Friday, April 29, 2011

Sun Ra Rises In Chicago Exhibit

By Nancy Mattoon

Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra,
Fate in a Pleasant Mood,
Saturn SR9956-2-B, 33 1/3 rpm, 1965.

(All Images Courtesy Of Joseph Regenstein Library.)

He's been called the most controversial and unorthodox of all jazz musicians. A tall order, considering those who choose to play America's most innovative form of popular music tend to be anything but shrinking violets or Average Joes. But a new online exhibit from The University of Chicago's Joseph Regenstein Library makes it clear that the man born Herman Poole Blount--but who rechristened himself Sun Ra--chose to spend his life and career far beyond even the outer limits of the jazz universe. Sounds from Tomorrow’s World explores Sun Ra’s time in Chicago, and is based on just a small portion of the Alton Abraham Papers of Sun Ra, located in the Special Collections Research Center of the university library. These papers are part of that institution's larger Chicago Jazz Archive.

Portrait of Herman Sonny Blount, undated.

Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount settled on Chicago’s South Side in 1946, after dropping out of college, and doing a stretch in an Alabama jail for registering as a conscientious objector during World War II. Quiet, intellectual and intelligent, he was always a bit eccentric, but there was little to suggest that over the next two decades, Blount would become Sun Ra, a jazz renegade who claimed to be a member of the "Angel Race" from Saturn. (When asked about his previous life as "Herman Blount," Sun Ra declared, "That's an imaginary person, never existed … Any name that I use other than Ra is a pseudonym.")

Portrait of Sun Ra, undated.

Sun Ra's work in Chicago is less well known and documented than his later, higher profile career in New York and Philadelphia. But many jazz historians and critics believe that some of his best music--and certainly his most accessible recordings--were produced early on in the Windy City. His music during this time was much more conventionally arranged than his later work, and was heavily influenced by the swing jazz of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. There were already hints, however, of the more exotic, eccentric, and experimental work that was to follow.

Sun Ra and His Arkestra,
Jazz in Silhouette,
Saturn LP 5786, 33 1/3 rpm, 1959.

According to the exhibit, "Sonny Blount first worked as an arranger, writing for swing band leaders like Red Saunders and Fletcher Henderson, and sometimes sitting in on piano at club gigs. In 1952 he began billing himself as Sun Ra, and by 1954 he had begun rehearsing with his own big band, an eight man group that would become his Arkestra. Sun Ra and His Arkestra began playing at Chicago clubs such as Kirk’s Grand Terrace, the Vincennes Lounge, Parkway Ballroom and Budland. By 1956, the Arkestra had released its first LP." From the mid-1950s to his death, Sun Ra led "The Arkestra." A deliberate riff on orchestra, the ensemble had both an ever-changing lineup, and an ever-changing name. It was by turns called "The Solar Myth Arkestra", "His Cosmo Discipline Arkestra", the "Blue Universe Arkestra", "The Jet Set Omniverse Arkestra", and on and on. Sun Ra believed that as his music always changed, so should his musicians, and the name they worked under.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra, c.1960.
Photo by Charles Shabacon.

As the exhibit points out, Sun Ra was a writer as well as a musician. "As he was writing and performing his music, Sun Ra was also writing poetry and prose, exploring the occult, producing music for vocal and doo-wop groups, and founding a secret society and a record label—all the while preaching sermons to passersby in Washington Park." In later years, Ra and the Arkestra traveled several times to California. In 1971, Ra taught a course at Berkeley called "The Black Man in the Cosmos." The reading list included the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Bible, and books on hieroglyphics. The exhibit includes scores and poetry written by Sun Ra, as well as some of his highly controversial political and philosophical broadsides.

Sun Ra, Space Harp, wood, metal and wire, undated.

One thing is certain: nothing about Sun Ra or his career could be considered "normal," even by the traditionally unconventional standards of jazz. He recorded an astounding number of albums -- some sources put the number at nearly 200. As early as the '50s, Ra was adding odd, often self-made instruments into the Arkestra's sound, like zithers, bells, gongs, chimes, and claves along with new creations he dubbed "the solar drum," "the space harp," and "the boom bam." He also had the Arkestra wearing outlandish costumes, including helmets with flashing lights and propellers. Some of these early costumes were cast-offs from a Chicago opera company.

Claude Dangerfield, album artwork for
Rocket Number Nine, 1959.

Jerry Gordon, who co-owns Evidence Music, which has re-issued twenty early Sun Ra albums on CD, remembers being overwhelmed by the first Sun Ra show he saw in the early 70s. "It was an incredible concert," he says. "It was music like I had never heard before. Ra and the dancers were wearing capes. Fans on the floor blew the capes so they looked like multicolored wings. They had a spiral light on [tenor saxophonist] John Gilmore during his solos that created a tunnel effect. Ra was also using lights to make it look like he was sticking his head in a black hole in space. It was just unbelievable. I considered it holy music, music people should hear."

Claude Dangerfield, album artwork for
A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, 1960[?].

Sounds from Tomorrow’s World notes that by the time he left Chicago in 1961, "Sun Ra was well on his way in a career as and a composer and arranger of some of the most avant-garde jazz of all time. He was also the architect of a philosophy that informed his music, his life, and the lives of those around him: a synthesis of Black Nationalism, Egyptology, futurism, occultism and Southern Baptist preaching." Jerry Gordon sums it up this way, "People loved to question Sun Ra about being born on Saturn, but these things were said to bring people out of their normal, humdrum, everyday reality. It's not about whether he's telling the truth. He tried to express his vision and get people out of the shadow world with his music. He was an educator and philosopher who tried to enlighten people."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fast Women of New York (Vintage 1869)

by Stephen J. Gertz

Society to-day in New York means everything and anything...The members of it are chiefly concerned in the important item of living, although some of them live at a fast dying rate. The rage of the hour with the masses is display, ostentation, dress and the gratification of all the animal desires. Toes are educated more than hands, and the tongue talks vastly more than the brain thinks. Polish, etiquette and accomplishment are of more value than honesty of purpose and a good common sense education. There are exceptions to this rule, as there are to all rules, but this is the way we look at the masses.

