BOGBIND. – FINE BINDING. – ANON. – TELENY. – WILDE, Oscar. – Leonard Smithers:. Teleny Etude physiologique. Paris: 1934 in Fine Binding. No 23 of only 300 copies. Paris: Ganymède club de Paris 1934. Two volumes bound with both covers in superb, elegant violet morocco with raised bands and gilt title and topedges gilt. 133 and 127 pages. Clean copies, and apart from very light wear to extremeties of binding (see photos) clean and bright
First French edition – outstanding set!
Teleny, or, The Reverse of the Medal, is a pornographic novel, first published in London in 1893. The authorship of the work is unknown. There is a consensus that it was an ensemble effort, but it has often been attributed to Oscar Wilde. Set in fin-de-siècle Paris, its concerns are the magnetic attraction and passionate though ultimately tragic affair between a young Frenchman named Camille Des Grieux and the Hungarian pianist René Teleny. The novel is one of the earliest pieces of English-language pornography that focuses explicitly and near-exclusively on homosexuality (following The Sins of the Cities of the Plain, published in 1881). Its lush and literate, though variable, prose style and the relative complexity and depth of character and plot development share as much with the aesthetic fiction of the period as with its typical pornography. History of publication: Wilde’s authorship, while unproven, is claimed by erotic bookseller and pornographer Charles Hirsch, “A few days later one of the young gentlemen I had seen with [Wilde] came to collect the package. He kept it for a while and then brought it back saying in turn: ‘Would you kindly give this to one of our friends who will come to fetch it in the same person’s name'”. Hirsch recounts three further repetitions of this “identical ceremony” before the package made its way back to Wilde. Hirsch defied the strict instructions not to open the package while it was in his care, and claims that it was written in several different hands, which lends further support to his supposition that it was authored in “round robin” style by a small group of Wilde’s intimate associates. Neither Wilde’s authorship nor editorship has ever been ascertained. By 1893, the manuscript had made its way into the hands of Leonard Smithers, who since 1892 had been in business with Harry Sidney Nichols, Smithers serving primarily as an “entrepreneurial” liaison between “authors, publishers, and distributors”. Smithers and Nichols were aligned with William Lazenby, Edward Avery, and Charles Carrington, in a small and tightly interwoven group of late Victorian publishers heavily involved in the production and distribution of pornography in London and Paris. Smithers worked extensively in the 1890s with Wilde and his circle, as is indicated by the title of James Nelson’s book on Smithers, Publisher to the Decadents. Lisa Sigel claims that unlike most pornographers, who were eager to preserve their anonymity for reasons of respectability and safety, Smithers “embrace[d] public scrutiny” and managed to earn some renown for encouraging and orchestrating the collaboration of Wilde and Beardsley on Salomé. From 1892 to 1894 Smithers and Nichols released, among other projects, a series of pornographic novels under the imprint Erotika Biblion Society. Teleny was published 1893 as part of this series in a limited edition of 200 copies, with significant edits by Smithers, including the omission of an introduction and a change in the setting from London to Paris. Smithers promoted it in an advertisement, sent to a select group of subscribers, as “undoubtedly, the most powerful and most cleverly written erotic Romance which has appeared in the English language during recent years,” authored by “a man of great imagination…[who] has conceived a thrilling story.” And: “It is a most extraordinary story of passion, and while dealing with scenes which surpass in freedom the wildest license, the culture of its author’s style adds an additional piquancy and spice to the narration”. Judged by the traditional literary standards of plot, character, suspense, variation, style, etc. which usually find pornography lacking, Teleny stands apart from its contemporaries as the “most powerful and most cleverly written erotic Romance.” Hirsch published his translation into French in Paris in 1934 of which the present copy is a very fine example. After WWII in 1958 it was published in English by Olympia Press in Paris. A paperback edition from Icon Books came out in 1966. This was an expurgated version due to the laws regarding obscene publication in effect at the time. In the introduction to that edition, readers are advised that if they wish to see the complete text they can in the British Museum, where a copy is kept in the Private Case.
Tirage limité à 300 exemplaires, celui-ci le n° 23, tirés sur vélin d’Arches pour les membres du Ganymède club de Paris. Comme il est indiqué sur le titre, cette traduction en français fut faite à partir du manuscrit original de l’oeuvre. Le texte original en anglais a été publié pour la première fois par Leonard Smithers en 1893. L’auteur, le traducteur et l’éditeur étaient tous anonymes. L’introduction bibliographique également anonyme est de Charles Hirsch. L’attribution du texte à Oscar Wilde ne peut-être affirmée mais il est probable qu’il a été écrit dans son entourage