Friday, September 30, 2011

The Cure For the Reading Hangover

by Stephen J. Gertz

I had too much to read last night and, boy, do I feel it.

I woke up this morning with a splitting headache. Bleary-eyed, I felt the march of time stomp on my bones in slo-mo, then in a lively polka. I soon felt nauseous and  brought up that which should have stayed down. Because I am compulsive, I had to inspect the remains of the reads, if for no other reason than to find comfort in the remembrance of text past.  I am the Proust of reading drunkards.

If Jackson Pollack had dipped his brushes in cans of liquid type and splattered them on the floor the artistic effect could not have exceeded the psycho-intestinal action-painting before me.

Behold a chunky, deliquescent impasto of ink drips dressing a green font salad of coagulated content on my pile-crushed, 100% genuine polypropylene, tufted living room carpet: 

Two auction house and four rare bookseller catalogs. • Last Sunday's NY Times Travel section because  even though I'm going nowhere reading about Morocco in Winter and the Castles of Moravia beats  a schlep into downtown L. A. • A New Yorker piece from a few weeks ago about a recently murdered Pakistani journalist who knew too much •  A suicide-inspiring insurance claim form for the benefit of Job • A typically prolix note from my dear Aunt Marilyn • Items from Courthouse News Service, i.e. the California Culinary Institute, aka Le Cordon Bleu, is being sued by twenty-one of its recruiters for, essentially, running the school like a used car lot with high-pressure tactics (What's it going to take to get you into this toque?), admitting anyone "as long as they have a pulse"  and, presumably, a carving knife, and offering financial aid that gets the student out of the frying pan and into the fire; "Naked Juice Not as Naked as It Claims," a story that attracted me because I, as many others, prefer my juice in the altogether - full-monty mango nectar, please; and Marlborough Airport Properties claims in Federal Court that President Barack Obama, the U.S. Secret Service and a 44,000 pound truck caused $676,000 in damages to an airport while moving from a Marine helicopter to a limousine to visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management bunker in Framingham last year - just wait until Mitt Romney hears about it, and forget about the others vying for the Republican nomination: it's TruckOne-gate, the Next Big Scandal • The subtitles to the original Swedish-language film adaptation of Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire). I love saying "flickan som lekte med elden" aloud; it reminds me of the adolescent invective I used to invent as I skulked away after angry arguments with my resident elders  • A special-ed teacher in Telford, Stropshire, U.K.. has been fired for threatening to place a lethal voodoo curse on one of her pupils as  punishment for misbehavior.  Amazingly, I had the same  Santería priestess-pedagogue  in the second grade in 1958  in Queens, New York City, U.S. and I'm still alive, so far. "What'ya goin' to do, kill me? Everybody dies." • A vegetarian dating website has been reprimanded by advertising watchdogs for having  meat-eating members; their beef is, evidently, legit • My contribution to an anthology entitled Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong because, apparently, in my case, it's true • various and sundry browser flashcards, last but not least: Frank and Louie, the two-faced cat with two first names, has won the Guinness Record for longest-lived two-faced cat • And Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum, has died, according to her zookeepers in Germany.

I know, I know - never mix your texts. It's on page three of The Booktender's Guide to Readology.

I was a wreck reliving overindulgence. Most people have blackouts. I have black-ins; I remember everything and then some, things I've never read and have no desire to do so. I had the D.T.'s, decomposed texts. I had to straighten out, fast. What to do?

I needed a bracer, a good, stiff one. Hair of the dog.

I read the morning paper.

I snapped out of it and into a major depression. Finally, home sweet homeostasis.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rare and Exquisite $30,000-$50,000 Flower Seed Catalogue

by Stephen J. Gertz


A very attractive copy of Robert Furber's classic, Twelve Months of Flowers (1730), comes to auction at Bonham's-New York Fine Books and Manuscripts sale, October 10, 2011. It is estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000.

It's a glorified seed catalogue, and glorious it is.


Furber's intent was "to make the Love of Gardening more general, and the understanding of it more easy, I have from time to time published Catalogues, containing large Variety of Trees, Plants, Fruits, and Flowers, both Foreign and Domestic, cultivated by me for Sale" (Short Introduction to Gardening). The flowers were grouped into bouquets according to the month they bloomed, and referenced with numbers and captions so that Furber's customers could order particular specimens. In this regard, the publication follows in the tradition of Emanuel Sweert's Florilegium (1612-1614), a similarly elaborate sale catalogue.

Furber spared no expense, commissioning the celebrated Antwerp-born painter Pieter Casteels and the skilled engraver Henry Fletcher. The illustrations transcended their original commercial purpose and were reprinted throughout the 18th century to capitalize on their decorative appeal.


"In the years 1730 and 1732, there appeared two extremely important series of plates, both published by Robert Furber, a nurseryman in Kensington, then outside of London. One series is entitled, Twelve Months of Flowers and the other, Twelve Months of Fruit. These are sales catalogues in the grand manner, consisting of arrangements of flowers or fruits according to the months in which they bloom or ripen. Each flower or fruit bears a small number and its name is to be found by referring to a the key at the bottom of the plate. From these prints patrons actually ordered their new plant material.


