The 1908 edition of La toison d’or

La toison d’or (The Golden Fleece) is a little-known – and possibly best forgotten – romantic novel by Jean de Gourmont, brother of the better known Rémy, first published in 1908 by the Société Mercure de Paris. Its two main characters, Marguerite and Raymond, are archetypal mismatched lovers, who go through many trials and tribulations before the final proclamation of undying love.

Apart from being a typical libertine French novel of its time, the attraction for Editions Pellet, the publisher of the illustrated 1925 edition, and for Frans de Geetere, was probably that most of the action of the novel takes place within a stone’s-throw of where the Marie-Jeanne was moored on the Seine.

The title page spread of the 1925 Pellet edition

Frans produced twenty engravings for the book, which was published in a numbered edition of 250 copies. The engravings are notable for their strength and honesty; clearly based on personal experience and life models, his lovers are real human beings in believable bodies and authentic settings.

Jean de Gourmont was very pleased with de Geetere’s illustrations, writing ‘These illustrations, displaying a rare erotic talent, show miraculously and without insulting precision the aura of sensual mysticism I too had sought in which to bathe my ideas and my dreams’.