Société Excelsior | Préservatifs pour Dames
A nice copy of this rare French contraceptives catalogue, first issued around 1907 and decorated in the Art Nouveau style.
At the time this catalogue was published family planning was being championed by French syndicalists as a response to capitalist exploitation, an idea that influenced both Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger. However, Sanger’s insistence that she was forced to travel to Paris to get information on contraceptives was a clever bit of self-mythologising; despite the passage of the Comstock Act in 1873, resources were available in the United States. It’s therefore interesting to note that the catalogue’s title page advertises “Pessaires Américains”, showing that the exoticising of contraception travelled in both directions across the Atlantic.
Among the articles advertised here are diaphragms (only recently invented), sponges, douches and enemas, belts for sanitary napkins, lubricant (”pommade virginale”), antiseptic creams and artificial breasts, as well as novelties such as chastity belts and intimate perfume. Included are numerous engravings depicting the products, as well as two diagrams of the female reproductive system.
This catalogue is rare; there are no auction records and WorldCat locates no copies with this specific title. Institutionally, there is only one other contraceptives catalogue by the same publisher, at the Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Santé, Paris.
...Préservatifs de tous modèles. Insufflateurs de Poudre Anticonceptionnelle. Pessaires Américains. Éponges préservatives. Appareils d’hygiène féminine. Produits et Objets intimes nouveaux. Paris: Société Excelsior, c. 1907.
Duodecimo. 64 page catalogue, original blue wrappers printed in red and black. Orange decorative border to each page, engravings throughout. Wrappers a little rubbed and creased, small white spot to the upper wrapper and a darker spot to the lower, light wear at the spine ends, contents toned and with occasional light spots. Very good condition.