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).

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.

Images courtesy of Christies, with our thanks.

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?

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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Two Great Typewriter Posters From 1909

by Stephen J. Gertz

Paul Scheurich, 1909.

A copy of Paul Scheurich's 1909 poster for Oliver typewriters is being offered by Swann Auction Galleries in its Modernist Posters sale, April 24, 2014. It is estimated to sell for $800-$1,200.

Printed by the renowned Berlin shop, Hollerbaum & Schmidt, which, in the years before World War I, was known not only for the quality of its lithography but for its impressive stable of artists, including Lucian Bernhardt, Hans Rudi Erdt and Julius Klinger, as well.

Scheurich (1883-1945) was born and raised in New York City but settled in Germany to work. A painter, sculptor and prolific graphic designer, he was a professor of porcelain painting in Meissenand and worked in Dresden as a graphic designer before moving to Berlin.

Much like his fellow artists, Scheurich's style was heavily influenced by contemporary British graphic design, which emphasized flat tones and no outlining. That is certainly the case in this Sachs Plakat (Object Poster), in which the object being advertised is depicted against a flat background as Lucian Bernhard did in his series of posters for Adler typewriters.

Lucian Bernhard, 1909.

"Bernhard recognized that the image of the typewriter itself, with its potential for speed and efficiency, was an effective way to advertise the product.  This poster, the first of several that Bernhard designed for the Adler company, embodies the simplicity of the Sachplakat while maintaining certain elements of the same late nineteenth century graphic style that overpowered and inspired Bernhard as an adolescent, such as the bold, flat planes of color and the shadow line that emphasizes the curving forms of the letters" (Caitlin Condell, Seduced by an Object Poster).
Caitlin Condell
Caitlin Condell

Note, however, that Bernhard's seminal poster for Adler typewriters was, as Scheurich's for Oliver typewriters, also designed in 1909. According to Nicholas D. Lowry of Swann, it is impossible to determine which image influenced the other.

Oliver image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries, with our thanks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Clarence Darrow Writes About A Publisher And Prohibition

by Stephen J. Gertz

On October 24, 1931, legendary American lawyer and social reformer Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) wrote to American attorney, civil rights pioneer and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Arthur Spingarn, about his as yet to be published autobiography.

"The book will be finished this month. As I have said, no contract has been made with any one, but several publishers seem anxious to get it. I do not feel like giving it to Liveright & Co. I have said that I will show it to them, which I will do; still, that is superfluous, if they are not in the running. I presume I could ask each publisher to make an offer, and I could safely give it to the one that makes the best offer; still there are other things to consider. Had I better send a copy of manuscript to you to deliver to them when I send out any others? Have you any idea of the best way to handle the situation? I do not like to make any pretense that I feel is not true, but I think I should put it where I want to, and, of course, since I have given them $1,000.00 and you got me a clean release, I have the right to do it. One of these days I will be in New York, but on account of the other fellow rushing his book out in a hurry – after promising to wait! – I felt that I had better get mine done. With thanks, and best wishes, [signed] Clarence Darrow."

A postscript in holograph reads: "I have a story in this coming Nov. number of Vanity Fair on what one can and can not do to get rid of prohibition. We can not repeal the 18th Amendment. I think my plan has never been published."

Clarence Darrow, the son of pro-suffrage and abolitionist parents, began his celebrated law career in Ohio. He soon found himself defending anarchists, union leaders and murderers. His slow, shambling demeanor belied a brilliant mind, evident in his spectacular defense in the 1924 Leopold-Loeb murder trial and the famous Scopes trial of 1925, the latter upholding the right to teach the theory of evolution. Among Darrow’s high-profile defenses were such racially charged cases as the Sweet Case, in which a black family used deadly force to defend itself against an attack while attempting to move into an all-white Detroit neighborhood. The NAACP (with the support of Spingarn, the letter’s recipient) also offered Darrow’s services to the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Alabama in 1931 and convicted by an all-white jury. A pacifist and civil libertarian, Darrow was knowledgeable, shrewd and deeply committed to justice.

