[CARJAT, Étienne.][MAHALIN, Paul]. Les Cocottes !!!!! Paris: chez tous les libraires (printed by G. Kugelmann), 1864 [1863?].


[CARJAT, Étienne.] [MAHALIN, Paul].
Les Cocottes !!!!!
Paris: chez tous les libraires (printed by G. Kugelmann), 1864 [1863?].

12mo (136 × 100 mm), pp.126, [2], frontispiece with an albumen photograph by Étienne Carjat affixed to mount with his studio blindstamp to lower margin; light wear, pages browned and with occasional staining, photograph fine. Top edge stained red. Quarter morocco, marbled boards, lettering and former owners monogram in gilt to spine. Binding by ‘Franz’. Original printed wrappers bound in; binding rubbed and worn. A very good copy.

First edition, printed by G. Kugelmann and not Boanventure et Ducessois who printed subsequent editions, with an advert for the forthcoming publication of Mémoires du bal Mabille, also by Mahalin, on the rear wrapper.

Paul Mahalin was a journalist and prolific author who wrote under a number of pseudonyms, the most well known being Émile Blondet after a character in Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaineLes Cocottes !!!!! and Mémoires du bal Mabille were both issued with an original albumen photograph as frontispiece. A copy of the 1864 Boanventure et Ducessois printing at the University of Wisconsin features a different photograph by Carjat of the same woman in costume. We have traced several other books from this time by the same publisher which were also issued with an original photograph, including some by Nadar, and others which are not credited. The adverts on the rear wrappers often making a point of mentioning the photographs.

Les Cocottes features a series of humorous observations of the daily habits of Parisian prostitutes together with snatches of dialogue and a discussion of their role in society.

‘From the 1860s to the end of the century, the French popular press created a stereotypical symbol - frequently depicted as a piece of paper folded to resemble a chicken - for a specific level of prostitute identified as a “cocotte.” Through the use of puns that drew on street vernacular, the cocotte was seen either as a “chick,” easy prey for predatory French males, or as a dangerous prostitute, who threatened their masculinity. Drawn from both reality and fantasy, the cocotte posed a challenge to the established order in society, even as she becomes a focus for male fantasies of female sexuality - fantasies that were fueled by her ambiguous nature. She was a mixture of pleasure and danger, known and unknown. Artists and writers became preoccupied with defining her attributes and mapped her various manifestations.

The earliest printed literary source to use the word “cocotte” was a satirical pamphlet titled Les Cocottes !!!!! (1864), which employed a wide range of meanings, from amusing to violent. Definitions are given as, first, a child’s term for a chicken; second, a small square of paper folded to resemble a hen; third, a term of affection for a little girl; and finally, a term used for a grown woman “dans un sens un peu libre” (somewhat freely). There is the sense, even in this early document, that men had an uneasy relationship with this female, who occupied a gray area between the respectable and the liberated woman.’ (Mix 193)

Etienne Carjat was a well-known figure in Paris during the 1860s and ‘70s who photographed many of his acquaintances from Parisian literary and artistic circles, including Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Courbet, Sarah Bernhardt, Frederick Lemaitre, and Henri Rochefort. He knew Courbet well and was a close friend and supporter of Léon Gambetta. Carjat also photographed Paul Mahalin, the author of Les Cocottes, and Jules Claretie, a literary figure and director of the Théâtre Français, whose monogram is in stamped to the spine of this copy. However, it is his 1871 portrait of Arthur Rimbaud for which he is perhaps best known.

Carjat’s later career as a photographer has come to eclipse his role as an artist, poet, journalist, and political radical. He was also the central figure and editor-in-chief of Le Boulevard (1861-63), an illustrated literary journal whose contents included Baudelaire prose poems, debates around Hugo’s Les Misérables, and reactions to Flaubert’s Salammbô, as well as Carjat’s own caricatures. Paul Mahalin and Jules Claretie both contributed to Le Boulevard, Claretie on several occasions, and Mahalin just once in May 1863.

Provenance: Jules Claretie’s monogram in gilt to spine and a note in pencil stating that this book is from his library.

Barbier, A.-A., Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes, 4 vols, Paris 1872–9 p.620; Gay: Bibliographie des ouvrages relatifs a l’amour, aux femmes et au mariage par M. le Cte d’I*** [Jules Gay]. 4e édition, entièrement refondue ... par J. Lemonnyer, 1893-1900 p.603; (Elizabeth Mix, ‘Paper Ladies: Locating the Nineteenth-Century Cocotte in Popular Literature and Journal Illustrations,’ Twenty-First-Century Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Art, Chu, P.t-D and Dixon, L. (eds). p.193-203).

There seems to be some confusion over the dates of the various printings and editions. Barbier mentions an 1863 edition printed by G. Kugelmann, and Gay gives editions printed in 1863, 1864, 1866, 1868, 1870. Copies of the 1864 edition printed by Boanventure et Ducessois are held at Stanford University Library; New York Public Library; University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Library of Congress has a copy of the 1866 edition, and Vanderbilt University, TN has a copy of the 1868 edition. The Bibliotheque National de France hold copies of the 1864, 1866, 1868, and 1869 editions, they hold two copies of the 1864 edition so it is possible that they have copies of both printings but it is unclear from their cataloging.

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