Society of to-day represents the highest perfection of our Anglo-Saxon civilization as developed under a republican form of government in the New World. While there is much in it which is worthy of all admiration, there is much which is crude, false, foolish, wicked and deserving of our censure. It is now content with nothing short of what money can purchase....As the love of money is the root of all evil, so society which is built on money has much in it which is evil...

Thus begins The Women of New York: Or the Under-World of the Great City. Illustrating the Life of Women of Fashion, Women of Pleasure, Actresses and Ballet Girls, Saloon Girls, Pickpockets and Shoplifters, Artists' Female Models, Women-of-the-Town, Etc., Etc., Etc., a grand tome from 1869, a significant time in American culture when, weary of war, seeking pleasure, and greater personal freedoms, the average American city dweller's manners. mores, and values began to dramatically shift. The emergence of the working woman, freed from domestic chains, created great anxiety amongst religious leaders, moralists, and culturally conservative citizens. 

The Women of New York is just one of the many books that were published in the late 1860's-early 1870s that warned of a cultural Armageddon in the making. It, amongst these other volumes, constitutes nothing less than the origin of  the culture wars in the United States, now in their 151st year.

The Belle of Fashionable Society.

After a discussion of the good old days and an enumeration of the various types of society, the pseudonymous George Ellington gets down to business: the ladies of New York who exemplify the New Woman, to wit: whores and, due to their modern behavior, the nearly so if they're not careful. The shop girl - a new phenomenon - is just one step up from the streets.

At the Races - "Liquoring Up."

The book is divided into  eight sections: Women of Fashion; Women of Pleasure; Married Women; Wicked Women; Female Artistes (Ballet-Girls; Female Models; Actresses); Life in a Female Seminary; Other Women (i.e. physicians; "strong-willed women"); Female Institutions.  Married women do not escape Ellington's  indictment; the chapter titles to that part of the book tell the tale: Matrimonial Infelicities; Marriage à la  Mode; Married Intrigues in Middle Life; Married Liaisons; Separation and Divorce in New York; "Fast Women." There's no escaping the author's scorn; these women are wicked.

Fast Women at the Races.

But not as wicked as "Wicked Women," which include Female Astrologists; Female Clairvoyants; Female Adventurers; Female Pickpockets and Shoplifters.

A Stylish Mamma.

Beware the "fast woman."

"They indulge in all the 'manly sports' which it is possible for women to indulge in, and their philosophy or belief, if they have one, is to eat, drink, and be merry. They are of the world, worldly, and prefer to live and enjoy the present...

"The number of these fast women in New York is perfectly astounding to persons who really have a chance to know. There are, of course, a great many good women in New York who are not fast [slow women: "not so fast, buddy!"]...Fast women are not necessarily bad - they may be virtuous, they may scorn or pity the cyprian - but whatever they may be in that respect they are 'fast,' and lead an exceedingly rapid though short life."

One of the Few Good Mammas.

The above may be one of the few good mammas but I suspect Sylish Mamma is having a better time; "one of the few good mammas" could use a stiff drink to loosen-up; any stiffer in appearance and she might be confused with a caryatid.

The Queen of the "Underworld."

"Out of doors, on the streets of New York, under the light of the gas-lamps, the denizens of the under-world may be seen in even greater numbers than in the fine houses..." And so we are introduced to "Nymphs du Pave,"  a delightful euphemism for streetwalkers; the pavement-pro has never sounded so exotic.

A Female Gambling House on Broadway.

"Women of all classes of society in New York use stimulants and narcotics to a greater or lesser extent but the demi-monde in particular, above and beyond all others, are addicted to these unwholesome and life-destroying habits. If the women of fashion are compelled to use various kinds of opiates to induce sleep, how much more are the women of pleasure, whose life is one continued round of dissipation all the year through, and who never know what rest is...This practice is about as common as eating among them, and is indulged in by all classes of women-on-the-town, whether they be high or low.

"Hasheesh was the favorite drug with these women some years ago but it is no longer thought much of...Laudanum is a favorite drug with the demi-monde, and some of them carry its use to a fearful extent."

Female Models and the Artist at Work.

"To be a model female requires considerable good sense and qualities of the head and heart. To be a female model one can get along without any of these qualifications, so long as she possesses a fine, voluptuous form."

It should be clear by now that this book could have been written yesterday. The Culture Wars, modern greed, and the place of women in today's America can be traced in a very straight line back to this, and other, similar books of the era, a time when the new was outpacing the old at breakneck speed and the old had a bad case of the willies. Women were beginning to think and do for themselves.  Next thing you know they'll want to vote. Call the Riot Squad.

ELLINGTON, George (pseud.). The Women of New York: Or the Under-World of the Great City. Illustrating the Life of Women of Fashion, Women of Pleasure, Actresses and Ballet Girls, Saloon Girls, Pickpockets and Shoplifters, Artists' Female Models, Women-of-the-Town, Etc., Etc., Etc. With Numerous Engravings. New York: The New York Book Company, 1869. First edition. Tall octavo. 650 pp. Frontispiece, 43 full page engraved plates.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The 19th C. British Hunter Who Just Said No to Hunting

by Stephen J. Gertz

One day in 1741, British naturalist and litterateur Gilbert White (1720-1793) had a revelation. An outdoorsman since childhood, he had spent his school years exploring southern and central England and, in hunting, found a sense of the natural world as an encounter filled  with mystery and beauty. But this day was different.

"...During the routine of ‘field-diversions’ White experienced an event that was to shape his future and eventually lead to the single work for which he is so well known, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789).

"The occasion can be dated precisely to 21 September 1741: up early, and out hunting for partridge, White ‘found the stubbles and clover-grounds matted all over with [such] a thick coat of cobweb’ that his dogs were ‘so blinded and hoodwinked that they could not proceed’; and further, the ‘perfect flakes or rags’ (of gossamer—for that is what White describes in Selborne, Barrington, letter 23) ‘hung in the trees and hedges so thick, that a diligent person … might have gathered baskets full.' The immediate outcome of this singular experience was a forced return home, during which he mused on ‘the oddness of the occurrence.'

