The Flowers of Evil
Champagne edition
$220 $
The Flowers of Evil
French edition
Large format (14 x 10')

More details

Les Fleurs du mal, Charles Baudelaire’s corrected proofs

The violin quivers like a tormented heart,
A tender heart, that hates the vast, black void!
The sky is sad and beautiful like an immense altar;
The sun has drowned in his blood which congeals...*
— 'Harmonie du soir' (Evil Harmony)

An exceptional document: the corrected proofs of the Fleurs du mal

Charles Baudelaire is today considered one of the greatest poets of the 19th century. Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) was his life's work. According to specialists, there are no draft manuscripts scattered throughout archives, as is the case with the majority of poets who have shaped history through their writings.* Charles Baudelaire is said to have started writing his poems in 1841, and the number of times he moved house over the course of thirty years didn’t help in preserving the documents he wrote on. Thereby the poet rewrote and reworked this scorching collection for over fifteen years, inspired by symbolism, his love life, and Edgar Allan Poe, whose texts he decided to translate around 1854. For Baudelaire, every comma counted in evoking the themes that he cherished: the loss of childhood, escaping the senses, the cult of beauty…

Les fleurs du mal, livre manuscrit

The book was published on 25 June 1857 by Poulet-Malassis et de Broise. It won the poet widespread recognition. It was his first real publication, until then having only read in cafés and been published in revues (La Revue des 2 Mondes) – though this had allowed him to gain a reputation among his peers, in particular Théophile Gautier and Victor Hugo. Les Fleurs du mal was announced several years before its publication, first under the title ‘Les Lesbiennes’, then ‘Les Limbes’. In any case, it gave him a platform to give many readings in Parisian cafés.

Before delivering his definitive proofs, Baudelaire reworked his collection several times. He reshaped the general structure on multiple occasions – the poems are not presented in the chronological order of their composition. He made corrections, corrected himself, crossed things out and sought the advice of his editor to the point of exhaustion. This editor was convinced that the collection would never appear, the extent to which Baudelaire struggled to finish revising his work.

Le Manuscrit des Fleurs du mal

Published for the very first time

This unpublished document brings together all the known proofs of Les Fleurs du mal. It is kept at the Rare Books Reserve in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Behind the scenes of poetic composition

In this unpublished document, Baudelaire appears as a Sisyphus of writing, painfully abandoning his life's work and seeking, in the incessant reworking of his text, a form of aesthetic perfection. Notes for the attention of his editor alert the reader to the nature of the relationship between Baudelaire and Poulet-Malassis, which was tinged with annoyance! The poet had been disappointed with the copyist who had produced a fair copy from his draft which included errors, meaning that he had to be even more vigilant than usual.

Livre illusré de Charles Baudelaire, en grand format

An encounter with Rodin

Captivated by Baudelaire’s poetry, Auguste Rodin illustrated a copy of Les Fleurs du mal. The book belonged to Paul Gallimard before it was acquired by the Musée Rodin in Paris.

les fleurs du mal dessins de rodin

We decided to insert these 13 unpublished drawings in the volume, to add illustration and thus create a unique object.

A controversial collection…

Some days after the release of Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire attracted the wrath of the press, notably of Le Figaro’s critic Gustave Bourdin. He was promptly prosecuted by the Directorate of Public Security for insulting public and religious morals and good manners. The prosecutor was none other than Ernest Pinard, the same man who had attempted to condemn Madame Bovary the previous year. Baudelaire's lawyer, Maître Chaix d´Est-Ange, defended him to the best of his ability. Six poems out of the thirteen under question were censored, with Baudelaire and his publisher receiving fines of between 100 and 300 frances.

Despite this lack of comprehension for what he was trying to do, the author was confident about the future of his oeuvre – he believed that his writing would resist. In July 1857, he wrote to his mother:

‘They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don't care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron.’**

Les Fleurs du mal - beau livre

However, the survival of Les Fleurs du mal was also due to this sense of subordination of the truth that Proust notes of Baudelaire. It is no coincidence that Baudelaire painted a self-portrait of a cursed poet in ‘Bénédiction’, the second poem in the collection. Straightaway, he warns his reader that the book is not an elaborate work but a diary into which he has, he says, poured all his heart, all his tenderness, all his religion (in disguise), all his hatred.

Charles Baudelaire went on to publish Les Paradis artificiels in 1860 and Les Petits poèmes en prose in 1869.

The treasured object at auction

Valued at 3.2 million francs, the set of corrected proofs bears the precious handwritten traces of Baudelaire's labour in composing the Fleurs du mal.

First belonging to Auguste Poulet-Malassis, who had it bound in red Armand morocco, it was acquired in 1878 during a books sale by a private individual, and then by several private libraries. The document was acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in June of 1998 during an auction at Drouot.

(An unpublished stanza from Les Fleurs du mal was recently rediscovered, made up of four lines added to the poem ‘Les Bijoux’. The quatrain had been scribbled by hand by Baudelaire on a book he gave to the literary critic Gaston de Saint-Valry. It was sold at auction on 22 November 2019 at Drouot, in Paris.)

Video presentation on French TV:

Augustin Trapenard presents The Flowers of Evil's corrected proofs by Baudelaire.

