Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lothar Meggendorfer Mania at Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Humoristische Blätter.
München und Wein: u..a. Schreiber, 1891-1903.
First  edition. Quarto. Collection of all 165 issues
of this humor magazine.

On November 21, 2011. Ketterer Kunst Auktions of Hamburg held a magnificent sale of the J. Landwehr collection of movable books. The auction included eighty-six volumes by Lothar Meggendorfer, the innovative master of mechanical books. Of those eighty-six, only a handful of lots did not sell (but remain available by post-sale).

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Gamla Bekanta.
Stockholm: O.L. Lamms, [c.1880].
First Swedish edition. Quarto. 25 color lithographs.

John Landwehr is the renowned Dutch collector and bibliographer of emblem books, the author of the standard reference on Dutch color-plate books, an esteemed scholar of the Dutch East India Company, and, not so by the way, one of the world's great collectors of children's literature, with an emphasis on movable books.

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Grosses Puppentheater.
Esslingen: J.F. Schreiber, [1890].
First edition. Quarto. 6 color-lithographed plates by P. Wagner
and 9 illustrations by Meggendorfer.

“There is little doubt that the most elaborate and ingenious movables ever produced were those of the German Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925) made during the 1880s and 1890s…the mechanisms and operations of Meggendorfer’s books—not to mention the originality of his figures—are far superior to any others published before or since.…'They were marvels of ingenuity…Usually several movements took place at the same time on the same page' (Eric Quayle)…

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Heitere Verwandlungen.
N.p., [c. 1880].
First edition. Quarto. 6 multi-part color-lithographed plates.

"The devices that operated the various figures in Meggendorfer’s books consisted of a series of inter-connecting cardboard levers sandwiched between the coloured illustration on the front of the oblong leaf and the dummy pasted behind it. The animated limbs and heads were cut-out models on the front of the picture, and moving the tab set the whole scene in motion…Needless to say, such was the delicacy of Meggendorfer's machinery that if a child pulled too hard the whole thing could be ruined beyond repair” (Haining, Movable Books, pp. 65-73).

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Kinderlieder.
Neurode: E. Rose,, [1907]/
First edition. Quarto. Numerous illustrations by L.M.

"While Meggendorfer was an inventor, working with paper, he was also an artist of great talent," said modern master, Waldo H. Hunt, "who insisted upon handling most of the details required of multicolored lithography...
From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Lebende Bilder.
München: Braun & Schneider, [c. 1890].
First edition of the movable book by  Meggendorfer.
Quarto. 8 color-lithographed plates.

"But what really set Meggendorfer apart," Hunt continued, "and what has continued to fascinate collectors of his work, are the ingenious mechanizations that he achieved, not just for their own sake but to fulfill and enhance the comic or dramatic effect that he had in mind" (Introduction to The Genius of Lothar Megendorfer).

MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Look and Laugh. London: H. Grevel, c. 1897.
First U.K. edition. Quarto. Four color lithographed plates.

Given the circumstances, it's something of a miracle that any have survived in collectible condition.

MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Neues Struwwelpeterbuch.
Esslingen: J.F. Schreiber, [1891].
First  edition. Quarto. Numerous illustratoins, many in color.

The Landwehr Collection sale was one to keep an eye on simply because the collectors market for movable books is limited and this was an enormous amount of material to appear at a single offering.

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Nur für brave Kinder.
Esslingen: J.F. Schreiber, [1896].
Seconf German edition. Quarto. Six color-lithographed plates.

A total of 241 movable books from the Landwehr Collection were offered in the sale. Sixty-six did not sell; approximately 25% of the collection went begging and are now being offered by Ketterer Kunst in a post-auction sale.

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Verschiedene Leute.
Esslingen und München: J.F. Schreiber, [1902].
First edition. Quarto. six color-lithographed plates.

That 75% of the collection did sell, however, is a positive sign. It was always iffy that all would would be claimed by collectors; there are just not that many in the world who are committed to movable books.

From: MEGGENDORFER, Lothar. Les aventures de Zigomar.
N.p. , c. 1890.
First edition in French. Quarto. 14 color-lithogrphed plates

It was a good day, then, for collectors and the trade. Not a great day, but, given the still struggling economy, a positive omen.

All images courtesy of Ketterer Kunst, with out thanks.

Of related interest:

A Movable Book Feast: The World's Greatest Collection Comes to Auction.

Lothar Meggendorfer Animates the Inanimate.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oprah's 18th Century Book Club

by Stephen J. Gertz

Etching by Thomas Rowlandson.

“The rural book­seller of aspect pale,
And bent with age, comes tott’ring down the vale…
Who but has heard his tale, so often told,
Of famous men, whose names he once enroll’d.
How those illus­tri­ous mem­bers spoke and thought,
What ale they tip­pled, and what books they bought.”

