One of the largest sections of the Virtual Museum - manufacturer's catalogues, some of the more significant turn-of-the-century books on absinthe and absinthism, pro and anti-absinthe tracts, scientific reports,distillation guides, French poetry, English fiction and early printed works referring to absinthe.
Please visit the Virtual Absinthe Museum Bookshop to buy the best and most important books on absinthe, both old and new, and a selection of absinthe-influenced music and film.
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Books I - Absinthe History The two profusely illustrated catalogues published in 1896 and 1905 by Maison Pernod Fils, together with Edmond Couleru's famous Au Pays d'Absinthe, and some of the more significant turn-of-the-century books on absinthe and absinthism.
Books II - Trade Catalogues Contemporary catalogues from French glassworks and silverworks, often richly illustrated, show items especially manufactured for use with absinthe - dose-marked glasses, carafes, topettes, spoons, grilles etc.
Books III - Science and Pseudoscience Both the serious and the populist medical literature of the day demonized absinthe, in many cases laying the ground for the campaigns of the anti-absinthe temperance movement.
Books IV - Distillation Guides Numerous guides to distillation techniques were published in France during the 19th century. The most scholarly and scientifically orientated were those by P.Duplais and J.Fritsch, whilst others, like J.de Brevans and A.Bedel aimed at the more popular market.
Books V - Poésie française The three great French poets of the era, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, were all prodigious absinthe drinkers, although direct references to the drink in their poems are surprisingly rare. The popular master of light verse, Raoul Ponchon, however dedicated several poems to La Fee Verte.
Books VI - English Fiction Contemporary fiction inspired by absinthe took many forms - poems, plays, short stories, novels. By far the most influential and popular English language work was Marie Corelli's novel "Wormwood", a lurid Victorian melodrama that was enormously popular both in the UK, and in the US, where it went through dozens of unauthorised editions within the first few years of its initial publication in 1890.
Books VII - Aleister Crowley and the Green Goddess In 1918, Aleister Crowley, the British occultist and so-called "wickedest man in the world," composed a lyrical essay on absinthe and aesthetics titled "Absinthe - The Green Goddess". He wrote his essay (according to legend, while waiting for a female companion) in the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. "Art is the soul of life," he proclaimed, "and the Old Absinthe House is the heart and soul of the old quarter of New Orleans."
Books VIII - Histoire d'une Bouteille Probably the most influential French prohibitionist tract was J. Baudrillard's "Histoire d'une Bouteille", a series of illustrated lectures on the dangers of absinthe and alcohol. Widely distributed in schools and workers' unions by the Ligue Nationale, it combines a highly selective reading of the then current scientific research into the effects of alcohol
Books IX - Absinthe, The Dreyfus Affair and Anti-Semitism The impact of the Dreyfus Affair and anti-semitism on the campaign to ban absinthe. In 1907, Henri Robert, a leading French criminal barrister said: "Alcoholism is the chief cause of the increase in criminality. Absinthe is the enemy". As a scapegoat, absinthe was a perfect choice to the extent it was even drawn into the anti-Semitism debate of the time - many of the larger absinthe producers (including most importantly the Veil-Picard family that owned Pernod Fils) were of Jewish origin.
Books XI - De Absinthio An extremely important find, unknown to all previous modern authorities. This recently discovered 17th century monograph on the medical and pharmaceutical uses of the wormwood plant has the potential to substantially increase our knowledge of the early history of absinthe, and the wormwood-based medicinal elixirs that preceded the commercial product introduced in the 1790's.
Books X - Absinthe et Absintheurs by Henri Balesta Published in 1860, Absinthe et Absintheurs is no more than an extended pamphlet, a modest and crudely printed publication of less than a 100 pages and measuring, in the original, just 4" by 6". Yet its influence on the prohibitionist movement was out of all proportion to its size: it laid out the case against absinthe with a clarity and vigour that have never been equalled, and it's been quoted in almost every book about the drink published since.
Books XII - Incunabula and Early Herbals Although absinthe is briefly mentioned several times in the Bible (perhaps most notably in the Revelation of St John, Chapter 8 Verse 11), the first detailed description of its use and therapeutic properties is in Pliny the Elder's great compendium of the knowledge of the ancient world, "Historia Naturalis".
Books XIII - Pulp Fiction Absinthe made repeated appearances in the more risqué American popular fiction of the 1940's and '50's. In the pulp fiction of the day, absinthe served as a symbol of decadence and louche living, and was often mentioned in the same context as marijuana and cocaine.
Books XIV - Absinthe: THE HELL DRINK! Published by Stanley Publications from 1955 to 1970, Battle Cry was one of the now largely forgotten genre of men's adventure or 'sweat' magazines. The lengthy feature on absinthe in this 1960's issue, is, after a comically bizarre introduction, surprisingly comprehensive, and although littered with minor errors, gets the overall outline of absinthe history about right.
Books XV - Absinthe in Playboy Magazine, 1971 Maurice Zolotow's remarkable article in the June 1971 issue of Playboy is both a fascinating and sometimes amusing period piece, and a still surprisingly relevant outline of absinthe's history, with a particularly gripping account of the Lanfray murders.