Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An "Excessively Rare" Thomas Rowlandson Suite Of Caricatures

by Stephen J. Gertz


In 1800, Rudolph Ackermann, the great print publisher, issued Masqueronians, a suite of six hand-colored emblematic etched plates by the great caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson, each with three figures representing various English "types," for a total of eighteen.


The species include an undertaker; barber; flower girl; lawyer; soldier; fish-monger; street vendor; doctor; nun; pub owner; fashionable lady; philosopher; fox hunter; writer, and etc.


Only one copy has been seen at auction since 1922: "An excessively rare Rowlandson item, only one other copy being known" (Anderson Galleries sale, 1922).


Color-plate books depicting itinerant tradesmen and/or occupations were nothing new in 1800, when Masqueronians was published. Cries of London - "cries" being the street language of vendors hawking their wares in the squares and markets of 17th-century London - was published by John Overton in London 1680-1700. Between 1792 and 1795 Francis Wheatley exhibited a series of oil paintings entitled the “Cries of London.” It was a popular subject.


But it was up to Rowlandson to treat the subject emblematically as social satire, the wares or tools of the trade worn as garlands.


His aim included a caustic arrow to the faces he associated with each occupation. The street vendor above ("Trafficorum"), for example, is depicted with a hooked nose and it doesn't require a Ph.D. to understand that Rowlandson is skewering Jews. Rowlandson impales physicians as sour-pusses impaling patients with their main instrument of practice, a clyster syringe, the better to drain der keister of all that ails ye.


Don't get him started on nuns and the proprietors of pubs.


We will gloss-over the fashionable lady in her finest frou-frou: the philosopher appears to be annoyed to be matched with her; inquiring into the mystery of life is his trade but the mystery of women remains a mystery to him, as it was to whom appears to be his descendant, Freud.


Actors and fox-hunters beware: Rowlandson has your number. And writers? The pen may be mightier than the sword but strangled by vipers, as Penserosa seems to be, the sword might be the best way out when critics spew venom, quills being notoriously undependable instruments of suicide.
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ROWLANDSON, Thomas. Masqueronians. London: R. Ackermann, 1800.

Folio (275 x 375 mm). Six hand-colored etchings, each with three emblematic portraits, all printed in brown ink.

The Plates:

1. Philosophorum, Fancynina, Epicurum
2. Penserosa, Tally Ho! Rum!, Allegora
3. Physicorum, Nunina, Publicorum
4. Funeralorum, Virginia, Hazardorum
5. Battleorum, Billingsgatina, Trafficorum
6. Barberoum, Flora, Lawyerorum

BM Satires 9616-9621.
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Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Primo Copy Of Piranese's Imaginary Prisons $270,000-$400,000 At Christie's

by Stephen J. Gertz

"I need to produce great ideas, and I believe that if I were commissioned to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it" (Piranese).

A magnificent copy of the scarce first edition of Italian artist and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranese's (1720-1778) celebrated suite of designs for an imaginary prison, Invenzioni Capric di Carceri (Rome: Giovanni Bouchard, n.d. [c. 1750]) - which has had an enormous influence upon literature - is being offered by Christie's-Paris in its Importants livres anciens, livres d'artistes & manuscrits sale, April 30, 2014.

With all of its fourteen beautifully designed and etched plates in their first impression, second state (except one), before numbering and retouching, on un-watermarked paper, and in excellent condition, it is estimated to sell for $270,000-$400,000.


The plates depict fanciful subterranean vaults and machines somewhat Kafkaesque in nature, with surreal distortion later found in the work of M.C. Escher, featuring bizarre, labyrinthine structures that are chemerical mash-ups of monumental architecture, epic caprices depicting "ancient Roman or Baroque ruins converted into fantastic, visionary dungeons filled with mysterious scaffolding and instruments of torture" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Only the engravings of Goya and William Blake have inspired writers as much as those of Piranesi's Carceri.  Their roots lie in the theatrical dioramas that Piranese designed for the Galli da Bibiena family of stage set designers in Bologna as well as those for his father, a stonemason.


The rare second edition, later published by Piranese himself with the plates reworked, contains an extra two plates yet here "in Bouchard's edition the plates are more lightly etched throughout with none of the strong contrasts of light and shade seen in the later edition. There is a wonderful simplicity in the design in the early states, and none shows this quality in greater beauty than plate four of the series" ( Hind ).

The haunting, dream-like quality to the plates fired the imagination of the Romantics.

