Sunday, May 31, 2009

Victor Hugo To Congress: Confirm Sotomayor!

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), the celebrated author of Les Misérables, rose from the dead this morning to throw his tricorne into the ring and proclaim his endorsement of Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice of the United States.

“If you loved Les Miz, there is only one way for the Senate to vote,” he averred. “You gotta go with Sonia. Otherwise, cognitive dissonance, hypocrisie!"

“Those who know my Les Misérables only as staged musical schmaltz herring may be surprised to learn that the actual novel, a two-ton tome upon which I rest my head in Tempur-Pedic eternity, is a vigorous plea for the E word, empathy, a neutral noun now in crisis; who ever imagined that it could be transmogrified into something sinister?”

The novelist was clearly on a roll; I dared not interrupt. Rising further from the dead to full stature, he continued:

“Les Misérables is, further and most importantly, my answer (and I'm sticking to it) to the moral Absolutism of Immanuel Kant which, in sum, is: Right is Right, Wrong is Wrong, the Law is All, end of story. If you feel you’ve been victimized, that’s all you want to know. But if you’re on the other side of the case, you may want a little understanding of the context, if not forgiveness. Moral absolutism is generally associated with religion but in its socio-political context extends far beyond theology into everyday justice and fairness; there is a human dimension to the law, often and unfortunately overlooked by those who demand an impossible degree of objectivity in jurisprudence. The law is not, first and foremost, about legal process divorced from human action but rather about human fallibility and frailty and its civil redress for society and the individual.”

Hugo, breathless after a hundred and twenty-four years of dead silence, sat down and asked for a glass of wine. “And no vin du pays, either,” he insisted. “I may be of the people but I draw the line at drinking cheap peasant wine; life’s too short. A sturdy yet delicate Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be nice.”

He had to settle for Two-Buck Chuck; who did he think I was, Robert Parker? He winced. He drank.

Ten minutes and a liter and a half later, Hugo’s hootched to the gills. His tongue was too marinated for coherency but this was the gist of the verbal marbles in his mouth:

So, if you cheered for Jean Valjean and booed at Javert, there is only one choice for the Senate: confirm Sonia Sotomayor, who appears to have thus far wisely and successfully walked the tighrope between statute and the individual during her career, balancing the rock of the law with the glorious mush of human existence.

Vic – we were bosom buddies by now – roused from his stupor for a final comment uniting philosophy and phallic itch as only the French can.

Sonia, ma cher chaude, ma sorte de fille,” he leered. “My kinda gal.”


The true first edition of Les Misérables appeared in Brussels, published by A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Ce, in 1862 in five parts within ten octavo volumes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Celebrated Stable of Erotica Writers Part II: The Perp Walk

From the early 1930s through the late 1940s, wealthy Oklahoma oil millionaire Roy Milisander Johnson commissioned 2xweek clandestine erotic manuscripts from writers in major cities across the country though bookseller-agents.

The names of the majority of these writers will forever remain a mystery but there are a handful whose identities have been confirmed:

Henrymiller.jpgHENRY MILLER (1891-1980) fled Paris for New York in 1940 at the start of WWII. He arrived in New York penniless. Legman, who knew Miller but didn't like him, was in the process of working with Miller and NY publisher-bookseller Jack Brussel on the first American edition of Tropic of Cancer (the "Medusa" edition). Legman approached Miller about writing for Johnson and set up an appointment to meet at Frances Steloff's Gotham Book Mart. Miller didn't show; he sent Anais Nin to work out the details with Legman, who wound up recruiting her to write for Johnson as well.

Miller's contributions have been identified by Legman as the roots for Miller's Sexus, Nexus, and Plexus (The Rosy Crucifixion) and as his Opus Pistorum (1941).

Anais_Nin.jpgANAIS NIN (1903-1977) fled France to New York with Henry Miller as WWII began. She, too, was broke and needed cash, fast.

"I gather poets around me and we all write beautiful erotica. As we have to suppress poetry, lyrical flight, and are condemned to focus only on sensuality, we have violent explosions of poetry. Writing erotica becomes a road to sainthood rather than to debauchery...We have to cut out the poetry, and are haunted by the marvelous tales we cannot tell. WE have sat around, imagined this old man, talked of how much we hate him, because he will not allow us to make a fusion of sexuality with feeling, sensuality and emotion, and lyrical flights which intensify eroticism." (1).

Later, completely fed up and unable to continue, she wrote a letter to Johnson, who she didn't know by name and had no way to send the letter to him:

"Dear Collector;

We hate you. Sex loses all its its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships, which change its colour, flavour, rhythms, intensities...You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood..." (2)

She goes on in the same vein. Had Johnson actually received this letter his eponymous appendage would have fallen off from shame.

In the late 1960s, Ray Locke, an editor at Holloway House, a pulp porn publisher in Los Angeles, walked into Bennett & Marshall, the rare book shop at 8214 Melrose Avenue, to scout for material to reprint (3). He was shown a few erotic manuscripts that had been written sub-rosa over twenty-five years prior. He looked them over; the writing seemed familiar to him. The manuscripts appeared to have been written by his friend and Hollywood Hills neighbor, Anais Nin. Locke contacted her, they got together, she examined the manuscripts and confirmed that they were hers. Ray eagerly offered to publish them at Holloway House. Understanding that there was a new, open market for this old, clandestine work of hers, she politely declined Ray's offer, reworked the material (she'd been admonished by Johnson to stick to direct, explicit narrative, "less poetry;" she put the poetry back in) and in 1977, the year of her death, Delta of Venus, the first of her two volumes of erotica, was published by mainstream publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich..

1929-caresse-crosby.jpgCARESSE CROSBY (1892-1970), poet and widow of poet Harry Crosby, had been, with her husband, one of the lights of Paris during the 1920s. Deeply immersed in Paris's literary and art scene and social circuit, the two established Black Sun Press, one of the fine small publishers of its time, noted for the artistry of its productions. She remained in Paris after his suicide in 1929 but returned to New York during the 1930s, remarried and divorced. Her memoir, The Passionate Years (1953), remains one of the best views of American ex-pats in Paris during the 1920s.

On November 3, 1914, the U.S. Patent Office issued a patent to Caresse Crosby under her maiden name, Mary P. Jacob, for the 'Backless Brassiere', the first modern bra design. Whalebone futures presumably nosedived.

