Aphrodite, done into English from the French of Pierre Louys, by Pierre Louÿs, illus. unknown, (Privately Printed for Subscribers Only[Mitchell S. Buck], 1913, #66/550)
6.5″x8.75″, xi+258pp+Notes+Index, cream vellum spine over green boards, gilt titles on spine, good condition, some bumping and rubbing
Buck’s translation is easier to read than Carrington’s translation a few years earlier. This was his first book, most likely, self-published and printed by Nicholas L. Brown.
Pierre Louys (1870 – 1925) was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who “expressed pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection.” “Aphrodite: mæurs antiques” (Ancient Manners) is a “libertine” story set in ancient Alexandria. Highlights include the loves of Chrysis, an orgy banquet ending in the crucifixion of a slave, the love of two young musician girls and the festivals of Aphrodite.”
Mitchell Starrett Buck (February 10, 1887 – May 12, 1959) was an American poet, translator and classical scholar. His volumes of verse and prose poetry were deeply influenced by 1890s aestheticism as well as classical Greek and Roman Literature. Buck’s writing was secondary to his work as a heating engineer, and the money he made professionally allowed him to become a noted book-collector, specializing in first editions, English literature, Greek and Latin classics. Buck’s first book was a translation of Aphrodite by the French decadent Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925). It appeared in 1913, and was “privately printed”, probably at Buck’s expense. It may have been arranged through the Philadelphia bookseller Nicholas L. Brown, who officially became a publisher in 1916, and thereafter issued most of Buck’s output. Between 1916 and 1932, Brown published small editions of poetry, belles lettres, translations, sometimes without his imprint but stating that the title has been “issued privately for subscribers” (in order to evade prosecution for dealing in obscene materials). Such classical erotica is very tame by modern standards, but in the teens and twenties such material was policed by self-appointed authorities such as John S. Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.