"The fascination of Piranese's Imaginary Prisons for the literary mind is attested by transmutations in story, poem, and essay. In a recent attempt to explain the appeal, Aldous Huxley remarks that the etchings express obscure psychological truths: they represent 'metaphysical prisons, whose seat is within the mind, whose walls are made of nightmare and incomprehension, whose chains are anxiety and their racks a sense of personal and even generic guilt.' Whatever the explanation may be, the influence of the Prisons on writers of the last two centuries, particularly on the Romantics, will one day make a chapter of literary history which will include the names of Walpole, Beckford, Coleridge, De Quincey, Balzac, Gautier, Baudelaire, and doubtless many others" (Paul F. Jamieson. Musset, de Quincey, and Piranese. Modern Language Notes, Vol. 71, No. 2, Feb. 1956).

"Many years ago, when I was looking over Piranesi's Antiquities of Rome, Mr. Coleridge, who was standing by, described to me a set of plates by that artist...which record the scenery of his own visions during the delirium of a fever: some of them (I describe only from memory of Mr. Coleridge's account) representing vast Gothic halls, on the floor of which stood all sorts of engines and machinery, wheels, cables, pulleys, levers, catapults, etc., etc., expressive of enormous power put forth, and resistance overcome. Creeping along the sides of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and upon it, groping his way upwards, was Piranesi himself: follow the stairs a little further, and you perceive it come to a sudden abrupt termination, without any balustrade, and allowing no step onwards to him" (Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater).


The Plates:

I - Title
II - The Round Tower
III - The Grand Piazza
IV - The Smoking Fire
V - The Drawbridge
VI - The Staircase with Trophies
VII - The Giant Wheel
VIII - Prisoners on a Projecting Platform
IX - The Arch with a Shell Ornament
X - The Sawhorse
XI - The Well
XII - The Gothic Arch
XIII - The Pier with a Lamp
XIV - The Pier with Chains

"One of the greatest printmakers of the eighteenth century, Piranesi always considered himself an architect. The son of a stonemason and master builder, he received practical training in structural and hydraulic engineering from a maternal uncle who was employed by the Venetian waterworks, while his brother, a Carthusian monk, fired the aspiring architect with enthusiasm for the history and achievements of the ancient Romans. Piranesi also received a thorough background in perspective construction and stage design. Although he had limited success in attracting architectural commissions, this diverse training served him well in the profession that would establish his fame" (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

This copy, formerly in the collection of the National Gallery of Art (with small stamp on the back of each plate with stamp cancellation), was last seen at Christie's-London July 2, 2003 when it sold for $140, 506 (£83,650; €101,704).

Grégoire Dupond created the below animated film for Factum Arte, based upon Piranesi's engravings for Invenzioni Capric di Carceri, as a walk through the artist's amazing spaces:


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Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Dime Novels Led To Boy's Death By Lynching

by Stephen J. Gertz


"Kansas city, Jan. 24 - The Times' Wichita, Kansas, special says: Reports are received here to the effect that Sheriff Shenneman was shot while arresting Charles Cobb, alias Smith, a desperado, near Udell station yesterday afternoon and died last night. By the aid of neighbors Smith was held at a farm house where he was captured to await assistance from Winfield. Upon receipt of the intelligence at Winfield twenty-five armed men proceeded to the scene of the tragedy and hung Cobb to the nearest tree. Cobb also killed a constable in Butler county a few days before" (Las Vegas Daily Gazette, January 25, 1883)

"During Wednesday evening he confessed to Mrs. Shenneman, the widow of the dead sheriff, that he was Charles Cobb, and gave her his revolver. Subsequently he stated to Shenneman that he had been led to the committal of the lawless act by reading the exploits of Jesse James and other desperadoes..." (Arkansas City Weekly, February 7, 1883).


"A Jefferson County constable tried to arrest a young person by the name of Charles Cobb on Saturday, January 13, 1883. Jefferson County is northeast of Topeka. Cobb was wanted for promiscuously brandishing a knife and a revolver at a country dance the week before. Instead of surrendering, Cobb whipped out one of his deadly six-shooters and killed the constable. After the shooting, Cobb mounted a horse and rode off in a southwesterly direction. Possibly he was making for Hunnewell, Kansas, and from there to take the cattle trail to Texas.

"Sheriff Shenneman received a telegram from the authorities stating that the fleeing murderer would probably pass through or near Winfield, and to intercept him if possible. Shenneman circulated cards giving the desperado’s description and offering the usual reward for his capture.

"Cobb carried a Winchester rifle and many other weapons, and if he was recognized during his flight, the invitation to tackle a perambulating arsenal was declined.

"Charles Cobb came to Winfield during the morning of Monday, January 15th, and then traveled north toward Udall. He was seen by a farmer to stop near the corner of Mr. Worden’s farm in Vernon Township and read the placards located there. One of them was of himself.

