The Complete Works of Gaius Petronius, 1927 Fanfrolico Press edition, illustrated by Norman Lindsay

The Fanfrolico Press was founded in 1926 by Jack and Norman Lindsay, along with P.R. Stephensen. The press published mostly classics, with Jack Lindsay responsible for the typographical design and Jack’s father, Norman Lindsay, providing illustrations for many of the books. Norman Lindsay is thought of as one of Australia’s greatest artists, and his work in The Complete Works of Gaius Petronius certainly confirms that.

The Complete Works of Gaius Petronius is a beautiful book; nice binding, very nice paper and type and probably the most generous allotment of stunning pen and ink drawings I have ever seen in one book. Norman Lindsay’s work in this book immerses you in the times and events Petronius writes about. I cannot think of another book where the illustrations provide such effective imagery. I do wish I had a prospectus with more context on Lindsay’s work for Petronius. A colophon page with details on the paper, type, etc., would have been nice also.

The Complete Works of Gaius Petronius includes The Satyricon along with the Poems of Petronius. The Satyricon is one of the great classics of Western Civilization.  It’s primary purpose is to entertain, though in doing so it also provides a look at everyday life in the early Roman Empire. Though a realistic novel, it is not a dry recitation of facts. It is full of humor, satire and lyricism.  Petronius and Lindsay make a fantastic combination for anyone wanting to really ‘feel’ what it was like to live in the time of Nero.

Petronius (27-66 AD) was a courtier during the time of Nero. He served as consul in the year 62 and then became a member of the senatorial class; a class which by this time did little but devote themselves to a life of pleasure.  PlutarchPliny the Elder and Tacitus all mention Petronius as being known as an expert on luxurious living. Petronius committed suicide in the year 65, after having been accused of treason. It historically has been somewhat controversial if Petronius was the author of these works, or even when these works were written.  Recently, scholarship seems to be validating Petronous as the author, and the period of Nero when it was written.

About the Edition

  • Published in 1927 by Fanfrolico Press, London
  • Original half maroon vellum and marbled paper boards, title in gilt on spine
  • Gilt to top of pages
  • 10 groups of 10 b/w plates (pen & ink drawings) from Norman Lindsay, hors texte, each group preceded by page of titles
  • Translation by Jack Lindsay
  • 12.5 x 9.5 inches
  • 152 pages, plus 100 unpaginated full page plates printed on one side only
  • Signed by Jack Lindsay
  • Special issue of 100 copies made for Australia, mine is #63 (I believe 650 were made for outside Australia)

Pictures

Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Spine and Cover
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Cover
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Spine Close-up
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Book Side View
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Limitation/Signature Page
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Title Page
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #1
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #2
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Listing of First Set of Plates
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #1
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #3
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #2
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #3
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #4
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #4 (Close-up)
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #5
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #5
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Illustration #6
Petronius, Fanfrolico Press, Sample Page with Text #5 (Start of Poems)

6 thoughts on “The Complete Works of Gaius Petronius, 1927 Fanfrolico Press edition, illustrated by Norman Lindsay

  1. What a beautiful book. I especially like the marbled paper covering the boards. I have the LEC edition of the Satyricon in great condition so I won’t be rebinding it. As I remember, parts of the Satyricon have been lost.

    Petronius was a somewhat major character in Quo Vadis? He has come down to us as Pertronius Arbiter …. the arbiter of good taste. He was potrayed in the movie …. maybe by Peter Ustinov. Petronius was ordered to commit suicide by Nero, and he slit his wrists and spent his last moments having good conversation with friends. As he grew weaker, he had his wounds bound and spent a few more moments with friends, stopping the conversation to shatter a favorite dish, vase (?) which Nero had admired. He purportedly said that this was one piece of his property Nero wouldn’t get.

    Jack Lindsay did one book for the LEC, The Golden Ass. I have a near perfect copy bound in – what else? – ass hide.

      1. The LEC [The Golden Ass] is a gem among the early LEC books, and Jack Lindsay’s translation is even finer than Robert Graves’ excellent version. Lindsay did not publish this book at Fanfrolico, by the way; it was done by John Fass.

        Although I may be getting into trouble with Australophiles, I think Percival Goodman’s illustrations are much superior for that book than Norman Lindsay’s are for The Satyricon–which I do like very much, however. Not easy to find one in Fine condition as the white leather binding tends to mottle. I was lucky to fine one that I believe was never taken from the glassine–in perfect condition–or even the slipcase–also near perfect. The novel itself, probably because it is intact, is much more satisfying than the fragments remaining of Satyricon.

        The Fanfrolico Press also published a book I have dreamed of owning for years–The Complete Works of Thomas Beddoes, the author of the amazing play “Death’s Jest Book.” I have never encountered a copy when I had the money to buy it, and vice versa. I would love some day to see Fanfrolico “Lysistrata” and the volume of Catullus’ poetry.

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