ROBERT CAMPBELL BRAGG aka N.R. De Mexico (1918-1954) lived in Greenwich Village, a bohemian in the literary and art scene. He was known to his friends as "Bob De Mexico" and wrote under that pseudonym or as N.R. De Mexico. According to his son, Kim, "the pen name N.R. de Mexico means 'N' for nee (born), 'R' for Robert of Mexico. I think the Mexico was a gag because at one point he had taught himself to speak Spanish well enough for him to translate for some additional income. During the war he worked for military intelligence. In the years just after WWII he was an editor for an architectural magazine, and only began writing novels [openly published ones!] after that period" (4).

BOOKS: Madman on a Drum (1944), a noir suspense thriller; Color TV, Now or Later?: A Comparative Survey and Analysis of the Several Color Systems and Their Impact on the Industry (1950); Marijuana Girl (1951); Designs (1951), a book about crime, gambling, prostitution; Private Chauffeur (1952), an aviation thriller.

BERNARD WOLFE (1915-1985), dramatist, television writer, and novelist graduated from Yale and after service in WWII worked briefly as secretary and bodyguard to Leon Trotsky during the revolutionary's exile in Mexico (he was off-duty at the time Trotsky got plugged) before settling in New York to become a writer. He co-wrote Really the Blues (1946), the memoir of Mezz Mezzrow, a book that would have an enormous impact upon the Beats. His 1972 autobiography, Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer, is a fine read and provides amusing details to his work for the unseen, unknown Johnson.


ROBERT DUNCAN (1919-1988). Space precludes full note of Duncan, whose influence on modern American poetry cannot be under estimated. Just click on the hyperlink to learn about him, if you are not already familiar with the poet and his work. His early, mimeographed journals, Epitaph and Experimental Review were influential when originally published and remain so today.

george-barker-1-sized.jpgGEORGE BARKER (1913-1991). The acclaimed British poet left London at the onset of war in 1939 and settled in New York. An impecunious party animal, he desperately needed money and joined the group of secret pornsters at Nin's invitation. "He drank away the money he earned in this way" (5). He returned to the U.K. in 1943. Barker's novel, The Dead Seagull (1950), described his affair with novelist Elizabeth Smart, whose novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945) was also about the affair. His Collected Poems were edited by Robert Fraser and published in 1987 by Faber and Faber.

VIRGINIA ADMIRAL (1915-2000) was a painter who studied with Hans Hoffman and writer who worked with poet Robert Duncan to launch Epitaph, which developed into The Experimental Review. She later wrote for True Crime magazine. In 1942 she married painter Robert De Niro and a year later their son, the actor Robert De Niro, was born. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

ROBERT DE NIRO, SR. (1922-1993) was an abstract expressionist painter who studied with Hans Hoffman at the artist's Provincetown, MA studio where he met his future wife, Virginia Admiral. The couple were at the center of the Greenwich Village art and literary scene, with Henry Miller, Anais Nin, young Tennessee Williams, and poet Robert Duncan (with whom De Niro, Sr. would have an affair) as friends and boon companions. His son, the actor Robert De Niro, is protective of his father's legacy.

JAMES COONEY founded and edited the late 1930s dissident art journal, The Phoenix, with his wife, Blanche in 1938 at an artist's commune in Woodstock, New York. Henry Miller, Anais Nin and Robert Duncan were contributors.

HARVEY BREIT (1909-1968), poet, playwright, essayist, critic and interviewer, was a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review from 1940-1965. He presumably wrote for Johnson prior to landing the job with the Times, no doubt invited by Nin to supplement his meager if not non-existent income from poetry. He co-wrote with Budd Schulberg the play The Disenchanted (1950) and in 1956 issued The Writer Observed.

JACK HANLEY (1905-1963), a novelist and television writer of no special talent, specialized in racy material:

Let's Make Mary : Being a Gentleman's Guide to Scientific Seduction in Eight Easy Lessons (1937); Exposing the Marijuana Drug Evil in Swing Bands (Radio Stars magazine, July 1938); Star Lust (1949); The Guy From Coney Island (1954); Bed For Beginners (1958); Strip Street (1954, under the pseudonym Gene Harvey); Tomcat in Tights (1959); Very Private Secretary (1960).

I think it safe to say that Hanley was not part of the Nin group.

ROBERT SEWALL. Not much is known about Sewall beyond that he was a childhood friend of G. Legman's in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Legman recruited him to write erotica for Johnson when he found it impossible to continue to churn out his own contributions to Johnson's cause, which were continuations of An Oxford Thesis on Love by "L. Erectus Mentulus," written for Johnson by Lupton Wilkinson. Sewall, "very talented at pastiche" (Legman) did a few of the Oxford sequels, then branched out into parodies of Henry Miller, then began a related series of Dashiell Hammett-like erotic murder-mysteries. These would later be collected and clandestinely issued as The Devil's Advocate (1942) by "Wood C. Lamont," his jab at fellow secret porn writer, the American poet and literateur, Clement Wood, known primarily for his still-in-print The Rhyming Dictionary (1936).

In one of the ironies that erotic literature is rife with, after he retired from writing, Sewall, according to Legman's widow, Judith (6), moved to Brattleboro, Vermont and became the town's postmaster, a job that would have earlier required that he arrest himself for sending obscene material through the mails.

fowler.jpgGENE FOWLER (1890--1960). The highly regarded journalist, dramatist, and screenwriter was at one time the highest paid scribe in Hollywood. He began as a popular journalist in New York, and moved to Los Angeles in the very early 1930s. He was notorious for being in and out of the money on a regular basis and likely wrote erotica strictly for fast cash. But Fowler, one of the great wits of the day, couldn't write "straight" sex. His two contributions to American erotica are the uproariously funny clandestine masterpieces, The Demi-Wang by Peter Long (1931) and Nirvana, Or The Adventures of Miss Aveh Koosie by Dr. Desernet (1934), the former a farce in which a young man born with obvious shortcomings undergoes transplant surgery but the surgeon shows up drunk and when our hero awakens he has a horse rather than human virile member that causes him hardship; be careful what you wish for.

I have personally examined these two books in their first printed and bound editions, put together, apparently, after Fowler had delivered the manuscripts. They are printed in attractive letterpress on laid paper. Fowler was part of the writers' crowd that hung out at Stanley Rose's bookshop to bullshit - and appreciate the scenery that Rose would routinely have on display after-hours in the back room. I suspect that Rose originally acted on Johnson's behalf with the commissions but that Fowler took his carbon copies over to Jake Zeitlin, who had them printed and bound (by one of L.A.'s better printer-publishers, yet unknown. But a strong possibility is that the printer and binder was Saul Marks, who had moved to L.A. in 1930 and whom Zeitlin had taken to and given his first work in L.A. as a struggling printer before founding, with his wife, Lillian, Plantin Press), then distributed them, with faux location on the title pages, New York.