"The fleeing Cobb stopped at the Jacobus house, in Maple Township, in the evening. Cobb told Mr. and Mrs. Jacobus that his name was Smith and that he had just come from Texas with a herd of cattle. He further stated that he was seeking work till spring. They told him they did not need help then. Cobb then asked if he could pay board and stay a week, so he could look around. Jacobus agreed, and received payment for a week’s board. Mr. and Mrs. Jacobus testified later that Cobb had a shotgun in his possession and noticed he always carried a revolver and slept with it under his pillow. They thought this was simply his 'cowboy ways' and let it pass.

"On the Sunday before the shooting Cobb showed some boys his skill as a marksman. Cobb was breaking bottles thrown into the air with a single shot from his revolver.


"The schoolmaster, who also boarded with the Jacobus family, received one of the description cards sent out by the Sheriff. He came to Winfield and informed the Sheriff of his suspicions on Monday evening, January 22nd. That same evening Shenneman informed a friend that he had located his man and in less than twenty-four hours would have him in hand. The Sheriff was cautioned to be careful as the boy was clearly a desperate character and would shoot to kill. Shenneman said he would go prepared and could shoot as quick as anyone. On Tuesday morning about nine o’clock the law officer put his Winchester in his buggy, strapped on his revolver and left for the Jacobus house.

"Mrs. Jacobus stated that on Tuesday morning, January 23rd, Cobb’s week’s board was out so they relented and hired him to work. As they were all sitting at lunch, some one drove up and called Mr. Jacobus out. He soon came back and said that Dr. Jones, of Udall, was out there and would stop for lunch. Dr. Jones was an assumed name used by the Sheriff. Charles Cobb was all this time sitting at the table. Mr. Jacobus - and the man introduced as Dr. Jones - passed through the kitchen and the 'doctor' looked very sharply at the prisoner. The two men went into the other room and Shenneman pulled off his overcoat and threw it on a chair. About this time young Cobb got up from the table, took his hat and gloves and started toward the door.

"Mr. Shenneman then sprang upon Cobb from behind. A scuffle followed and they fell to the floor. Two shots rang out with both bullets lodging in Shenneman’s stomach, but he continued to hold Cobb. Mr. Jacobus ran in and took the pistol away from the prisoner and told him to give up or die.

"The Caldwell paper reported 'At all events, it appears to be certain that when the latter (Cobb) got through, he started to go out, when the sheriff, thinking he was likely able to handle what appeared to be a mere boy, threw his arms around Cobb from behind. The latter managed to get hold of his self-cocking revolver, and pointing it backward, fired, the ball penetrating the sheriffs bowels.' The prisoner then cried out that he would give up, not to kill him. Mr. Shenneman then said, 'Hold him, he has killed me.' The sheriff staggered into a nearby bedroom and fell onto the bed. Jacobus and the school teacher, after tying up the prisoner, went to assist Shenneman.

"Sheriff Shenneman later said that as he looked at the fugitive, he decided that he wouldn’t pull a revolver on such a mere boy. He would catch Cobb and hold him while the other fellow disarmed him. After the Sheriff grabbed Cobb, he found that he couldn’t handle him.

"Mr. Jacobus said: 'When Shenneman jumped on him, I followed up close. As soon as I could, I got hold of his revolver and held it on him until he said he would give up. I then called the teacher from the school house and we tied him.'

"Sheriff Shenneman could not be moved. Plans were made to bring the prisoner to Winfield in the Sheriffs buggy by Cowley County Deputy Taylor and Undersheriff McIntire. A wagon-load of men, having heard the news and intent on seizing Cobb, met them that evening about a mile from town. The Sheriffs buggy was lighter and the team faster, so the officers outdistanced and lost the pursuers.

"The officers came into town in a roundabout way and unloaded their prisoner just back of D. A. Millington’s residence. They went through the back yard into Rev. Platter’s wood shed. Cobb was held there by Deputy McIntire while Taylor scouted around. Taylor found that the jail was surrounded by a mob, which had spread out and was also patrolling the alleys in the vicinity.


"Deputy McIntire in the meantime was holding the prisoner in the wood shed, and they could hear footsteps prowling around the area. The prisoner said he wanted to be shackled to him and given a pistol; then he would go into the jail. George McIntire wouldn’t accede to that request so Cobb hunted around and got a smooth stick of stove wood. Soon the crowd around the jail was distracted and the mob rushed to another part of town. The officers seized the opportunity and hurried the prisoner over and put him in jail.

"The Courier reporter and other Winfield folks returned by way of Udall where the train had been held for them. An immense crowd had gathered at the depot expecting the prisoner to arrive in that way. They made a rush for the coach. They were, with difficulty, persuaded that the man was not there. It was not a crowd of howling rabble but an organized body of determined men. They were bound to avenge the brave officer to the last drop of blood.

