The Artist’s Bookplate, in A Book of Fifty Drawings, with an Iconography by Aymer Vallance
Inscribed by Aubrey Beardsley to Gabrielle Réjane.
Bookplates, along with posters, became newly important art forms in the late-Victorian period. In 1891, the founding of the Ex Libris Society helped to make bookplates not merely collectible, but respectable. As always, Beardsley dedicated himself to upending, so to speak, all notions of respectability. Only he would have designed something that placed books in the background and buttocks in the foreground, right in the viewer’s face, or depicted a naked woman reaching not for clothes, but for a bound volume. He used this image to create a bookplate for Herbert Charles Pollitt (1871–1942), a.k.a. Jerome Pollitt, who was famed for cross-dressed stage performances at Cambridge University and for a brief romantic liaison with the notorious practitioner of Dark Magic, the writer Aleister Crowley (1875–1947). Beardsley inscribed this copy of A Book of Fifty Drawings to the French actress, Gabrielle Réju (1856–1920), known as “Réjane.”
From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press