"These plates were engraved by Fletcher after drawings by Casteels, a Flemish painter who had settled in London, and were 'colored to the life,' as Furber tells us. In all, some four hundred flowers are depicted and three hundred and sixty-four kinds of fruit. The catalogues of twelve plates, one for each month, were issued without texts. In the case of Twelve Months of Flowers, a list of the four hundred and fifty subscribers was engraved within a delightful floral border of the favorite flowers…


"This catalogue was so well received that in 1732 Furber issued a volume, quarto in size, entitled The Flower Garden Displayed


"Furber's customers evidently had encountered the same difficulties which have defeated the efforts of the succeeding generations of gardeners to grow flowers like the pictures in the catalogue...


"That the decorative quality of Twelve Months of Flowers was fully appreciated, it is proved by the fact that six different publishers in the 1740s and 1750s offered copies of the plates which could no longer have served the purpose of a nurseryman's catalogue. These were re-engraved in reverse on a slightly smaller scale with the addition of butterflies, caterpillars and other insects which in many cases over-crowded the composition" (Dunthorne, Gordon. Flower & Fruit Prints of the 18th and 19th Centuries, pp. 12-15). 

The last three copies complete with the subscriber's list to fall under the hammer fetched $30,000 (Pacific, April 1, 2010, lot 398, two plates torn);  $47,500 (the Michale Kuse copy, Sotheby's New York, June 20, 2003, lot 12); and $100,100 (Christie's, Nov 28, 2001, lot 27).

FURBER, Robert (c.1674-1756). Twelve Months of Flowers. Kensington: Robert Furber, 1730. First edition. Broadsheets (sheets mostly 430 x 330 mm). Engraved leaf of subscribers (585 x 460 mm) including title and dedication all within pictorial border of tulips, irises, carnations and other blooms, Twelve finely hand-colored engraved plates by Henry Fletcher after Pieter Casteels (1684-1740) All but November laid down. 

Dunthorne 115. BMNH II, 632.  Henrey 734. Nissen 675.

Images courtesy of Bonham's, with our thanks.

The Wikipedia entry for Pieter Casteels claims that a copy of Twelve Months of Flowers sold at Christie's on May 25, 2005 for $1,640,000. Neither Christie's nor ABPC have a record of that sale or price at any date.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Alfred Dreyfus, Anti-Semitism, and the Museum of Horrors

by Stephen J. Gertz

No. 6. Le Traitor. Dreyfus as a hydra-head dragon.

Alfred Dreyfus  (1859 – 1935) was a French artillery officer of Jewish faith whose trial in 1894 on charges of treason for which he had been framed became one of the most tense political dramas in modern French and European history. Convicted of the false charge, he was sent to the French penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana to serve a life sentence in solitary confinement.

Beginning in the Fall of 1899 immediately after Dreyfus’ re-trial at Rennes and at the opening of the Paris World’s Fair, a series of scurrilous, blatantly anti-Semitic posters was issued by Gérant, publishers in Paris, The hand-colored lithographs were created by an artist working under the pseudonym V. Lenepveu. They were eventually confiscated by the police, who also stopped their production. 

No. 49. Le Casserole de Fontainebleau.
Alfred Dreyfus as a rabbit about to be stewed.

A total of fifty-one of these hand-colored lithographed broadsides ridiculing  Dreyfus and his statesmen, businessmen, journalist, and Jewish leader supporters  ("Dreyfusards") were issued under the general title, Musée des Horreurs (Freak Show).

No. 45. Le Baron Alphonse.
Baron Alphonse James de Rothschild, eldest son of James.

The broadsides dramatically illustrate the increasingly hostile debate throughout the Dreyfus Affair. “Means were dirtier and more violent even than today. The clash of principles degenerated into the sort of brawl that follows a good wake. The tone of debate was inconceivably virulent: scurrilous, personal, and mostly directed below the belt" (Kleeblatt, N. The Dreyfus Affair: Art, Truth, and Justice, Berkeley, 1987, p. xxvi).

Of all the posters that the affair engendered the present series “was perhaps the most ambitious... Lenepveu succeeded in these visual character assassinations by attaching peculiar animal bodies to naturalistically rendered faces” (ibid. p. 298). 

No. 44. Le Baron James.
Baron James de Rothschild.

"The flood of press, poster and postcard caricatures stigmatising the ‘Jewish Republic,’ notably during the Panama Canal scandal, continued throughout the [Dreyfus] Affair, reaching hitherto unequaled heights of virulence, especially in 1898 and 1899. If anti-Semitism can exist without imagery, those who wanted to whip up public opinion against the Jews systematically used a visual vocabulary inspired by both traditional anti-Semitic and anticlerical imagery. Anonymous or famous caricaturists such as Willette, Caran d’Ache, Forain, Orens and Le Petit tried to outdo one another in their attacks on Alfred Dreyfus, the Jews, [Émile] Zola and the Dreyfusards. The sheer number, colours, obscenity and cruelty of their depictions in La Libre Parole, La Croix, Le Pilori, L’Antijuif, Psst…! and Le Musée des Horreurs had overwhelmingly more impact than the Dreyfusard caricatures [of those in the anti-Dreyfus camp]" (Alfred Dreyfus, Le combat pour la justice).

No. 43. Karl Mayer le Contrabandier.
Karl Mayer-Rothschild.

"With the Jews, the Musée des Horreurs, the Freak Show, has a field day. If the 'freaks' such as Zola, Labori or Picquart are drawn by simply adding their recognizable faces on the body of an animal, the facial features of the Jews are all caricatural...

