A young girl's adventures in decadent Paris, illustrated with photographs
Aventures galantes et amusantes de Ninie-Patte-en-L'Air avec photographies d'après nature et nombreuses illustrations de Couturier. Paris, 5. Rue du Croissant (colophon: Sceaux, imprimerie E. Charaire), [1900-1901].
19,9 x 13,3 cm. 48,  pp. Contemporary half cloth (possibly re-cased?), tiger-marbled boards. Binding slightly worn, one corner damaged, some leaves with a small tear, otherwise in very good condition.
A novel recounting the promiscuous adventures of a young girl in decadent Paris, illustrated with photographs (including one in colour), and drawings by "Couturier".
The novel begins with Ninie, the heroine, being sent to live with her aunt in Paris. There she becomes the mistress of a journalist who introduces her to prostitution. She travels to Brussels, Monaco and even Algeria, drinking absinthe and enjoying adventures with princes, duchesses, soldiers, politicians and artists.
She meets a large number of interesting characters, including a tattooed woman and "Kalakana Ier, roi des Iles Sandwich": Kalākaua, the last king of Hawai'i, who visited Brussels during his circumnavigation of the world in 1881. The novel ends with Ninie becoming a dancer at the famous Moulin Rouge.
The heroine's name is clearly a reference to the Moulin Rouge's famous cancan dancer, Nini-patte-en-l'air ("Nini-leg-in-the-air"), a European celebrity who apparently also visited England. The English poet Arthur Symons was so impressed by her performance that he wrote a poem about her in 1892, praising her as the "Maenad of the Decadance".
It was published weekly in 16-page issues, each consisting of a single quire. The present volume includes 52 numbered quires/issues, and ends with a colophon, with the first 14 issues illustrated with both photographs and drawings, later issues only with drawings. Only the pages of the first three issues are consecutively numbered 1-48; the other issues are not paginated.
We've found only one other copy, held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, apparently consisting of only 25 issues. (Confusingly, WorldCat also lists a copy in microform, held in BnF too and consisting of 62 (a typo?) fascicules.)
The BnF attributes the illustrations to Léon Couturier (1842-1935), a painter and illustrator who specialized in maritime and military subjects. However, the present illustrations are signed "Couturier," whereas Léon Couturier apparently used to sign his works "Leon Couturier" or "L.C."