After the 1919 passage of the 18th Amendment, which banned the production and sale of alcohol in the United States, Darrow became an outspoken opponent. He published such articles as “The Ordeal of Prohibition” in the August 1924 issue of American Mercury, and the same year he debated the issue with prominent Unitarian minister John Haynes Holmes. He co-authored a book entitled The Prohibition Mania (1927), and he published several articles in Vanity Fair including “Why the 18th Amendment Cannot Be Repealed” in the November 1931 issue, referred to in this letter. Darrow lived to see the repeal of prohibition with the passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933.

The letter also discusses Darrow’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, which Charles Scribner’s Sons published in 1932. Darrow had defended New York publisher Liveright & Co. against charges of obscenity alleged by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and Boston's Watch and Ward Society, but he apparently did not want to use the publisher for his own work.

Arthur Spingarn (1878-1971), the son of an affluent Jewish family, earned a law degree at Columbia and, along with his brother Joel, dedicated his life to racial justice for blacks. He headed the legal committee of the NAACP and, in 1940, succeeded his brother as president of the civil rights organization, holding the position until 1965. He also became known for his vast collection of books, manuscripts and ephemera related to American blacks, most of which are now at Howard University.

Image courtesy of Lion Heart Autographs, with our thanks, and a tip o' the hat to its cataloger.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Congress Establishes The Dollar And It'll Cost You $50,000 - $75,000

by Stephen J. Gertz

The dollar becomes the official coin of the nation in the first printing of An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States, offered by Swann Auction Galleries in its Printed and Manuscript Americana sale, tomorrow April 8, 2014.

Published April 2, 1792 and certified by the autograph signature of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, and with the typed signatures of Speaker of the House Jonathan Trumbull, Vice-President John Adams, and President George Washington, it may be the only complete signed copy extant.

With no signed complete copies seen at auction since at least 1917, and with only two copies - unsigned - recorded in ESTC and OCLC, this one is estimated to sell for $50,000 - $75,000.

Printed on paper made by Henry Schutz in Pennsylvania with his "HS Sandy Run" watermark (the same paper preferred by George Washington for his private correspondence - see Gravell, American Watermarks 164) and published in Philadelphia by Francis Childs and John Swain on five pages on three (here disbound) folio sheets, 15 x 9 3/4 inches, the coinage act created the first United States mint (in Philadelphia), established and defined the currency system of the United States, and set the dollar as legal tender.

The act authorizes the hiring of a mint director, assayer, chief coiner, engraver, and treasurer, and sets the salaries for each.

The ninth clause lists the denominations of coins which can be produced by the new mint. The most important was "Dollars or Units - each to be the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy one grains and four sixteenths of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver."

The other denominations, ranging from ten-dollar gold "Eagles" down through quarter dollars, "dismes," cents, and half cents, are all defined in relation to the dollar.

The tenth clause dictates that each coin bear the word "Liberty," and that the gold and silver denominations read "United States of America" and bear an eagle on the reverse.

The Act, in Section 19, promises a bleak future for those who mess with the mint and its product. "And be it further enacted that if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of the fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less weight or value than the same out to be pursuant to the directions of this act, through the default or with the connivance of any of the officers or persons who shall be employed at the said mint, for the purpose of profit or gain, or otherwise with a fraudulent intent, and if any of the said officers or persons shall embezzle any of the metals which shall at any time be committed to their charge for the purpose of being coined, or any of the coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint, every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offenses, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death."

The final clause dictates that "the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units, dismes or tenths, cents or hundredths, and milles or thousandths." The U.S. has operated on a decimal system ever since, although the "mille" soon fell into disuse.

Other provisions have been superseded by later acts. Private citizens, for example, with gold or silver bullion lying around the house collecting dust can no longer take it to the bank and have it minted into official coins at no expense.

In passing, it should be noted that the Coinage Act of 1792 was ultimately passed by Congress for the sole purpose of allowing the present writer, 222 years afterward, to capture the grinding consequence in the 21st century of Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th century observation that money-making is the dominant ethic in the U.S.:

Another day, another dolor, the waking-call of the hard-working financially challenged and  depressed citizen with barely two dismes to rub together.

Images courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries, with our thanks.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Super Copy Of William Burroughs' Scarce Digit Junkie $15,000 At New York Antiquarian Book Fair

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of the incredibly scarce first U.K. edition of William S. Burroughs' Junkie, published in London by Digit Books in 1957, is being offered at the upcoming New York Antiquarian Book Fair, April 3-6, 2014. Inscribed by Burroughs to his friend, Phoenix Bookshop owner Robert Wilson ("For Bob Wilson / With all best / wishes / William Burroughs / as William Lee") and in unusually wonderful condition, the asking price is $15,000.

