Fleurs du mal, Les

Very Rare First Issue
With the Six Suppressed Poems
In the Original Contemporary Cloth Binding

BAUDELAIRE, Charles. Les Fleurs du mal. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1857.

First edition, first issue, containing the six “notorious” poems for which Baudelaire was fined, and which were suppressed in the second issue, and with the following issue points: with “Feurs” in the headline on pp. 31 and 108; with p. 45 misnumbered 44, and with the last word of the first line on p. 201 “captieux” instead of “capiteux.” Twelvemo (7 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches; 185 x 121 mm.). [4], 248, [4, table of contents] pp. Title printed in red and black.

In the original contemporary French binding of brown morocco-grain cloth over boards. Covers ruled in blind, smooth spine ruled in gilt and blind and lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, edges sprinkled brown. The merest of rubbing to corners and spine extremities. Paper very slightly browned at the edges, as is to be expected. Occasional very minor soiling or faint staining (heaviest on pp. 52 and 53, 154 and 155, and 184 and 185). Contemporary pencil inscription of “Sancta Simplicita” at head of half-title. This is a spectacular copy in what is without a doubt the publisher's original binding. Housed in a three quarter black morocco clamshell case.

“When Les Fleurs du mal was published in book form in late June 1857 its often scabrous and sacrilegious content immediately attracted the attention of the authorities, and on 20 August 1857 Baudelaire was fined 300 francs by the Sixième Chambre Correctionnelle for ‘outrage à la morale publique’; in addition, six poems in the collection were ordered to be suppressed…Baudelaire was adamant that his ‘livre atroce’ was not ‘un pur album’ and that the individual poems yielded their full significance only when read within the ‘cadre singulier’ in which he had set them. Introduced by the celebrated dedicatory piece ‘Au lecteur’, the 100 poems of the 1857 edition were divided into five sequences or ‘chapters’ (‘Spleen et Idéal’, ‘Fleurs du mal’, ‘Révolte’, ‘Le Vin’, and ‘La Mort’)…Les Fleurs du mal records, in poetry in which lyricism and irony are fused, the quest of divided modern man for an ‘ideal’—variously sought in art, eroticism, travel, drugs, and political, social, and metaphysical revolt—that forever eludes him, plunging him back into the agony of isolation and despair that Baudelaire called ‘spleen’. Oscillating from one extreme to another, the quest is open-ended, ever to be renewed, and takes the seeker beyond the realms of life and death ‘au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau’ (‘Le Voyage’)” (The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French).

The first edition of Les Fleurs du mal consisted of 1,300 copies, only 200 of which were seized and mutilated after the six “notorious” poems were censored. The first issue contains the six poems: “Les Bijoux” (pp. [52]-53), “Le Léthé” (pp. [73]-74), “A celle qui est trop gaie” (pp. [91]-93), “Lesbos” (pp. [187]-190), “Femmes damnées” (pp. [196]-197), and “Les Métamorphoses du vampire” (pp. [206]-207). The French ban on these poems was not officially lifted until 1949, although they were commonly printed as an appendix in posthumous editions of Les Fleurs du mal.

Carteret I, 118-123. Clouzot 43 (“La très grande majorité des exemplaires a été reliée convenablement, mais sans plus, à l’époque”). Rahir, p. 310. Vicaire I, cols. 341-343. Item #00219

Out of stock

See all items by