6" slightly curved hardwood shaft, with a 2" bulbous lead head; all of it highly polished to a silky smooth finish; the function is obvious, the date more uncertain. It must be over 100 years old, but I feel could be a century further back still. It is a magnificent piece of antique erotica, and I believe completely unique.
It's value? How much do you want to pay for an object that no one else could ever own; but would grace any serious collection of erotica.
This was bought from the estate of a Norwich legend: a reclusive collector of the bizarre and unusual, mainly of a sexual or criminal nature. For forty years he scoured the back alleys of the antique trade, and gleefully probed the secretive passions of his fellow obsessives, amassing in the process an amazing, disparate collection of treasures, many of which - such as the item above - only he knew the origin of. When I first met him 30 years ago he was a man of about 60, a gargantuan 280 pounds, with smooth, pale, and unblemished face, distinguished by a small goatee beard. and tiny watery eyes. His hands were smooth and feminine, with delicate fingers and long, uncut nails. He always dressed, whatever the weather, in a long, checked, once expensive, greatcoat, and a deerstalker hat. He looked like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Orson Welles, and carried with him a pungent aroma of ripe putrescence that lingered long after he had gone. He lived in a tiny four room end cottage, in a terrace of three, mouldering in the shadow of the gas works, to whom they belonged. Built in the 19th century of grey stone, with no amenities, damp and dingy, and cut high into the side of the hill overlooking the city; Victorian relics, ripe for demolition, much like Ronnie himself - for I speak of Ronnie Rouse, now gone, but for decades a name that resonated among the motley crew of dealers, collectors, charlatans, crooks and obsessives, that made up the fringe of semi-respectable characters operating in that half world that buys from one side to sell to the other; not fully trusted by either, but irresistible to both. A shadowy world that has fascinated me since I was a child, and which I've now inhabited for too long to ever leave.
I first visited this shrine to perverse eccentricity on a cold winter afternoon, and was immediately ushered into a world where the normal functions of everyday life had been transformed by a mania for collecting and owning, into a tangled undergrowth of objects of desire; the bizarre, the horrific, and, occasionally, the genuinely exquisite. All had been mangled into ceiling high edifices of magazines, books and comics; postcards, photographs and ephemera; piled onto cupboards to create skyscrapers of desire; a mini Manhattan of the rare, the strange, the beautiful and the grotesque, through which we shuffled sideways through the narrow corridors left open, but ever encroaching, as he selectively showed his treasures. A first issue of Film Fun; Amazing Fantasy #15; a Victorian Penny Dreadful; a drawer full of clay pipes in exotic shapes, some from the American Civil War; an rare antique dildo - his much prized "convent cock"; albums full of glorious Victorian postcards, Valentine and Christmas specials with glowing vibrant colours, and delicate textures. On the mantelpiece a monstrous stuffed spider guarded the magnificent ormolu 18th century French clock; while on every bare surface, however small, there flourished a profusion of china ornaments, figurines, bric-a-brac; lead soldiers, toys, and strange objects with no discernible purpose, but which had attracted his restless, magpie eye.
As we sidled through the two downstairs rooms, it was obvious that only a small part of what he had was accessible or identifiable; so much was hidden under piles of paper, quietly rotting against the damp walls, as he relentlessly added more each year to a collection that was already beyond his control or comprehension. We edged up the narrow stairs, lined with more books, to the two small rooms that housed yet more of his madness. On the right, the room full of pornography, his overwhelming passion. Among the thousands of modern glossy magazines were older publications, books and drawings from the last hundred years, cataloguing, describing and illustrating every sexual perversion and variation known to man, woman or beast; including all three in various exotic activities; “The room of 1,000 cunts” as Ronnie delicately put it with his sibilant chuckle. Ahead was his main room, the room his aged mother occupied for many painful years as she quietly decayed, under the ministrations of her grotesque man-child. Perhaps in remembrance of her recent departure, the only human relationship that anybody knew he ever had, he had acquired a kitten, which he kept in an ornate Victorian bird cage, to stop it defecating over his treasures, a habit it had quickly adopted. The treasures included piles of 1940’s Dandy and Beano comics and annuals, pre-code American and British Horror comics, and his special delight: pre-war Gems, Magnets, Nelson Lee and Sexton Blake. I examined these in more detail on later visits - the kitten I never saw again.
On my way out after this first visit, we stopped in the main downstairs room, and he pulled from a pile of books, a 1925 Volume of Forensic Medicine by Harvey Littlejohn; a technical work illustrated with medical photos of victims of crime, both murder and suicide. As the winter afternoon waned, and the grey light faded beyond the one grimy window, Ronnie described in his thin high voice, the horrors that lay within: the throat slit to the spine until it gaped like a monstrous nether mouth as the lifeless head lolled back; the many minor wounds inflicted by the suicide on his throat until he summoned the will to make the final desperate lunge; the head destroyed by the shotgun in the mouth. As he recounted, and displayed, these brutal, despairing assaults upon the flesh, under a single bare bulb, his small eyes glinted, his wet lips collected tiny gobbets of spittle as his excitement mounted, and for the first time in my forays into the murky depths of obsession, I felt a tingle of apprehension as my skin tightened, and I felt a need to get back to the fresh air.
I went back many times over the next years, and even acquired much later, at inflated expense, the volume of forensic horrors that Ronnie, the quintessential Dickensian Fat Boy, had gleefully used to “make my flesh creep” on that first, unforgettable visit. I got to know him well in the following years, although getting close to competitive, acquisitive and pathologically suspicious Ronnie Rouse was not easy, and we had a number of personal disputes (everything was personal with Ronnie!). I shared his sense of the morbid delights of sex and death and horror in rancid and twisted combinations; his fascination with popular culture; and his love of the strange; but most importantly we shared that feeling of community that only the true collector knows, especially when I officially joined the ranks by opening my shop in 1985, and welcomed Ronnie, much to his chagrin, as my second customer; the first was much more sweet smelling, although equally obsessive , and a great competitor of Ronnie’s – but that’s another story.
19th century erotica
Venus and Adonis
"Venus and Adonis and Other Tales of the Court Of Catherine II"
Mathieson and Co Ltd London
Paperback, 5" x 7.25", 190pp
This very cheaply produced paperback is complete, but worn and stained.
It has no date, but I have seen another copy on the internet, which seems to be identical, dated 1886, which seems a likely date for this copy.
19th century pornography
"And (sic) Instructive Story"
"The Simple Tale of Susan Aked
Innocence Awakened, Ignorance Dispelled"
Printed for the Erotica Biblion Society of London and New York 1898
Paperback, 5" x 7", 212pp
Cheaply produced paperback complete with original plain covers and endpapers. Covers worn and grubby with some loss on rear cover
crudely re-spined and coming loose
Original Victorian pornography is very rare, and this has an added interest, in that it was bought in Japan, and still has the original Japanese sales ticket attached (1000Y)
Beautiful heavy bronze Victorian ashtray
Measuring about 5" square, the bronze is worn, but still retains a lot of the gold colouring.
The top shows a reclining Japanese lady with a parasol; the reverse shows her plump buttocks as her dress is lifted up.