And so we learn of a traveling bookseller in eighteenth century England. The stanza is from A Country  Book-Club, a poem written by Charles Shillito and published in 1788.

Shillito published it himself by subscription. Rev. Bland, Miss Bull, Major Blatch, Mr. Best, Mrs. Butts,  Mr. Eye, Mrs. Gepp, Mr. Goff, Mr. Love, Mr. Mow, Mr. Plite, Miss Sturgeon, and Mr. Swallow are amongst the many that Shillito put the bite on to raise funds for its publication.

After a preamble that ambles in  slo-mo through a lyric paean to the joys of learning and erudition, the poet introduces us to his pastoral book-club, followed by a conclusion tacit in the original but implied by modern trends.

"With minds less polished, but with lungs more loud, 
Began to sacrifice at wisdom's shrine, 
And taste the sweets of lit'rature - and wine.
The cottage Book-club, on the village green...
Within the bosom of this famed retreat,
The motley members of the Book-club meet."

They tipple through besotted stanzas, 
Blotto recitations are their emblem.
Usually they reap no rich bonanzas
As a drinking club with a reading problem.

But fortified wine verses cannot bar 
The reward of lit'rature to those gone far,
So thus declares the club's daytime T.V. star:
"Read up, people, today ev'rybody gets a FREE CAR!!!"

It's easy to mock group-read, we misfit  readers, yet they played a crucial role in the late eighteenth century well into the nineteenth as  primary diffusers of knowledge in a world without public libraries, fostered the love of reading and of books, and went a long way toward popularizing the novel, not just in the cities but in the countryside as well, particularly so.

Little is known of Charles Shillito. OCLC notes three other works by him: God Save the Queen! (1761); The Sea-Fight (1779); and The Man of Enterprise (1789).

SHILLITO, Charles. The Coun­try Book-Club. A Poem. Lon­don: Printed for the Author and sold by W. Lowndes …, 1788. Quarto (28 cm). 39 pp. Illus­tra­tion on titlepage etched by Thomas Row­land­son.


Image courtesy of James Burmester Rare Books, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

A tip o' the hat to Judith D. Henry for the the first apocryphal stanza's last line.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scarce Alice in Wonderland Posters c. 1900 Hit the Market

by Stephen J. Gertz

Alice and the White Rabbit.

In 1900 or thereabouts (the Bodleian dates them to 1921), Macmillan published six posters based upon Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, each illustrated by J. Macfarlane. It was, apparently, the only instance of Macmillan licensing illustrations for Alice in Wonderland by an artist other than John Tenniel, its original illustrator.

The Mad Tea Party.

These posters are extremely rare, with OCLC recording only one set of all six (at Buffalo & Erie Public Library) though COPAC records another complete set at Oxford.

Trial of the Knave of Hearts.

There has never been a complete set recorded at  auction; just two varnished prints offered in 1997.  Christie's-South Kensington, however, is offering a complete set today, November 28, 2011, at their Fine Books and Manuscripts sale. Most sets were likely varnished for hanging in the schoolroom or nursery; to find sets fine condition is difficult. Peter Harrington is currently offering a complete set, as well. 

The Cheshire Cat.

It's delightful serendipity that two sets have come into the marketplace at the same time. Get 'em while you can; Kismet has a plane to catch and is tapping its foot and checking its watch.

The Mock Turtle's Story.

In 2007, as part of the celebrations for the first Alice's Day, the Bodleian Library staged an exhibition including the earliest editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and amongst "Other highlights of the display... [were] two posters from a set of six based on Tenniel's designs by J. MacFarlane."

The Dodo Presenting the Thimble to Alice.

Little is known about the artist, J. Macfarlane. It appears that he was an Australian painter and illustrator who contributed cartoons to the Barrier Daily Truth during the 1890s. He illustrated At the Races: the Melbourne Cup 1893 and Dwithdale's The Book of the Bush (1898), amongst others.


([DODGSON, Charles Lutwidge] CARROLL, Lewis.) MACFARLANE, J. (illus.) Macmillan's Coloured Wall Illustrations. Alice in Wonderland. London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., [c.1900, per OCLC].

Six color-lithographed linen-backed wall-posters, 32 1/3 x 23 2/3 inches (820 × 600 mm) each.

Images courtesy of Peter Harrington Rare Books, with our thanks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fore-Edge Painting Depicts the Mayflower Leaving England for America

by Stephen J. Gertz

The Departure of the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth.
Modern fore-edge painting by Martin Frost.

Martin Frost, the modern master of fore-edge painting, has commemorated Thanksgiving Day with a new creation depicting the Pilgrims' exodus from Plymouth, England September 6, 1620 to establish Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, America. 