"But a deeper magic was at work and White's devotion to hunting received a considerable shock. Gratuitous killing (even for sport), he came to realize, was alien to the purposes of Providence, and although he continued to shoot for the table and, later, to provide specimens for identification and dissection, the thrill of the chase and the deceit of the stalk were to be replaced in his maturity by a spirit of enquiry and the outcomes of scientific curiosity..." (Oxford DNB).

For the following forty years until his death in 1793 White kept a near-daily diary of his gardening activities, garden produce, culinary satisfaction, and of natural phenomena he encountered. With the help of his nephew Benjamin White, proprietor of London shop purveying natural history books, he published his life's work, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, a compilation of forty-four of his letters to Thomas Pennant, the leading British zoologist of the day, and sixty-six letters to the Hon. Daines Barrington, an English barrister and another Fellow of the Royal Society, on November 1, 1788 (but dated 1789; under contemporary British law volumes available in the final months of the year were permitted to carry the date of the following year).

With this, his major work, published, White was elevated to fame. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, enthusiastically reviewed in the Gentleman's Magazine and in The Topographer, brought White well-deserved acclaim. His greatest achievements  were, arguably, the examples he set for his contemporaries and to posterity as a predator of nature's fauna transformed to its protector and thus redeemed in the eyes of God and Creation, and as a proto-ecologist: Hunting, for anything other than providing food for the dining table, is immoral, and all plants and animals in a prescribed area form an environmental community within which each is dependent upon the other for survival.

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne has been continuously in print for 222 years since its initial publication, with 300 editions issued through 2007.

WHITE, Gilbert.  The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, in the County of Southampton: With Engravings, and an Appendix. London: Printed by T. Bensley for B. White and Son, 1789.

First edition, complete with errata leaf. Quarto. (9 7/8 x 7 1/2 in; 253 x 190 mm). v, [1], 468, [12, Index], [1, errata], [1, blank] pp. Page 292 misnumbered 262, and pages 441-442 omitted from pagination. Folding engraved frontispiece, engraved title vignette, and six engraved plates (one folding).

Martin 90. Rothschild 2550. Grolier English 62 .

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Masterpiece of Maps Goes Digital At Cambridge

By Nancy Mattoon

Proof Sheet For The Map Of Lancashire,
Engraved For John Speed's 1611

Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.

(Image Courtesy Of Cambridge University Library.)

Anglophiles who are planning to watch the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011, now have a new opportunity to gain insight into the history and geography of the kingdom over which the future monarch and his bride will reign. Cambridge University Library has digitized a set of proof sheets for the first comprehensive atlas of Great Britain, first published 400 years ago.

Detail From The Proof Sheet For A
Map of
Britain at the time of the Saxon Heptarchy.
(Image Courtesy Of Cambridge University Library.)

John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine is one of the world’s finest cartographic treasures. Anne Taylor, head of the Map Department at Cambridge University Library, notes that, "Although the Library holds several copies of the published atlas – including a first edition – it is the hand-coloured set of proofs produced between 1603 and 1611 that is one of its greatest treasures."

Detail From The Title Page
For the Finished Atlas.

(Image Courtesy of Occidental College.)

There are only five known sets of the proof sheets in existence worldwide, and each of them differs greatly in composition. The proof sheets were purchased by the Cambridge Library in 1968, and are now considered priceless. They consist of a single sheet for each county of England and Wales, plus a map of Scotland and each of the four Irish provinces. The maps were engraved by the great Flemish artisan Jodocus Hondius, who worked for 10 years to complete the intricate copper plates used for printing the atlas.

A Sampling Of The Heraldry Included In Speed's Atlas.
(Image Courtesy of Occidental College.)

Born in Farndon, Cheshire, in 1551 or 1552, John Speed was a historian as well as a cartographer. He wrote a Historie of Great Britaine, which was also published in 1611, but is today remembered much more for his cartography than his writings. Speed did not do all of the surveying for his maps himself, but the maps which have a "scale of passes" in the completed atlas are those whose geography he observed first hand. He also relied to a degree on the works of earlier cartographers, especially the county maps of the great surveyor Christopher Saxton. As Speed himself wrote, "I have put my sickle into other mens corne."

Speed's Map of The Town Of Rochester.
(Image Courtesy of Occidental College.)

In the finished atlas, but not on the proof sheets, there are descriptions of each town which was mapped.These were often adapted from William Camden’s Britannia, a topographical and historical survey of Great Britain and Ireland, and are not always flattering. The entry for Cambridge states, "This province is not large, nor the aire greatly to be liked, having the Fenns so spread upon her North, that they infect the aire far into the rest." The entry for the city of Lincoln includes two major events in that city's history, "In the Citie of Lincolne two great conflicts have bene fought. The first by Ranulph Eearl of Chester and Robert Earle of Gloreshter against King Stephen in defence of Maude the Empress where King Stephen was taken and hence had to Bristow, and there layd in Irons. Anno 1140. The second was fought by King Henry 3 against his disloyall Barons, where Barons with the French were put to flight and therein dyed the Earle of Perch with 400 knights."

Detail Showing The Prehistoric
Monument Of Stonehenge.

(Image Courtesy of Occidental College.)

Anne Taylor points out a significant element omitted in the proofs by cartographer Speed: "You can see there aren't any roads on the maps. The bridges over rivers would have been a major transport route through the countryside back in those times. Roads would not have been properly constructed." She notes that these maps were not meant for the same purpose as road maps today. "People would not have used maps to get to places. They would have gone to a place and then asked for directions to the next place. These maps may have been sold individually but they would have been bound in a large volume that you wouldn't have been able to take out with you. They were more like a reference book. Queen Elizabeth’s advisers may have used the maps for strategic purposes." It is known that in the 1640's, Speed's atlas was used to create battle plans by both sides in the English Civil War.