Yes, that's $15,000 for a mass-market paperback book. But it is the most difficult Burroughs "A" item to acquire and one of the most collectible vintage paperbacks of all. It is definitely the most desirable drug-lit. paperback.

Banned by British censors immediately upon publication with all copies in retail circulation ordered returned to their distributors and then all copies in distributors' warehouses commanded to be destroyed, few copies have survived. I've only seen three copies in over thirty years of collecting and book selling, the last one in 2002. That copy, uninscribed, was owned by a friend who sold it to a British dealer for $5,000. What a difference twelve years and an inscribed copy with stunning association in excellent condition makes. This copy is likely the finest extant; if there's a better one it has yet to surface.

William S. Burroughs, c. late 1970s.
Photographer: David Sandell.
Provenance: Though not noted, from the collection of Tuli Kupferberg.

"For many struggling writers and poets of the latter half of the twentieth century, Robert A. Wilson [b. 1922] was a familiar and comforting presence. As the third proprietor of the Phoenix Bookshop in New York City from 1962 to 1988, Wilson provided both encouragement and financial support to beginning writers. A great lover of literature, Wilson specialized in rare books and manuscripts and shipped his material to enthusiastic readers in all parts of the world.

"Through the bookshop, Wilson published the work of many notable writers, including Gertrude Stein, Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, and Richard Wilbur. During his twenty-six year tenure as the proprietor of the Phoenix, Wilson oversaw the publication of no less than forty-three volumes.

"An avid collector of rare books and manuscripts for his own personal collection, Wilson himself is the author of more than a dozen volumes, many of which he published on a mimeograph machine in the back room of the Phoenix. Among these are Auden's Library (1975); Marianne Serves Lunch (1976); Robert Haggard's She (1977);  Faulkner on Fire Island (1979); and Tea With Alice (1978), an interview with his friend, Alice Toklas.

"In 1988, financial difficulties forced Wilson to close the doors forever, thereby ending the Phoenix's fifty-six year history" (University of Delaware, Special Collections, Robert A. Wilson Collection).

Wilson's memoir, Seeing Shelley Plain ( 2001), relates how he transformed a small, obscure book shop into a internationally renowned literary harbor. Within he writes of his close, long-standing friendships with some of the great figures of 20th century literature, including Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, and Burroughs, and provides mini-biographies of many famous "Beat Generation" poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima, Gregory Corso, and Michael McClure. It also contains a previously unpublished piece by Burroughs.

When Junkie was originally published in the U.S. in 1953 by Ace Books it was issued in a two-fer edition inversely bound with a reprint of ex-Bureau of Narcotics agent Maurice Helbrant's 1941 Narcotics Agent. By doing so Ace exploited the contemporary craze for dope-themed literature but played it safe in a hostile environment that in 1952 had seen the United States Congress hold hearings on literature it considered morally repugnant for children and of dubious cultural or otherwise value to adults. Ace took no chances, correctly reasoning that Helbrant's tough anti-dope book would mitigate Junkie's unapologetic, outlaw romantic, almost positive view of heroin use.

The British edition - the first separate edition of Junkie - without the influence of Helbrant's book was a bit too much for British authorities. The back cover to the Digit edition, a masterpiece of sensational drug eroticism, didn't help. Falling firmly onto the censors' list of Yikes! its overt message of sex and drugs was not one the British wished to be delivered.

The front cover art to the Digit edition recreates rather than reproduces Al Rossi's original for the Ace edition and, strictly speaking, attribution should read, "after Al Rossi"; it is a repainting of the original with subtle differences in color, framing, the figures' hair, face, etc.

The book is being offered by Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, who, in celebration of Burroughs' centennial, is devoting an entire display case to Burroughs material, including the photos seen here, at the Fair, which will include another scarce gem, a precious copy of the 1957 off-print of Burroughs' Letter From a Master Drug Addict To Dangerous Drugs, which originally appeared in Vol. 53, No. 2 of The British Journal of Addiction (1956). A notorious Burroughs rarity, it was issued at his request in a print-run estimated at no more than fifty copies, tops. In excellent condition it is being offered for $3,000.