LUPTON WILKINSON (1902-1993). Wilkinson began writing articles, poems and stories for magazines, then sensationalistic fare for the pulps. In the early 1930s he became head of publicity for The Hays Office, Hollywood's self-censorship bureau and, in 1938, wrote for Johnson the classic erotic novel, An Oxford Thesis on Love. Irony doesn't get any more ironic. After leaving the Hays Office, Wilkinson became a writer for movie fan magazines and press agent.

ANTHONY GUDAITIS aka Anton Gud, aka Tony Gud wrote anonymously or under pseudonym many works for Samuel Roth, America's most prosecuted publisher of erotica. Lady Chatterley's Husbands (1931) is firmly attributed to him. Under his own name he wrote Young Man About to Committ Suicide (NY: William Faro [Sam Roth], 1934). As "Anton Gud" he compiled and edited the volume Don't Vote 'Til You Read This! (1952).

CLIFTON CUTHBERTSON. We have a name. That's it. The Social Security Death Index doesn't even have that. Who was this guy?

PAUL HUGO LITTLE.(1915-1987). The man of a 1000 pseudonyms was born Paul Hugo Litwinsky in Chicago to wealthy merchants. Little ultimately became one of America's most prolific writers with over 700 novels and books to his credit. They are almost all porn of the poorest literary quality. A chess expert, he has a few chess instructionals to his name, and wrote a book in 1965 titled The Procurers, a title about one of Chicago's most notorious call-girls who had her phones unilaterally turned off by the sheriff of Cook County. Some believe this book is fiction. It is not. My uncle, Elmer Gertz, in his day one of the U.S.'s most celebrated civil liberties and First Amendment attorneys (he won Tropic of Cancer's first case in the U.S.), was this woman's advocate in her suit against the sheriff and, natch, got her off hook and back on the phone. I once possessed a copy of this book that Little had inscribed to my uncle. I sold it ten years ago. It is now online and selling for $150. Geez...

One day someone will write at length about this character, known primarily for his porn work under the pseudonym, "A. Grandamour," who, according to my uncle (who knew him well), was a spoiled rich Jewish kid, well-educated, who turned his back on his family and background, was thrown out of the Chicago branch of The Standard Club, the social organization for successful Jews, for conduct unbecoming, married an Episcopalian, converted to Christianity, and then churned out so much crude erotica that he surely could not have had time to perform his connubial responsibilities.

woodcle.jpgCLEMENT WOOD (1988-1950). The poet, critic and litterateur wrote Flesh (1930) Lady Chatterley's Friends (1932), amongst many such novels he cranked out for Sam Roth. He was wealthy and didn't need the money; he just loved writing about sex. He must have leapt at the opportunity to write for Johnson. His The Rhyming Dictionary (1936) has never been out of print.

Of the Los Angeles contingent Legman wrote, "I was told that many Hollywood writers had written for this combine" (7). Stanley Rose's book shop was the local hang-out for screenwriters and novelists, famous and otherwise (a lot of otherwise); Rose was notorious for the back room activities of his shop, and there was no shortage of Hollywood scriveners in need of scratch and not particular about how they earned it.

So boring was writing for Johnson that the Greenwich Village division of Johnson's libido wrote much of their output round-robin style. "I am," Anais Nin wrote, "the madam of this literary, snobbish house of prostitution-writing, from which vulgarity was excluded...I supply the paper and carbon, I deliver the manuscripts anonymously, I protect everyone's anonymity" (8).

Almost everyone.

In 1953, Roy M. Johnson was elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. A one-man New Deal WPA, he is still awaiting recognition by PEN for his employment services to starving writers during the Depression.


1. Nin, Anais. Diaries, Volume III, p. 157.
2. ibid., pp. 177-178).
3. Interview with the author, September, 2000.
4. Tucker, Fender. Who Is N.R. De Mexico? Paperback Parade #69, Jan. 2008, pp 95-96.
5. Legman, G. Introduction to the Private Case, p. 57.
6. Email to the author.
7. Legman, G. Introduction to The Private Case, p. 53.
8. Nin, op cit, p. 151.

Aside from Legman's Introduction to Patrick J. Kearney's The Private Case, and Jay A. Gertzman's key Bookleggers and Smuthounds (1999), the Introduction by C.J. Scheiner to White Stains (Delectus, 1995) has been helpful, though Scheiner's speculation that Nin and/or members of her group wrote the erotic stories within this tome (first appearing c. 1940) is not well-developed, based entirely upon the coincidence that the stories in White Stains are also well written, and fails to provide any sort of textual comparison to known erotica by Nin or her writing in general to support his notion.

Originally appeared in Fine Books & Collections on this date.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"A Proud Non-Reader of Books"

by Stephen J. Gertz

If you, like me, hang on the words of celebrities, completely dependent upon the wisdom of our betters for guidance in matters of life and love, then the gold that fell from the mouth of Grammy Award-winner, Kanye West, the other day was bling to the ears of those of us who have struggled daily with the imperative to Read or Die.

"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed," West said. "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph.

"I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life," he said.

I winced at his last statement with the decades-old lingering suspicion that as an avid reader I have, indeed, not been “living real life.”

Yet what a relief to learn that it has all been unnecessary, that I can deep-six my reading glasses, leave books behind, and scamper at play in uncultivated sylvan fields.

Further, as one who enjoys scratching paper with a pen, I can now forget about reading as a means of learning to write.

Though it’s unlikely he’ll actually read it, Mr. West has written a book. He is the co-author of "Thank You And You're Welcome."

The volume is an in-the-backpack-sciatica-inducing fifty-two page tome with blank leaves (the ellipses of profound thoughts), and other leaves representing the foliage of his sunny psychotic optimistic philosophy of life. One two-page section, with plenty of blank space to provide intellectual context, reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!" The weight of tautological guilt he bears must be a crushing burden.

"This is a collection of thoughts and theories," West, 31, said in an interview about his spiral-bound volume, which was written with J. Sakiya Sandifer.

West added that he put his thoughts in a book because "I get paraphrased and misquoted all the time." He calls his wisdom "Kanye-isms."

"My favorite one is 'Get used to being used,'" he said. “If you can’t be used, you’re useless." The wisdom of angels. Next stop, Oprah.

