Paris: [Charles Carrington] Limited Edition for Private Circulation, 1904. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding discretely stamped in blind with "A Study in Social Science" stamped in gilt to spine. Top stained red. Measuring 182 x 125mm and collating complete, with decorative art nouveau border throughout: , 179, [1, blank]. A nice copy of a scarce, controversial work, with square binding and textblock and just a bit of rubbing to corners. Occasional scattered foxing, largely confined to preliminary and terminal leaves; otherwise unmarked. A lovely example of the publisher Charles Carrington's aesthetically appealing productions, which blended erotica with practical sexual advice; it was quickly prosecuted for obscenity in Paris and required to bear a label to that effect on its subsequent issue. OCLC reports only three copies with libraries and it does not appear in the modern auction record, with this being the only example on the market.
"Charles Carrington, one of the most notorious pornographers of the late nineteenth century, marketed sexual-scientific works in Britain between 1896-1907...like many smut dealers, Carrington perceived that science and pornography's overlapping terrain in the Victorian imagination presented him with an opportunity to expand his catalogue. What set him apart was the scale and sophistication with which he manipulated those overlaps" in ways that allowed him to appeal to readers ranging from "sexual scientists to prurient masturbators. Yet, for the careful reader, such documents also made visible sexual science's indeterminate place in the literary field, simultaneously dramatizing Victorian Britain's ongoing struggle to come to terms with the necessity of empirical sexual description to scientific enquiry and challenging the logic of efforts to differentiate science from pornography" (Bull).
Love Without Danger, printed at the height of Carrington's reputation, encapsulates these tensions. A discrete binding with a polite, scientific title house a fine-paper printing featuring ornate art nouveau borders and luxurious typography. Visually luxurious, the text titillates by encouraging readers of all genders to engage in copious and passionate intercourse; and it encourages any participant in sex to pursue their own and their partner's pleasure through an awareness of how each other's bodies function. It is here that practical anatomy and medical science enter the conversation -- for such bodily knowledge was difficult to access during a period shaped in the UK by Victorian prudery and in the US by Comstock Laws. What's more, the text acknowledges that while reproduction is sometimes an important goal of sexual contact, it is not always desired; to that end, the text also provides instruction on the use of contraceptives including India-rubber caps and sponges.
The desirability of Carrington-published works persists, and their combined beauty and scarcity has drawn in bibliophiles as well, "whose taste for rare and luxurious books often attracts them to expensive pornography" (Bull). As a physical object, as erotica, as sexual education, Love Without Danger hits its marks.
Register of Erotic Books 2709 (for the second issue). (Item #5202)