Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades: Bourgeois beasts and absurd animals

Guest Post
Katherine Lee, final year Masters student, writes about rare book Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades: Suite de quarantehuit dessins comiques, colories  (LT220 .B4 18--) held in the Fryer Library. 

Word play and absurd imagery abound in the Fryer Library’s rare book Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades: Suite de quarantehuit dessins comiques, colories created by French cartoonist and lithographer, Gilbert Randon (1818-1884). The Fryer’s copy is the only edition of Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades held in a public institution.

Cover of Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades: Suite de quarantehuit dessins comiques, colories, by Gilbert Randon

The title roughly translates to Beasts, Nonsense and Jokes: A collection of 48 coloured comic designs. However, Randon’s use of bête has a double meaning, as the word also means idiot in French.


Espirt Des Bêtes - Mind the beast


Randon uses double entendre and anthropomorphic illustrations of animals throughout the book to poke fun at class dynamics, politics, fashion, and marriage.

Ou l-espirit va-t-il se nicher - Where is the hope going to nestle

His style is similar to J. J. Grandville’s (1803-1847) Les Metamorphoses du Jour (1829), which satirised the Parisian bourgeoisie by depicting them as animals dressed in human clothing.

Vous me trouverez peut-etre - You will find me maybe

Bêtes, Bêtises, Boutades was donated to the Fryer Library by Frederick Walter Robinson, one of the original founders of the Fryer Library.

 Frederick Walter Robinson's bookplate


Robinson lectured in English and German at the University of Queensland from 1923 to 1932 and was promoted to associate professor of English in 1946 a position which he retained until he retired as head of the department in 1958. 

This book has been digitised and is available to view online via UQ eSpace.

Last updated:
8 May 2019