West, a college dropout, said being a non-reader was an advantage when he wrote his book because it gave him "a childlike purity."

Ignorance has never sounded so appealing.

Beyond the obvious, what is most disturbing about the music star’s statements is that there are many of his fans who will take his words to heart.

There is a serious disconnect at work here. Studies have shown over and over that a rich intellectual environment and being read to as a child fosters a child’s interest in books and reading.

West dedicated the book to his late mother, a university English professor before she retired to manage his music career, which begs the question, what was she reading to him?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Celebrated Stable of Erotica Writers Part I

During the early 1930s through the late 1940s, the good folks of the small yet bustling burg of Ardmore, Oklahoma had no idea that their leading citizen was America's foremost patron of profane literature.

"There are in Oklahoma a number of valiant men engaged in productive enterprise whose success has largely resulted from the application of rare common sense in conjunction with speed of action. There are none in whom this combination is more conspicuously developed than Roy Melisander Johnson, of Ardmore, who, in a comparatively brief period of time and while still in early middle life, has reached a point of prosperity that is a fine tribute to his is said by his fellow citizens that no man in the State stands higher in the regard of its people than he...a dominating influence".(I)

While he was certainly so in his business and civic activities, he was, as well, certainly the dominating influence in the creation of clandestine erotica in the United States. Having commissioned nearly 2000 private erotic manuscripts(II) to be written for him, he was and remains the single most significant patron of erotic literature - and probably of all literature - in world history.

Johnson (1881-1960) began as a linotype operator, established a newspaper in Ardmore in 1907, the Ardmore Statesman, an openly Republican paper in a staunchly Democratic Party region, and thus proclaimed himself as a man willing to go against popular opinion.

But the newspaper business was not enough for Johnson, who went on to found Healdton Petroleum Co, the first company to exploit the Healdton oil field, the largest oil reserve in Oklahoma, which Johnson had co-discovered in 1913. He became fabulously wealthy. Elected to state office, a member of every civic organization imaginable, he was also deacon of the First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore.

When not in church or drilling natural resources, he was a connoisseur and avid collector of the literature of natural resources, erotica, who, according to Gershon Legman "had all the printed erotica in English, but who found - like the readers of murder-mysteries - that each story excited his imagination and his jaded virility only once." (III) His drill bit, apparently was no longer up to the task and so "he thereafter continually needed fresh manuscripts written for him, two a week."(IV)

To that end, Johnson had agent-booksellers in major cities all over the country engaged in commissioning private smut from struggling writers who wrote blue for the green, $200 per manuscript to the agents, who were to keep $100 and give the rest to the writer but who rarely kept their side of the bargain; the writers were lucky to see $50 for their tumescent labors.

He kept his collection of printed and manuscript erotica in olive-drab steel filing cabinets in his business office because his wife refused to allow them in their house, a home now registered as a historical landmark.(V)  Given what was in his file cabinets, his office should have been registered as a historical landmark.

The agent-booksellers were located in New York, Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.(VI)  In New York, the agent was a bookseller known as "Rudolph Bernays" (Legman) or "Barneybill Roster" (Bernard Wolfe); by those clues, it was likely Barnet Ruder. In Chicago, it was likely Ben Abramson of Argus Books; in Los Angeles, it was surely Stanley Rose of the Satyr Book Shop who later opened a shop nearby under his own name that had a notorious "back room" where "art studies" would be held after closing and where the "art" books were sold (VII); legendary L.A. rare book dealer Jake Zeitlin may have also been involved (VIII), and later, after Rose died, bookseller Mel Royer (IX).

Many if not most of the agent-booksellers, though they were not supposed to, kept copies of the manuscripts and sold them to other clients. For this the writers received zip.

Upon his death, Johnson's collection of printed and manuscript erotica would be disbursed into the marketplace, at first clandestinely by booksellers to trusted clients then, post-1965 Supreme Court decisions, openly. The largest purchasers of the manuscripts at that point were pulp porn publishers who scouted rare book shops for material to reprint.

Though I hesitate to say so - oh brother, do I hesitate - I have had much of this material pass through my hands. Pulp porn publishers reprinted the stuff under the original titles or changed titles simply to distinguish their editions from competing editions; at the time there were often four to five editions of the same book in the marketplace.

Through attention to detail it's fairly easy to identify the reprints as Johnson manuscripts. One of the writers was known for his Henry Miller and Dashiell Hammett erotic pastiches. Stumble across a paperback of similar style and if the time period checks, it's likely one of this fellow's contributions.

While the authors of some of the material have been firmly identified, authorship of the overwhelming majority of the material remains unknown. Many of the original manuscripts were crudely written, yet in many of the paperback reprints one is struck by craft, cleverness and/or lyricism begging to be set loose. Those are the ones written by the better writers, and we can hear in these short novels a group of Greenwich Village artists, poets, and bohemians having a good time while desperately trying to satisfy an old man's flagging libido to earn the rent.

Though the list of writers who slathered secret sauce onto Johnson's bedtime snacks contains names of marginal interest, it remains quite impressive for those writers of significance, small and large, and provides a brief who's who of the literary arts scene in New York and Los Angeles during the era.

Part II: The Perp Walk.


I. Thoburn, Joseph B. and Muriel Wright. OK, A History of the State and Its People (NY,  1929), vol. 4, p.603-04.
II..Two per week, over nearly a twenty year period.
III.Legman, G. Introduction to The Private Case (1981), p. 53.
IVIbid, p. 54.
V.United States Department of the Interior, National Register of Historic Places
VI. Ferrario, Peter (one of the numerous pseudonyms of Paul Hugo Little). The Classical Underground Erotica. Volume 2, University Circle Press, 1971,  p. 88. This is a trashy book issued by a porn publisher, and Little, a rotten writer by any standard, tells all about himself and his contributions to Johnson's hobby but in the third person, as the author's "friend." Legman, op cit, provides a similar list of cities involved.
VII. Author interview with Teevee Moss, who worked for Rose at his Hollywood Bvld shop.
VIII. Gertzman, Jay A. Booklegger and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica 1920-1940, Philadelphia, 1999, p. 61.
IX. Royer's shop was located at 8216 Melrose Ave. The space was later occupied by William Dailey Rare Books, where I hung my hat for many years. Royer's widow, Dorothy, now deceased,, refused to speak to me of her husband's extra-curricular activities fearful of his name being besmirched. Royer is also the only bookseller known to have actually visited Johnson in his home in Ardmore.