"The crowd then marched up the main streets of the city. They scattered guards out onto the roads over which they expected the prisoner to arrive. Others watched the jail while hundreds gathered on the streets in little knots and discussed plans for capturing the prisoner from the officers.

"One more venturesome than the rest went about with a large rope on his arm and blood in his eye. The crowd surged too and fro until long after midnight when they began to thin out. Under the influence of more sober-minded citizens, they gave up their ideas of mob violence. About this time McIntire and Taylor appeared on the street and the few remaining citizens were eager to learn the whereabouts of the prisoner. Little was learned before morning and even then the location where he was being held was known to only a select few.


"On Wednesday morning, January 24, 1883, a Courier reporter learned of the prisoner‘s whereabouts and interviewed him. The reporter copied the following description of the Jefferson County murderer that was telegraphed to the Sheriff.

“'Charles Cobb, about nineteen or twenty years old: light complexion: no whiskers or mustache: blue eyes: a scar over eye or cheek, don’t know which: height five to five feet three inches; weight 125 to 135 pounds: had black slouch hat: dark brown clothes and wore large comforter: may have large white hat: was riding a black mare pony with roach mane, and carried a Winchester Rifle and two revolvers: had downcast look.'

"The prisoner crouched in a comer of a small room. After introducing himself, the reporter asked the prisoner for his story of the trouble. He said: 'My name is George Smith, and I am about eighteen years old. I came up to Dodge City from Texas with a herd of cattle, in the employ of W. Wilson. Have been on the trail about a year. My parents reside in Pennsylvania. I was paid sixty dollars when the cattle were shipped.

“'I then rode east, intending to work my way back, and on a week from last Monday, it being too cold to ride, I stopped at Jacobus’ and tried to get work, or to board, until I could look around. On Tuesday as I was eating lunch a man came in who was introduced as Dr. Jones. As I got up to go out, the Doctor jumped on me without saying a word. My first impression was that it was a conspiracy to rob me, and I wrestled to defend myself.'

“'I had a revolver on my person because I was among strangers, had some money, and was used to keeping it about me. If he had only told me, he was an officer, and had put his gun on me as he ought to have done if he believed I was the desperate character I am credited with being, this business would never have happened.

“'I am no criminal, and I am not afraid if the law is allowed to take its course. If a mob attacks me, all I ask is the officers will do me the justice to allow me to defend myself. If they will take off these irons and put a six-shooter in my hand, I will take my chance against the kind of men who will come here to mob me. I am guilty only of defending myself, and I ask the law either to defend me or accord me the privilege of defending myself.'

"The newspaper reporter stated: 'In personal appearance the prisoner looks to be a bright, healthy, smooth-faced boy, and has but few of the characteristics of a desperado. Cobb is a perfect picture of robust health, muscular and compact as an athlete. The prisoner’s description tallies almost exactly with that of the Jefferson County murderer. He has a small scar above his lip on the right comer, and above his eye. In talking the captive uses excellent language, speaks grammatically and shows evidence of good breeding.'


"The prisoner was taken to Wichita later Wednesday afternoon by deputy Finch and confined in the Wichita jail. The lawmen wanted him out of the way of violence in case of Sheriff Shenneman’s death.

"On Thursday morning, January 25, 1883, the Sheriff of Jefferson County arrived, accompanied by a farmer who lived near Cobb and knew him well. They identified the prisoner as Charles Cobb. Cobb feigned not to know his old neighbor and still stuck to his cow-boy story.

"Sheriff Shenneman died Thursday evening at 9:45 p.m., in Udall, Kansas.

"On Saturday morning, January 27th, Sheriff Thralls of Sumnner County, Sheriff Watt of Sedgwick County, and Cowley County Deputy Taylor brought Charles Cobb back to Winfield in a carriage. Parties on the north-bound train passed them between Mulvane and Udall.

"This news electrified citizens in the community. In the evening about two hundred resolute men gathered at the crossing. They boarded the incoming train thinking that Cobb might have been put aboard at some way station, but he was not found. The vigilantes returned to the city and placed squads at each bridge and on streets surrounding the jail.

"The carriage with the prisoner arrived about eleven o’clock. The officers came by way of the ford at Tunnel Mill, thus enabling them to avoid outlying pickets, and drove to the crossing of Fuller street and Eleventh Avenue. Deputy Taylor was then dispatched to the jail to see how the land lay. He arrived just after a squad had searched the jail for the prisoner Cobb. Taylor quickly returned with the news that it was certain death to put Cobb in the jail.

"Sumner County Sheriff Thralls and Sedgwick County Sheriff Watt took the prisoner out of the carriage and started south on foot with him.


