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    Sale 2011

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    12 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 206

    [OLYMPIA PRESS]. A superb and virtually complete collection of titles published by the Olympia Press and its various imprints including the Ophelia Press, the Collection Merlin, the Atlantic Library Series, and the Traveller's Companion Series. Paris and New York, 1953-1974. All the major publications of the press are present, (only a handful of reprints and New York works absent). Together approximately 400 volumes, most FIRST EDITIONS, most 8o, in original bindings, including a small number of duplicates. Provenance: Patrick Kearney, the Olympia Press bibliographer.

    Price Realised  


    [OLYMPIA PRESS]. A superb and virtually complete collection of titles published by the Olympia Press and its various imprints including the Ophelia Press, the Collection Merlin, the Atlantic Library Series, and the Traveller's Companion Series. Paris and New York, 1953-1974. All the major publications of the press are present, (only a handful of reprints and New York works absent). Together approximately 400 volumes, most FIRST EDITIONS, most 8o, in original bindings, including a small number of duplicates. Provenance: Patrick Kearney, the Olympia Press bibliographer.


    Started in 1953 by Maurice Girodias and based on the model of the Obelisk Press, which had been run by his father Jack Kahane, the Olympia Press holds an important and unique place in literary history. Publishing works of great literary value by some of the most renowned authors of the 20th-century, Girodias and the Olympia Press confronted the issues of intellectual and sexual freedom in the 1950s and 1960s.


    After his father's death in 1939 and with war inevitable, young Girodias was penniless and the Obelisk Press had folded. Having worked for his father for several years, Girodias stayed in the publishing business. He first published reprints in a 50/50 partnership with Kurt Enoch under the Unicorn Press. When Hitler's armies entered France and Enoch left for the United Sates, Girodias began publishing arts books as Les Editions du Chene. He became a successful art book publisher, but decided after the war to expand in a more literary direction. In 1946, he published a pamphlet by an ex-resistance fighter named Yves Farge, who denounced the official protections given to black market operators. Girodias was sued for libel, but to his surprise, the case went in his favor. He was indicted again in 1947 for publishing a French edition of Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn under Editions du Chene. Girodias launched an aggressive anti-censorship campaign, taking up where his father and the Obelisk Press had left off, with a resolve that would continue throughout his publishing career and change the course of his life.

    Mismanagement of his affairs led to the loss of Editions du Chene and three years of desultory wanderings throughout Paris. Until one day, after a shadowy doctor gave him ten injections of monkey glands (according to Girodias), he decided to embark on his second publishing career. So began the Olympia Press. When Henry Miller, who had remained friends with Girodias from his days working with the Obelisk Press, heard that he had started a new publishing venture, he sent him the manuscript of Plexus, the first book to be published by the Olympia Press. Around the same time, Girodias began meeting young English and American expatriots full of literary good will and aspirations. Writers were abundant, readers were hungry, and soon the existence and reputation of the Olympia Press had spread throughout the world.


    Although Girodias was able to reconcile the publication of his sex novels with works by Beckett, Queneau, and others, the Olympia Press was mainly known as a publisher of erotic fare. Girodias began routinely fighting censorship by officials in France, who were often under influence by American and British authorities. Several Olympia Press books were banned due to erotic subject matter. "What probably offended the authorities was the fact that Girodias was a fighter who stubbornly refused to give up. Whereas most publishers in his line of business would simply stop selling a book if it were banned, Girodias would fight the ban to the highest court, organize support from notable literary figures, and even bring lawsuits against the French government. Worst of all, he often won" (Kearney, The Paris Olympia Press, 2008, p.7). And he did manage to make some money, due in large part to the publication of Lolita in 1955. However, an extravagant nightclub venture and a series of court convictions in France led to bankruptcy in the 1960s. Girodias moved to New York in 1967 and continued to publish under the Olympia Press. These books lacked the intimate feel and the production quality of the Paris years, and by 1974, the Olympia Press has effectively ceased to exist.

