‘The erotics of book collecting’

Posted on 11th March 2024 by simonbeattie

I am currently getting ready to exhibit at the New York book fair, which takes place in a few weeks’ time. One book I shall have with me is this:

It also has wonderful Jugendstil endpapers:

It’s a German edition of Jane Eyre, published in Vienna in 1902. Lynne Tatlock, in her recent book, Jane Eyre in German Lands, explains:

‘In 1892 the Austrian publisher Prochaska made available for purchase a revised, abridged, and unattributed edition of Susemihl’s 1848 rendering [the first edition in German] titled Johanna Eyre, die Waise von Lowood.  The publisher marketed it in two different series with uniform covers that featured the book as important “world literature”: Die besten Romane der Weltliteratur (The Best Novels of World Literature), consisting of eighteen volumes.  In 1902, Prochaska reissued it in the series Klassische Romane der Weltliteratur.  Ausgewählte Sammlung Prochaska in 32 Bänden (Classic Novels of World Literature.  The Prochaska Select Collection in 32 volumes).  A novel translated into “alle Cultursprachen” (all the languages of the civilized world), Johanne Eyre appealed to both “Geist und Gemüt” (mind and heart).

‘The cover design of novels in the 1892 series features flowers and foliage with a crest whose interlocking parts and the indication of cords threaded through rivets lend it a mechanical look …  The uniform covers of Prochaska’s second series from 1902, the Classic Novels of World Literature, strive, in turn, to address the connoisseur with covers indicating the precious and select.  Their gold-stamped secession design presents an underwater view of two mermaids with flowing hair, swirling seaweed, and bubbles.  Sexually charged, it intimates the erotics of book collecting with its partial view of one mermaid’s breast and the second’s rump, which despite its fish scales suggests the human buttocks’ (Lynne Tatlock, Jane Eyre in German Lands: the Import of Romance, 2022, p. 12).

If you’d like to receive my fair list when it’s released, please do sign up on my website.

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