Paul Verlaine’s Oeuvres libres consists of three collections of poems – Les amies, sonnets in praise of lesbian love; Femmes, hommage to Verlaine’s women friends and lovers; and Hommes, inspired by his homosexual experiences. Given their subject matter, they are perfect as inspiration for erotic illustration, and when Gérald Nordmann commissioned Roger Descombes to produce engravings for the project the artist was clearly delighted, as it gave him the opportunity to explore many of his favourite themes – and be paid handsomely for the privilege.

The Descombes-illustrated Verlaine was published in a rather unattractive paperback edition including 50 black and white plates, with no place or date of publication indicated. However, Roger Descombes also produced a beautiful set of 75 original signed engravings for Nordmann’s own collection, and it is this set which we have included here.