A Cruel, Disturbing, and Erotic Work, in a Binding to Match


(Paris: La Connaissance, 1925). 335 x 250 mm. (13 1/8 x 10"). 4 p.l. (first blank), xviii, [2], 210 pp., [2] leaves. No. 91 OF 102 COPIES on Montgolfier paper (and one unique copy on Japon Impérial).

DRAMATIC MODERN WRAP-AROUND BINDING BY ANNE GIORDAN depicting the titular "Garden of Tortures" IN ONLAYS OF PURPLE, RED, GREEN, AND BLACK MOROCCO accented with gilt and black and white paint, with rays of light shining through skeletal trees onto a cascade of blood running over black and purple rocks into a green lake, title in gilt on spine, PALE YELLOW MOROCCO DOUBLURES framed in green and purple morocco, paste endpapers in coordinating hues, top edge marbled, other edges untrimmed. Original illustrated wrappers bound in. In a matching purple morocco-trimmed chemise and purple cloth slipcase. Illustrated by Gio Colucci with title vignette, decorative woodcut initials, and head- and tailpieces printed in red and black using the pochoir technique, 14 ETCHINGS COLORED BY HAND in vivid hues and gold, and with AN ADDITIONAL BLACK & WHITE SUITE of the wood-engraved decorations and the etchings bound in at rear. Half a dozen leaves with a sprinkling of foxing to tail margins, otherwise AN ESPECIALLY FINE COPY, clean and bright internally with brilliant coloring, and the binding as new.

The shockingly lurid nature of this fin-de-siècle novel is emphasized by our powerful binding and vivid engravings. Written by French journalist, playwright, novelist, and anarchist sympathizer Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917), the "Garden of Tortures" is most famous for its depiction of the sadistic Clara, who achieves erotic delight from everything depraved and debauched. The narrator encounters this infamous woman on a trip to China, where all manner of cruelties are acted out for her amusement within the walls of perfectly manicured gardens, and the work's language and imagery are just as disturbing today as in 1899, when the novel was first published. Accompanying the text is a series of provocative engravings inspired by the look of Japanese woodblock prints. The images match the brutality of the narrative--peacocks feast on blood, mask-like faces stare at the reader as rictuses, and the bodies of nude women writhe and contort across the page--while the addition of bold streaks of color emphasizes the heightened, even absurd, actions and emotions of the characters. The artist, Gio Colucci (1892-1974), was known as "the king of color," and worked in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, and architecture. As a painter he was similarly eclectic, experimenting with Cubist, abstract, and Expressionist styles. Our binder, Anne Giordan, has participated in numerous exhibitions both in France and internationally, and continues to operate a thriving atelier on the outskirts of Strassburg. For the present binding, completed in 2003, Giordan has manifested a vision that is at once beautiful and distorted, much like the novel itself. In homage to Colucci's engravings, she favors a bold color scheme and includes abstracted and sinister shapes to suggest the dreadful garden we are about to encounter.

Price: $4,800.00