Honest erotica comes in all shapes and sizes, and none is more strange and entertaining than this series of engravings to accompany a short anonymous novel of 1893, supposedly by ‘Paulette, Vicomtesse de St-Luc’, entitled Liqueurs et parfums des importantes fabriques de Lesbos, Cythère et Gomorrhe – ‘Liquors and Perfumes from the Important Factories of Lesbos, Cythera and Gomorrha’. Though not attributed or signed, the illustrations are now thought to be by the prolific Frédillo.

The title page spread of Mariage de Paulette

Like many such publications, its publishing history is obscure; the first edition says it was published in Montreal, Canada, but it was actually published in Amsterdam by Auguste Brancart under his Lebaucher imprint. In the same year the ‘Vicomtesse de St-Luc’ also produced Autour du mariage de Paulette ou un bon ménage moderniste. 

Liqueurs et parfums consists of two small volumes with six coloured plates in each, humorously and joyfully extolling the variety of fluids and perfumes of sexual congress, straight, lesbian, gay, and every conceivable combination. The accompanying text reads ‘No flogging, no dildos, no dogs, nothing but human flesh – all human flesh without reserve’.

Later illustrated editions of Liqueurs et parfums were published – in 1940, with illustrations by Rojan, and in 1949 (with the title Les Curiosités) illustrated by Éric Losfeld – but neither had the exuberance and wit of the original.