In their book about Feodor Rojankovsky, Irving and Polly Allen do not include Pierre Louÿs’ Manuel de civilité pour les petites filles or Young Girl’s Handbook of Good Manners, in their list of erotic titles illustrated by Rojan, but his hand is clearly evident in the lively drawings, and the attribution to ‘R …’ as the illustrator clinches it.
The publication history of the 1926–27 Rojan-illustrated Manuel is still something of a mystery, and it appears that only a few copies ever existed; even these were probably not all illustrated in their entirety by Rojan. What we do know is that Jean-Pierre Dutel’s comprehensive Bibliographie des ouvrages érotiques publiés clandestinement en Français entre 1920 et 1970 tells us at Item 1917 that there is an edition with the same text including twelve in-text colour illustrations by Léon Courbouleix, and that in Spring 1973 the bookseller Coulet & Faure had in their catalogue ‘a unique example illustrated with 78 superb watercolours by Rojan’. Dutel also says that a colleague of his had another unique copy with twelve gouaches by Marcel Stobbaerts. Under Item 1916 Dutel lists an earlier version of the Manuel, published by Simon Kra, which was printed without illustrations, but which is known to exist in one-off copies hand-illustrated by artists including Rojan and Yan Dyl. A copy illustrated with twelve watercolours by Rojan was owned by the collector Gérard Nordmann and included in the April 2006 auction of his library.
As a result of this confusion, we are not clear which of the low-resolution illustrations in the portfolio shown here come from which of the Rojan-illustrated copies, or indeed whether all are actually by Rojan, though in most his style is unmistakable. If you are able to help clarify things, or even better to supply high-resolution scans of any of the images we have included, we would love to hear from you.
Now a word about Louÿs’ Manuel, which was only published in 1927, ten years after it was written and after its author’s death. As Geoffrey Longnecker explains in the introduction to his excellent English translation, published by Wakefield Press in 2010, ‘Although the book’s model is obvious enough, late nineteenth-century manners are here turned on their head, with ass prominently skyward. The practice and theory of civility that is parodied here has its humanistic roots in Erasmus, who proposed teaching manners and etiquette to boys to help them attain and maintain a noble character. By the end of the nineteenth century, though, such handbooks and educational manuals had become primarily intended for girls, and were little more than a despotic means of regulating sexuality and gender. This is not to say that Louÿs makes for a champion of feminism, or that this handbook (which was not intended for public consumption) was meant as a critique. It is to say, though, that Louÿs adopted a format that at the time was worthy of satire. With its lessons in hypocrisy and admonishments so outrageous they come off more as devious suggestions, his Handbook of Good Manners distinguishes itself as one of the few undisputed erotic classics in which (intentional) humour takes precedence over arousal. Needless to say, this handbook is not recommended for use in educational establishments.’