It's a feast that doesn't require that you afterward loosen your belt, lie down, and contemplate the caloric surplus with bittersweet indigestion and a Pepto-Bismol chaser.

Happy Thanksgiving from Booktryst!

LONGFELLOW Henry Wadsworth. Poetical Works. London: Frederick Warne  and Co.,  1893. Octavo (190 x 140mm). 630 pp.  Contemporary binding in half vellum by John Ramage with later cloth boards. Very nice Art Nouveau style spine decoration, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Some foxing to prelims otherwise in very good condition. Housed in a matching thumbhole slipcase.

Featuring a later fore-edge painting of the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth monogrammed by Martin Frost, and with authentication ticket.

Image courtesy of Martin Frost, currently offering this item, with our thanks.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Beautifully Strange Insects of Maria Sibylla Merian

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of  Maria Sibylla Merian's Surinaamsche Insecten (The Insects of Surinam, Amsterdam 1730), "One of the best old scientific works, and one of the most magnificently illustrated books ever created" (Rucker), was offered at Ketterer Kunst Auktions in Hamburg, November 21, 2011. The fourth edition (third in Dutch), it sold for $51,840. On June 8, 2011, at Christie's, a copy of the first edition sold for $238,355 (incl. buyer's premium).

Originally written in Latin and published in Amsterdam in 1705 as Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, the city of Amsterdam had sponsored Merian to travel to Surinam along with her younger daughter, Dorothea Maria, in 1699. Before departing, she wrote:

"In Holland, I noted with much astonishment what beautiful animals came from the East and West Indies. I was blessed with having been able to look at both the expensive collection of Doctor Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam and director of the East Indies society, and that of Mr. Jonas Witsen, secretary of Amsterdam. Moreover I also saw the collections of Mr. Fredericus Ruysch, doctor of medicine and professor of anatomy and botany, Mr. Livinus Vincent, and many other people. In these collections I had found innumerable other insects, but finally if here their origin and their reproduction is unknown, it begs the question as to how they transform, starting from caterpillars and chrysalises and so on. All this has, at the same time, led me to undertake a long dreamed of journey to Surinam" (From the Foreword to Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium).

"Merian's artistic and scientific interests outgrew Amsterdam's supply of exotic plants and animals. In 1699, after selling most of her belongings, she set sail for the Dutch colony of Suriname with her younger daughter, Dorothea Maria. Maria Sibylla was 52, Dorothea Maria 21.

"The jungles of South America were teeming with live specimens, which Merian studied for her most important publication, The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname (known as The Insects of Suriname). Merian's experiences in the city of Paramaribo are expressed in her accounts of vibrant butterflies, voracious caterpillars and ants, exotic fruits and vegetables, menacing reptiles, and treacherous explorations into the jungle. Her observations about the local climate, the use of plants and animals, and the Dutch colonists' treatment of slaves provide some of the earliest accounts of life in Suriname" (Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science).

Merian worked in Surinam (later the French, Dutch and British Guianas) for two years, traveling around the colony and sketching local animals and plants. In 1701 malaria forced her to return to  the Netherlands.

"Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), [was] an early German naturalist who exemplified the diy approach to observation, documentation, and dissemination of new knowledge in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Individuals at this time sought to document the worlds that were slipping away as quickly as they were being 'discovered,' and the talented Maria Sibylla Merian was one of these self-taught scholars.

"The daughter of one printer and eventual wife of another, Maria grew up surrounded by the stimulating world of scholarship, and all her life worked to satisfy her own intellectual curiosities concerning the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths. The methods that she used - keeping caterpillars in boxes, feeding and watching each change, and documenting her observations in word and images–resulted in studies that were unique in the early field of natural history. Her illustrations of both plants and insect life were reproduced in fine engravings in the books that she wrote and printed. And as an older lady, she even traveled to Surinam in search of undiscovered species that she could collect, study, and write about" (Jessica Pigza, The Talented and Brave Ms. Merian).

Merian, M[aria]. S[ibylla]. Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaamsche insecten: waar in de Surinaamsche rupsen en wormen, met alle derzelver veranderingen, naar het leeven afgebeelt en beschreeven worden ... Amsterdam, J. F. Bernard 1730. Fourth edition, the third with Dutch text, of the great work on Surinam insects by Merian, edited by Bernard. Large folio. 51 pp with engraved title-vignette and seventy-two copperplate engravings by J. Mulder and J. P. Sluyter, all finely colored by a contemporary hand. Contemporary full calf with floral gilt spine, boards with gilt fillet, corner florets and floral vignette in center.

Nissen 1341. Rücker S. 46ff. Horn/Schenkling 14992.  Hunt 484.