Originally appeared in Fine Books & Collections on this date.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Note to Novel Readers: "If Any Harm Results, Stop at Once!"

It is generally assumed that the Culture Wars in the United States began in the Sixties. They did. In the 1860s.

"Licentious literature, which under cunning disguise or with fearless effrontery, circulates among us, defying all decency, sapping the morals of all classes, is doing Satan's work with most mischievous energy. That obscene books and prints are published, imported, and sold in our cities and through the country, is a fact which we are all familiar with…it is easy to estimate their evil potency…Bishop Bayley, in a late charge, gave very timely warning of this important theme. He well says: 'If we are bound by every principle of our religion to avoid bad company, we are equally bound to avoid bad books - for of all evil, corrupting company, the worst is a bad book. There can be no doubt that the most pernicious influences at work in the world at this moment come from bad books and bad newspapers. The yellow-covered literature, as it is called, is a pestilence compared with yellow fever and cholera and smallpox are as nothing, and yet there is no quarantine against it. Never take a book in your hands which you would not be seen reading. Avoid not only all notoriously immoral books and papers; but avoid also all those miserable sensational magazines and novels and illustrated papers which are so profusely scattered around on every side. The demand which exists for such garbage speaks badly for the moral sense and intellectual training of those who read them'

"… Startling disclosures have been recently made in New York. A gentleman of the city [probably New York Society for the Prevention of Vice founder Anthony Comstock] became apprised of the fact that systematic agencies were at work for the circulation of lascivious books and pictures…the business was large, many men and women engaged in it…The extent to which the press is used in the publication of romance and fiction, and of books which, if they do not corrupt the heart, do little but to dwarf the mind and give perverted and false views of life - of its duties and responsibilities, transcends any means at our command to ascertain…In nothing perhaps is the taste of our people so lamentably demoralized as in respect to our reading matter…Similar remarks will probably appear not the less just if applied to general literature. Of two thousand writers in our land, one-half are writers of fiction - a large proportion, indeed, devote themselves to the mere amusement of a people. For most of these writers aim at nothing higher - any many of them aim at something vastly lower. They make a well-told story a decoy to inoculate a large mass of mind with a moral poison more fatal than death."

The preceding screed is found in a giant economy-size box of moral detergent in book form, The God of This World; The Footprints of Satan by Rev. Hollis Read - amongst the many Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson-types of bygone days - one of 1872's great works of uplifting social commentary. (We are pleased to learn that women in 1872 were a) working, and b) working in the porn trade). But don't think for a minute that smut via Satan is the root of all evil. The Right Rev. Read continues:

"Perhaps yet the more dangerous prostitution of the press is met in those sly, insidious characteristically satanic productions which under the guise of Liberalism sap the foundations of evangelical religion" (Read, Rev. Hollis. The God of this World: The Footprints of Satan, Toronto, Maclear, 1875, pp 195, 280-283, (first Canadian edition). First edition, NY, 1872).

The "satanic" publications of Liberal Progressivism were certainly calling into question bedrock assumptions about social and moral rights and wrongs but the activities of the Free Love communes of the period, such as Oneida in New York, went beyond questions, they TNT'd the bedrock long before the sexual "revolution" of the 1960s.

The entertainment business was also lending a nefarious hand to Satan in his quest to debase American culture. Former actress turned woman's rights lecturer Olive Logan, in her 1869 book Apropos Of Women And Theatres (NY, Carlton, 1869) devotes two chapters to decrying the "coarse rage which [has] spread in our theatres, until it [has] come to be a ruling force in them," to wit: About The Leg Business, detailing the exposure of women's legs on the boards, and About Nudity In The Theatre, discussing the post-Civil War phenomenon of women appearing onstage scantily clad. (Interestingly, Logan makes one of the first references in a general circulation book to "a new theatrical term in use among 'professionals' which embraces all sorts of performances in its comprehensiveness, to wit: The Show Business.").

The Women's Rights movement in 19th century America was, suffice it to say, largely infused with a strong streak of Victorianism. Fortunately, not all of Logan's sisters in the struggle were as puritanical as she was. Logan was attacked in the Press, by fellow professionals in "The Show Business," and by many sisters in the Feminist movement for her moral rigor at the expense of increased employment, opportunity and independence for women.

Here's a bit of vintage literary criticism found in a description from the table of contents of 1869's Popular Amusements by Rev. J.T. Crane (Cincinnati, Hitchcock and Walden, 1869):

Novels and Novel-Reading

Definition of a Novel - A Vice of the Age - FOUR MAXIMS:
1. No Fiction if Little Leisure
2. Only the Best
3. Fiction to be but Small Part
4. If any Harm results, Stop at Once!

1. Wastes Time
2. Injures the Intellect
3. Unfits for Real Life
4. Creates Overgrowth of the Passions
5. Produces Mental Intoxication
6. Lessens the Horror of Crime and Wrong
7. Wars with all Piety, Disciplinary Rule.

Presumably due to space limitations, Rev. Crane left out "causes dandruff, eczema, psoriasis. halitosis, and the vapors."

If you’re anything like me you know that Rev. Crane's seven dire consequences noted above have proven to be true and that for us there is no salvation. Sic transit gloria liber, friends, and along with novels there goes the parade of us to hell. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Victorian Advertisements in Charles Dickens' Serial Novels

One of the pleasures of collecting Charles Dickens' books in their original, serialized parts are the colorful ads inserted at the front and rear of each. These are ads you do not want to skip past, and they are so enchanting and quaint that you may find it difficult to go on to reading the actual text of the book.

Here, the world of 19th century consumer products opens up, the ads cascading out of a cornucopia of Victorian need. It's a strange world yet probably no stranger than the parade of sales pitches for the weird, must-have! gizmos and wacko thingamajigs that have curiously fallen to Earth from deep space and landed on 12midnight-4AM television.

Put these gotta-gets in your shopping cart - but you might want to consider wearing a bag over your head to avoid incredulous stares during check-out.

deformaties027 copy.jpgThe Invisible Spine Supporter

If you suffer from lordosis or kyphosis of this severity, forget about a spine supporter, invisible or otherwise, you need major surgery.


Alpaca Umbrellas
The perfect accessory for coati mundi mackinaws.

Copy Your Letters

Lookout, Xerox! Twenty pages a minute. Blazing speed!


Children's Frock Coats and Pelisses

What's a peliss? Should kids be wearing them now?