" the faces of the Baron Alphonse de Rothschild as a one-eyed octopus, and his sons, Philippe de Rothschild, Edouard de Rothschild, and Karl Mayer-Rothschild: the caricatures here are grotesquely distorting their faces in order not simply to mock them... but also to demonize them.

"This is when one can see how slowly, but surely, a botched spy case dragged part of the French public opinion into the most disgusting fanaticism. The need for the caricature to be elliptic, keeping the decoding easy and funny, leads to the dangers of sensationalism by exaggerating attitudes and deforming nuances. The goal was to invite a gut reaction from the man in the street. The mob was the ultimate target. But the mob, indeed, often answered the call for action.

"These often tasteless and outrageous documents are indeed part of the collective memory which transcended a judicial error into a test for the French Republic and a symbol for the fight for basic human rights" (Jean-Max Guieu, Professor of French, Georgetown University, Bibliographer Emeritus, Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair, University of Pennsylvania. Video interview transcription).

No, 43. Charlotte Mayer.
French painter and socialite. Charlotte Mayer né Charlotte de Rothschild,
was the daughter of Baron James de Rothschild.

Dreyfus's re-trial in 1899 led to  re-conviction and dishonorable discharge from the French army. The trial was another sham but in 1906 he was completely exonerated of all charges and reinstated into the army when the complete story of his framing by jealous officers and dubious initial investigation came out during a subsequent, unbiased inquiry. He served as an officer in WWI.

Complete sets of these lithographs are extremely difficult to come by. A fine collection of nineteen of the original fifty-one has recently, however, come into the marketplace.

LENEPVEU, V. (pseud.). Musée des Horreurs [Freak Show]. Paris: Impr. Gérant: Lenepveu, 58, rue Dulong..., 1899-1900. First issue. Fifty-one hand-colored lithographed broadsides, each 50 x 65 cm.

Images courtesy of Davar Antiquarian Books, currently offering these rare lithographed posters, with our thanks. For inquiries, contact Davar's proprietor,  Ari Grossman, here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Gentle Art of Regurgitation During Travel by Coach, 1826

by Stephen J. Gertz

Inconveniences No. 5
Cruels effets d'une digestion interrompue
(The Cruel Effects of Interrupted Digestion).

Travel prior to rail was a harsh and rigorous affair. Rough, unpaved roads. and coaches with poor shock-absorbing suspensions rattled the bones and brought ache to the marrow. Highwaymen, accidents often serious, roadside repairs, casual arrival and departure times, poor food and shelter at roadside inns, and forget about restroom stops, were only a few of the manifold indignities to be endured. So uncomfortable and often painful was it that in the Marquis de Sade's novel, Juliette, the worldly sister of the hapless and hopelessly innocent Justine doses herself with laudanum (tincture of opium) as a matter of course when traveling long distances by coach.

And, yes, the prospect of motion sickness, mal de mer sur la terre (landside upchuck) was always a threat.

The inconvenient rigors of travel by coach were illustrated in a suite of twelve highly amusing plates by Xavier Leprince titled Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence (1826), an extremely rare color-plate book.

Plate No. 5 presents an amusing, if cautionary, piece de l'emesis vue de la nausée as a coach speeds along, causing the damsel riding atop it to hurl her cookies, which carom off a passenger's head and into a roadside beggar's chapeau, a hat-trick not envisioned by any magician before or since, nor a an undigested bank-shot by Minnesota Fats.

Auguste-Xavier Leprince (1799-1826), French painter and lithographer, "was the son and pupil of the painter and lithographer Anne-Pierre Leprince and the elder brother of the painters Robert-Leopold Leprince (1800-47) and Gustave Leprince (1810-37). Leprince received a medal at his first Salon of 1819 for one of six entries, five of which were landscapes of 17th century Dutch inspiration, which came possibly via the work of Jean-Louis Demarne. Leprince quickly learned to vary the contents of his paintings: at the Salon of 1822 his entries included three Paris street scenes, three portraits, and two scenes on board a frigate. His numerous Paris street scenes usually depicted some well-known contemporary event...In the last year of his short life Leprince showed himself to be a sensitive watercolour painter and lithographer, publishing a set of twelve lithographs entitled Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence" (Grove Dictionary of Art).

Indeed, bringing up the belly has rarely been so sensitively, artfully, and amusingly depicted. Heave-ha.

LEPRINCE, Xavier. Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence. Douze Tableaux, Lithographiés par... Paris: Chez Gihaut Freres... et Sazerac et Duval, 1826.

First edition. Oblong folio. Plate size: 14 5/8 x 11 inches (371 x 279 mm.) Wrapper size: 16 7/8 x 11 3/8 inches (429 x 288 mm.) Twelve hand-colored lithographed plates. Lithography by Englemann. Original tan wrappers printed in black.

Lipperheide 3658.

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Superstar 1st Edition of Ulysses Estimated $450,000-$500,000 at Sotheby's

by Stephen J. Gertz

No. 24 of 100 signed and numbered copies on Dutch hand-made paper.
Estimate: $450,000-$500,000.

A jaw-dropping and superb Publisher's Presentation Copy of the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), number 24 of 100 signed and numbered  copies by the author printed on Dutch hand-made paper, is the superstar at Sotheby's-New York Library of an English Bibliophile Sale Part II, October 20, 2011. A volume from rare book heaven and one of a handful of incredible copies of Joyce first editions in  this auction, it is estimated to sell for $450,000-$500,000.

