Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Merryland in French, not 1805

In January 2010 I posted images of an "1815" (actually, 1872) edition of a French translation of Thomas Stretzer’s A New Description of Merryland (1740) that I had recently bought, but which is now in the Monash University rare books collection (here), having appeared in a Monash exhibition: Lewd and Scandalous Books (July–September 2010), item 58 (here).

I recently acquired another copy of Description Topographique, Historique, Critique et Nouvelle du pays et des Environs de la Forêt Noire Situés dans la Province du Merryland (above), which also has a false imprint and date (below): “A Boutentativos, chez les veuves Sulamites, aux petits appartements de Salomon. L'an du monde 100,800,000,500.” [Boutentativos: among the widows of the Sulamites, in the small apartments of Solomon. The year of world 1805]

“Boutentativos” is, seemingly, an invented adjectival, and plural masculine form of bouter (to push, pin or enter, from Middle French bouter, from Old French bouter)—so, somewhere that men enter the small apartments of the widows of Solomon. Hysterical.

This is one of a number of falsely dated French reprints of Merryland. In this case, the title-page is 1805, but the paper is clearly watermarked with the date 1863. Catalogue entries for this edition usually give the date as “1863?” without offering any explanation for how the date was arrived at (as here—citing the British Library, citing Gay). Below, you can see the evidence.

I see no real justification for the question mark, but librarians frequently add them without the slightest provocation. Tens, hundreds (?) of thousands of new books, issued with a date on the verso of the title-page, are catalogued every year with one of these question marks when there is do doubt whatever that the new book concerned was published in the year indicated. In this case, it would be a strange, costly and elaborate deception to publish Merryland with a falsely-dated imprint, and a falsely-dated watermark.

Unfortunately, this copy lacks the rather odd, but eye-catching frontispiece (below). It was also miscataloged as a copy of the first edition of 1770. That is didn’t have the frontispiece and it wasn’t correctly catalogued was probably for the best, since a copy of this edition with the frontispiece sold for four hundred Euro six years ago (see here) in the Karl Ludwig Leonhardt sale (Un Enfer Privé: Collection Sieglinde et Karl Ludwig Leonhardt (3 December 2009), no. 279), a discount on the copy in the Gérard Nordmann sale (pt.2: 15 December 2006, no. 505), which sold for 720 Euros.

The frontispiece in the Leonhardt and Nordmann copies is copied from the sepia version (above, right) in the first edition (1770) held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and available on Gallica (here), along with a second plate (here), very similar, but on a smaller page, which appears to have been tipped in. Unlike the wonderful frontispiece to the eighth edition of the English text, neither image contributes anything to the somatopic text.

BTW: Another copy of my edition (sans frontis) is presently available from Madoc Books here, for GBP400.

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