Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Le Livre Sans Titre," An Illustrated Warning of the Deadly Perils of Self Abuse, 1830


Jim Edmonson of the Dittrick Museum has just written a wonderful post on his museum blog about a rare book from the 1830s entitled Le Livre Sans Titre (The Book without a Title). This beautifully illustrated tome is a graphic warning against the perils of self-abuse, or onanism, via the tale of a healthy and handsome young man's slow decline--symptom by terrifying symptom!--under the influence of the deadly vice.

Mr. Edmonson has generously scanned the lovely hand-colored images and translated the captions from French to English, creating a kind of inadvertent 1830s graphic novel; I have republished the highlights here as a warning to young men, lest you trace this young and comely man's tragic fall and ultimate demise:


He was young, handsome; his mother's fond hope


He corrupted himself! ... soon he bore the grief of his error, old before his time... his back hunches...


See his eyes once so pure, so brilliant; they are extinguished! a fiery band envelops them


Hideous dreams disturb his slumber... he cannot sleep...


His chest burns... he spits up blood...


His hair, once so lovely, falls as if from old age; his scalp grows bald before his age....


He hungers; he wants to satiate his appetite; food won't stay down in his stomach...


His chest collapses... he vomits blood...


Pustules cover his entire body... He is terrible to behold!


A slow fever consumes him, he declines; all of his body burns up..


His entire body stiffens!... his limbs stop moving...


He is delirious; he stiffens against death; death gains strength.


At the age of 17, he expires, and in horrible torment!

As mentioned above, this is an excerpt from a larger piece; you can read the entire story on The Dittrick Museum Blog by clicking here. And click on images to see much larger, more detailed images.

Thanks very much to Jim Edmonson for making this available for public consumption!

9 comments:

Katharina Salzbrunn said...

thank you for sharing this beautiful illustrations! i remember the description of a young guys fate, very similar to this one in the very beginning of S.-A. Tissots "L'onanisme", but never saw a complete illustration of the "course of disease". but thinking of its contexts during enlightenment it makes sense to put it in this kind of scaring and easy understandable didactics. maybe it's interesting to remark, that
ptak science books
just showed the inventional results of those efforts in the early days of electricity.

Castle in the Air said...

I so love this blog!! Ever interesting!!

Shanna said...

Wow - and to think our parents only warned us of hairy palms!

Miranda Obispo said...

Beautiful drawings...An hilarious and terrible history (at the same time)...Oh my God!!!!!!

J said...

That is wonderful. What an excellent title.

Luis Manuel Ruiz said...

A wonderful book: now we are much wiser. Thank you for share its learnings.

Krissy said...

Pardon the pun at the end! Consumption, ha ha.

Anonymous said...

yeah, sure, seems legit... not like humans/animals have been doing this forever. if one wants to argue against masturbation they should at least use arguments that are believable.

Craig said...

WOW, my fiancee, who loves old books (and masturbation jokes), sent me this link and it inspired me to create some artwork as a surprise birthday (May 31st) gift for her. The derivative work is a sort of "trading cards" or, actually, is intended for stickers. I am not by any means a professional artist, but I am a professional software developer.

Of course, I decided to open-source the project before telling her. Here is the
link to the sticker artwork on GitHub. So far there is the English translation provided here and a "US Letter" paper format. Help with internationalization and other formats would be much appreciated!