Images courtesy of Ketterer Kunst, with our thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meet General Jackoo, Rope-Dancing Monkey, Rage of Europe, 1785

by Stephen J. Gertz

Forget Napoleon and Sally, the Famous Trained Monkeys who slayed 'em in Singapore May 2 - 5, 1920 at the Alhambra before moving to the Gaiety Theater as The World Famous Monkey Actors; Vaudevillian simian Charles the First, who abdicated the crown with his death in 1910 but his replacement, Consul, though equally well-known, is not to be confused with the other monkey  named Consul that toured the William Morris Circuit; Dick and Alice, Mlle. Louise's famous trained monkeys, who wowed 'em at Washington Park in Bayonne, N.J. the week of June 19, 1909, are poseurs; Solomon the Man Monkey, who traipsed around Glasgow c. 1908 in a tuxedo and went to church on Sundays, was hoity-toity and holier than thou; and J. Fred Muggs, the  chimp mascot of the Today Show with Dave Garroway 1953-57, was simply ham on wry.

None can hold a candle to - or ride an unicycle beside - General Jackoo, who could smoke a cigar and juggle while dancing on a tightrope, and whose first mention in print reportedly occurred in 1768. This multitasking monkey's long-term engagement at Astley's Amhitheater in London, and on tour with Astley's in Paris during 1785, was a sensation and earned him accolades across the Continent.

And groupies. Horace Walpole reports:

"A young Madame de Choiseul is inloved with by Monsieur de Coigny and Prince Joseph of Monaco…but as she had two passions as well as two lovers, she was also enamored of General Jackoo at Astley's. The unsuccessful candidate offered Astley ingots for his monkey, but Astley demanding a terre for life, the paladin was forced to desist, but fortunately heard of another miracle of parts of the Monomatapan race, who was not in so exalted a sphere of life, being only a marmiton in a kitchen where he had learned to pluck fowls with inimitable dexterity" (Walpole to the Countess of Ossory, Feb 10, 1786. The Letters of Horace Walpole. Volume 9. London, 1891).

Poor Madame de Choiseul had to settle for second best, content with a chicken pluckin' lower primate rather than General Jackoo, who enjoyed an elevated station in life as a beloved celebrity and was more likely to have a chicken-pluckin' chimp in his employ rather than pluck himself (chickens, not his person).

In The Downfall of Taste & Genius, or the World as it Goes, an etched print satirizing the taste and amusements of the day, made by Samuel Collings and published by William Humphrey, 1784, we see our hero riding a large dog and holding a flag inscribed 'Genl Jacko.' General Jackoo  'the astonishing monkey from the fair of St Germain's Paris,' performed at Astley's during the summer season of 1784.

Of animal performers in human drag and the General in particular, Rudy Koshar in Histories of Leisure (pp. 55-56) noted, "The rope-dancing monkey General Jackoo, miming his own little interlude, needed only 'the gift of speech' to make his appearance complete and, 'while he is so laughably brandishing his sword, cry - 'Who's afraid?' In a genteel precedent to the chimp's tea party, Jackoo took an elaborate public breakfast with a canine Mme de Pompadour, which included a glimpse of a world turned upside down when they were waited on by humans…In 1785, Astley travestied the horse with a 'large' and 'richly caparisoned dog, ridden by General Jackoo in a 'Triumphal Entry of 1785." General Jackoo, jocose dog  jockey.

Solomon, c. 1908, "a well-accomplished pick-pocket,"
purportedly haunts the Panopticon Zoo in Glasgow
where he lived for many years, dressed to the nines.

"A bill for Astley's Amphitheatre, hand-dated 28 May 1785, at the Huntington Library, stated that 'General Jackoo, the celebrated Monkey from Paris, will, for the first time this season, change the whole of his dress in a surprising manner, and perform his war maneuvers, dance on the Tight Rope with fetters on his feet, &c.' In 'The Manager's Notebook' is a letter from Philip Astley in Paris to Mr. and Mrs Pownall, dated 4 December 1786. He said, 'Genl Jackoo did not arrive before the 18th and we opened the 19th…' That entry would appear to be a reference to the performing monkey" (A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Volume 8).

The 1780s were General Jackoo's heyday, the years of his greatest popularity, the height of his career arc. A slow descent followed.

Once, while on tour in the British countryside in 1795, General Jackoo and his buddy, Sir Bruin, a dancing bear, became involved in a little contretemps.