Tipped-in to this copy is a note-card from Sylvia Beach (1887-1962), key patron, champion, publisher of Joyce, and proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, her famed Paris book shop. The presentation is to St. Louis millionaire and art and book collector, Tudor Wilkinson, who, in 1923, married  Kathleen Marie Rose aka Dolores Rose, the most famous of all Ziegfeld Girls, and settled in Paris.

James Joyce and Sylvia Beach, in her Paris office, 1921.

This gift to Tudor Wilkinson was in gratitude for his efforts to gain her release from  the Nazis. In the late winter of 1941 Beach closed Shakespeare and Company after two threatening visits from German occupation authorities. In August 1942 she was arrested and remained interned until February 1943, the date of her note with this copy to Wilkinson, her release largely the result of Wilkinson's letter on her behalf to Jacques Benoist-Mechin, an ardent fan of Joyce who had been a member of Beach's lending library (joining in 1919) but who, at this point, was a secretary at Vichy headquarters.

As if the Beach presentation note wasn't not enough,  a page from the original typescript with corrections, annotations and revisions in Joyce's hand is also tipped-in to this copy.  The typescript leaf is page three from "The Wandering Rocks" episode in the book,  which Beach inscribed, "Page of original manuscript of Ulysseys with manuscript / additions by the author." 

An original print of the black and white photograph above, inscribed by Beach "Shakespeare and Company in the rue Dupuytren 1921 with James Joyce..." is also included with this copy.

In 2002, the copy of Long Island, NY commercial real estate developer, book collector, and dog breeder Roger Rechler, inscribed by Joyce to Kenry Kaeser, sold at Christie's-NY for $410,000. The copy under notice, with its powerful association to, and presentation by, the book's famous publisher and a dark episode in her life, the accompanying note, and leaf of original typecript with Joyce's autograph annotations and her inscription should easily reap the low and will likely exceed the high estimate. Despite the recession, the big money for big, trophy first editions remains healthy.

Estimate: $150,000- $200,000.

Also offered at this auction is the fine H. Bradely Martin copy in the very rare dust jacket of the first published edition of Joyce's Dubliners (1914), one of only 746 bound copies. A review copy with printed slip requesting that no reviews appear before June 15, it is estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000. This copy last sold at Sotheby's-NY on April 30, 1990 for $14,000. The inscribed Rechler Copy in dust jacket sold at Christie's-NY on October 11, 2002 for $230,000. The inscribed Kain Copy without dust jacket sold at Sotheby's in 2006 for $137,200.

This collection of short stories was originally planned for publication in 1906. But the printers objected to certain passages and refused to print it for the publisher, Grant Richards, who abandoned the book. In 1910, publisher Maunsel printed an edition of 1000 copies. After Joyce refused to make emendations to the text the entire edition was destroyed. Joyce then added two important stories, "A Little Cloud," and "The Dead," to the collection, and in June 1914 Richards - this time using different, less opinionated printers - published the book.

Estimate: $40,000-$50,000.

The final big Joyce book in The Library of an English Bibliophile Sale Part II is a fine copy in the rare dust jacket of the first edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce's great autobiographical novel published in New York, on December 29, 1916. The first British  edition appeared a month and a half later, on February 12, 1917, using the American sheets because the English printers refused to accept the responsibility for printing it.

Rejoice in Joyce.

JOYCE, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition, No. 24 of 100 copies signed and numbered by the author, on Dutch hand-made paper, of a total edition of 1000 copies including 150 numbered-only copies on vergé d'arches paper and 750 numbered-only copies on plain paper. Quarto. Printed wrappers. This copy unopened

The story of Wilkinson and Beach can be found in a series of unpublished letters by Wilkinson to the poet and bookseller Adrienne Monnier held at the Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas.

Slocum and Calhoon A17. Connolly, The Modern Movement 42.

JOYCE, James. Dubliners. London: Grant Richards Ltd., [1914]. First edition., one of only 746  bound copies. Octavo. Publisher's maroon cloth. Dust jacket. Bookplate of H. Bradley Martin.

Slocum and Calhoon A8.

JOYCE, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1916. First edition, preceding the first U.K. edition. Octavo. Publisher's cloth. Dust jacket.

Slocum and Calhoon A11. Connolly, The Modern Movement 26.

All images courtesy of Sotheby's, with our thanks.

Booktryst has recently covered other great offerings at Sotheby's upcoming Library of an English Bibliophile Sale Part II, which we encourage you to read:


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Day Boxing's Jack Johnson Put Dada Surrealism on Dreamstreet

surreal by Stephen J. Gertz

Note Johnson in tuxedo.

On April 23, 1916, Jack Johnson, the former Heavyweight boxing champion of the world in exile in Europe after fleeing conviction for violating the White-Slave Traffic Act (aka the Mann Act), went mano a mano with modern art.

His nominal opponent was Arthur Cravan née Fabian Lloyd, an Englishman born and educated in Switzerland, who claimed to be the nephew of Oscar Wilde, a professional boxer, singer, art critic, poet - you name it. Living in Paris, he was a performance artist before the genre existed, the subject and theme of his art being himself. Creating a public spectacle was the reason he got out of bed each morning, and once on his feet was a walking happening.

From 1911-1915 Cravan published Maintenant, a literary review that lasted for only five issues but had enormous influence upon the young artists and intellectuals who had come together in Paris and were on the cusp of changing the world.

Maintenant no. 3, October-November 1915.