Speed's Map Included Portraits Of
English Citizens Of Various Ranks.

(Image Courtesy of Occidental College.)

Speed's country maps were among the first to attempt to show the territorial divisions created by local governments. But his town plans are considered his greatest contribution to British cartography. The atlas was the first printed collection of British city plans, and at least 50 of the 73 locales included in the atlas had never previously been mapped. The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was an immediate success: the first print run of around 500 copies sold quickly, and many later editions followed. It remained the source of all folio maps of Britain well into the 18th century. If the proof sheets whet your appetite for more, there are several web sites which have digitized editions of the finished atlas. One of the most comprehensive was created by Professor Maryanne Cline Horowitz of Los Angeles's Occidental College, the source of many of the images in this post.

Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 UCLA Campbell Book Collecting Award Winners Announced

by Stephen J. Gertz

The winners of the 63d Annual Robert B, and Blanche Campbell Student Book Collection Competition were announced and rewarded on Wednesday April 20, 2011 during a ceremony, reception, and exhibition of the winners' collections.

Finalists were invited to bring their collections to the library for the final round of judging. Of the  finalist collections, thirteen were selected to receive awards.

Each application for entry in the competition consists of a one-page essay describing the student’s collection, an annotated bibliography of the collection, and an annotated “wish list.”

And the winners are:

Library Staff Association Prize of $100
Sponsored by the UCLA Library Staff Association.  3 prizes awarded

Ryan Roberts
It’s Greek Indeed: Understanding the Greek Bible

Judges’ comments:
With this year’s award, Ryan is now a three time Campbell Competition winner! Ryan writes that he has had a long fascination with ancient languages and religious texts. His collection focuses on the study of biblical Greek in order to understand the origins of Judeo-Christi

Alexandra Milsom
The Grand Tour

Judges' comments:
The books in this collection document the history of tourism and the romance of travel, with particular focus on “The Grand Tour.” They provide a glimpse into an era when travel was arduous and costly and the experience of travel really did include the journey itself in a way that would be hard to comprehend in our contemporary jet age. The judges wish Alex success in her quest to find her ur-text: Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Gennady Erlikhman
Cognitive Science with an Emphasis on the Philosophy of Perception

Judges' comments:
This collection closely followed his development from a child fascinated with visual illusions to an adult thinker and researcher.

Corine Tyler Walker Prize of $150
Sponsored by Dr. Bruce M. Tyler

Emily Cole
The Language of the Pharaohs

Judges' comments:
This collection is more than a scholar’s reference library; it is a carefully curated collection that includes items of clear sentimental value – for example, the unpublished grammar from which she first learned ancient Egyptian

Special University Librarian’s Prize of $200
Sponsored by the University Librarian’s Discretionary Fund

Jesse Erickson
Collecting Sentimental: A Life for the Love of Books

Judges’ comments:
As Jesse writes, he seems to have been born with the “gentle madness” of the bibliophile.  His eloquent essay about his “affection for ‘dusty, low-lit, old-fashioned’ bookstores and his appreciation for ‘books about books’ in ‘a rapidly digitizing world’”

Special Undergraduate Prize of $500
Sponsored by the Southern California Chapter, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America

Kelly Ryan
Personal Inscriptions, Artifacts, and Topics from the 19th Century

Judges' comments:
The judges were charmed by Kelly’s somewhat unconventional approach to book collecting – her quest for 19th century works inscribed by previous owners – as well as her musings on the lives of those early owners of her books. Truly, the lives of others live on in her collection.

Special Graduate Prize of $500 
Sponsored by the Southern California Chapter, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America

Mark Gallagher
The Poetry of New England

Judges' comments: his collection aims to “represent the Historical development of New England Poetry from its Puritan roots up through the present day.” The judges noted that his essay reveals not only his appreciation for the literary tradition of his beloved New England, but also his admiration for the bookmaking technologies of the Victorian age.

Frieda Kuiper Beaudin Prize for Outstanding Collection in the Sciences.  $500
Sponsored by Dr. Christy Beaudin and Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Kuiper

Robert Ian Barr
Descent with Modification: A Survey of 20th Century Evolutionary Biology

Judges’ comments:
In Ian’s brief but very well-written essay, the Judges especially appreciated the account of his personal journey of growing up in a household where the idea of evolutionary biology was a “somewhat taboo” subject, to his current status as a Ph. D. candidate in Biological Chemistry. The collection’s general theme, “Descent with Modification,” is witty but also describes his openness to change. As he noted in the well-annotated bibliography, Ian is very particular about his books both as to significance and as to condition. He tries to treat each book he owns as if it were “the last extant copy.”

Blanche Campbell Outstanding Children’s Book Collection Prize of $500
Sponsored by Clarice Campbell Olcott

Regan Bardeen
Storybook Africa: The Continent in Children’s Literature

Judges’ comments:
Regan’s collection emerges from both personal and academic interests.  Her childhood love of classic children’s literature and book illustration has broadened to her interest in and advocacy of African children’s literature. Browsing this collection is itself a cultural and intellectual education in the children’s literature of Africa.

Second Prize for Undergraduate Students. $300
Sponsored by the late Robert B. and Blanche Campbell
Donors to the Campbell Competition Endowment

Amanda Hale
Nonsense, Adventure, and Mayhem: Unique Creatures and Animal Characters

Judges’ comments:
Fascinated by illustration and Inspired by Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss, Amanda fulfilled her childhood dream of  becoming a children’s book author and illustrator with the 2005 publication of Don’t Read This If You’re Under 18, a book she wrote and illustrated in China. 

First Prize for Undergraduate Students.  $500
Sponsored by the late Robert B. and Blanche Campbell
Donors to the Campbell Competition Endowment

Ginger Buswell
Bibliophilic Beginnings

Judges’ comments:
Ginger’s collection is deeply personal. The judges were impressed with the high quality of her  writing in her essay and annotations, which were both outstanding. Her collection is a particularly interesting mix of the classics and the unexpected. Finally, Ginger’s  enthusiasm for her topic is contagious; she is a born teacher and has taken up the challenge of improving declining literacy rates through her work with UCLA’s Project Literacy. Her childhood enthusiasm is now inspiring other children to love reading. 