    In a short period of time, Maurice Girodias managed to put out a remarkable number of works, influencing the sexual revolution and contributing to the advent of free expression in literature. The Olympia Press's contribution to modern publishing, especially during the Paris years, cannot be underestimated.


    MILLER, Henry (1891-1980). Plexus. Paris: The Olympia Press, [1953].

    2 volumes, square 8o. Original plain white wrappers; brown dust jacket printed in black with border of white six-pointed stars (some very minor wear along edges).

    FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, AND THE FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED BY THE OLYMPIA PRESS, one of 2000 copies, this copy out-of-series. A French translation of Miller's fictionalized account of his marriage to his second wife June, published by Corrêa, predated this edition by a year. Kearney 1.1.1.

    SADE, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de (1740-1814). Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised. Paris: The Olympia Press, [1953].

    Square 8o. Original plain white wrappers; yellow dust jacket printed in black with border of white six-pointed stars; remnants of acetate dust jacket (corners very slightly bumped, old tape adhesions on inner panels of dust jacket).

    THE FIRST INTEGRAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION, first published in 1791. Kearney 1.2.1.

    BECKETT, Samuel (1906-1989). Watt. Paris: Collection Merlin, The Olympia Press, 1953.

    Square 8o. Original magenta printed wrappers (slightest wear to spine ends); velvet lined hinged box.

    FIRST EDITION, LIMITED ISSUE, number 540 of 1100 copies. The first title to appear under the Collection Merlin imprint. The Merlin group, led by Alexander Trocchi, Christopher Logue, and Richard Seaver, can be given credit for bringing Beckett to the attention of the English speaking world by convincing Girodias to publish Watt. "Girodias claims that during his first meeting with Beckett in the back of a bookshop in Paris, Beckett did not utter a single word, not a hello or goodbye. As Girodias later summed it up: 'A strange bird - and a strange transaction'" (Kearney, p.65). Federman & Fletcher 32; Kearney 2.1.1; Texas/Lake 163. A FINE COPY.

    BECKETT. Molloy. Paris: Collection Merlin, The Olympia Press, 1955.
    Square 8o. (Final text leaf and rear free endpaper cut short, not affecting text.) Original plain white wrappers; abstract-design dust jacket in black, blue, and green by Shinkichi Tajiri (some rubbing along folds, some light wear and a few creases).

    FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, with "FRS 1.200" on the rear inside flap. Beckett was responsible for the translations of most of his works, with the exception of Molloy, which was translated in collaboration with Patrick Bowles. Federman & Fletcher 374; Kearney 2.5.1; Texas/Lake 94.

    RÉAGE, Pauline, pseudonym for Anne Desclos. (1907-1998). The Story of O. Paris: The Olympia Press, 1954.

    Square 8o. Original plain white wrappers; purple dust jacket printed in black framed by a border of white six-pointed stars (head of spine slightly chipped, spine lightly faded, some spotting at edges).

    FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, translated from Histoire d'O by Baird Bryant and issued almost simultaneously with the first French edition. The story was written by Anne Desclos as a love letter to her lover Jean Paulhan. She feared he was losing interest in her, so penned the novel as an appeal to his fascination with the works of the Marquis de Sade. This present English version was not used again in any later Olympia Press editions, likely due to the liberties Bryant took with the translation. Kearney 1.8.1.

    GENET, Jean (1910-1986). The Thief's Journal. Paris: Collection Merlin, The Olympia Press, 1954.

    Square 8o. Original plain white wrappers; black pictorial dust jacket.

    FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, with a foreword written by Jean-Paul Sarte. Journal de voleur, first published in French in a privately printed edition of 4,000 copies, is a thinly veiled account of Genet's life as a deviant and criminal. In 1949, after authorities threatened Genet with life in prison after 10 convictions for theft, it was Sartre, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Picasso, who petitioned the French president to set aside the sentence. Kearney 2.3.1.

