The extremely scarce first issue from The Fortune Press
Huysmans, Jorris Karl ~ Down There (La-Bas)
The Fortune Press : 1930
The First Issue published by The Fortune Press in c1930. The BOOK is in Very Good++ condition. Number '213' of 2000 copies issued on antique laid paper, numbered 51-2050. There were also 50 copies on Rives mould-made paper. The address of The Fortune Press at the bottom of the title page states : '12, Buckingham Palace Road, London'. No publication dates are mentioned. Light pushing and splitting at the extreme spine tips. The gilt titling to the top edge remains bright. Other pages uncut. Two small remnants of a former owner's bookplate to the front blank end-paper. The book was published with the half-title, limitation page and title page inserted onto a stub preceding 'the introduction' as issued (see below). Very light toning to the extreme page edges, otherwise the book is internally clean. The fragile printed paper WRAPPER is complete and is in Very Good++ condition. Light edge wear with a little creasing in places. Mild toning to the spine, folds, flap edges with some light age related markings in places. The wrapper looks very striking in the removable Brodart archival cover. There is some confusion over the printing history of this title by The Fortune Press : '... like its edition of 'Against the Grain', the Fortune Press edition of 'Down There' is comprised of the printed sheets of the Groves & Michaux edition, but with the addition of a new title page and justification page (on matching paper and using some of the same typefaces, so presumably printed at the same printer in France). Bibliographical evidence may be in short supply, but by looking at such facts as there are, and at the secondary evidence surrounding them, the only credible conclusion to be drawn is that the Groves & Michaux edition of 'Down There' was never actually put on sale commercially. The only copies of it that now exist are almost certainly the publisher's reference copies, making it the rarest of all editions of Huysmans in English translation: there are probably no more than 25 bound copies in existence. As for the Fortune Press edition, that too is extremely rare.....'. 'A clue to how many Fortune Press copies exist or were produced lies in the fact that all the copies were numbered — and none of the copies that are held in libraries or that have come up for sale over the last few years have had numbers greater than 500. There is possibility therefore that Caton purchased only 500 sets of sheets, rather than the 2,050 that is the stated print run. The number of copies actually in existence is clearly far smaller than a print run of 2,050 would imply, though it is difficult to say exactly how small. By comparison, copies of the first Fortune Press edition of 'Against the Grain' are very much easier to find, even though that was produced in an edition of only 250 copies. There are, however, clear and obvious reasons for the paucity of copies of 'Down There' : it would not have made commercial sense for Caton to bind the whole edition in one go, for example. The Fortune Press edition of 'Down There' is a relatively sumptuous affair................it is most likely that, as he did with later and less expensive Fortune Press editions, Caton bound up batches of copies as and when he needed them. Another more serious factor affecting the number of surviving copies is that of legal confiscation, either by customs or in targeted raids. The Bulletin de la Société Huysmans for December 1934 (No. 11) contains a short notice about a letter received 'from an English member of the society' — i.e. Montague Summers — informing them that an edition of 'Down There' had been suppressed by the police. Although 'Down There' was indeed one of the books confiscated by the police raid on the Fortune Press in September 1934 — on suspicion of producing obscene literature — it seems as if the prosecution was at least originally aimed at other publications. However, the Fortune Press didn't get the confiscated copies back and this must have severely reduced the number of copies in circulation..............'.'The translator of 'Down There' is not named in either the Groves & Michaux edition — where the title page states only that it is 'Translated by an Oxford MA' — or the Fortune Press edition, which doesn‘t mention a translator at all. However, it is fairly certain that the translator was Alfred Allinson. ......'. ' Both the Groves & Michaux and Fortune Press editions contain a preface written by Huysmans’ literary executor, Lucien Descaves, which was translated into English by Frank Groves. Descaves submitted his preface as a dactylograph copy, rather than handwritten, saying that otherwise the publishers would have sold it as an autographed manuscript to collectors. The preface didn’t appear in any of the subsequent editions.......'. 'Although Montague Summers contributed to the bibliography and notes included in the subsequent bowdlerised versions of Là-bas which the Fortune Press put out in 1946 and 1952, he is not mentioned as having had anything to do with the first edition of 'Down There'. It is possible, however, that he acted as some kind of advisor during its production. In an article Summers wrote about Huysmans and Dickens in 1946, he refers to Huysmans as ’Jorris Karl’ — the erroneous spelling of Huysmans’ name that appears on the covers of both 'Down There' and 'Against the Grain'. In this, Summers was reproducing Huysmans’ own error in the publication of his first book, 'Drageoir à épices', in which he mistakenly spelled the Germanic form of his first name with two Rs, though he corrected the spelling for all subsequent editions of his work (Huysmans, Groves & Michaux, and the Fortune Press ~ http://www.huysmans.org/fortune.htm ). Là-Bas, translated as 'Down There' or 'The Damned', was first published in 1891. It is Huysmans's most famous work after 'À Rebours' and deals with the subject of Satanism in contemporary France. The novel was extremely controversial when first published and is the first of Huysmans' books to feature the character Durtal, a barely disguised portrait of the author. A very elusive title and I can find no records of this first issue with a wrapper appearing at auction in the last 50 years. Collectible.
CONDITION: Very Good++
JACKET: Very Good++