07 October 2010

Limited Time, Limited Editions (2/6)

No Man's Meat
Morley Callaghan
Paris: Edward W. Titus at the Sign of the Black Manikin, 1930

"I have had printed of this edition five hundred and twenty-five copies on Verge de Rives, of which five hundred copies for subscribers and twenty-five copies, numbered 501 to 525, for the press. The entire edition is signed by the author. This is no: 165 E.W.T."

I'm pretty sure that this is the first signed, numbered edition I ever bought. At the time I was writing for television – a daytime soap, if you must know – and felt pretty flush with cash. How flush? Well, I plunked down US$125 for this novella from Callaghan's summer in Paris.

It's that old familiar story. A husband and wife entertain a female friend. The guest ends up sleeping with the man to pay off a gambling debt. Everybody is unhappy... until the wife realizes that she's in love with her gal pal and the two run off together. Saturday night, Sunday morning.

The novella didn't appear in Canada until 1978 when Macmillan published it in No Man's Meat & The Enchanted Pimp. Its dust jacket makes for interesting reading:
...when No Man's Meat first appeared in 1931, its frank treatment of perverse sexuality [whoring? bisexuality?] made it unsuitable for a commercial house, and it was privately published in Paris by an avant-garde press. Since then the limited edition of four hundred copies [525, actually] has gained widespread fame by word of mouth. Its early notoriety has been softened by Edmund Wilson's description of the piece as "a small masterpiece", and the original edition as become an underground classic, changing hands for two hundred dollars and more.
Thirty-two years later, there are plenty of copies listed online for US$60 (US$35 without slipcase). How to explain its decline. The internet has certainly played a part, but I think the real blame lies with Macmillan. In making the novella more accessible, the new edition took away much of the mystery – No Man's Meat isn't nearly as risqué or quirky as the title suggests.

Stoddart re-resurrected the novella in 1990, but you'd never know it from their jacket copy, which implies that No Man's Meat is a new work. I believe it was the last book that Callaghan lived to see published.

Note: That's Titus not Tutis.
Not this:


  1. Enjoying the limited editions series. I have the 1st ed of "Hetty Dorval" but hadn't known about the limited. Also never heard of Callaghan's underground classic. Where did "The Enchanted Pimp" come from?

  2. I believe "The Enchanted Pimp" made its debut in the Macmillan book - at the very least it was brand spanking new. From the dust jacket:

    "Written in 1978, this long novella tells the story of Jay Dubuque, who is a pimp, but prefers to regard himself as an entrepreneur who renders a useful service by introducing middle-class women in need of additional income to lonely but discreet men from out of town."

    Just the sort of thing that would've appealed as a teenager. I know I read the novella back then, but can't remember a thing about it.