It is important to recognise that Mario Laboccetta was much more than an erotic artist specialising in flogging. In 1930 he was approached by the long-established Paris-based publisher Librairie Nilsson to join a team of artists for their growing La bibliothèque précieuse series of classic texts, notable for their high-quality and mildly erotic illustrations. It was a happy time for Laboccetta, and over the next three years he illustrated more than a dozen Nilsson titles, including Voltaire’s Candide, Tales of Hoffmann, Musset’s Contes, and the works of Gérard de Nerval. Several Bibliothèque précieuse titles bore the pseudonym Marilac, as did La lyre voluptueuse published by Nilsson under their Les poètes et l’amour series, with twenty-six beautifully imaginative illustrations. Laboccetta also used the pseudonym Ainex for three late Bibliothèque précieuse titles, including a two-volume Boccaccio.
A highlight of this period is Laboccetta’s wonderful illustrations for Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, perfectly adapted to the themes of the poems. Art critic Giuseppe Marotta, an admirer of Laboccetta, wrote that ‘This is a superb edition, depicting a colourful world with no less originality than that of Salvador Dali.’
At the end of 1933, following a period of growing financial pressure, Nilsson was forced to sell its catalogue to Éditions Gründ and terminate contracts with its talented band of illustrators; Laboccetta was one of the victims.