Second Prize for Undergraduate Students.  $300
Sponsored by the late Robert B. and Blanche Campbell
Donors to the Campbell Competition Endowment

Dahlia Setiyawan
The Art of True Crime

Judges’ comments:
In her essay Dahlia writes of the photographic and written accounts of crime and crime scenes that she collects: "Though often depicting scenes that are tragic, horrifying, ironic, or simply sad, many nonetheless evidence a strange magnificence, even allure." The judges noted the uncomfortable familiarity of this contradictory reaction to tragic events and observed that Dahlia’s collection is itself an investigation into our fascination with  staring into the abyss. 

First Prize for Graduate Students.  $500
Sponsored by the late Robert B. and Blanche Campbell
Donors to the Campbell Competition Endowment

Devin McCutchen
Imagined California: a Pastiche of Places

Judges’ comments:
Devin has amassed an impressive collection of important titles in a broad range of subjects that bring the history of California to vivid life. The historic scope of his collection is demonstrated by the presence of original editions and facsimiles. The collection is both significant and personal, as his essay reveals.  Devin  writes that his expanding academic interests helped him  bridge a Northern California/Southern California regional identity divide. Devin is a true bibliophile who has cataloged his collection and annotated his bibliography with impressive attention to detail.

A remarkable group of student collectors, indeed, who conclusively demonstrated that the interest in books and book collecting is limited only by one's imagination and curiosity. And that collecting books is not just about collecting authors but collecting around an idea and letting the idea guide you to new vistas and ways of thinking.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

The Campbell competition was established after World War II, and it is one of the oldest student book collecting competitions in the country. It began with the generosity of Blanche and Robert Campbell, who opened a shop across the street from the original UCLA campus in 1924, and followed the university in 1929 when it moved to Westwood Village, on Los Angeles’ Westside. Campbell’s Bookshop, which this author knew well and cherished as part the independent book store tradition, closed in 1979, after fifty years as a cultural anchor in Westwood.

In addition to the generosity of individuals, the annual UCLA Campbell Book Collecting Competition is supported by the Southern California chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, and the UCLA Library Staff Association, a voluntary membership group made up of Library staff members.

Student book collecting competitions are declining at universities across the country; they are considered expendable when budgets need to be trimmed. That is unfortunate. Student book collectors are the torchbearers for the hobby into the future. More than that, their passion for books is crucial to continue to tell the story of books past, what the story of the book is to a new generation in the now, and what direction the story of the book will take into the future.

My thanks to University Librarian Gary Strong; Tom Hyry, Director of Special Collections; Lucinda Newsome, Head, Administrative Services and Acquisitions, Department of Special Collections; and to all at the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library for their assistance.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poe's Tales of Terror Inspire A Royal Exhibit

By Nancy Mattoon

Ivor Abrahams.
Masque of The Red Death.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

(All Images Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts.)

Two portfolios of prints, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's chilling and melancholy tales and Edmund Burke's study of the aesthetics of passion and terror, make up a fascinating new exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts. Ivor Abrahams: Mystery and Imagination, brings together, for the first time, two sets of screenprints completed in the 1970's, and considered to be among the finest works created during "the golden age of printmaking in Britain." Abrahams created the two groups of works on paper in response to Poe's definition of art as "the reproduction of what the senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul," and Burke's thesis that pleasure and pain form the emotional and psychological underpinning of all fine art.

Ivor Abrahams.
Untitled Print On Paper From:
15 Lithographs To Edmund Burke, 1979.

Ivor Abrahams is primarily a sculptor, and many of his prints have the depth and magnitude of sculptures. His works are almost always figurative, rather than abstract. According to the Tate Modern, "Portions of buildings, gardens, domestic interiors and people - usually active - inhabit [Abrahams'] works that are fundamentally collages. These are built of photographic images that are cut, altered, painted over and turned into three-dimensional form." Contemporary advertising, especially signs and placards, hold a fascination for Abrahams, and as a struggling artist he once took a job creating shop window mannequins and displays for Adel Rootstein.

Ivor Abrahams.
Untitled Print On Paper From:
15 Lithographs To Edmund Burke, 1979.

Many of the images used in Abrahams' prints are taken from photographs in inexpensive magazines, such as the weekly publication, Amateur Gardening. Less frequently, he appropriated and altered high quality illustrations found in glossy periodicals from the 1920's, such as Country Life. This use of second-hand source material links much of his printed work to the Pop Art movement. Abrahams has donated much of the source material for his printmaking, including magazine clippings, photographs, sketches, and acetate stencils, to the Tate Gallery Archive.

Ivor Abrahams.
The Domain of Arnheim.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

The history of the Edgar Allan Poe portfolio is especially interesting to book collectors and readers. In late 1973, Abrahams was commissioned by famed New York City gallery owner Bernard Jacobson to illustrate a volume of selected tales and poems by Edgar Allan Poe. The book was to be published as a fine press, limited, signed, and numbered edition of 500 copies, with sixteen illustrations within the text, and four loose prints per volume. It took two years for Abrahams to complete the final collection of twenty prints for publication. Jacobson exhibited the prints in 1976, and announced the impending publication of the book at the show's opening.

Ivor Abrahams.
The Raven.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

Abrahams had admired Poe's writings since he was a teenager. For the fine press book, he chose to illustrate those stories or poems he felt he "could put an image to." Some were among Poe's most well-known works, such as The Raven. Others were much more obscure, and he commented that he "had a difficult time finding a truly complete edition of Poe's writings." The edition he finally worked from was the three-volume Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott. (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969-1978.)

