Item of the Week: Louÿs and his Astarte

Published: June 3, 2011

Over the last few years, the Clark has been actively acquiring the work of Pierre Louÿs, a French poet whose connections to Oscar Wilde and the decadent movement make him a perfect fit for the Clark.

Our most recent acquisition is a special copy on Japon Imperial paper of Louÿs’ first published book, Astarte, printed in 1892.  This edition was limited to 100 copies, and ours is one of 12 printed on Japon Imperial.  The book was originally bound in yellow paper wrappers, with a color lithograph illustration by Albert Besnard, though our copy is now encased in a sumptuous red morocco binding.

Albert Besnard's lithographed design for the original paper covers

Our copy also includes a letter from Louÿs to Pierre Bracquemond, concerning republishing Astarte under the title Poésie.

Another special addition to our copy of the book is a photograph of the author himself.  This photograph was also printed on Louÿs’ personal stationary (though the library does own several letters by Louÿs, unfortunately we don’t own any with this photo gracing the letterhead!)

This edition of Astarte is also beautified by an original watercolor by Georges Rochegrosse on the preliminary title page, illustrating the Louÿs poem “Les filles de Dieu.”  Rochegrosse was an Orientalist painter and a popular illustrator of works by symbolist poets.

This volume joins many others in our growing collection on Louÿs, which includes books, personal papers and manuscripts.  A finding aid available via the Online Archive of California describes some of these items, as does an earlier post on The Clog.

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