The story of how "Painful Pleasures" came into my life is one of absolute kismet. In a used book store, nestled between shelves with computer-printed labels like "History: Ancient" and "19th Century Fiction," was a stack of books with a hand-scrawled scrap of paper that just said "Sexy Shelf." Like any self-respecting pervert, I directed my attention accordingly and was rewarded with early 20th Century "marriage manuals," a book on chastity belts and a little hardbound volume of flogging and spanking stories called "Painful Pleasures." Simply put, there was no way I was NOT going to buy this thing.
The only information I've been able to dig up on this privately-printed book from 1931 is that it's "very rare and sought-after." Whether "Painful Pleasures" is, in fact, "translated out of the French" by W.J. Meusal is up for debate--the French pedigree may be a gimmick to provide English-language readers with an extra frisson of exoticism. This is copy 906 of a limited run of 1,000 and many of its pages remain uncut.
The book is extensively illustrated by Francis Heuber, an artist that I can find no mention of outside of his work in this volume. His clean, Art Deco drawings lend the figures a strange lack of affect. Over-the-knee spankings are delivered with calm efficiency and birchings appear instructional rather than punitive.
This complements the stuffy and precise writing style--there's an element of scientific detachment that may actually make the book weirder. Check out the intro to this tale of a young female spanking advocate:
People from all walks of life discover satisfaction in submitting to or doling out whippings. From what I can read on the cut pages, the book is written from a true fetishist's point of view--there's no messy sex to get in the way of a proper flogging, and mental as well as physical release can be achieved when one discovers which side of the whip s/he likes to be on.
This is such a remarkable little piece of vintage kink, and one of my favorite stumbled-upon treasures. If anyone has any additional info on this book, please let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I'm genuinely curious to know more about it!
Addendum: Thanks to scholarly brains greater than mine (the owner of those brains may choose to identify itself), it turns out this book *is* a translation from multiple French sources dating from between the 1880s and 1920s. The book was printed by Gargoyle Press. More info here on BiblioCuriosa. "Painful Pleasures" is mentioned in the papers of "Conan" author Robert E. Howard, noted as something on what looks to be a to-purchase list. So yes, it looks like today's episode of Kinky Antiques Road Show uncovered a little nugget of gold!