"Amongst the number of unfortunates who have taken up and obliged themselves, whether they could or no, was a party, consisting of an old man and woman, a young man, a dancing bear, and a monkey, attended by a caravan drawn by one horse, and which, it is presumed, was intended for the accommodation of any in the party who may happen to tire on the road

"The constables, observing this group entering the town, and preparing to treat the inhabitants with a saraband from Sir Bruin, walked up to them, and mixed with others in laughing at his exploits, and those of his merry companion, General Jackoo; but oh! direful to relate! no sooner has the shaggy-coated dancing master finished his manoevres, than they arrested the whole party, and conducted them to a neighboring Justice of the Peace, who, after due investigation, committed the old man and woman and the young man to prison.

"The constables, who had no idea but that the bear and monkey were committed as well, sat off immediately with them in the caravan (the man and woman walking by the side), and made haste toward Bridewell, the keeper of which received the bipeds, but refused to entertain the quadrupeds, because they were not included in the mistimes. The constables were therefore obliged to return with the refuse: they made the best of their way home, and on their arrival procured lodgings for Sir Bruin and his mimical attendant, in what they thought was a place of safety…

"…Sir Bruin had no other encumbrance than a muzzle, which was thought a sufficient security; but poor General Jackoo was confined to the wall by a small chain, with which he had usually been led. They had not been long in durance vile, before Jackoo projected means for escaping; Sir Briun, too, had a desire to depart. The monkey easily unbuckled the bear's muzzle but found it impossible to extricate himself. Sir Bruin, on finding his jaws at liberty, immediately effected his escape…"  (The Sporting Magazine Vol 6, August 1795, p. 256).

Then, a next-door neighbor, "actuated by a sudden impulse of nature, leaped from his shop-board in order to make a pilgrimage to a certain little tenement at the bottom of his garden: he had scarce proceeded half-way, when lo! the figure of the bear struck him from the necessity of offering incense to Cloacina, at her temple, for it operated on him both as diuretic and purgative" (ibid.).

We gloss over the delightfully gentle British understatement regarding the neighbor's loss  of control when confronted by Sir Bruin to note that, by 1795, General Jackoo, alas, was getting second billing in the newspapers, upstaged by a dancing bear with the power to loosen the bladder and bowels of passersby on the street. That's entertainment! But it doesn't take much talent.

Astley's Amphitheater in London by Thomas Rowlandson & Augustus Pugin.
From Ackermann's Microcosm of London, 1808-1811.

By 1824, General Jackoo was receiving third billing as the Clown, one of the natives behind Ourang Outans, Sovereign of Monkey Island; Mr. J. Cooper as Puckercheeks Prime Minister, afterwards Pantaloon, in The Monkey Island or Harlequin and the Lodestone Rock, a grand pantomime at the Theater Royal July 1824 (The Theatrical Observer and Daily Bills of the Play, #808 Saturday July 3, 1824). In 1824, he was at least fifty-six years old. The life span of a chimpanzee in the wild is up to forty-five years; in captivity, sixty. General Jackoo, now too old and arthritic to perform acrobatics, was now washed-up as a headliner, a has-been, the last stop in his career an ancient clown. We don't know how the General met his demise but it was likely of old age. He was a trouper, performing to the end, perhaps hoping for a comeback.

Philip Astley was an acrobat on horseback who was the first to perform in a circular arena of his own contrivance;  the centrifugal force aided balance during acrobatics, and with the addition of a clown and novelty acts to amuse the audience between trained horse tricks, his amphitheater was the prototype for the modern circus, and became extremely popular. He opened a venue in Paris, and had  open-air or tent shows on tour through the countrysides of Europe. Astley's Amphitheater in London, originally established in 1768, survived many fires and rebuilding before finally closing in the early 1890s.

There is not, alas, have a formal portrait of General Jackoo, the simian superstar of the late 18th century. Nor, considering his passionate base of groupies, is there evidence that Cynthia Plaster Caster, who gained fame by capturing the sacred regenerative organs of the gods of '60s rock as votive ceramic ware, traveled back through time to cast the General's jewels for posterity.

ASTLEY, Philip and John. Details des exercices du fameux singe, nommé Géneral Jackoo. Amphitheatre du Sieur Astey, rue du Fauxbourgh du Temple. [Paris]: de l'Imprimerie de L'Ormel, No. 22, 1785.

Double-sided broadside (350 x 135 mm), giving details of various Astley performances at the Amphitheatre at Paris on one side, and on the other providing the exploits of Astley's trained monkey, illustrated with ten woodcuts demonstrating the spectacular stunts of one of the foremost simians of his time.

Image courtesy of Bernard Quaritch Ltd, with our thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Charlie Chaplin's MS Notes and Script for M. Verdoux Estimated $40,000-$50,000 at Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

A duplicated typescript with autograph manuscript corrections, and manuscript notes and additions by legendary silent screen comedian, Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), of his screenplay, A Comedy of Murders, which would be released as Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin's dark comedy of 1947 and favorite of all his films, has surfaced and is being offered by Bloomsbury - London (now Dreweatt's) Auctions in their Important Books and Manuscript sale, November 29, 2011. It is estimated to sell for £25,000 - £30,000 ($39,745 - $47,367).