Dr. Locock's Female Wafers
Note the other fine products from Queen Victoria's "ovariotomist" and obstetrician:

pills029 copy.jpg

Dr. Locock's Female Pills

Locock2026 copy.jpg

and Pulmonic Wafers
With each of these fine over-the-counter nostrums loaded with morphine, they're absolutely guaranteed to make all your troubles go away; your illness, however, is another matter.

There are many more classic advertisements to be found within Dickens but, for my 19th century consumer shilling, none beats the following:

Headsof hair.php.jpeg

The Invisible Ventilating Heads of Hair

This, to me, sounds like an act that might have appeared on the old Ed Sullivan Show (cue Aram Khatchaturian's Sabre Dance, get the plate-spinners on-deck); a Las Vegas show along the lines of Blue Man Group; or any one of the New Vaudeville variety acts that emerged during the 1980s.

Yet it was a real product: wigs for ladies and gentlemen. But wigs are so boring. How do you market them?

Magic wigs!

So out there was this hocus-pocus pitch that it can only be considered within the context of a modern direct-response TV ad:

The Following is a Paid Program:


billy_headshot.jpg"Hi, I'm Billy Mays for the AMAZING INVISIBLE VENTILATING HEADS OF HAIR!!

CUT TO: Studio audience of folks off the tour bus, applauding wildly.

CUT TO: Billy

Not enough air reaching your hair? Does your scalp yearn to feel the caress of cool ocean breezes and forest-fresh zephyrs? Has Hair Club For Men thrown you out? Did Dr. Bosley botch it?

This is the one toupé that is impossible to detect! Why? Because it is completely invisible! No one will suspect! That's right,

CUT TO: Studio audience

"Can't detect! No suspect!"

CUT TO: Billy

I'm going to take this Invisible Ventilating Head of Hair and throw visible ink on it...


And some axle grease...


Tincture of Violet...


And, finally, that purple stamp stuff they ink your hand with when you go into a swingin' nightclub!


Now, I'm going to show you how easy it is to clean The Invisible Ventilating Heads of Hair. Watch... I simply toss one into this vat of water, throw in a little Oxy-Clean...Voilá! Ach! Mein Gott! It's gone, vanished, invisible - and totally clean!


What is noteworthy about the ads in Dickens' serial novels is that their very presence suggests that publishing has always been a low-margin business. At only one shilling each, the parts apparently needed the ad revenue to make them profitable. And, considering how popular Dickens was, Chapman and Hall, his publisher at the time, likely charged top rates for the ad space.


Images from David Copperfield, Parts 1 and 2 (May and June, 1849), and courtesy of David Brass Rare Books.


Originally appeared in Fine Books and Collections on this date.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's New at the Library II?

                                              Library News
               Closures are now under review by the government, but it is difficult
               to have confidence in a minister (Andrew Burnham) who says he
               wants libraries of the future to be like 'Facebook 3-D.'
                                                                           - ABA Newsletter May 2009


Despite the dissent of library fuddy-duddy Luddites like Rachel Cook at the Guardian and Tom Roper of The Roper Organization, at 2AM on April 14 we will be making the conversion from the old library paradigm to the new.

• Library patrons will now "log in" when they enter the Library instead of saying hello. This will free staff from unnecessary and awkward physical interaction with the public.

• If they have not done so already, patrons must complete our new Satisfaction Survey which will mine for basic information and details of the individual's life so that we can better serve their needs, size them up for unsolicited solicitations, and match them with other Branch book lovers. At the request of the City Attorney, please be certain that patrons read the Disclaimer at bottom: "Not responsible for bad dates, stalkers, or assault with a deadly sales pitch."

• Staff members may, if they elect, "share" with patrons the special as well as the mundane details of their lives.

• Preferences can be set by individual staff members so that they do not have to listen to patrons reciprocate or unilaterally share the special as well as mundane details of their lives. For Preference Enforcement, call Security.

• To encourage patrons to spend as much time as possible "on-site" and thus maximize exposure to the Library's new revenue enhancement system, we are debuting a new test-game; What Class Are You in the Dewey Decimal System? Once they've taken the test, Library users will be solicited by the Reference Librarian for their sub-set. If, for instance, patrons are "900. History and Geography and Biography. You have a need to know what was, where it was, and who was it. Kind of a busybody, aren't you?" they will be asked to further refine our search efforts by specific filters so that we will know that they are prime targets for, say, detergent advertising, i.e. New, Blue, Unscented Cheer with Scrubbing Bubbles and Free Book Inside! (The inserted paperback book will present an additional revenue opportunity as yet another splice in our continuous loop of product placement from which there is no escape).

• When patrons check-out books, they will automatically be prompted by a suggestion for another book in the same area of interest which if they buy and not borrow will earn bonus-points that can be used for purchases from any of our Associate Rewards Member companies.

• Library patrons, to protect their real identity and maximize their social-library experience, will have the option of choosing a mask of their favorite celebrity or historical personage from the Fictitious ID Dept. I need not point out the danger of identities assigned to more than one person at the same time. Nor, simultaneous multiple identities to the same person. Please be careful.

• As verbal sharing amongst patrons who may or may not actually know one another will likely increase and cause distress to others wishing to hear the proverbial pin drop, use of the free StatusWhisper™ device will be encouraged, which is, essentially, a fashion-forward surgical mask which cost two cents but after selling ad space we earn two bucks apiece on.

• The On-Site Chat feature may be disabled by pointing to the "Quiet, Please" sign. But as disabling currently requires a few tweaks for optimization, Security may instead be called.

• Patrons who are bothered by other patrons who constantly update their status are free to leave the library at any time to return home to their pathetic, shut-in, lonely lives and unread books.

• Library patrons who refuse to cooperate and participate in the new, improved Library may be offered use of the Cone of Silence located in the basement of each branch or shown the door. What do they think we're running around here, a library?

Originally appeared in Fine Books & Collections on this date.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's New at the Library?

Library News
                                There has been much in the press recently about
                                libraries - most of it bad - culminating in the case
                                of one where piped muzak has been introduced
                                because 'libraries are not just about reading anymore.'
                                                              - ABA Newsletter, May 2009

[Censored] Library Chief Administrator Kevin Pine-Coffin looked at the screen, re-read his handiwork and sighed with a mixture of relief, pride and horror. "Who ever imagined it would come to this," he thought. "Can't sell books to raise money, can't layoff staff. Damned book bloggers." He put the final period to the end of the upcoming Calendar, then clicked Save before his blood congealed and he died of embarrassment. "Master of Library Science, Huckster, and Fund-Raising Wizard" he bemoaned. "They said 'it shouldn't be done' but what choice did I have? We need money, honey!"