Ivor Abrahams.
A Dream Within A Dream.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

Noted British art-historian Norbert Lynton created an extended essay on Abrahams' illustrations intended as a preface for the book. In it he wrote, "I suspect that Poe's popularity through text, illustrations and films is part of his attraction for Abrahams. Yet, unlike all the films and most of the illustrations, his images show little desire to profit from the more thrilling aspects of Poe... Abrahams un-Hollywoods Poe but uses some of Hollywood's tricks to do so. His other means are astonishingly un-period, un-hagiographic, ahistorical - in short, devoid of nostalgia. He is a plastic artist, a sculptor whose primary means of expression are form and interval. His images show a marked response to the constructive artist in Poe and much less attachment to the incidents that others focused on."

Ivor Abrahams.
Ligeia .
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

In what can only be seen as a tremendous missed opportunity, the planned limited edition of the works of Poe as illustrated by Abrahams was never published due to logistical and financial difficulties. A portfolio of the prints was produced, and it contained a few excerpts from Lynton's essay. In what seems to be the finally indignity related to the project, the manuscript of Norbert Lynton's essay has been lost, so only the brief passages of it included in the portfolio remain.

Ivor Abrahams.
The Conqueror Worm.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

Ivor Abrahams: Mystery and Imagination,The ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ and ‘Edmund Burke’ Print Portfolios, continues through May 22, 2011 at the Tennant Gallery of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Ivor Abrahams.
Silence, A Fable.
Print on Paper From The E.A. Poe Series, 1976.

Specifics of the published Poe portfolio:
Abrahams, Ivor.
E.A. Poe: Tales and Poems.
New York: Bernard Jacobson Ltd., 1976.
Portfolio of twenty screenprints, some with embossing and/or varnish, various sizes, on wove Crisbrook paper 495 × 362 (19 1/2 × 14 1/4); printed by Bernard Culls at Advanced Graphics and published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd in an edition of 100 plus 10 sets of artist's proofs, each inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 76’ below image...each stamped with the printer's stamp ‘ADVANCED GRAPHICS LONDON’ in circular device.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sexed-Up Literary Classics

by Stephen J. Gertz

Amongst the rare book trade, rare book librarians and curators, and educators at large  a constant chorus bemoans the sad fact that today's younger generation is not being exposed to or reading the classics of literature from bygone eras.  Classics Illustrated, the usual, traditional entry-points, are too tame, alas, to provoke the interest of  modern teens.

Perhaps the approach of publishers and educators should be tweaked, taking into consideration the current cultural zeitgeist, 21st-century mores and manners, and adolescent endocrinology.   Coincidentally, a  curious and appropriate to the task body of work from the 1960s-early 1970s exists that can be instantly integrated into the high school and college syllabus to jump-start a renaissance of the great books of yesteryear, stimulate today's younger readers - and horrify their parents.

"Do you remember when you were amazed by the exploits in 'Around the World in Eighty Days,' one of the most enthralling of all adventure tales? Now Calga Publishers brings you the new and very adult version of the same tale. Everything is as close to the original as possible except that our adaptation has been written as it might have been originally if the author had the literary freedom of expression of today's mores and standards. In this version of the famous saga you will get a literary view of the sexual escapades the hero enjoyed on his famous trip around the world."
The Adult Sexual Version of Around the World in 80 Days.
[Los Angeles]: Calga Publishers 813, 1971.

The Adult Sexual Version of Around The World In Eighty Days. A Historical Classic Written As It Might Have Been If The Author Had Today's Literary Freedom.
Chapter One

In Which Phileas Fogg And Passepartout Accept Each   
Other, The One As Master, The Other As Servant. And
In Which The Wager Is Made.      

'All right, now let's see the size of your cock.'

Jean Passepartout, being interviewed by Phileas Fogg for the position of man servant, looked at his would-be employer with shock and surprise.

An opening line for the ages, and, notwithstanding issues of sexual harassment, the paramount consideration, of course, when hiring a valet, good help being so hard to find. Speaking of which...

Poor Passepartout needs the gig so he meekly drops his drawers and, under Fogg's direction, manipulates himself to full  glory. Then Fogg pulls out a  ruler. "Nine and three-eighths inches...excellent dimensions."

Hired, reiterating Mae West's dictum, "A hard man is good to find."

And so the two embark on the journey, circumnavigating the world and investigating, for anthropological purposes only, mind you, the sexual behavior of the women in each country they visit, who, in the true spirit of international relations, throw themselves at Fogg, the irresistible. And Passepartout? Well, you never know when an extra cock'll come in handy for these inquiries and, Fogg being a graduate of the English public school system, when a little buggery is just the thing to pass idle moments in the caboose - or other conveyance.

The Adult Version of Robin Hood.
Adapted by Robert Elgin (pseud. of Robin Eagle).
[Los Angeles]: Calga Publiishers 802, 1970.

Calga Publishers of Los Angeles had an ambitious release schedule devoted exclusively to "Adult Sexual Versions" of twenty-eight classics of literature including, The Adult Version of Robin Hood, (When Robin made Marion, and oh, those merry men!), The Adult Version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Adult Version of Frankenstein, The Adult Version of Dracula, The Adult Version of The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Adult Version of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Adult Version of The Sea Wolf  (don't ask), etc.

The Adult Version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Adapted by Terry Stacy (pseud. of Terrea Lea).
[Los Angeles]: Calga Publishers 801, 1970.

Calga Publishers was part of 1960s Porn King of the South Michael Thevis' Atlanta-based Peachtree News organization,  sharing a small office building at 5585 W. Pico in Los Angeles with Thevis’ Pendulum Books  editorial offices, which had moved to L.A., CAL from Atlanta, GA in late 1968, the imprint's name derived from contemporary Post Office state abbreviations.

The Adult Version of the Escapades of Caesar.
[by Robin Eagle].
[Los Angeles]: Calga Pubiishers 805, 1970.