"Taylor was instructed to take the team out into the country. In going out of town, a squad of vigilantes caught the deputy and brought him back. From all parts of town men came running, wild with excitement. They formed in a dense mass around Deputy Taylor and clamored to know what had been done with the prisoner. As the crowd surged around the brave police officer, it felt as if the very air was laden with vengeance.

"Soon someone cried 'the Brettun,' and almost to a man the crowd started in a run for the hotel. Here they found the door barred, but one of their number was allowed inside. He looked in the room of Butler County Sheriff Douglass, and found nothing.

"The vigilantes then returned to the group holding Taylor and demanded that he tell them where they could find Cobb. Soon the horde went again to the jail and searched it from top to bottom. They then searched the courthouse and outbuildings. The search being fruitless, they re-turned exasperated, and for a few moments it looked as if Taylor would be abused.

"Deputy Taylor was finally compelled to tell where he had left the prisoner. A rush was made for that part of town, carrying Taylor along to show the exact spot. A vigorous, but fruitless, search of barns and outbuildings in the vicinity continued for the balance of the night.

"By this time Sheriffs Thralls and Watt, with the prisoner, had traveled out the Badger Creek road to William Dunn’s, arriving at two o’clock, and failed in securing a conveyance with which to transport the prisoner to Douglass. They went on until they found a team and wagon. Sheriff Watt then took the prisoner to Wichita, by way of Douglass, where Cobb was to remain for some time.

"Cobb was returned from Wichita on Wednesday evening, January 31st, by Deputy Taylor and again lodged in jail. Mrs. Shenneman went in and talked to him for a few moments. As she looked into his eyes, the criminal broke down completely and wept like a child. Soon people began to gather and many citizens saw Cobb for the first time. About eleven o’clock he asked to see Mrs. Shenneman again and confessed to her that he was Charles Cobb. He asked her to write to the wife of the constable in Jefferson County and tell her that he was sorry for killing him. He asked her to keep his revolver. Afterward, to Sheriff McIntire, he said he was led astray by reading the exploits of Jesse James and other desperados in the dime novels.

"Mr. William Shenneman (who was a police officer in Bay City, Michigan) and Deputy Taylor remained to help Sheriff McIntire should anything occur. By two o’clock in the morning everything was quiet about the jail and on the streets so Mr. Shenneman and Deputy Taylor retired to the house across the walk.

"Startled late pedestrians saw a company of men, their faces covered with black masks and thoroughly organized, marching down Ninth Avenue toward the jail. They went to Fuller Street where the leader flashed a dark lantern. The mob then marched back and tiled into the courthouse yard.Four of them, with pistols drawn, rushed into the sheriffs office, located in front of the jail. The black-masked leader ordered Sheriff McIntire to throw his hands up and the order was quickly obeyed. He then demanded the keys and Sheriff McIntire handed them over.


"The masked Captain then threw the jail door open and said 'Number 1, 2 and 3 to your posts!' and three men trotted into the jail. He then ordered 'Reserve, guard the door!' The three men came out leading the prisoner. The Captain and his three men stayed at the office door for about five minutes before he demanded: 'DO you promise you won’t follow us?' No answer was immediately given so the captain shouted 'Halt!' to the men on the sidewalk with the prisoner. He then turned to the Sheriff again and said, 'Now say you won’t follow us, and say it D--m quick!' He received no answer.

"The other three left, but the Captain delayed for a moment while standing in the door, with revolver drawn. He again ordered, 'Command. Halt! Send me two men!' The men came and took his place as the leader left.

"The two masked men guarded the Sheriff for about five minutes. They then pulled the office door shut and lee. The company surrounded the criminal and marched him down Ninth Avenue to Main Street. From there they moved north to Eighth Street and then turned west until they reached the railroad bridge. By this time a multitude had gathered and were following them. Two squad members fell back and with drawn revolvers they shouted 'Keep your distance.'

"The masked vigilantes got to the railroad bridge where a rope, prepared beforehand, was placed about Cobb’s neck and tied to the bridge beam.The moon was just up; and several boys who were following, crept up into the brush on the river bank and saw the rest of the proceedings. After the rope was tied, the unidentified leader, in a gruff voice, ordered Cobb to say what he had to say quickly. The boys in the brush heard Cobb say, 'Oh, don’t boys!' and 'Father, have mercy on Me!' Two men wearing masks then took him up and dropped him through between the bridge railings.

"Cobb fell about ten feet and rebounded half the distance. The black-masked mob then filed on across the bridge, leaving two of their number to guard the rear. These stood until the others had gone on across, when they too retreated. The crowd came up and looked at the victim. His body continued to hang there while the coroner was summoned. The scene was visited by hundreds. The County Coroner arrived, empaneled a jury, and only then was the body taken down.

