The Berthomme Saint-André illustrations for Pierre Louÿs’ Pibrac include images which, in the overused phrase beloved of broadcasters, ‘some viewers may find disturbing’; if you have found your way here, however, you will probably be as amused and intelligently provoked by them as author and illustrator intended. They do include subjects including juvenile sexual exploration and bestiality, so if you choose not to explore further press the ‘back’ button now. You have been warned …
Like the rest of Pierre Louÿs’ voluminous output of erotica, Pibrac (sometimes spelt Pybrac) was not published during his lifetime, but instead figured among the many secret manuscripts discovered after his death, tucked and filed away, and subsequently auctioned off and scattered among collectors. It would see its first clandestine publication in 1927, two years after the author’s death.
The title is derived from the name of Guy Du Faur, Seigneur de Pibrac, French jurist, poet, and chancellor to Marguerite of France, Queen of Navarre, who notoriously rejected his attempts at wooing her. That fact, combined with Pibrac’s reportedly upright character (Montaigne said of him, on his death: ‘Good Monsieur de Pibrac, whom we have just lost, such a noble mind, such sound opinions, such a gentle character!’), undoubtedly contributed to Louÿs’ decision to employ a deformation of his name as the title to this collection. The mockery extends to the format and tenor of the poems, though, as Pibrac is best remembered for his own collection of poems, a set of 126 moralistic quatrains, which throughout its endless printings bestowed good advice and guidelines to proper conduct upon many generations of French youth up until the nineteenth century. For the full background to Louÿs’ scandalous reinterpretation of Pibrac’s verse form, the introduction to Geoffrey Longnecker’s English translation can be found here.
Berthomme Saint-André’s illustrations match the irreverent tone of Louÿs’ verses, with plenty of public, underage and group sex.
The Berthomme Saint-André edition of Pibrac was published ‘Aux dépends d’un Amateur pour le Profit de Quelques Autres’ (At the expense of an amateur for the benefit of the few others), in a limited numbered edition of 308 copies, of which 28 included both a duotone set of the engravings and the set illustrated here with remarques (marginal additional sketches) by the artist.
We are grateful to Steve Mullins of the Olympia Press website (www.parisolympiapress.com) for these illustrations.