Heart’s Desire, with its eight copper engravings by John Buckland Wright, is one of those rare oddities in erotic publishing – an English publisher’s emulation of the illustrated French lesbian fantasy, of which Pierre Louÿs’s Bilitis is the prototype.

Christopher Sandford, together with Owen Rutter and Francis Newbery, bought the Golden Cockerel Press from founder Robert Gibbings in 1933, and though they had some success, especially with the John Buckland Wright-illustrated volumes, the venture was never financially viable and was sold in 1959.

Christopher and Lettice Sandford with dolls, photographed by Norman Parkinson in 1976

It is likely that Sandford had written the manuscript for Heart’s Desire some years earlier, but in 1937 he commissioned John to produce eight engravings to accompany it, paying him the princely sum of £50. Whether from embarrassment (though he was not easily embarrassed) or fear of legal action we shall never know, but Sandford chose to publish it under the semi-anagrammatic pseudonym Chrysilla von Dansdorf, ‘issued in Paris for private circulation only’. Just 70 copies were printed.

As well as his involvement in Golden Cockerel, Christopher Sandford (1902–1983) was a founding director of the Folio Society, and husband of the wood engraver and traditional doll revivalist Lettice Sandford.