"The coroner’s jury returned its verdict the next day, February 2, 1883, which was 'Charles Cobb came to his death at the hands of parties unknown to the jury.'

"Mr. George C. Rembaugh owned and operated the 'Telegram' newspaper at that time. Many years later he was quoted as submitting the following story. 'A coroner’s jury was called to sit on the case. The main witness, when questioned as to whether or not he could identity any member of the mob answered, 'Why yes, Judge.' He then addressed the foreman, 'The leader looked a lot like you and was built a lot like you. He even moved around like you do.' A few more questions were asked and the jury handed down its verdict that the deceased came to his death at the hands of parties unknown. Mr. Rembaugh insisted that he, while hid out, saw the mob and he, like the main witness, thought the leader of the mob resembled the jury foreman.

"On the same day as the verdict, the following telegram was received:

"'Will you box my son and send him by express to this place? If not, hold him until I come. C. M. Cobb.' The corpse was placed in a casket and sent to Valley Falls (in Jefferson County) on the Santa Fe train Friday afternoon" (Dr. William W. Bottorff and Mary Ann Wortman. Articles on Various Subjects from the Old Cowley County Newspapers and Interviews With Oldtimers. Sheriff A. T. Shenneman of Cowley County, Kansas 1880-1883).


"The fate of Cobb, the boy who was lynched at Winfield on Wednesday last, was a sad, but a deserved one. He stated just before he was hung that it was reading the sensational narratives of the exploits of Frank and Jesse James that led him to destruction. 

"We have frequently seen Atchison boys pouring over these works of the devil, and afterward imitating the supposed exploits of the James boys in their play. This is extremely dangerous, and the sooner the fact is impressed upon the youthful mind that these men were not heroes, but brutal, cowardly robbers and murderers, the better it will be for the rising generation. 

"All such books and plays should be suppressed, and that murder and robbery is heroic eradicated from the youthful mind, by a vigorous application of the paternal slipper. Let the boys learn that honest, patient labor is heroic, and that dishonesty and crime are despicable, but keep forever out of their reach these untrue stories that have already ruined so many" (Winfield [Kansas] Courier, February 8, 1883).
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Images courtesy of Carleton College Dime Novel Collection, with our thanks.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Printed Edition Of The Torah In Hebrew $1,400,000 - $2,000,000 At Christie's

by Stephen J. Gertz


"The educated man knows, indeed, from his knowledge of history that the art of Gutenberg saw its inception with a Latin Bible in the middle of the XVth century. Yet what layman knows when the original text appeared for the first time? Not even the bibliophile knows; although a non-Jewish expert, Count Giacomo Manzoni, asserts in his enthusiasm for the book that the first edition of the Hebrew Bible is the most precious book on earth" (Lazarus Goldschmidt, 1950)
 

A newly discovered, large and complete copy in very fine condition of the first printed edition of the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Bible aka Torah - in Hebrew is being offered by Christie's-Paris in its Importants livres anciens, livres d'artistes & manuscrits, Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Printed on vellum in Bologna by Abraham ben Hayim of Pesaro for Joseph ben Abraham Caravita, this, the Hamishah humshe Torah was published on January, 25, 1482 with Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Onkelos) and commentary by Rashi (Solomon ben Isaac).

Rarer than copies of the Gutenberg Bible (49, per last census), and one of only twenty-eight surviving copies on vellum (with eleven survivors on paper), most incomplete, it is estimated to sell for $1,400,000 - $2,000,000 (€1,000,000-1,500,000;  £900,000-1,300,000).


Arguably the most important book in the history of Hebrew printing and publishing, it incorporates the first appearance in print of the ancient Targum attributed to Onkelos. Rashi’s commentary, also included, was first published in Rome around a dozen years earlier. This first edition of the Pentateuch in its original language is the first Hebrew book with printed vowel and cantillation signs (those symbols beneath the letters).

Abraham ben Hayim may have started as a textile printer and dyer and/or bookbinder in Pesaro. His first recorded printing press stood at Ferrara in 1477, which produced two books, beginning with Levi ben Gershom’s Be’ur sefer lyov (Commentary on the Book of Job), edited and/or financed by Nathan of Salò; then it completed - about two thirds of the text - Jacob ben Asher’s Tur yoreh de’ah (Teacher of Knowledge), which had been started at the press of Abraham ben Solomon Conat in Mantua. At his second press, in Bologna, Abraham ben Hayim worked for Joseph ben Abraham, a member of the Caravita, an influential Jewish family of bankers.


In Bologna, Abraham ben Hayim first printed this fully vocalized biblical text with cantillation marks, a landmark in the history of Hebrew book production not only for the importance of its text, but no less for its pioneering technique of casting and setting accents; this fully developed typographical accomplishment can only be compared with Francesco Griffo’s solution for adding accents to the Aldine Greek founts some dozen years later. 

