Paris: Leon Genonceaux, 1892 (1891)

18 x 13 cm, 152pp. Period half-leather and cloth private binding with gold titles. Original wrappers retained internally. There is a reproduced drawing of the author as frontispiece after a portrait by Felix Valloton (tipped in as issued). First edition of this poetry collection which was only printed in the year of Rimbaud’s death (November 1891) after a delay in finalising publication due to a controversial foreword by the poet Rodolphe Darzens.

That foreword caused the publisher to refuse to include the text in the final publication although some copies including the foreword did escape his censorship (see below). The book was published in an edition of only 550 examples and the majority of the books bear the date 1891 but a very small number for an unknown reason are known to have the published date printed as 1892: these books were NOT a second edition and were in fact published on the same paper and with exactly the same typography and content as the others hence making this something of a bibliographic puzzle. In fact one could argue that the books dated thus are more of a rarity than the already hard to find “1891” dated volumes.

Regarding this there is a bibliographic reference from Jean-Jacques Lefrere in his book “Les saisons litteraires de Rodolphe Darzens, suivi de documents sur Arthur Rimbaud” (Paris, Fayard, 1998), in the chapter entitled “;L’affaire du Reliquaire”, page 310:

‘L’annee qui suivit la fuite de Genonceaux, quelques exemplaires du Reliquaire avec la date de 1892 furent mis en librairie par on ne sait qui. Ils beneficierent meme d’une publicite dans le Mercure de France de mars, ou le volume etait propose pour un prix de six francs. Ces exemplaires, qui contenaient la preface litigieuse, furent presque aussitot retires de la vente, vraisemblablement a la suite d’une nouvelle protestation de Darzens. Quelques rares exemplaires portant la date de 1892, mais amputes de la preface, circulerent ensuite. Le Reliquaire, qui constitue la premiere veritable edition des poesies de Rimbaud, est aujourd’hui tres recherche par les bibliophiles et par les marchands de livres anciens. Le plus souvent, ce sont des volumes avec preface qui appairessent sur les catalogues en vente. Les exemplaires sans preface sont beaucoup plus rares, mais moins cotes que les autres’.

“‘The year which followed the flight of Genonceaux, some copies of the Reliquary with the date of 1892 were put in bookstores by who knows who. They even benefited from an advertisement in the Mercure de France in March, where the volume was offered for a price of six francs. These copies, which contained the disputed preface, were almost immediately withdrawn from sale, probably following a new protest from Darzens. A few rare copies bearing the date of 1892, but amputated from the preface, then circulated. The Reliquary, which constitutes the first true edition of Rimbaud’s poems, is today much sought after by bibliophiles and by antique book dealers. Most often, these are volumes with a preface that appear on the catalogs for sale. The copies without a preface are much rarer, but less quoted than the others.”

This is one of the volumes that Lefevre describes as circulating without the foreword (as issued, not simply removed later) and dated as 1892. The condition is excellent with only a little fading/browning to most pages and the only page to show any deterioration is the table of contents at the back which has a distinct darker hue and slight edge damage. The private binding contains at the back a tipped-on a former seller’s bibliographic description of the book mentioning the disparity in the date and the issue of the foreword. Otherwise VG. Clearly a rare item indeed.

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