London: Jarrolds, 1933. First edition in English. Original black publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine. Lacking the scarce dustwrapper. In just about Fine condition, with only the gentlest rubbing to extremities and a small spot to front board. Bookseller's ticket of R. C. Willis & Co to front pastedown. Internally a clean, bright copy without marking or foxing except to half title and final leaf. Containing 25 illustrations. Scarce in institutions and in the trade, OCLC reports only 20 known copies in the U.S. with this being the only first edition on the market.
"That I, Lili, am vital and have a right to life, I have proved it." So declares Lili Elbe, a pioneer for the transgender community, in her autobiography Man into Woman. Named Einar Wegener at birth, Lili began her life with a lucrative career as a landscape artist and a marriage to fellow painter Gerda Wegener. Indeed, it was Gerda who ultimately became Lili's greatest ally and advocate, standing by Lili as she made a series of physical and emotional transitions that helped awaken the world to the existence and viability of transgender individuals. It was during the 1920s that Lili became aware of her own identity, and of her unhappiness living life as Einar. Rather than living only at home as Lili, "Gerda encouraged [her] to dress as [herself] when they went out. They would dress in expensive gowns and furs and attend balls and social events. They would tell people that Lili was...a model whom Gerda was using for her illustrations. Eventually, those closest to Elbe noted that...she seemed far more comfortable as Lili Elbe than she ever had as Einar Wegener" (Serena). As an increasingly public presence as Lili became dangerous in Denmark due to Einar's previous celebrity, Lili and Gerda relocated to Paris where they were less known and could begin again. Yet the pain of living in a body that didn't conform to her identity led Lili into a deep depression. She writes of the struggle, explaining that she even selected a date to commit suicide. What saved her from this fate was her discovery of Dr. Magnus Hirschfield and the German Institute of Sexual Science, where studies on "transsexualism" and related surgeries were taking place. Relocating to the institute in Dresden, Lili bravely embarked on a two-year journey that included four major experimental surgeries, at least three of which were the first of their kind. The goal was to bring her body into alignment with her identity and, though it was revealed to be medically impossible at the time, make it possible for her to bear the children she dreamed of having with her fiance, Claude. "Following the first three surgeries, Lilie Elbe was able to legally change her name and obtain a passport that denoted her sex as female" (Serena). Tragically, the final surgery would cause an infection that led to Lili's illness and death; yet as she makes clear in her autobiography, she had no regrets about moving ahead in her life, and contributing to a growing knowledge base about transgender and queer identities. "It may be said that 14 months is not much, but they seem to me like a whole and happy human life." Indeed, Lili's autobiography has helped expand visibility for her community, particularly through its adaptation into an award-winning film, The Danish Girl. And with the destruction of the German Institute for Sexual Studies and its records during the Third Reich, it stands as one of the few detailed documents of the surgeries that are continuing to evolve and become more accessible to transgender individuals today. Near Fine (Item #2872)