Friday, June 4, 2010

Piracy and The Diary of a Lost Girl

Today, the pirating of movies, music, and even books is a major concern. But back in the early years of the 20th century, when Margarete Böhme wrote the book which became the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl, piracy was also a problem.

Böhme's book was a huge bestseller in Germany - a phenomenon really. It sold more than 100,000 copies in less than two years. It was so popular that it was translated into 14 languages and was published across Europe - from England and France to Hungary and Russia. There was such demand for the book that there were even pirated editions in at least two countries, The Netherlands and Poland.

In The Netherlands, the book was retitled and published as Thymian, the name of the "lost girl" and the character played by Louise Brooks. This unauthorized translation was issued by Albert de Lange, an otherwise reputable publisher. From what I was able to find out, the translation was by the noted poet Hillegonda van Uildriks, alias Gonne Loman-van Uildriks (1863-1921). Now remembered as a translator, Uildriks was the first to translate Jane Austen into Dutch. (She also translated Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells, among others.)

Böhme's book was published in Dutch as Thymian, with the subtitle "From the life of a fallen woman." The cover pictured above is unusual in its visual representation of the book's heroine. (Image courtesy of Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.)

Böhme's book was also published in Poland in both authorized and unauthorized editions. I was able to uncover an interesting advertisement for the authorized translation which references the pirated version.

The book was issued in Poland under the title Pamiętnik Kobiety Upadłej. This 1906 advertisement notes “Every mature man or women should read this book.” Also, it warns against the unauthorized edition, and notes that the book is available in all bookshops. The authorized Polish edition was translated by Felicya Nossig, who would later translate Selma Lagerlöf, Josef Conrad, and other writers of note. Nossig is noted in the advertisement. (For those keeping track, the unauthorized translation was titled Pamiętnik Uwiedzionej.)

If any readers of this blog have any early editions of Böhme's book in any language other than German, I would appreciate hearing from you. The information in this post comes from my introduction to the new "Louise Brooks edition" to The Diary of a Lost Girl. More info about the book can be found hereBuy a copy or check out sample pages and more at

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