The handnumbered print run
is sold out.
le tirage bleu des fleurs du mal est épuisé

The Oxford blue edition,
hand numbered, is sold out.


This Champagne edition
is unnumbered.


Newsletter
Keep up with our latest news
and publications.

 

* This translation is from William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

** This translation is from a translation of Baudelaire's letters: Richardson, Joanna (1994). Baudelaire. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 238.

Baudelaire, livre de poésie


And then I was filled with this Verity:
That the finest treasure Genius receives from the Deity
Is to know the fullest extent of terrestrial Beauty
To make it a spring of Rhythm and of harmony.

 

Deluxe edition

Numbered from 1 to 1,000, this
Champagne edition is presented in
a large format handmade slipcase.

Printed with vegetal ink on
eco-friendly paper, each book is
bound using only the finest materials.


The New York Yimes logo

Mrs Dalloway: Thanks to a new reproduction of the only full draft of Mrs. Dalloway, handwritten in three notebooks and initially titled “The Hours,” we now know that the story she completed — about a day in the life of a London housewife planning a dinner party — was a far cry from the one she’d set out to write (...)

The Guardian Logo

The Grapes of Wrath: The handwritten manuscript of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, complete with the swearwords excised from the published novel and revealing the urgency with which the author wrote, is to be published for the first time. There are scarcely any crossings-out or rewrites in the manuscript, although the original shows how publisher Viking Press edited out Steinbeck’s dozen uses of the word “fuck”, in an attempt to make the novel less controversial. (...)


Jane Eyre: This is a book for passionate people who are willing to discover Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë's work in a new way. Brontë's prose is clear, with only occasional modifications. She sometimes strikes out words, proposes others, circles a sentence she doesn't like and replaces it with another carefully crafted option. (...)

The observer logo

The Jungle Book: Some 173 sheets bearing Kipling’s elegant handwriting, and about a dozen drawings in black ink, offer insights into his creative process. The drawings were not published because they are unfinished, essentially works in progress. (...)


The Lost World: SP Books has published a new edition of The Lost World, Conan Doyle’s 1912 landmark adventure story. It reproduces Conan Doyle’s original manuscript for the first time, and includes a foreword by Jon Lellenberg: "It was very exciting to see, page by page, the creation of Conan Doyle’s story. To see the mind of the man as he wrote it". Among Conan Doyle’s archive, Lellenberg made an extraordinary discovery – a stash of photographs of the writer and his friends dressed as characters from the novel, with Conan Doyle taking the part of its combustible hero, Professor Challenger. (...)

The Chicago Tribune Logo

Frankenstein: There is understandably a burst of activity surrounding the book’s 200th anniversary. The original, 1818 edition has been reissued, as paperback by Penguin Classics. There’s a beautifully illustrated hardcover, “The New Annotated Frankenstein” (Liveright) and a spectacular limited edition luxury facsimile by SP Books of the original manuscript in Shelley's own handwriting based on her notebooks. (...)

the washington post logo

The Great Gatsby: But what if you require a big sumptuous volume to place under the tree? You won’t find anything more breathtaking than SP Books ’s facsimile of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s handwritten manuscript of The Great Gatsby, showing the deletions, emendations and reworked passages that eventually produced an American masterpiece (...)

Fine Books Magazine logo

Oliver Twist: In the first ever facsimile edition of the manuscript SP Books celebrates this iconic tale, revealing largely unseen edits that shed new light on the narrative of the story and on Dickens’s personality. Heavy lines blocking out text are intermixed with painterly arabesque annotations, while some characters' names are changed, including Oliver’s aunt Rose who was originally called Emily. The manuscript also provides insight into how Dickens censored his text, evident in the repeated attempts to curb his tendency towards over-emphasis and the use of violent language, particularly in moderating Bill Sikes’s brutality to Nancy. (...)

lit hub logo

Peter Pan: It is the manuscript of the latter, one of the jewels of the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library, which is reproduced here for the first time. Peter’s adventures in Neverland, described in Barrie’s small neat handwriting, are brought to life by the evocative color plates with which the artist Gwynedd Hudson decorated one of the last editions to be published in Barrie’s lifetime. (...)

Customer reviews

Mathieu

L'édition de cet ouvrage est superbe !
Dans un écrin champagne, Baudelaire révèle ce qui est son plus grand œuvre, les annotations et les dessins d'Auguste Rodin font de cet objet un livre unique.
Il est formidable de pouvoir se plonger en 1857, au cœur de ce qui fut l'une des révolutions majeures de ce siècle, inégalée à ce jour.
Bravo pour cet ouvrage !
Merci à Isabelle qui me l'a offert, sachant que je suis un admirateur inconditionnel de Charles Baudelaire :)

Natalie R.

Such a beautiful book! What a pleasure to handle... and to display too. Although it's putting my french to the test, I find Baudelaire's comments and corrections quite fascinating. They really add a whole other level to my love for these poems! Big thumbs up!

RP

Cher Monsieur. Je vous remercie de votre attention ainsi que vos collaborateurs pour le suivi des envois. J'ai reçu aujourd'hui les épreuves corrigées des Fleurs du mal de Charles Baudelaire. Fidèle client de votre société d'éditions, je tiens à vous féliciter pour cette superbe réalisation. Une œuvre d'art d'exception!!