The forty total pages are comprised of eight pages of autograph manuscript that includes four pencil sketches by Chaplin, plus thirty-two pages of annotated and corrected typescript.The original blue wrapper to the screenplay bears the typed inscription, "Mr. Chaplin's Copy" in the upper right corner.

Written, directed , and starring Chaplin, the movie was based upon an idea by Orson Welles.

"It was Orson Welles who approached Charles Chaplin about a project based on the real-life French serial wife-killer, Henri Landru. Welles would direct and Chaplin would star. Rather than act in another director's movie, Chaplin bought the idea from Welles and made it his own vehicle, one that would forever banish the Little Tramp from Chaplin's new work. The result, 1947's Monsieur Verdoux, is Chaplin's anti-Tramp. Here in his most pessimistic film, there's not a jot of the sweetness and sentimentality that characterized his previous work. The intensely felt social criticism that audiences had seen growing in Modern Times and especially The Great Dictator is elevated to an astonishing level of sarcasm and subversive irony.

"Subtitled 'A Comedy of Murders,' this mordant satire features Chaplin, at 58, as Henri Verdoux, an urbane Parisian bank clerk who loses his career in the Great Depression. Verdoux devises another means to care for his dear wheelchair-bound wife and the young son he loves - using make-believe jobs as cover for his travels, he woos rich widows in other cities, marries them, then murders them for their money" (Mark Bourne, DVD Journal).

"Monsieur Verdoux featured Chaplin as a middle-aged Bluebeard who marries and murders wealthy widows for their money. Attacked as unseemly by some American critics, the film did better abroad. The black comedy of Monsieur Verdoux, the Joan Berry paternity suit, and the charges that Chaplin was a communist made the comedian a very controversial figure figure in 'McCarthyist' America.

"In 1952 Chaplin took his family to Britain... Prior to making his trip abroad the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unexpectedly demanded that he pay $2 million in back taxes and the film-maker refused. Chaplin had never become an American citizen. While the family was sailing to Britain aboard the Queen Elizabeth, the United States attorney-general, James McGranery, announced that he was denying Chaplin a re-entry permit because the film-maker's association with communism made him an 'undesirable alien.'
Chaplin as Monsieur Verdoux.
 "It is ironic that Chaplin, who became one of the most successful capitalists of the twentieth century through his portrayal of a tramp, left America because of accusations that he was a communist." (Oxford DNB).

CHAPLIN, Sir Charles Spencer, "Charlie", film actor and director, 1889-1977). Comedy of Murders [Monsieur Verdoux], duplicated typescript with autograph manuscript corrections and additions by Chaplin, February - April 1946. Quarto. 40 pp (8pp. autograph manuscript & 32pp. typescript), 4 pencil sketches by Chaplin,  on yellow paper. Original blue paper upper wrapper, with typed inscription: "Mr. Chaplin's Copy" in corner.  Bound in a modern red water silk lined full black morocco solander box.

Images courtesy of Dreweatt's - Bloomsbury, with our thanks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An American Folk Art Masterwork: Hand-Stitched Celestial Map (1863) at Christie's

by Stephen J. Gertz

On May 23, 1863, Hattie E. Rogers of Oneida County, New York, sewed her name  to a just completed project.

That project was a recreation in needlework of Elijah J. Burritt's, A Celestial Planisphere, Or Map of the Heavens (New York: 1835).

A very large hand-stitched celestial map (1435 x 2390mm), its stars are composed of white cloth, some labeled in contemporary ink manuscript, and depicted to five orders of magnitude, sewn onto a Cambridge blue background composed of seventeen panels of cloth, the crease folds corresponding with the correct latitude and longitude astral co-ordinates. The verso of the top edge is lined with linen and has five small hanging loops. Two small paper labels are stitched to the left- and right-hand sides.

Hattie E. Rogers was the sister of Henry C. Rogers, author of History of the Town of Paris, and the Valley of the Sauquoit (Utica, 1881). He mentions her several times in book, where she is described as having served as a music teacher in the school at Paris, NY in 1878.

What is extraordinary about this piece is that is provides evidence that not all American women of the era were needlepointing samplers. Hattie E. Rogers was an educated woman interested in science and astronomy.

Part of Christie's - London South Kensington Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, including a selection from the Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. Churchill Collection and Photobooks from the Calle Collection, November 28, 2011 sale 3013, this American folk art celestial map is estimated to sell for £2,000 - £3,000 ($3,206 - $4,809).