Cravan brazenly caused sensation wherever he went, whatever he did. In an article in Maintenant about the arts salon of 1912 he explicitly and graphically asserted that a portrait of artist Marie Laurencin suggested to him that she needed a good screwing, an opinion that her lover, poet and literateur Guillaume Apollonaire, took issue with. He challenged Cravan to a duel.

Absurdity, the ridiculous, the eccentric, the striking, the outrageous, and the shocking  were Cravan's bread and butter. His identity was whatever he decided it would be; long before Madonna made self-invention and re-invention standard operating procedure, Cravan practiced it with a vengeance. It is no wonder, then, that Cravan became the darling of Dadaists Marcel Duchamps, Andre Breton, and Francis Picabia.

In 1916, he was desperate to get to the United States (dodging conscription into the French army was nearly a full-time occupation), had moved to Barcelona and fallen in with its colony of French avant-garde artists in exile, and needed money. Whose notion it was to stage a match with Jack Johnson remains unclear but Cravan's fingerprints are all over the patently wacko and divinely nonsensical idea.

Arthur Cravan by Jean-Paul-Louis L'Espoir.

And so, "In early 1916, a frenzied group of fight promoters gathered in Barcelona to organize what promised to be a 'sensational encounter' between former world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson (the famous black fighter who was living in Europe, a fugitive from his native land because of charges of having violated the Mann Act) and Arthur Cravan, an outspoken, notoriously eccentric Englishman, who claimed not only to be a professional fighter, but also the nephew of Oscar Wilde. Posters were hung throughout the city to publicize the event. In the controversial match, which took place at the Plaza de Toros Monumental on Sunday afternoon, April 23, we can safely surmise that Cravan fought true to form, that is, leading more with his mouth than with his fists. After six rounds of what must have amounted to little more than a skillful demonstration of shadow boxing -  staged more for the benefit of a rolling camera than the disappointed audience - Johnson finally dropped Cravan with an upper-right/left-cross combination. Knockout or not, the audience smelled farce, and because of the guaranteed fifty-thousand-peseta purse, the next day the daily press proclaimed the fight 'The Great Swindle.'

"For Johnson, it was just one more relatively uneventful 'ring contest,' as he called it, arranged for the benefit of his pocketbook. For Cravan, it was the main event in his tragically short life; two and one-half years later, at the age of thirty-one, he would disappear off the coast of Mexico, leaving behind only scant traces of a fascinating and adventurous life, one that stretched from the outback of Australia to the inner circle of vanguard artists and poets on both sides of the Atlantic. Far more significant than the footnote he left in pugilistic histories was the undying legacy of his outrageous behavior, which played a unique role within the development of an artistic and literary avant-garde. Arthur Cravan was, as Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia [Francis Picabia's wife] later asserted, 'a man who personified within himself, and without premeditation, all the elements of surprise to be wished for by a demonstration that was not yet called 'Dada.'
"Another release announced that Cravan temporarily abandoned his post as Professor of Real Club Marítimo boxing in preparation for the big fight. He trained publicly at the Bricall Gymnasium with boxers Hoche, Pomés and Jacks. To the press, he is a 'great athlete of the white race.' In order to continue to warm the spirits, it was announced that a great night of boxing with five bouts will be held April 12: Arthur Craven and Jack Johnson will be the arbiters of the last two fights" (Naumann, Francis. New York Dada 1915-23, p.162).

Jack Johnson, 1915.

Reality check: Though he claimed to be a light-heavyweight champion (of something, somewhere) Cravan, according to Boxrec, had absolutely no competitive experience prior to the fight. Indeed, his official record notes  that he fought only three bouts: With Johnson (knocked out); against Frank Hoche (a draw, June 26, 1916); and against Jim Smith ("The Black Diamond" with only this fight to his credit) in Mexico City, September 15, 1918 (knocked out). With a record of no wins, two losses via knock-out, and a draw his only threat as a boxer was to his own safety.

In January 1917, Cravan departed for New York. His shipmate was Leon Trotsky. Upon arrival in the city he was welcomed by Duchamps (who had preceded him), and the collector, critic, and poet Walter Arensberg.

Hollywood has yet to produce a biopic about the fascinating character who was Arthur Cravan; I smell  a ripe indie flick. Johnny Depp on steroids?

The poster for the pre-fight Great Evening of Boxing with Johnson and Cravan as referees (above) with its appeal to collectors of boxing material, Black-Americana, surrealist art and literature alike, is exceptionally scarce and highly desirable. The event it documents is one of the most famous and electrifying episodes in Dada history. Surrealism didn't get much more surreal than these two giant, flamboyant characters - one a phenomenal athlete and the proudest black man on Earth, the other a human artwork in constant progress - going at each other,  two of the most outrageous and out-sized personalities of their time in slam-bang-boing surreal battle-royal theater of the absurd that rocks, Do Wah Dada-Dada Dum Dada-Do.

A fine copy of the poster has just come into the marketplace after a long dry spell. The odds of seeing another copy in similar condition are not much better than Cravan's against Johnson, which is to say, fat chance.

Above, the only known footage of Arthur Cravan "boxing," in Spain 1916, here playing Ring-Around-the-Rosie with an anonymous Mighty Mouse, to all appearances the only living creature Cravan had a chance against. This is, quite possibly (why else would it have been filmed?), Cravan "training" for the fight with Johnson, a demonstration of surreal Dada absurdity exceeded only by the fight itself.