Letter From a Master Addict..., is, as critic Carol Loranger has written, "one of Burroughs' most subversive pieces of comic writing. The 'scientific' language and deadpan asides both anticipate and replicate...the 'scientific' language and asides of much of the narrative of Naked Lunch...The language of the article, together with Burroughs' heavy use of passive constructions and medical jargon, careful attention to definition of terms, and (for botanicals) use of Latin species names, combines with its encyclopedic organization and tabulations of data to effectively imitate science writing of the day - an imitation Burroughs then undermines with odd anecdotes" (Postmodern Culture, Volume 10, Number 1, September 1999).

William S.. Burroughs, c. 1962,
with Antony Balch in the Beat Hotel, Paris.
Photographer: Nicolas Tikhomiroff. $4,000.

The fact that this piece by Burroughs (whose Junkie pseudonym, William Lee, was blown by this time) appeared near simultaneous to the Digit edition of Junkie likely helped doom the book's appearance on the British welcome wagon of wholesome literature, William S. Burroughs a serious saboteur of mainstream cultural and moral values. 

So, go to the 2014 New York Antiquarian Book Fair, with over 200 expert dealers from nearly twenty countries around the world exhibiting, check your steely dan at the door, go to the booth of Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, wish Burroughs a happy 100th birthday, and drool over a fine selection of his contributions to the decline of Western civilization.

Afterward, visit the offices of Dr. Benway, Burroughs' go-to medico, who doesn't give a bat's butt about a patient's state of mind but has some marvelously graphic things to say about how to remove a patient's brain with the sucker none the wiser and better off for its excision. In a brainless world the brainless are kings with the brainful at a distinct disadvantage.

Images courtesy of Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, with our thanks.

It's about time and long overdue that a census be taken of all extant copies of the Digit edition of Junkie. Any volunteers?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Man Who Refused To Laugh (And The Book That Laughed At Him)

by Stephen J. Gertz

On March 9, 1748 Philip Dormer Stanhope (1694-1773), 4th Earl of Chesterfield, wrote to his son:

"Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it: and I could heartily wish, that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and in manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it: They please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. 

"But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above. A man's going to sit down, in the supposition that he has a chair behind him, and falling down upon his breech for want of one, sets a whole company a laughing, when all the wit in the world would not do it; a plain proof, in my mind, how low and unbecoming a thing laughter is: not to mention the disagreeable noise that it makes, and the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions. Laughter is easily restrained, by a very little reflection; but as it is generally connected with the idea of gaiety, people do not enough attend to its absurdity. 

"I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition, and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that, since I have had the full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me laugh."

The letter is one of over four hundred written beginning 1737/1738 through the death of his son in 1768 and collected in Letters Written By the Late Right Honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip Stanhope Esq. Published in 1774 by his son's widow, Eugenia, a year after Chesterfield's death, the majority of the letters were written between 1746 and 1754. 

Also known as Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, within Lord Chesterfield - yes, he of the eponymous sofa - with elegance, understated wit, and sharp observation discusses, amongst other issues including history and contemporary politics, the restraint in behavior and manners expected of the mid-18th century British upper class in general and gentlemen in particular.

His disdain for the manners of the general populace begged to be lampooned and thirty-seven years after Chesterfield's letters to his son were published caricaturist George Moutard Woodward ("Mustard George"), in 1808, gleefully rubbed his hands together and went to work, the great Thomas Rowlandson engraving Woodward's designs (as imprinted on plates but contrary to title page).

A satire of Lord Chesterfield's advice to his son, Chesterfield Travestie; or, School For Modern Manners presents "a new plan of education, on the principles of virtue and politeness in which is conveyed, such instructions as cannot fail to form the man of honour, the man of virtue, and the accomplished gentleman." In seven chapters illustrated by ten hand-colored plates it covers Rules for walking the Streets, and other Public Places; Behaviour at the Table; Directions respecting Apparel, &c; Short Directions respecting behavior at the Theatres; Rules for Conversation; Rules to be observed at Cards in private Families; and General Rules for Good Breeding on various Occasions. In short, all a swell has to know for good breeding to show, to wit:

"It is very becoming to break out into a violent fit of laughter, on the most rifling occasion. forming  your mouth into a grin like the lion's-head on a brass knocker; and more so to be continually simpering at every thing. like a country milk-maid at a statute fair" (Chapter 7, p. 47).