Image courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dos-A-Dos With Death on the Dance Floor in Basel, 1621

by Stephen J. Gertz


While Halloween has come and gone it's wise to remember that for death and the macabre every day's a morbid holiday, the Grim Reaper parties all-year long, and that no amount of Jack o' Lanterns will keep Thanatos from your door when he's in the mood to mambo and imbibe in a goblin's goblet of your blood with a festive, À votre santé! to your extinguished health.


In 1621, Matthäus Merian, a Swiss-born engraver living in Frankfurt,  published Todten-Tantz, The Dance of Death, his engraved recreation of the famous mural at Basel. Death is promiscuous, in forty-two copperplates visiting  an ossuary, preacher, the Pope, Emperor, Bishop, King, Empress, Duke, Duchess, Count, Abbot, Nobleman, Noblewoman, physician, Senator, Canon, lawyer, merchant, Abbess, cripple, hermit, herald, young man, usurer, young woman, peddler, blind man, Jew, peasant, heathen, heathen woman, cook, painter, mother and child, Adam and Eve, merchant, fool, etc. No one is spared a pas de deux with the afterlife's escort when the bell tolls and you're down for the eternal count.


According to his preface to 1649 edition, Merian drew a copy of the Basel dance of death mural, originally painted c. 1449, thirty-three years previously,  in 1616, apparently based upon Emanuel Bock's (son of Hans Bock) restoration of the mural from 1614 to 1616.  


He used those drawings as the basis for these famous copperplates, sold or given to his cousin Johann Jakob Merian. The plates were published twice in 1621, and in 1625.

In 1649, the year before he died, Merian bought the plates back,  revising them  and adding sky and clouds. He added two extra copperplates (Memento Mori and double portrait) and a few  articles of Christian edification.


The 1649 edition contained a summary of the mural's history by Merian, yet though he had been a resident of Frankfurt for many years, the original mural was nearly 200 years old and much of what was known had been lost  to history. His account, then, is somewhat unreliable.

Matthäus Merian's version of the Basel Dance of Death is considered the most complete and reliable representation; Huldrich Frölich's edition of 1588 is poor, his woodcuts simply free interpretations of Hans Holbein's Dance of Death, while Emanuel Büchel's 1773 version suffers from his having seen the mural more than a hundred years later after several renovations and with parts of the mural decayed  by time and the elements.

Adam and Eve.

Merian learned the art of copperplate engraving in Zürich. He then worked and studied in Strasbourg, Nancy, and Paris, before returning to Basel in 1615. The following year he moved to Frankfurt, Germany where he worked for publisher Johann Theodor de Bry, who was the son of renowned engraver and traveler, Theodor de Bry.

He married publisher de Bry's daughter, a gambit rarely used by authors in search of publication but probably should be, as long as eyes are wide-open. It beats an unsolicited submission landing on the publisher's slush pile yet may require solicited submission to the spouse lest they grouse to daddy, the marriage contract a binding codicil to the publisher's, thus answering the average writer's plaintive, rhetorical cry through the ages, Who do I have to f*** to get my book published?

Merian's Todten-Tantz is near impossible to find in seventeenth century editions. The last copy of this, the 1725 edition, with all engravings hand-colored, to come to auction was over twenty years ago at Christie's, June 26, 1991, when it sold for $18, 040.

The copy under notice is being offered at Ketterer Kunst Auktions in Hamburg at their November 21, 2011 sale. It is estimated to sell for $22,070, in my view a low-ball figure.

MERIAN, Matthäus [the Elder, 1593-1650]. Todten-Tantz [Dance of Death], wie derselbe in der löblichen und weitberühmten Stadt Basel, als ein Spiegel menschlicher Beschaffenheit gantz künstlich gemahlet und zu sehen ist.  Franckfurt am Mayn, John B. Andreae and H. Hort, 1725.  Eighth edition, originally published 1621, with subsequent editions in 1625, 1649, 1696, and 1698. Quarto. 198 pp. Titlepage borders and forty-two hand-colored copperplate engravings. Text engravings, including forty with different architectural enclosure in watercolor by an 18th century hand.

Wüthrich III, 391. Vgl. Massmann S. 78: 8. Oppermann 1126.

Images courtesy of Ketterer Kunst Auktions, with our thanks, with the exception of the Lawyer, Merchant, and Adam and Eve, which are courtesy of Dodedans, where a complete suite of all forty-two of the Merian copperplates, alas uncolored but for these, can be found.

Of related interest:

Dancing With Death: A Scottish Doctor's Macabre Obsession.

The Rare Book That Turned Elizabeth I Into a Queen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Movable Book Feast: The World's Greatest Collection Comes to Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

The startling resemblance and typical tableau deeply disturbing, I must begin by categorically denying that the terrifying portrait above with its desperate plea for acceptance is of yours truly, reproduced from my high school yearbook.

