On 26 May 1958 around half past eight in the evening, the voice of the famous French actor André Luguet was heard in a cultural programme on French television. He read a poem out loud from an old postcard:
De Bayonne ou je vous écris
Cher Tristan Derème
Combien je regrette Paris.
Around the same time, the poem's author Francis Carco passed away at 18Quai de Béthune on the Ile Saint Louis. Carco was born François Carcopino, and his reputation was that of a passionate poet and novelist, an objective observer (but not without feeling) of street life, of whole and partial criminals, drunkards, prostitutes and pimps of Montmartre.
Francis Carco was a man of very many talents: besides poetry and novels, he also wrote essays, reportage, art books, memoirs and chansons. He knew everyone who was anybody in the French world of artists and writers in his day: Colette, Modigliani, Katherine Mansfield, Picasso, Apollinaire, and many others. He led a life that was at least as exciting and varied as his novels, which served the authenticity of his work extremely well. After his novel Rien qu'une femme (1921), Carco always wrote in the first person; saying: 'My sense of identification with the narrator is complete.'
Family of crazies
François Carcopino was born in 1886 in Nouméa on New Caledonia, a French penal colony in the Pacific Ocean, where his father worked as a guard. His family was of Corsican descent; it was described by Carco as a family of crazies. This certainly applied to the violent nature of his father, from whom he took many a beating as a child. Carco's biographers use this to explain his rebelliousness and unconventionality, his melancholy and his pessimistic view of life.
Carco had been writing poetry since puberty, publishing them in a number of provincial magazines at the beginning of the twentieth century. After the publication of his bestseller Jésus la Caille (1914), a book about a homosexual pimp in the Montmartre underworld, he also developed into a celebrated novelist. In 1920, an edition of Jésus la Caille was published featuring three illustrations by Chas Laborde.
L'ami des filles... ou Chas-Laborde, published in 1921, a book with drawings by Chas Laborde and a text by Carco that was part poetic evocation and part art criticism. The copy in the Koopman Collection contains an extra set of the illustrations in colour. The book was published in a deluxe edition by Ronald Davis et Cie, then a bookstore in the Rue de Courcelles on the Rive Droite in Paris, which was able to publish this kind of bibliophile edition regularly thanks to a group of loyal customers. Both the text and the illustrations, drawn in thick lines, reflect the atmosphere of prostitution: a young woman under the sheets with a customer on the edge of the bed; a madam behind the desk of a brothel; two nude girls in a bedstead.
As a high school student, Carco wrote poems in the brothels of Nice, and read them to the much-amused girls of pleasure. 'I love girls. All their little pleasantries move me, and I often wonder why we are ashamed of the fact that we have a taste for them', he wrote in L'ami des filles.
The eponymous girl-chaser however was not supposed to refer to Carco, but to artist Chas Laborde. In the introduction, Carco praised Chas Laborde's qualities effusively, and the way he had captured the world of 'les filles' in his illustrations. Carco based these remarks not only on the drawings in L'ami des filles, but also on other work by Laborde: paintings, but especially his swift, accurate sketches of street scenes with elegant ladies and gentlemen, women of pleasure, and amusements in parks, theatres and cafés. These cartoon drawings were well suited for use as book illustrations. Their style was copied widely and can be characterised as typically French.
|Description:||L’ami des filles... ou Chas-Labrode / commenté par Francis Carco ; [dess. de Chas-Laborde]. - Paris : Davis, 1921. -  p. : ill., 19 cm|
|This copy:||Number 124 of 150 (numbered from 36 to 150)|
|Note:||With an extra set of prints of the illustrations|
|With autograph dedication from Francis Carco to Anny Antoine|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 3-518 ; Carteret IV-89 ; Édouard-Joseph I-280 ; Mahé I-400 ; Monod 2221|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm A 146|
- Jean-Jacques Bedu, Francis Carco au coeur de la bohème. Paris, Éditions du Rocher, 2001
- Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
- Francis Carco, Rendez-vous avec moi-meme. Paris, Albin Michel, 1957
- Guy Laborde, Charles Laborde. Alfortville, Quatre Feuilles, 1970
Half title with dedication from Francis carco to Anny Antoine
Titlepage with illustration by Chas Laborde
Page  and  with tailpiece