Abraham ben Hayim da Pesaro and Francesco Griffo da Bologna are likely to have known each other and it's possible that Griffo cut Abraham’s punches; both were subsequently associated with the Soncino family of printers in Italy, although at dates about two decades apart. An earlier typographical attempt at adding Hebrew accents, in a 1477 folio edition of the Psalms printed by a consortium of typographers in Northern Italy, was aborted after a few pages. The only other surviving Bolognese production by Abraham ben Hayim is slightly later in date than this Torah, a folio edition of the Five Scrolls (Megillot), now recorded in two copies (Vatican and Parma Bibl. Palatina).

Liturgical readings of the Torah in synagogue, then as now, must be done from manuscript scrolls. This, the Bologna editio princeps, combining the text with the Aramaic targum and Rashi’s commentary, was aimed at an educational market, the codex format being most efficient for study.


Rashi’s commentary was first printed in Rome c. 1470 as a separate edition by three Jewish contemporaries of the Christian proto-typographers, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz. The second separate edition - the first dated Hebrew printed book - appeared on February 18, 1475 from the press of Abraham ben Garton at Reggio di Calabria (a single copy known), while the third edition of 1476 is the first Hebrew book printed in Spain.

Another edition of the Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos, Haftarot and Megillot, also vocalized and with cantillation accents, was printed somewhere in Italy by Isaac ben Aron d’Este and Moses ben Eliezer Raphael (3 copies extant and 7 single leaves); its date has in the past been assigned to c. 1480 (Goff Heb-13; Offenberg 25), based on research on by A. Spanier (Soncino Blätter I, 77), but it is now more accurately dated to c. 1489 from paper and watermark evidence in the Vatican Library copy (Piccard, Wasserzeichen Lilie II, 945).

Two obscure Iberian editions of the Torah - little known because of their extreme rarity - may also belong to the early 1480s, and may also be candidates for the first printed edition of the Torah in Hebrew: Offenberg 23=Goff Heb-16(III) recorded only in fragments of eight leaves (New York JTSL), one leaf (Oxford Bodleian) and a partial leaf (Jerusalem NLI); Offenberg 26=Goff Heb-16(II) surviving in a single copy (Florence Laurenziana) and a fragment of of 4 leaves (JTSL).
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BIBLE, Pentateuch, in HebrewHamishah humshe Torah, with Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Onkelos) and commentary by Rashi (Solomon ben Isaac). Edited by Joseph Hayim ben Aaron Strasbourg Zarfati. Bologna: Abraham ben Hayim of Pesaro for Joseph ben Abraham Caravita, 5 Adar I [5]242 = 25th January 1482.

Median folio (320 x 230 mm). Printed on vellum (flesh side to flesh side, hair side to hair side, the sheets highly polished to minimize contrast). Collation: 110 28 310 48(-7) 58(-8) 62 710 8-98 106 1110 124 13-146 (Genesis-Exodus); 1510 168 176 18-218.10 228 234 248 256 2610 27-288 296 (Leviticus-Deuteronomy, 19/1v beginning of Numbers, 29/5v colophon, 29/6 blank). 219 leaves: Complete (but without final blank). 

Vocalized biblical text with accents, surrounded by paraphrase in a narrow outer column and commentary in long lines above and below, the pages set in formes (the outer forme of the outermost vellum sheet of each quire printed on the fesh side). Square Hebrew type 1:180 (text, headlines), semi-cursive Hebrew type 2:90 (paraphrase, commentary and colophon). 20-21 lines of text and headline and 40-42 lines of paraphrase to the full page, numbers of commentary lines varying, no printed signatures or catchwords. (Light yellowing of the hair sides of the sheets, some minor stains, a few small wormholes at beginning and end, but in VERY FINE CONDITION, WITH LARGE MARGINS.) 18th-century binding of brown sheep over pasteboard (front cover and spine gone, back cover preserved but worn and detached, original sewing somewhat defective, frst quire detached from the book block). Modern folding box.

Provenance: inscribed, signed and dated by three Italian censors. Luigi da Bologna, Dominican friar, March 1599 – Camillo Jaghel 1613 – Fra Renato da Modena 1626. Individual words or short phrases censored, scored through in ink on 1/2r, 1/6r, 2/3v, 5/2v and 22/4r and several words erased on 10/6v and 11/3v, all in Rashi’s commentary. – There is no evidence of more recent provenance, except for the modest 18th-century binding, which is probably French. – French Private Collection, by descent to the present owner.

