Capri and Other Places from Elysium Books
We think we can spot the title "Capri" in this latest catalogue from Elysium Books.
By Michael Stillman
Elysium Books recently issued a new catalogue which we believe is entitled Capri. Believe because the title page has no title, but "Capri" can be found lightly shaded on the word search cover (click the image to the left to see). This catalogue is in no way limited to items related to the island off the Italian coast, though it frequently appears. However, Capri may be symbolic of the type of material you will find. Capri was noted as an open place in long ago eras when most locations were not so free. It attracted an art colony and a thriving gay community. Most of the works in this catalogue pertain to the gay community, and most come from a time when it was subject to persecution and condemnation. Capri was a place where gay men could live in relative freedom. Here are a few of the works offered in this Caprian catalogue.
We will start with the earliest item, Anecdotes pour servir à l'histoire secrete des ebugors... This 1733 work is a thinly veiled account of the life of Benjamin Deschauffours, burned at the stake for sodomy in France in 1726. Deschauffours was guilty of more than just sodomy, though that would have been enough in itself to get him some form of punishment. Deschauffours ran a business of procuring boys from the streets of Paris and selling them for their favors to French aristocrats. He was deserving of punishment, though this was a bit extreme. This pamphlet treats his character sympathetically, as someone championing the cause of these oppressed boys. Elysium notes that while the pamphlet was reprinted many times, this first edition is quite scarce. It is herein bound with several other works. Item 147. Priced at $4,500.
Many of the items in this catalogue come from the personal collection of Norman Douglas. Douglas wrote on controversial themes, and his at times controversial personal life often kept him moving around. He spent much of his time on Capri, more hospitable to his behavior than England, where he was educated. He is best known for the 1917 novel South Wind, a lightly disguised account of life on an island amazingly similar to Capri. Elysium offers several collections of monographs Douglas kept on various subjects, such as Naples, Calabria, and herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians). The latter includes 56 monographs and offprints.
For Douglas, we will start at the conclusion rather than the beginning. Item 69 is his Footnote on Capri, his last book. It contains 48 photographs by his close friend Islay Lyons. It was published in 1952, the year Douglas died (he died on Capri). It comes with several items from Douglas or Lyons. $275.
Henry Miller may not have shared sexual orientation with Norman Douglas, but he did share controversy and condemnation, along with an interest in sexual themes. Item 127 is a Paris first edition of Miller's most notable work, Tropic of Cancer, inscribed to Douglas in 1934, the year of publication. $27,500.
Capri and Other Places from Elysium Books
A photographic portrait of Norman Douglas by Carl Van Vechten.
Item 70 is a photographic portrait of Norman Douglas, taken in 1935. The photograph bears the embossed stamp of the photographer, Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten was himself an author, writing several books with themes concerning African American life during the first few decades of the 20th century. In the 1930s, he turned to photography, and took pictures of many of the great writers and other artists of the period. $750.
Item 8 is a very early gay novel by the cross-dressing Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg, August Emil Leopold. For those unfamiliar with this duchy, suffice to say it was not a large one. His fondness for dressing in women's clothes was unusual, but this was his duchy, so he could do as he pleased. August Emil was the grandfather-in-law of the very staid British Queen Victoria, which must have made her proud. His novel is entitled Ein Jahr in Arkadien, published in 1805, and tells of two shepherds who fall in love. Is this a precursor of Brokeback Mountain? $1,800.
Item 112 is a photograph of actress and singer Lotte Lenya, taken by her friend Louise Hartung. Lenya is most noted for her roles in The Threepenny Opera. Her husband, Kurt Weill, composed the music for the play. However, this picture was taken from her role in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany. Lenya has inscribed on the back, "This is the cruelest picture ever made of me." Look out for Miss Lotte Lenya! $450.
You can contact Elysium Books at 802-763-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.elysiumpress.com.