    LENGEL, Frances, pseudonym of Alexander TROCCHI (1925-1984). Young Adam. Paris: The Atlantic Library published by the Olympia Press, 1954.

    8o. Original orange printed wrappers (some very minor soiling).

    FIRST EDITION, the sixth book to be published under the short-lived Atlantic Library series. Trocchi wrote four novels for the Atlantic Library series, which prefigured the Traveller's Companion series and attempted to published more high-minded erotic literature. Young Adam tells the story of a bargeman named Joe who kills his young girlfriend and engages in an affair with his employer's wife. Kearney 4.6.1.

    NABOKOV, Vladimir (1899-1977). Lolita. Paris: The Olympia Press, 1955.

    2 volumes, 8o. Original green printed wrappers (a few very small stains, two small indentations in front wrapper of vol.1); green cloth folding case.

    FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, with printed price "Francs: 900" on back cover. This controversial novel was rejected by American publishers, but was finally accepted by the Olympia Press. It was suppressed on 10 December 1956 under the French decree of May 1939, which was designed to combat morally offensive publications. Lolita was the most financially successful of all Olympia Press books. Juliar A28.1.1; Kearney 1.13.1.

    DONLEAVY, James Patrick (b.1926). The Ginger Man. Paris: The Traveller's Companion Series published by The Olympia Press, 1955.

    8o. Original green printed wrappers.

    FIRST EDITION. The book follows the adventures, oftentimes racy, of Sebastian Dangerfield, an American living in Dublin and studying at Trinity College. Although it was commonly thought to be a thinly fictionalized account of Donleavy's own experiences at Trinity, the Sebastian Dangerfield character was modeled after his friend Gainor Stephen Crist. The novel was suppressed by French authorities on 10 May 1956 for its obscene content, but the ban was apparently lifted in January 1961. Kearney 5.7.1.

    DONLEAVY. The Ginger Man. Paris: The Traveller's Companion Series published by The Olympia Press, 1958.

    8o. Original cloth, printed paper labels on front cover and spine; dust jacket with abstract design in red, yellow, blue, and gray (slightest wear along edges).

    Second edition published by the Olympia Press, specifically printed for distribution in England, and with the cancelled inner flaps. The printing of this edition by the Olympia Press led to one of the most acrimonious feuds in the history of publishing. Girodias believed he owned the English-language rights to The Ginger Man, including those editions printed outside France. Donleavy had entered into a separate agreement with Neville Spearman for an expurgated edition to be published in England, so Girodias published this hardcover edition, also expurgated, to undermine the one Spearman was printing. Donleavy and Girodias sued each other for a number of years, with the main line of defense taken by Donleavy and Spearman that the contract with Olympia was invalid because the originally published version of the book was obscene and therefore illegal. Donleavy eventually put an end to years of litigation by purchasing the bankrupt Olympia Press at auction in 1970.

    The original inner flaps of the dust jacket referred to the ongoing court battle between Girodias and Donleavy. Afraid that publication of the details of the case would either be construed as contempt of court or would only serve to hamper his case, Girodias had them removed and replaced with flaps containing less litigious material. Kearney 5.7.2.
    DONLEAVY. The Ginger Man. New York: The Ophelia Press, 1968.

    8o. Original pink printed wrappers.

    FIRST AMERICAN EDITION, published after the press had moved to New York, printed in the distinctive pink Ophelia Press wrappers. A statement on the back wrappers reads: "This and only this is the first, authorized, uncut and unexpurgated reproduction of the original Paris edition.

    LEWYS, Peter [LOUYS, Pierre] (1870-1925). The She-Devils. Paris: Ophelia Press, 1958.

    8o. Original pale tan printed wrappers (wrappers detached from textblock, a few tears, some rubbing).

    FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH of Louÿs' Trois filles de leur mère, translated by William S. Robinson. "When Girodias offered me the Louÿs translation, he said that it would take him a little time to find a copy because it was extremely rare. He had previously found one and given it to someone else to translate, he said, but that person had torn it up and flushed it down the toilet. I was in no position to do anything like that and besides I don't think my toilet would have handled it" (Kearney). Pierre Louÿs was known for his unorthodox sexual relationships and his overtly erotic writings. The work from which this present edition is translated states that it is not a work of fiction, leading to much speculation about the nature of Louÿs' relationship with the wife and daughters of the Cuban-born poet José-María Heredia. The Ophelia Press imprint was generally considered one of the bread and butter lines of the Olympia Press. With works of a more pornographic nature, the existence of the Ophelia Press allowed more substantive imprints, like the Traveller's Companion Series, to publish more literary fare. Kearney 6.4.1.

    BURROUGHS, William (1914-1997). The Naked Lunch. Paris: The Olympia Press, 1959.

    8o. Original green printed wrappers; pictorial dust jacket (some splitting along fold of spine panel, old tape repairs on verso of spine panel).

    FIRST EDITION. 5000 copies of this edition were printed, although the dust jacket was not issued until some months later and was not used on any subsequent reprints. Kearney 5.76.1.

    GRIMM, Benjamin, pseudonym of Spencer LAMBERT. Sir Cyril Black. New York: The Ophelia Press, 1969.

    8o. Original pink printed wrappers.

    FIRST EDITION. Six years after publication, Sir Cyril Black caused something of a stir when Maurice Girodias, his partner David Young, and Lambert became the defendants in a libel case heard in the New York Supreme Court. The real Sir Cyril Black, a Member of Parliament and champion of press censorship, bought a copy of the Olympia Press edition believing it to be a biography. Finding it to be otherwise, he wrote in a press release that it "consisted of a pornographic novel in which the principal character was named Sir Cyril Black, portrayed as a most evil person engaged in perversions of various kinds, and guilty of practices of an unspeakable nature." Black sued the Olympia Press, winning a public apology and $100,000, which he announced he would donate to charity.

    ROSENTHAL, Monroe and Donald MUNSON. President Kissinger. A Political Fiction. New York: Freeway Press, 1974.

    8o. Original pictorial wrappers (wrappers detaching from textblock, some leaves loose).


    FIRST EDITION of Girodias' most self-destructive endeavor. By now, the Olympia Press had virtually ceased to exist and Girodias was publishing a single series of books under the Freeway Press imprint. The novel was to be a biography of Kissinger, had become President after the Constitutional provision requiring the President to be a native-born citizen was changed by an Act of Congress. The novel contained several erotic passages, including a steamy encounter between Kissinger and a Prussian noblewoman in a Heidelberg Inn, which Girodias refused to delete. U.S. government authorities were not amused, and the State and Justice Departments intervened. Despite a personal letter of appeal to Kissinger in which Girodias stated that the novel was not pornographic, but rather "a work of 'political fiction' that can only be seen as a vibrant homage to your political intuitions," Girodias was served deportation papers.

    In addition to the highlights, the collection includes: Olympia Press, Paris (22) and New York (96); Traveller's Companion Series, Paris (144) and New York (122); Ophelia Press, Paris (33) and New York (162); Collection Merlin (4); Ophir Books (9); Atlantic Library (10); Far-Out Books (7); Le Grande Séverine (2); Othello Books (7); Odyssey Library (4); and approximately 20 others.

    [With:] KEARNEY, Patrick. An extensive archive of the bibliographer gathered in the preparation of his bibliography (published Liverpool University Press, 2008). Consists of approximately 34 folders and envelopes containing typescripts, correspondence from Maurice Girodias (signed), Marco Vassi, and others, pamphlets, leaflets, photocopies of journal articles, and additional miscellaneous items relating to the publishing history of the Olympia Press. [And With:] KEARNEY, Patrick. The Paris Olympia Press. Edited by Angus Carroll. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008.

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