[JOHNSON, Jack. CRAVAN, Arthur]. Poster advertising boxing matches at Iris-Park, Barcelona, on 12 April 1916, promoting the forthcoming match between Arthur Cravan and Jack Johnson. Barcelona: (Societat Editorial Manresana), 1916.

Printed in red and black on wove stock. 3 halftone photographic illus., including a central half-length portrait of Jack Johnson. 431 x 209 mm. (c. 17 x 1/4 inches).

Provenance: Eduardo Arroyo, the Spanish artist, born 1937, whose 1991 portrait drawings of Cravan after the Jack Johnson match were published in the Strasbourg Arthur Cravan catalogue.

Poster image courtesy of Ars Libri Ltd, currently offering this prize, with our thanks. Image of Maintenant courtesy of University of Iowa Digital Library. Lespoir portrait of Cravan courtesy Wikicommons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Art-Box Fit For Moby Dick

by Stephen J. Gertz

Illustration to Moby Dick by Rockwell Kent.

In 1926, the Lakeside Press of Chicago, established in 1903 as a division of industrial printer R.R. Donnelly, commissioned Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) to illustrate a new edition of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Published in 1930 and limited to  1000 copies, the edition has been hailed as a masterpiece, and is credited with a renaissance of interest in the novel.

Hayo Hans Hinrichs bought a copy. A friend and important  patron of Rockwell Kent, Hinrichs was a major collector of all the artist produced - paintings, engravings, drawings - which he proudly displayed in his homes in Staten Island, NYC and Quogue, Long Island, NY. Later, in 1947, he commissioned Kent to write and illustrate, To Thee!, A Toast in Celebration of  a Century of Opportunity and Acoomplishment in America 1847-1947, a corporate promotional volume limited to 500 copies for the Rahr Malting Company, of which Hinrichs was a senior executive.

Two generations hence, Hinrichs's granddaughter, Julie H.B. Stackpole,  now in possession of the book and a fine bookbinder, set out to create an appropriate environment for this copy to rest in, protected and at peace. The fact that her husband, Renny, and father-in-law, Edouard A. Stackpole of Nantucket, came from whaling families, were  preeminent maritime historians, and recognized authorities on the whale trade only provided additional inspiration and insight into the project. And oh,  not so by the way,  the initial "B" in Julie H.B. Stackpole  stands for "Beinicke." Walter Beinecke Jr., the heir to the S&H Green Stamp fortune and savior of Old Nantucket, was her step-father; his father and uncles, all graduates of Yale, provided the funds to build and endow the university's  Beinicke Library.

If the pedigree to this copy and box were any finer they'd have to register it with the Westchester Kennel Club. Though oh so far from a dog it's definitely Best in Show material. Completed in 1972 as a gift for Edouard A. Stackpole, the case is one of the most dramatic art boxes you'll ever see.

Bound in gray morocco with onlays in shades of blue and gray of Niger and Levant morocco goatskin and white kid, embossed with linoleum cuts  on the two side panels and the front covering flap taken from Kent illustrations, and with a fine scrimshawed button from Edouard A. Stackpole's collection used to seal it, this deluxe case is a sight to behold.

Accompanying this copy is a 1972 First-Day-Issue of the Herman Melville/Historic Preservation cover and stamp with an original whaling watercolor by Massachusetts artist Eunice Alter with an attached sperm whale tooth. 

This copy in this box, is, as far as I'm concerned, the most stunning and desirable out there. Its provenance is impeccable, the connection to Kent sterling, and the box-binding solid gold. Three generations of Kent enthusiasts, the first closely associated with Kent, have husbanded and lovingly nurtured this copy for over eighty years. The box is a love letter in fine leather to Kent and Melville. 

Call it Ishmael or whatever you wish, this copy of this edition in this box will be a significant addition to any Kent collection and certainly a shining highlight to any  collection of Melville. You don't have to be Ahab to harpoon this great whale.

[KENT, Rockwell, illustrator]. MELVILLE, Herman. Moby Dick: or, The Whale. Chicago, IL: The Lakeside Press, 1930. First Edition Thus, limited to 1000 copies. Three small quarto volumes. 280 black & white woodcuts as full page plates, head- tailpieces, and text illustrations. Publisher's original black cloth, silver-stamped. Top edge black, others untrimmed.  This copy housed in full leather custom box.

Images courtesy of Lux Mentis, currently offering this copy, with our thanks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The $175,000 Dust Jacket Comes to Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

Sotheby's Oct. 10, 2011. Est. $150,000-$180,000.

The incredibly rare and desirable dust jacket to the first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is coming to auction via Sotheby's-New York Library of an English Bibliophile Sale Part II on October 20, 2011. It is estimated to sell for $150,000-$180,000. An excellent copy of the first edition, first printing of The Great Gatsby, a book that in near-fine/fine condition sells for $7,000-$10,000, is included with the dust jacket.

The dust jacket is in the corrected first state, i.e. the "j" in Jay Gatsby on the rear panel was printed in lower case and carefully hand-corrected in ink to upper-case by the publisher. No uncorrected copies of the first state dust jacket are known to exist. In the second state of the dust jacket the "J" was corrected by  the printer.

This copy in this dust jacket of The Great Gatsby sold at Bonham's-New York, June 10, 2009, lot 3252, for $182,000

Currently offered by Peter Harrington Rare Books @$189,000.

