Les véritables chansons de Bilitis (The Real Songs of Bilitis) is unusual even within the realms of erotic literature, as not only is it a spoof of a spoof, but it is almost certain that both the author (Pierre Louÿs, as stated on the title page) and the illustrator (usually stated as Métivet) are deliberate mis-attributions.
By the time Les véritables chansons was produced, every collector of erotica in France and beyond knew Pierre Louÿs’ Les chansons de Bilitis (The Songs of Bilitis), a collection of erotic lesbian poetry first published in Paris in 1894, and one of the most successful literary frauds of all time, most of Louÿs’ early readers honestly believing that they were reading genuine translations of rediscovered ancient poetry found on the walls of a tomb in Cyprus, written by a woman called Bilitis who was a courtesan and contemporary of Sappho.
The Real Songs, definitely not by Louÿs, takes things to a whole new level, introducing several new characters including the youths Midas, Lampryas, Mélantho and Lykas, with overt sex on almost every page. The chapter entitled ‘Sans titre’ (Without a Title) on page 39 offers a flavour of the whole, and needs no translation: ‘Oui ... oui ... Lampryas ... comme çà ... Ah! ... tiens ... oui ... oui ... oui ... Ah! ... ah! ... oui ..............’
Although the numerous two-tone illustrations for Les véritables chansons are usually credited to Métivet, and have been ever since the book was first published, their crude graffitiesque style strongly suggests a much less accomplished artist. However, since the attribution is so long-standing we have chosen to include the portfolio here rather than under the prolific Anon.
Les véritables chansons de Bilitis, published anonymously, ran to two editions; the first, in 1928, was of 200 numbered copies, the second, in 1935, of a further 350 numbered copies.