Quite how Caruchet’s marginally erotic plates came to be associated with a treatise on flogging is anyone’s guess, but it certainly had much to do with the hold of Charles Carrington over the clandestine publishing scene at the fin de siècle. The English collector and publisher Carrington had already built a formidable reputation with his reproductions of Martin van Maële and the first illustrated edition of The Memoirs of Dolly Morton in 1899, so this hefty tome subtitled La flagellation à travers le monde (Flagellation Around the World) had a ready audience.

Less explicable are the title, authorship and illustrations of this strange hybrid brick of a book. Parisienne et Peaux-rouges translates as Parisiennes and Redskins, and though native Americans were quite a novelty in 1904 Paris there are zero references to them in the five narratives that make up the text. The red skins of the title are clearly Carrington’s attempt at clickbait, with their less-than-subtle suggestion of marks resulting from the flagellation of the subtitle.

The author is given as Jean de Villiot, ‘author’ of several other spanking titles of the period including the 1905 Les contes du fouet (Tales of the Whip). It is generally agreed that the main real-life author behind the Villiot pseudonym is Georges Grassal de Choffat (1867–1905); heir to a wealthy family of Nantes merchants, Grassal was a dilettante, eccentric and reveller, who had to resort to writing erotic novels to support himself after he had squandered all his inheritance.

And the twenty Caruchet illustrations? They have almost nothing at all to do with the text beyond a little incidental nudity. The most likely explanation is that Carrington had seen Caruchet’s work, and either asked (or failed to ask, as was often the case) the artist’s permission to use the most risqué of his work to embellish his major new ‘scientific’ work on flagellation. If Caruchet was asked, he might have seen the request as part of a liberal concept which fitted with his socialist ideals, and might also have been glad of any financial consideration that was offered.

We are grateful to Steve Mullins of the Olympia Press website (www.parisolympiapress.com) for these illustrations.