Hain 12568; GW M30624; BMC XIII, 26-27 (C.49.d.2); Proctor 6557; Goff Heb-18; CIBN Heb-4; IDL 2440; IGI E-12; Oates 2482; Bod-inc Heb-8. De Rossi I, 7; Steinschneider 2; Thesaurus A15; Van Straalen p. 29; Zedner p. 106; Marx 7; Goldstein 20; HSTC 22; Offenberg 13. ISTC ib00525570.
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Images courtesy of Christies, with our thanks.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Shocking Hard-Boiled World Of Librarians!

by Stephen J. Gertz


They take no guff from deadbeats.

Original cover art by Casey Jones for Crackers in Bed
by Vic Fredericks. Pocket Books 1053 (1955)
.

Books and snacks in the boudoir are their after-hours business - and business is good.

Original cover art by Peff (Sam Peffer) for ?, London: Pan Books.

They're know-it-alls with only one answer - the one that men want!

Original cover art by Darcy (Ernest Chiriaka) for Dearest Mama
by Walewska. Digit Books 393 (1956).

They read trash for breakfast, season it with tawdry filth, chase it with smutty little stories, and reach their bliss multiple times but it's never enough to satisfy their primitive hunger!

Original cover art by Bill George for Haunted Lady
by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Dell 814 (1955).

Though they get creeped-out by wacko stalkers with twisted desires,

Original cover art by Rafael DeSoto for The Girl From Big Pine
by Talmadge Powell. Monarch 483 (1964).

they're always willing to go out on a limb for a sweet daddy-o with dangerous eyes and a savage smirk!


They're merciless with bimbos who avoid books,

Original cover art by Reginald Heade for Plaything of Passion
by Jeanette Revere. Archer Books 57 (1950).

and possess mad, unholy desire and strange diabolical hate and all-consuming love for abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word.

Original cover art for The Case of the Rolling Bones
by Erle Stanely Gardner. Pocket Books 2464 (1949).

They play craps with their reputation and gamble away their morals for a chance at the big time - but a good time will do!


They're a strange cult into weird hats and bizarre dining rituals,

Original cover art by Verne Tossey for The Case of the Lonely Heiress
by Erle Stanley Gardner. Pocket Book 922 (1952).

with sensitive janes overcome in the public john by loathsome forces beyond their control!

Original cover art by Rafael DeSoto for Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective
by Agatha Christie. Dell 550 (1951).

But when those sensitive janes detect halitosis and rank B.O. wafting their way they smell trouble and it's pine-scent Mace® for the great unwashed with library cards!


They're no patsies, they ain't like Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Talk therapy don't cut it for some and she knows it.

Dr. Melfi: That Departures magazine out there. Did you give any thought at all to someone else who might wanna read before you tore out the entire page?

Tony Soprano: What?

Dr. Melfi: It's not the first time you've defaced my reading materials.

Tony Soprano: You saw that, huh? People tear shit outta your magazines all the time, they're a mess. I try to read 'em.

Dr. Melfi: I don't think I can help you.

Tony Soprano: Well, change 'em. Bring in some new shit. 

Dr. Melfi: I mean therapeutically.

Tony Soprano: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, OK? Now what the fuck is this? You're, uh, firin' me 'cause I defaced your Departures magazine?

No, when L-Girls are confronted by a chronic defacer of library periodicals they don't mess around. When they say get lost they mean take a long walk off a short pier: they cancel his subscription to life; you won't see him around no more; he sleeps with the fische.

Original cover art by Gerald Gregg for Who's Calling?
by Helen McCloy. Dell 151 (1947).

Silence in the stacks? Tell it to the library card-holding psycho with logorrhia and a Van Gogh fixation!


Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of the library book-drop box? Drop-offs, droppings, or rotting, vermin-infested fast-food left-overs? It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.
 

And how 'bout that famous writer of L.A.-noir novels who visited his local branch of the LAPL, hit on a married reference librarian I know, wouldn't take no for an answer, kept sending flowers to her, and didn't stop his unwelcome advances until she flipped him an oath and he skulked off and out of the library?

Original cover art by Rudolph Belarski for Don't Ever Love Me
by Octavus Roy Cohen. Popular Library 332 (1951).

The fact that she fought for her intellectual freedom to be left alone while wielding a heater to punctuate her point may have had something to do with it. He had an acute fear of perforation by a stacked n' sultry long tall sally with a MLS, a gripe, and a gat. Yet where had she been all his life?
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All images courtesy of Professional Library Literature with special thanks to the anonymous creator of these brilliant book parodies, who, I suspect, may be in fear of losing their job if outed. Additional thanks to B.T. Carver of LISNews for drawing our attention to this delightful webpage. There are more of the same on the site.

The Sopranos dialogue from Episode #85, The Blue Comet (2007), written by David Chase and Matthew Weiner.

Those with knowledge of the unidentified books (or pulp magazines) are encouraged to leave a comment.
 
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