The Moe's Tune-Ups and Transmission Branch
of the [Censored] Library

Schedule of Events for June 2009.

We've turned the economic crisis into an economic opportunity here at the Library with all sorts of fun for the whole family!

June 3. 11AM-12Noon: Book Signing w/Jenna Jamison. The porn star will be signing copies of her new book, I Lost It at the Library. Photo-ops $10. Jenna's cherry-flavored lickable bookmarks will be available for sale.

June 8. 7:30PM-9PM: Books On Ice! Tonight our multi-talented staff debuts their new zero centigrade spectacular. The Main Reading Room will be cleared, a fast sheet of ice will be laid down, and you'll experience the magic of singing librarians skating their hearts out. Nancy and Irma will limn a dramatic reading of Edward Lear's nonsense verse while performing axels with a full twists and spins. Don't miss it! Tickets: $15.

June 12. 2PM-4PM: Immodest members of the local chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America will be on hand to appraise your old books for a modest fee. You will be awed by arcane, pedantic narratives about your books. Proceeds to go to our Tiki  Snack Bar Building Fund

June 14. 7PM-10PM: Bowling For Books! Our new 20-lane bowling alley is now open and our fund-raising tournament begins. The entry fee is only $20 and all money will be used to finish construction of our state-of-the-art movie multiplex which we anticipate will throw off a cool $500,000 in annual profit to be used for adding books to our collection or paying down our massive debt.

June 18. Novelist-poet turned celebrity chef Erica Jong will sign copies of her new book, Fear of Frying, and hawk sets from The Climax Collection, her line of non-stick, water-soluble cookware.
June 21. 7PM-9PM: Ultimate Fight Night! It's no-holds barred when staff member Jimmy "Call Me a Wimp and Die" Wilson takes on all comers in the Cage of Maximum Destruction located on the 2d floor adjacent to the Conservation and Preservation department. For only $10 you can take your chance to rip Jimmy from his binding, break his joints, and crack his spine. Disclaimer: Library not responsible for subsequent recasing of unsuccessful contestants.

June 22. Christening Ceremony for the new Saul and Minnie Moskowitz Men's Room and the Sal Hepatica Ladies Room. Cocktails served.* Proceeds from use fees will be budgeted strictly for acquisitions.

*Reminder: Every hour is Happy Hour at The Wishing Well, our fabulous new cocktail lounge located in the Children's Reading Room. Hoist a round of Seven Dwarves of Dynamite, a flight of seven special jiggers of fine single-malt scotches, while enjoying the antics of classic Disney characters at play. Photo ops available for $5.

June 26. Smoot-Hawley Wedding. Open event, all welcome. $35 per person tariff for all you can eat and read at the same time. Time: 5:30 sharp. Late fees will be assessed.

With all the recent talk about Library-Themed Weddings, why not take it to its logical conclusion, hold your ceremony and reception here, and make your nuptials a knockout?

Nancy, our Mistress of the Reference Desk, will assist you with all your planning needs. No matter what your budget - "I do. We're done. Let's go" to a Prince Charles and Diana-like extravaganza - she's sure to put the steak in the ceremony and the sizzle in the reception.

The Library is available for all special events including, but not limited to:

• Sweet Sixteens
• Bar Mitzvahs
• Confirmations
• Circumcisions
• Business conferences
• Pajama Parties
• Gang Rumbles

Announcement: We are helpless to report that the sweet, somnambulant, cascading strings of Mantovani can now be heard throughout the entire library and not just in the elevators. Going down!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Original Manuscript Drafts of Madame Bovary Now Online

Author of the great succès de scandale of 19th century literature, on January 1857 Gustave Flaubert and his publishers were taken to court for "outrage to public morals and religion."

Madame Bovary was the reason for the scandal. But while adultery and earthy language were the reasons why Flaubert was (unsuccessfully) prosecuted, he might just as well have been prosecuted for poor penmanship. Had he been in Mrs. Stallone's third grade cursive writing class in P.S. 2, he'd still be at his desk with her standing over him drilling on flowing curves and fancy loops.

Flaubert.jpgFlaubert was a compulsive-obsessive writer. As Brigid Grauman writes in the Wall Street Journal "The nihilistic, anti-bourgeois Flaubert spent four-and-a-half years writing it, sweating over every word, every sentence, every paragraph...Flaubert's obsession with style is legendary, down to his technique of bellowing his sentences out loud to make sure they worked musically, like poetry. His identification with the bored, highly strung, aspirational Emma Bovary is also widely documented. What is less well known is that he kept every one of the novel's many drafts, going so far as to say that he wanted to be buried with them."

That did not, fortunately, occur. After the novelist's death, his niece, Caroline, donated the manuscript to the Municipal Library of Rouen, the French town where Flaubert wrote the book. Seven years ago, the Library decided, despite a lack of funding, to make every word of Flaubert's various drafts available online.

The entire project can now be viewed at Les Manuscrits de Madame Bovary Edition Integrale sur le Web.

Bovary titlepage.jpgThe manuscript must be seen to be believed. Cross-outs, substitutions, and side notes abound. The appearance of the manuscript - all 4500 pages of text all online; yikes! - foreshadows Dada Surrealism. Suffice it to say, as compulsive as he was if Flaubert had used a computer word processing program he'd still be, 152 years later, making changes; the curse of revision made easy.

A final word on Flaubert's penmanship skills: non-existent, like a monkey on meth. The major effort on the project was deciphering Flaubert's handwriting for transcription for, wisely, the project has each page of the original manuscript displayed next to a readable transcription of it.

Since the site's debut last month, it has been deluged by visitors. For a great swim into the world of Flaubert and Madame Bovary, dive into the flood.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Autobiography of a Horse - And the Woman Who Loved Him

The horse as litterateur is an obvious and ripe subject for serious inquiry. Space limitations, alas, preclude a full exegesis of the roman à clop, so a brisk lap around the track will have to suffice.

Over the course of equine evolution, horses have had to overcome enormous obstacles to verbal and written communication. Verbal skill first manifest itself during the 1940s with the discovery of a talking mule within the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Pacific during World War II who acted as aide-de-camp for a hapless Marine lieutenant. The story was broken in a 1950 documentary:

The mule later died of a broken heart because he was only half horse, the lieutenant had standards, and any further relationship was out of the question. With Frances died the only prospect for conversation with a verbally precocious equine.

