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Charles Baudelaire [...]

In December 1856, when his relationship with Michel Lévy, the publisher of his Poe translations, was going through a difficult period, Charles Baudelaire suddenly turned towards Auguste Poulet-Malassis, a young printer at Alençon, in Normandy. The poet entrusted his future friend with the task of printing and publishing a book of verse, largely made up of pieces put together during the previous five years, and which had up until that point only appeared in periodicals.

Poulet-Malassis had the reputation of being an honest publisher and also — what was to be the deciding factor — an elegant typographer. The object was to make a book together, insisted Baudelaire, 'a volume of good, if little, material, which would look substantial and well shown off'.

Since the manuscript, prepared by a copyist, has disappeared, along with almost the complete set of corrected galley proofs, which were probably too soiled to be retained, these page proofs are today the only document which allows us to reconstruct the genesis of Les Fleurs du mal, from the withdrawal of the first dedication to Théophile Gautier, on March 8, 1857, until the last corrections after mid-May. Circulating back and forth between Alençon and Paris, they attest to the attentive care taken by the author to the spelling (moderatly traditional), to the punctuation (according to the meaning, but also to the 'declamation'), and to the layout. They record Poulet-Malassis' questions and his entreaties (angrily crossed out by Baudelaire) to correct and quickly return the last galley proofs. Moreover, the poet’s notes and recommendations are evidence of his tension at this crucial period, and of the anxiety which made him indifferent towards the exasperation of the publisher whom he had chosen, as he reminded him, because they both shared the idea 'that in any kind of production, nothing else was admissible except perfection'. ---http://www.bl.uk/gabriel/treasures/country/France/fr01.html [Sept 2004]

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