Another copy of the ink-corrected first state dust jacket (with first edition, first printing of the book along for the ride) is currently being offered by Peter Harrington Rare Books. The asking price is $189,000.

"Francis Cugat’s painting for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the most celebrated and widely disseminated jacket art in twentieth-century American literature, and perhaps of all time. After appearing on the first printing in 1925, it was revived more than a half-century later for the 'Scribner Library' paperback edition in 1979; more than two decades (and several million copies) later it may be seen in classrooms of virtually every high school and college throughout the country. Like the novel it embellishes, this Art Deco tour-de-force has firmly established itself as a classic. At the same time, it represents a most unusual, in my view, unique form of 'collaboration' between author and jacket artist" (Charles Scribner III).

Francis Cugat was the older  brother of "Rhumba King" bandleader Xavier Cugat (think Charo, his last featured singer, i.e. "coochie-coochie"), his surrealistic composition featuring the hypnotically sad, brooding eyes, and carmine lips of a woman (Daisy) overlooking a city as a brilliantly lit,  lyrically garish amusement park. The outlines of her head are barely traced in; her eyes arrest attention as her  lips come near to a kiss of the  skyscraper. It's an extremely haunting image that lingers in memory, a forshadowing of the tragedy. The  painting is titled Celestial Eyes and Fitzgerald was aware of Cugat's progress with the dust jacket design while he was still writing the book. He was so impressed and inspired  by it that he commented to his editor at Scribner's, the great Maxwell Perkins:

"For Christ's sake don't give anyone that jacket you're saving for me. I've written it into the book" (Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, p. 79).

Cugat's final jacket painting, Celestial Eyes.
Gouache on paper.
Princeton University Library.

The reference is found at the end of chapter four. Narrator Nick Carraway states, "Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and binding signs..."

In 1990, Charles Scribner III lectured at the University of South Carolina on Gatsby and this dust jacket. The must-read text can be found here.

In the late 1990s I ran into a friend/collector and ad hoc dealer (when the mortgage required  immediate attention) at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Shell-shocked, he related the following story: An hour earlier a dealer had approached him to ask if he had anything to sell. My friend pulled from his bag a first edition of  The Maltese Falcon in a beautiful, untouched first state dust jacket ("$2.00" on front flap). This DJ is also extremely scarce. The dealer began to salivate. When he asked my friend how much he wanted for it my pal swallowed hard, screwed his courage, and blurted, "$55,000."

The dealer wrote him a check on the spot. An hour afterward my friend had just learned that the dealer had flipped it to a client for $100,000.

A beautiful copy of Dashiell Hammet's The Maltese Falcon in is also being offered at Sotheby's Library of an English Bibliophile Sale Part II. It is estimated to sell for $60,000-$90,000. This copy was last seen at Sotheby's-New York on June 18, 2004, lot 296. It sold for $65,000 (plus buyer's premium).

The Book Collector's Library in Canada is offering a near-fine/fine first edition, first printing in an attractive first state dust jacket for US$136,000.

Very good copies of The Maltese Falcon without the dust jacket sell for $3,500-$5,000.

As clothes make the man, dust jackets make the book.

Images courtesy of Sotheby's, Peter Harrington Rare Books, and Princeton University Library, with our thanks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The High Cost of "Etiquette" in a Rude World (1922 Edition)

by Stephen J. Gertz

First edition, 1922.

We, at Booktryst, are the soul of courtesy and decorum. When we open a book we invite the lady to step inside and read first. While we digest a book's content we restrain public effusions of flatulence.  We keep our mouth closed while reading and never, never, move our lips, or use a finger (because even though it's ours we don't know where it's been) when scanning text. 

When reading responsively we are always courteous: "After you, Gaston." "No, after you, Marcel." "No, Gaston, I insist." "Well, then..." We never read in our undershorts by the front window with the shades open; mother would be horrified and what about the neighbors? Our marginalia is executed in the finest penmanship because the hand reflects the mind and  sloppy handwriting reflects an uncultivated intellect. When we turn a page it is done with a gentle pinch of the upper right corner with thumb and index finger and with balletic grace, pinky extended,  we draw it over to reveal the next one. We formally greet each new page as it appears; we are not anti-social barbarians,  nor are we  Philistines.

When meeting with our book club we confine our individual alcoholic consumption to three bottles of  fine, vintage Pouilly-Fuissé, and our use of illegal drugs to four elegantly rolled fat-boy joints of Monster Purple  OMG OG Kush; poorly rolled spliffs of cheap Mexican pot reflect poor breeding - of the marijuana and the consumer. Though in an altered state alternating between blissful reverie and bleak psychosis we keep our inner world inside and never, apropos of nothing (or all too apropos), openly exclaim, "Everything is everything; we are the universe and it's a gang-written book composed by rotten writers!" while another member expresses their puerile thoughts on All  I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. It just isn't done.

All we really need to know we learned in Emily Post's Etiquette (1922).

Welcome. Please come in.  Social grace and a slice of warm pie served here.

A first edition, first printing of this classic is not a terribly expensive book. A first edition, first printing in fine condition in its original dust jacket in fine condition is, however, a true scarcity and a very expensive volume. Though public discussions of money are trés uncouth, we nonetheless, at the risk of being socially ostracized, descend to the rude and note the  asking price of a lollapalooza copy  in DJ currently in the  marketplace: $15,000. Before you slap your head and shout, "Oh, my butt-fucking God!" remember that "Nearly all the faults or mistakes in conversation are caused by not thinking. For instance, a first rule for behavior in society is: 'Try to do and say those things only which will be agreeable to others'" (Chapter 7, Conversation). 