But a generation later another verbally-gifted horse would be born, anonymously sired and unrelated to the talking mule, thus exciting contemporary evolutionary thought with the idea that considerable modern pressures were bearing down on the survival of the horse that compelled the fittest to speak their mind.

Equine written skills, on the other hoof, appeared much earlier, in the nineteenth century. The most notable example of equine-as-author is the anonymous stallion known by his nom de plume, Black Beauty, whose eponymous autobiography appeared on November 24, 1877, published by Jarrold & Sons (see Wolff, Nineteenth-century Fiction 6250) in the U.K. A smash best seller, by 1890 it had sold 90,000 copies in the U.K. alone.

This was an “as told to” effort, BB (as his friends knew him) hiring a human to take dictation, straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Yes, the horse could talk but it only spoke Horse (the first edition bears the subtitle, “Translated From the Equine”). Moreover, he suffered from hoof-in-quill disease, so penmanship was an issue. But worst and most frustrating of all was that - as would be the case with Mr. Ed eighty some-odd years later - he only talked when he felt like it, and he only felt like talking to Anna Sewell.

"Anna Sewell (1820–1878), author, was born on 30 March 1820... her ‘life of constant frustration’ (Mrs Bayly, 71) began when, aged about fourteen, she slipped and fell... injuring both her ankles [that led to] a lameness which, although varying in its severity, was permanent and meant that at times she could not walk outside or stand for very long. She also suffered from a debilitating invalidism which varied in its intensity but remained with her for life characterized at times by pains in her chest, loss of strength in her back, and a ‘weakness’ in her head leading to periods of ‘enforced idleness’ (Mrs Bayly, 245)...

"...Sewell never married or had children and, apart from periods at spas or visiting relatives on a family farm in Norfolk, she always lived with her parents. It was in Norfolk that she learned to ride and drive the horses upon which her lameness made her reliant” (Oxford DNB Onliine).

She couldn’t walk, the Dictaphone had yet to be invented, he couldn’t write. They were the prefect couple.

What was startling about BB’s autobiography was that, while earlier animal first-person narratives had appeared, it was the first to provide social commentary, BB providing criticism of his various owners. In fact, the entire book is about social justice, BB as civil rights activist; this horse had a lot on his mind and a lot to say. It was a book he had to write.

BB’s story is simple: That of a well bred steed from early childhood in a pastoral eden, through numerous owners - some kind and some far from it - until kismet brings him back home. It is also profound.

"Beauty's color is no accident (Sewell's book is clearly modeled on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852), and the most poignant moments in the narrative occur when Beauty, while recognizing the inevitability of servitude, nevertheless longs wistfully for freedom" (Robert Dingley, in Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers, p. 354). The book's relationship to Uncle Tom's Cabin did not escape notice by its publishers.

Moreover, Black Beauty's continual and lasting value stands as one of the first - and certainly most influential - arguments for the humane treatment of animals. Indeed, the first American edition was published by the president of the American Humane Education Society, George T. Angell, who, at the rear to the first state of this edition, provided diagrammed instruction for the humane killing of horses and dogs that would seem horribly and insensitively out of place were it not for the cruel and usual alternatives then utilized. Black Beauty became a mobilizing force for change.

Curiously, and to the frustration of scientists throughout the world, the verbally adept hoss has disappeared, apparently extinct, the few known examples evidently evolutionary anomalies. Yes, there are horse whisperers but the horses ain’t whispering back. Evolutionary biologists theorize that
1) the small population of talking horses developed terminal laryngitis, or 2) they gave up trying to inculcate a modicum of "horse sense" into humans. Either way, they talked themselves horse and scratched from the evolutionary derby.

"...Sewell's only publication was Black Beauty, written intermittently from 1871 to 1877 at a time when her health further declined, and she was confined to the house and her sofa….The novel was sold to...Jarrold & Sons, for an outright payment of £40 and published…when Anna was fifty-seven. Now a children's classic, the novel was originally written for those who worked with horses, ‘its special aim’, Sewell wrote, ‘being to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses’ (Mrs Bayly, 272). It has been seen as instrumental in leading to the abolition of the bearing-rein.

"Anna Sewell has been neglected by history. In ironic contrast, her only book has achieved phenomenal success. Pirated in America in 1890, its sales broke publishing records. It is said to be ‘the sixth best seller in the English language’ (Chitty, in Wells and Grimshaw, The Annotated Black Beauty, p. x).* Sewell lived just long enough to know of her novel's early success. She died…of hepatitis or phthisis on 25 April 1878 just five months after its publication" (Oxford DNB Online).

The first edition, first printing of Black Beauty is exceedingly scarce in the marketplace; it was read to pieces by kids and few copies have survived.

Points to the first American edition, first state:

SEWELL, Anna. Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions. The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the Horse. Boston: George T. Angell, 1890.

•Printed boards with price "12 cents" at top. (Later issued in wrappers, then cloth).
•Preface dated February 12, 1890.
•Front ads dated March 1, 1890.
•One black and white illustration; head- tailpieces; initials.

Image courtesy of David Brass.

*Wikipedia has an amazing, extremely well researched list of the best selling books of all time. At a mere 50 million copies sold, Black Beauty does not even make the top ten bestselling books in the English language – but is tied for the #11 spot with Anne of Green Gables (1908) and Dr. Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946).

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Button Up Those Blabber Lips!"

Given the increasing cacophony of loose talk, gossip, opinion, bloviation, monologue, theory, and BS in verbal and written word that has become a constant chorus in American society, it may come as a surprise to learn that at one time the United States government undertook a major campaign to get Americans to stuff a sock in it, lock their lips and throw away the key.

From 1941-1945, the Office for Emergency Management's Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch, Bureau of Special Services commissioned a series of posters to mobilize Americans to be mindful that the enemy might be listening, so clam up.

While the circumstances and rationale during World War II were dramatically different, think  how radical it would be if the government were to declare a day of national silence, for no other reason than to give us all a break from the din of crapulous white noise that has become the soundtrack to our daily lives and to instill an appreciation of, and for, the value and virtue of quietude. The enemy may be listening, and the enemy is us.

It'll never happen. But in its stead, please join me in a few moments of silence for the dearly departed, silence:


Don'tbe a sucker.gif

Less dangerous.gif


someonetalkedcolor.1.gifSilence means security.gif


And now for the role of books in fighting the war:


In fin, the War Office's salute to International Womanhood:


The National Archives has a trove of public domain imagery. You could do worse than to spend a few hours going through its holdings, most of which are available for digital download.
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