Calga was also a publisher of periodicals for the urbane and debonair gent, with titles including Lesbo Lassies, Hit & Fun, Belly Button, Love Me, Skin & Bones, and Sextrology, The Magazine of Astrological Sexuality, and was run by Thevis' partner in the venture, Bernie Bloom,  who had been a contract packager of downmarket-swank girlie magazines such as Pussy Willow, Body & Soul, Wild Couples, Swap, Orgy, Balling, Roulette, etc., for Pendulum and had operated out of the same office space.
The Adult Version of the Three Musketeers.
Adapted by John Farrel (pseud. of Terrea Lea].
[Los Angeles]: Calga Pubiishers 804, 1970.

Alas, Calga only issued twelve of the projected twenty-eight titles before dropping the series. Let tears pool into an ocean.

The Adult Version of the Escapades of Cleopatra.
[by Terrea Lea].
[Los Angeles]: Calga Pubiishers 806, 1970.

•  •  •

Sexing-up established literary works is something of a tradition in erotica. Novelist Bernard Wolfe, anonymously writing privately commissioned erotic manuscripts for the erotobibliomaniac  Roy Johnson for eleven months during the early 1940's, bored out of his gourd and a lover of German literature, wrote one based on an early novella by Bruno Frank and another, an erotic adaptation of a then obscure German novel by a then somewhat  obscure German author who would  win a Nobel prize a few years later.

Somewhere out there is Wolfe's sexed-up adaptation of Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolfe. And had Hesse had the freedom to do so he certainly would have considered having Henry Haller, struggling to overcome his social and sexual inhibitions, engage in a little unusual and explicit activity in The Magic Theater. Wolfe's adaptation, under who-knows-what title, has, unfortunately, not yet surfaced, and is probably buried somewhere deep in the stacks of the Kinsey Library where Johnson's collection went after his death.

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of the premier novels of the late 19th century's Decadent period in literature, would seem to lend itself ideally to eroticization, and, indeed it did. Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray,  a German sexed-up version of the classic, was released in Paris during WWII (with false date, 1930) for the entertainment of the occupying German troops. It was translated into English and issued in two volumes by Brandon House Library Editions in 1970 as The Erotic Picture of Dorian Gray. It is quite good, well-translated, and explicitly depicting what was only suggested in the original.

Michael Gall's A Bedside Odyssey,   written under the pseudonym, Homer & Associates, and originally published by Olympia Press, Paris in 1962, is an amusing sex-up of the ancient Greek classic. It was reissued during the era by Olympia Press, New York in 1967 as Traveller's Companion #206, and by Collectors Publications.  

The Sexual Life of Robinson Crusoe, also written by Michael Gall under the pseudonym, Humphrey Richardson,  was originally published by Olympia Press, Paris (1955), reprinted under its original title by Olympia Press, New York in 1967 as Traveller's Companion #205, and by Collectors Publications under the title The Secret Life of Robinson Crusoe by H. Richardson (ca. 1967-68).

Continuing the tradition, Olympia Press, New York published The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by J. Watson (pseudonym of Larry Townsend, the noted  non-fiction writer and novelist of Olympia Press - N. Y. classics The Leatherman's Handbook and Run, Little Leatherboy) in 1967 through  its imprint for homoerotica, The Other Traveller.

Each of these sexed-up classics is well-written; they remain fun reads, as does Houses of Joy by Wu-Wu Weng (pseudonym of South African Beat poet Sinclair Beiles) originally issued by Olympia Press in 1958 and reprinted during the pornucopia years of the 1960s. It is Beiles' version of an early seventeenth-century (1609) Chinese erotic classic by Xiaoxiaosheng, Chin P'ing Mei (aka The Golden Lotus, The Plum in the Golden Vase), a light reworking of orientalist Arthur Waley’s (not, as Girodias has written, the occult writer A. E. Waite) 1939 English translation  under the title Chin P'ing Mei The Adventurous History of Hsi Men and His Six Wives, a delightful fraud by Beiles who sold it to Girodias as his own translation.

(There is an earlier English translation [reference: Scheiner 1293] from a German edition of Chin P'ing Mei (i.e. Kin Ping Meh oder die abenteuerliche Geschichte von Hsi Men und seinen sechs Frauen) clandestinely published in the U.S. by the "Library of Facetious Lore" (publisher, and bookstore owner  - with David Moss, Frances Steloff's ex-husband and partner in the celebrated Gotham Book Mart - Martin Kamin 1897-1976, who, in 1932, re-established Contact: A Quarterly Review, edited by Robert McAlmon, William Carlos Williams, and Nathaneal West,  in New York City) in 1927 as The Adventures of Hsi Men Ching "by" the non-existent Feng-Chow Wang, a book that would be seized by John Sumner's New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1931 from Gotham Book Mart; Steloff was prosecuted (Gertzman, Smuthounds and Bookleggers, p. 155). Within, a fascinating though stinky fish story is told, relating that the book served as an instrument of revenge for the assassination of Wang’s father, caused by Yen, son of the then Prime Minister. Knowing of Yen’s love of erotic tales and his habit of moistening his fingers as he turned the pages, "Wang" composed this work to entice the assassin and soaked the corners of the pages in strong poison. That's rich,  preposterously so, the "facetious lore" part of the bibliographical equation. I am in the process of determining whether Beiles' Houses of Joy is, in reality and simply,  a transcription of the Library of Facetious Lore's The Adventures of Hsi Men Ching rather than the Waley translation, in which case, an even better fraud!).

Perhaps the most egregious sexing-up of pre-existing texts occurred during the era of An Amazing Kingdom Of Thrills*. It was perpetrated upon books that would seem to be the most unlikely, unnecessary, indeed absurd  candidates for pornification that balance is lost by the mere thought: the works of the Marquis de Sade.

In 1965 Holloway House released its two-volume Complete Marquis de Sade (HH-123, HH-124), "Translated From the Original French Text" by Dr. Paul J. Gillette. They are neither translated or otherwise based in any way upon the original French. They are, rather, reworkings and paraphrasings of the Richard Seaver-Austryn Wainhouse translations initially published by Olympia Press beginning in 1957 with pseudonymous translation credit, later reprinted by Grove Press in 1965 with Seaver and Wainhouse given open credit.

