The extraordinarily prolific writer and poet Pierre Louÿs wrote hundreds of poems during his short productive period between 1896, when his most famous work, Aphrodite, appeared, and 1906 when he virtually stopped publishing. Of that vast output, at least half of his poems were on one of his favourite themes – sex.

Illustrated collections of Louÿs’ erotic poetry appeared throughout the 1930s and 40s, including editions illustrated by Marcel Vertès, Feodor Rojankovsky, and here by Berthommé Saint André (‘un artiste inconnu’, an unknown artist, is a nod to censors; the style is unmistakable). The erotic poems of Pierre Louÿs free both imagination and desire, and Berthommé Saint André and Pierre Louÿs might have been made for each other in terms of their erotic virtuosity. Sexuality for both poet and illustrator was a playful and orgiastic pleasure.

Poésies érotiques was privately published – according to the cover in Chihuahua, Mexico (though of course in reality Paris) – in a limited numbered edition of 300 copies.