by Alcide Bonneau was titled Manuel d’érotologie classique. One French edition of 1906 was illustrated by Édouard-Henri Avril, which concludes with a list of 95 sexual positions. Most of the editions were restricted to high society or censored; one of the copies edited in France was immediately deposited on the secret shelves of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
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