A first edition, first printing copy in fine condition without the dust jacket is a $1000 - $1500 book.  Copies, when found, are usually a holy wreck; the volume was heavily read and re-read, the dust jacket soon a shambles if not tossed away. The  jacket is incredibly scarce and, as with a handful of modern firsts, everything.

What's the big deal about Etiquette by Emily Post?

Teaching children the proper and polite use of eating utensils.

There is arguably no other book that so captures a key period in American socio-cultural history. Etiquette was part of a larger, aspirational movement during the 1920s, feminism at the far end of its second stage, and, after our involvement and victory in WWI brought the U.S. to the center of attention, a desire for America to shake off its raw, rustic character and behave like a cultured nation. 

For the average woman, self-improvement, heightened awareness and desire for personal beauty in clothing and make-up, education, and an ambition to provide the best in nourishment and domestic comfort for her family became imperatives. Consumerism was on the rise, the good life at hand. A true middle class was emerging and speedily growing and it wanted all that could be considered "classy" in their lives. People wanted to be ladies and gentlemen. The spittoon on the floor in the corner had to go. Table manners were in; rude behavior out. Americans wanted to be all that they could be; the country bumpkin was an embarrassment. Quality and taste were the watchwords, "best society" the aim.

A Bride's Bouquet.

“'SOCIETY' is an ambiguous term; it may mean much or nothing. Every human being—unless dwelling alone in a cave—is a member of society of one sort or another, and therefore it is well to define what is to be understood by the term “Best Society” and why its authority is recognized. Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation. Cultivation is always the basic attribute of Best Society, much as we hear in this country of an 'Aristocracy of wealth'...

"The personality of a room is indefinable, but there never lived
a lady of great cultivation and charm whose home, whether a
palace or farm-cottage or a tiny apartment, did not reflect the
charm of its owner."

"...Best Society is not at all like a court with an especial queen or king, nor is it confined to any one place or group, but might better be described as an unlimited brotherhood which spreads over the entire surface of the globe, the members of which are invariably people of cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position...

A Dinner Service Without Silver, Chapter 14.
A dinner service without silver—“The little dinner is thought
by most people to be the very pleasantest social function there is.”

"...Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members" (Chapter One to the 1922  first edition).

The Afternoon Tea-Table, Chapter 13.
“The afternoon tea table is the same in its service whether
in the tiny bandbox house of the newest bride, or in the
drawing-room of Mrs. Worldly of Great Estates.”

The book was written by a woman, for women. It was up to wives and mothers to indoctrinate their husbands and children to good manners and genteel behavior.

An Informal Dinner, Chapter 14.
“At an informal dinner, the table appointments are equally
fine and beautiful, though possibly not quite so rare.”

 To later generations it may all seem at best quaint, at worst phony. We've learned that the "best" people can be the worst, that wealth is no guarantee of anything except money, and that good manners can often be a screen for  despicable behavior. We no longer look to our "superiors" for social guidance. To the contrary, the evolution of democracy in America has led, from the 1960s forward, to a depreciation of respect for upper and middle-class values and standards, an appreciation in esteem for the common man, and often a celebration of the values of society's outcasts, even as we aspire to be rich and famous. Indeed, the current crop of the rich and famous seem to have little if any class at all.

The Ideal Guest Room, Chapter 25.
“The ideal guest room is never found except in the house
of the ideal hostess; and it is by no means idle talk to suggest
 that every hostess be obliged to spend twenty-four hours
every now and then in each room set apart for visitors.”

This has, in general, been a good thing - honesty is the winner - yet informality and the devaluation of standards of good manners, civility, courtesy and politeness in honest expression have taken their toll. These customs are not the exclusive realm of the upper crust, they are the universal kingdom of civil behavior and the social grease that keeps us from grinding each other up. They, at their most fundamental level, demonstrate basic respect for the individual, something that all of us wish to receive but rarely, alas, generously offer.

Consideration of the Servants, Chapter 12.
“The perfect mistress shows all those in her employ the
consideration and trust due them as honorable, self-respecting
and conscientious human beings.”

A first edition in dust jacket of Etiquette by Emily Post may seem at first glance to be a cockamamie collectible at an unholy price. It is, rather, one of the most important and influential non-fiction American books of the first half of the twentieth century. Its philosophy of living  life with grace and simple respect for others as its own reward remains timeless in general if not in contemporary particulars. The current corruption of civilized behavior is nothing to be proud of.

Those seeking to change the world can start by paying more attention to their etiquette. A first edition, first printing in dust jacket of Etiquette by Emily Post may be expensive but practicing graceful etiquette in daily life is free.

Now in its eighteenth edition, Etiquette has never been out of print; it is certainly never out of style.

The full text to the 1922 first edition can be read here.

POST, Emily [Mrs. Price Post]. Etiquette. In Society, In Business, In Politics, and at Home. Illustrated with Private Photographs and Facsimiles of Social Forms. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1922. Octavo. xix, 627 p. Fourteen black and white photo-illustrations, including frontispiece.  Dust jacket.

Images courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books, currently offering this copy in scarce DJ, with our thanks.

More dust jacket madness tomorrow on Booktryst The $175,000 Dust Jacket Comes to Auction. Don't miss it.
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