A parody of Victor Hugo’s “Légende des Siècles”

Le Sire de Chambley (Edmond Haraucourt 1856-1941), La Légende des sexes. Poëmes hystériques. 1st edition (Bruxelles: pour l’auteur, 1882 [Nevers, 1883]). Binding by Carayon. Copy 22 of 212. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

Fabulous endpapers.


The Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to have acquired a first edition of Edmond Haraucourt’s first book, published when he was twenty-six years old at his own expense, to parody Victor Hugo’s Légende des Siècles (Legend of the Centuries). He called his book, La Légende des sexes.


Our copy has a particularly fine Japonism style binding by the French artisan known only as Carayon. The endpapers are beautiful color woodcuts depicting the Japanese folktale, Shita-kiri Suzume (Tongue-Cut Sparrow).


A member of the whimsical literary circles of Hydropathes and the Chat Noir, Haraucourt published the volume under the pseudonym Le Sire de Chambley and under his own fictitious imprint. Even so, he was not accepted into the Académie Française because of the book, which was promoted as “l’épopée du bas-ventre” (genteelly translated as an epic of the lower abdomen).

Haraucourt knew Victor Hugo (1802-1885) a few months before Hugo’s death and was one of the ten poets to accompany his coffin at his funeral. In accord with Hugo’s will he was carried in the hearse of the poor but followed by chariots loaded with flowers. Haraucourt went on to serve as President of the Victor Hugo Foundation from 1928 to his death in 1941.

See also Victor Hugo (1802-1885), La légende des siècles (Paris: Hetzel, [188-?]) Recap PQ2285 .L15 1880