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Why would a book with such a bizarre title be in the Lord Coutanche Library collection?  The clue is on the frontispiece, as it states that it is sold through Mr Samuel-Isaac-Josédiah Smithson in Jersey.  In 1885 a book appearing to have a Jersey imprint became available to purchase, with an "AVIS" (warning or advice) that in France booksellers could subscribe to purchase the book on the behalf of their bibliophile clients, but not display the copies for sale. A note on another page, in English adds that it is "only printed for private circulation".  

The book deals in saucy tales, some with roots in classical history, and have sub-headings that they are of a philosophical / political nature, and do not appear to be too raunchy by modern standards. Perhaps the French had a more liberal view on morality at the time the book was published.  The picture on the frontispiece shows a seductive-looking lady smoking.  She could easily be a lady of the night depicted by artist Toulouse-Lautrec.  The advice is negative advertising, in that the bibliophile must be discerning, and known to booksellers in order to buy it. Could this be as risqué as "Fifty Shades of Grey"?  

The tales are tame, allude to classical texts, and not of any particularly literary merit.  The most interesting aspect of the book is the "claim" that Jersey is cited as the place the book could be purchased, and also that it was printed in the island.  Jersey is set up as an offshore island, not for laundered money, but for this saucy book. The bookshop owner who is also the writer of the book's preface is Samuel-Isaac-Josédiah Smithson, whose shop was situated at 92 Friend's Bench Road, and the printer of this copy is T. S. Haris, a Jersey printer.  I looked through the almanac for 1885 and 1886, and could not find any evidence that either bookseller or printer involved in this publication were listed.  Neither was the address.....   

Anna Baghiani

 

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