How To Walk The Streets.

"If, whilst you are walking, you see any person of your acquaintance passing, be sure to bawl and hem after them, like a butcher out of a public-house window; and leave the person you are walking with to run after them.

"In walking through a crowded street, throw your legs and arms about in every direction, as if you were rowing for Dogget's coat and badge. N.B. If you have a short thick stick, it will be of great advantage" (Chapter 1, p. 1).

How To Keep Up A Conversation With Yourself On The Public Streets.

"It is said that the emptiest vessels make the greatest noise; don't let that deter you from making a free exercise of your lungs; it is conducive to you health, therefore, in every conversation, however trivial it may be, be sure to bawl as loud as possible" (Chapter 5, p. 21).

How To Look Over Your Husband's Hand Of Cards And Find Fault With Him For Losing.

"It has a very good effect for a wife to look over her husband's hand while he is playing; at the same time, shewing evident marks of anger and discontent if he loses.

"When you lose, never pay before you are asked for it; it is quite time enough; and then do it with reluctance, so as to plainly shew you would much rather keep it in your pocket"  (Chapter 6, p. 43).

How To Break a Shop Window With An Umbrella.

"Should it be a rainy day, and you use an umbrella, pay no regard to breaking a few windows in your passage, &c., from your careless manner of carrying it" (Chapter I, p. 2).

A British statesman and diplomat, "Chesterfield’s winning manners, urbanity, and wit were praised by many of his leading contemporaries, and he was on familiar terms with Alexander Pope, John Gay, and Voltaire. He was the patron of many struggling authors but had unfortunate relations with one of them, Samuel Johnson, who condemned him in a famous letter (1755) attacking patrons. Johnson further damaged Chesterfield’s reputation when he described the Letters as teaching 'the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.' Dickens later caricatured him as Sir John Chester in Barnaby Rudge (1841). The opinion of these two more popular writers—both of whom epitomized middle-class morality—has contributed to Chesterfield’s image as a cynical man of the world and a courtier. 

"Careful readers of Chesterfield’s letters, which were not written for publication, consider this an injustice. The strongest charge against his philosophy is that it leads to concentration on worldly ends. But within this limitation his advice is shrewd and presented with wit and elegance. Ironically, Chesterfield’s painstaking advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears: his son was described by contemporaries as 'loutish,' and his godson was described by Fanny Burney as having 'as little good breeding as any man I ever met'” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

As far as his refusal to laugh aloud is concerned, I imagine Lord Chesterfield being kidnapped and taken to a dark, dank basement room where he is strapped to a chair under a glaring spotlight and compelled to endure unmerciful torture by Mel Brooks until his smile, always firmly set to prevent an accidental discharge of guffaws, breaks, his sides split, his gut busts, a lifetime's worth of repressed laughter escapes in a torrent, and an eternal human truth becomes manifest:

Ludibrio ergo sum vivo.

WOODWARD, George Moutard (designer). ROWLANDSON, Thomas, (engraver). Chesterfield Travestie. or, School For Modern Manners. Embellished with Ten Caricatures, Engraved by Woodward from Original Drawings by Rowlandson. London & Edinburgh: Printed by T. Plummer...for Thomas Tegg, 1808.

First edition. Octavo (6 1/2 x 4 1/8 in; 166 x 104 mm). [1, half-title], [1, blank], iv, [2], 70, [2, adv.] pp.  Ten hand-colored plates (two folding) engraved by Rowlandson after drawings by Woodward (contrary to title), with tissue guards. Publisher's original printed boards.

Reprinted by Tegg in 1809, and again by Tegg in 1811 under the title "Chesterfield Burlesqued." American editions published in Philadelphia by M. Carey in 1812 and 1821.

The Plates:

1. Votaries of Fashion
2. How To Walk the Streets.
3. The Art of Quizzing.
4. How to Keep Up a Conversation with Yourself in the Public Streets.
5. How to break a Shop Window with an Umbrella.
6. Behaviour at Table.
7. Notoriety, &c.
8. Gentleman and Mad Author.
9. How to look over your Husband's Hand while at Cards.
10. The Nobleman and Little Shopkeeper.

Falk, 215-216, Grego, 115-117, Grolier, Rowlandson, 61, Hardie, p. 315. Gordon Library Catalog BC-19.

Book images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.
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