Gillette (according to an Editor's Note his doctorate was in psychology) has provided a "briskly readable rendition" (Introduction to Justine by John S. Yankowski aka Gillette). That's one way to express it. He's cut massive amounts of the text, leaving only 125,000 words to the Seaver-Wainhouse translation of 1,000,000+, the deletions primarily Sade's philosophical digressions which, though sometimes difficult to plow through and often downright boring, contain the system of moral/ethical principles that form the basis for Sade's thought and provide the entire justification for his writings.

Gillette, operating, apparently, under the brainsick delusion that what  Sade's books need is more sex, has added explicit scenes from his own imagination. He's totally dispensed with Justine's alter-ego, Therese; modernized the language to charmlessness; altered the narrative stream; and pushed Justine - always on the edge of Job-as-Pollyanna - over the line into a sort of Candide-ish  featherbrained twit who exclaims, "Oh Heavens!" to every brutal calamity that befalls her. Rather than sympathize with her, you just want to slap her upside the head with the admonition, "wake up, you ninny!" 

To be fair, the Editor's Note to Justine (reprinted in both volumes) signals the hatchet job: "…recent months have seen the appearance of several so-called 'complete' editions [Grove Press], by which it is meant the literal translation into English of Sade's exact language. Unfortunately, these 'complete' versions come complete with Sade's repetitions and redundancies, his dreary polemics and his use of syntactically complex Eighteenth Century idiom which is all but unreadable today. The present edition is an attempt to strike a happy medium…It retains all Sade's crucial philosophical points [not!], all his stark language and all his extraordinary action scenes while shedding those 'vices' which have long made reading the original works such an exercise in tedium."

In other words, Sade-Lite -  more zip, less lip.

Gillette discusses his method in a Note To Scholars adding the following counsel, "the reader who is interested in a less free approach is recommended to the Seaver-Wainhouse version." Take his advice.

With 120 Days of Sodom Gillette condensed, abridged, and paraphrased the Wainhouse translation. He then took the surviving fragments of 120 Days of Sodom's story of the whore, Francon Duclos, appended even more scatological material than appears in the original text (there is a scene involving corprophilia on almost every page; Gillette's up to his ears in scheisse), added connective tissue and weaved all into a continuous narrative that was separately published as Marquis de Sade's Francon Duclos The Memoirs of a Paris Madame (1967, HH-135).

In one scene "translated" by Gillette, Duclos has not a coach or coachman but a taxi-cab driver waiting for her. Hopefully, the cab's meter isn't running; there's  a long night of orgasmic fecal feasting ahead. It's left up to the reader to determine whether the cabbie is an immigrant or the cab Yellow or Checker. I have not read Holloway House's edition of Sade's Juliette but Milton Van Sickle, a '60s porn trade veteran who worked for Brandon House, Holloway House, Pendulum Publications, and knew Gillette reported  to me that our shameless "translator" has Juliette in one scene leaning against a telephone pole, an amazing technological appearance in 18th century France.

On page sixty-five of Gillette’s "translation" (Holloway House 116, 1965) of The Satyricon by Petronius (of which only fragments of the original survive; Gillette has "reconstructed" the missing parts and the resulting work is 25% Petronius,  75% the product of Gillette's febrile imagination) we meet the corrupt epicurean Trimalchio while he's playing tennis (!) on his villa's tennis court (!!). Trimalchio also prizes his dining room clock "the sole purpose of which is to let him know how many minutes of his life he has lost thus far." Clocks and tennis: Rare sights in ancient Rome.

"Paul had no sense of history," Milton Van Sickle dryly recalled.

These bogus translations by Gillette call into question every other "translation" he did, including his "translations" of Casanova's Memoirs and Loüys Trois Filles de leur Mére for Award Books, etc.  They are all cut and paste jobs based upon existing English translations. Gillette bought some of these pre-existing translations from erotica dealer J. B. Rund in New York. "He was a dishonest and pretentious man," Rund told me. Later, Gillette got out of the ersatz porn-translation biz and, as a self-styled wine connoisseur, published his own wine newsletter - presumably a "brisk readable rendition" without sex scenes, though I would not be surprised to find The Rape of the Grape or She Was Savaged By Sauvignon Blanc within.

Dave Zentner's Bee-Line Books was a trailblazer 1966 with a series of books whose titles sometimes had something to do with the plot, but more often than not were just slapped on for humorous recognition value. Together, these titles form a sort of twisted Modern Library of sexed-up best-sellers: Peekin Place, "The secrets of the town refused to stay hidden!"; Dr. Yes, "He practiced his medicine in unconventional ways!"; Taffy, "She was even spicier than Candy!"; The Carpet Draggers, "Any man would have liked his job!; Simmer and Smoke, "She was strangely moved by the hot summer winds!"; Some Came Sinning, "They chose to walk a path that led to destruction!"; A Pussycat Named Desire, "She worked in the offbeat world of the carnival!" (and depended upon the kindness of carnys?); My Bare Lady, "She was a teacher in the world's most unique school!"; For Whom The Belles Toil, "He was surrounded by beautiful girls, girls, girls!"; The Naked and the Deadly, "He was a champion in the ring and in the world of love!"; and, inevitably, Lotita, "She was the mostest model who ever posed for glory!" The exclamation point was clearly this imprint's primary grammatical weapon of choice.

It is with profound relief that I report that Bee-Line never issued a homo-eroticized Dumas, The Count of Monte Crisco, nor a fetishistic, malodorous Tennessee Williams,  Scat On A Hot Tin Roof.

I remain deeply chagrined, however, that no publisher during the 1960s issued The Erotic Chronicles of Nuremberg - the lowdown on the hush-hush happenings in that tottlin' Teutonic town in 1493.

A Reminder to Readers:  Booktryst covers "the undergrowth of literature" as a public service. We read it so you don't have to.

My interviews with the late Milton Van Sickle, and J.B. Rund occurred in September 2000.

*An Amazing Kingdom of Thrills: American Paperback Erotica 1965-1973  is the author's unpublished (but not for lack of trying) manuscript ©2002.
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