Un Gros Homme

In November of 1895, Anthony Comstock and two police officers descended upon the French-language bookshop of Emile Collas. The proprietor and his wife, neither of whom spoke English, were busy with other customers, so a friend, Omari Bayle, asked if he could help the men. Comstock asked to see some French publications. Bayle placed some out, and Comstock ordered the two officers to arrest him.

Comstock then spotted a copy of Le Nu de Rabelais, tales by François Rabelais illustrated with paintings by Jules-Arsène Garnier.

Rabelais Cover

While Collas and his wife watched, Comstock, who they knew only as un gros homme, took out a knife and calmly began to cut pictures from the book.

Rabelais Nudes 1

Rabelais Nudes 4

When Collas and his wife objected, as best they could, Comstock took out a search warrant, waved it at them, and directed his men to commence a wholesale culling of the store’s stock, during which they destroyed more books and pictures.

Rabelais Nudes 3

Comstock then stuffed 30 pages of pictures into his coat pocket and took Emile Collas and Omari Bayle to court. Too frightened to describe Comstock’s vandalism, the men plead guilty. Collas got 20 days in New York’s Tombs prison with a fine of $150; Bayle was given 10 days in The Tombs and fined $10.


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