It is, rather, one of the five color lithographed circus scenes from Only To Say How Do You Do - And Introduce Myself To You (London: Raphael Tuck, c. 1910), one of over 240 volumes from the Landwehr Collection, the world's most remarkable assemblage of movable books in private hands. The collection will be auctioned on November 21, 2011 by Ketterer Kunst in Hamburg. All the books are rare, and scarce in this condition: as good as it gets for toy books that soon turned into confetti in the hands of enthusiastic children.

From: (ABC Book). Das Originelle ABC.
[Nürnberg: G. N. Renner, c. 1835].
First edition. Abecedaire with illustrations in vibrant color.
With 71 hand-colored copperplates. Folio.

John Landwehr is the renowned Dutch collector and bibliographer of emblem books, the author of the standard reference on Dutch color-plate books, an esteemed scholar of the Dutch East India Company, and, not so by the way, one of the world's great collectors of children's literature, with an emphasis on movable books.

From: At the Circus. New York: New York Book Co. [c. 1910].
First edition, from the series 'The Moving Picture Books.'
With 4 color-lithogr. plates with movable elements and
4 illustrations in colors. Orig. half cloth with front board
illus. in colors. Large octavo. Not in the Osborne Collection.

The collection is unique in terms of extensiveness and quality. It documents the history of movable books as well as pop-up, surprise, and transformation books.

From: Aventures extraordinaires de Monsieur de Krac.
Paris: A. Capendu, [c. 1890].
First edition. W ith 5 color-lithogr. plates with movable
elements and 4 illustrations. Orig. half cloth with front
board illus. in colors. Small quarto..

All the books date from the mid-19th through early 20th centuries, and represent the best of English (Dean, E. Nister, and R. Tuck), American (McLoughlin), French (A. Capandu), and German publishers.

From: Playtime Surprises by Clifton Bingham.
London and New York: E. Nister and E. P. Dutton [c. 1900].
First edition, publisher's no. 610. With 6 color-lithogr.
rotating plates and 11 illustrations. Orig. half cloth with
front board illus. in colors. Small quarto.

At this point, I'm just going to get out of the way and let these movables move you.

From: (Cinema-Book).The Little Green Man of the Sea.
London: Brown Novelty Company, [c. 1926].
First edition. A magic narration with convertible illustrations.
With 19 (12 fullpage) illustrations and "Cinemascope" with
blue and red foil. Orig. half cloth with front board illu. in colors.
Small quarto. When not in use the cinemascope glasses can be put away
in the small mounted tuck-in flap on front endpaper.

History of the Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens.
London: Dean & Sons, [c. 1859].
First edition. With 8 colored lithogr. plates with movable elements.
Orig. half cloth with illus. in color on front board. Small quarto.
Not in the Osborne Collection.

From: Hurra! Hurra! Nun Sind Wir Da! Ein neues bewegliches
Bilderbuch mit hübschen Erzählungen.
[Germany, c. 1920].
With 4 color-lithogr. plates with movable elements.
Orig. half cloth with front board illus. in colors. Small quarto.

From: Isn't it Funny.
London, Paris and New York: Raphael Tuck, [c. 1895].
First edition, publisher's no. 1502. With 4 color-lithogr. plates
with movable elements and 7 (4 in color) illustrations.
Orig. half cloth with illus. on front board in colors. Small quarto.
Not in the Osborne Collection.

Zauber- und Verwandlungs-Bilderbuch. [Germany, c.1880].
Transformation picture book. With 42 illustrations, some in colors.
Orig. cardboard illustrated in colors. Small octavo.

From: Howard, J. H., Naughty Girl's & Boy's Magic Transformations.
New York: McLoughlin Bros, [c. 1882].
First edition. With 4 mounted foldable color-lithogr. plates.
Orig. wrapper with front board illu. in colors. Octavo.
Not in the Osborne Collection.
Toulouse-Lautrec, H. The Motograph Moving Picture Book.
London: Bliss and Sands 1898.
First edition. With 23 color-lithogr. plates (incl. title) by F. J. Vernaj,
Yorick et al. Orig. half cloth with front board illu. in colors by
H. de Toulouse-Lautrec. Quarto.

 It wouldn't be a collection of movables without the mechanical books of Lothar Meggendorfer. There are an astounding eighty-six Meggendorfer volumes in this collection. Booktryst will devote a separate post to the Landwehr collection of Lothar Meggendorfer next week.

Images courtesy of Ketterer Kunst, with our thanks.


Of related interest:

Movable Books Pop-Up at the Smithsonian.

Say Hello to the First Talking Book.

Waldo Hunt and Pop-Up Books: A Brief Overview.
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