Friday, December 23, 2011

Booktryst In Bear's Den For the Holidays

by Stephen J. Gertz

December 15, 1855.

Booktryst is in hibernation for the holidays but will awaken on Monday, January 2, 2012.

The publisher at rest.

I wish  Booktryst readers the happiest of holiday seasons. Your support has made Booktryst one of the most popular rare book sites on the Net and, as if a bear dreaming about honey, I'm purring like a pussy cat.

Thank you all.

Image of bear courtesy of, with our thanks.

Christmas Notice courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions, with our thanks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ultimate Gift For Book Lovers

by Stephen J. Gertz

Imagine an entire book on a poster, beginning to end, a bold art print upon which, up close, you can read the full and complete text of your favorite classic work and/or collectible rare book, from "It was the best of times..." to "it is a far, far better thing that I do…"

Spineless Classics has. Each one of the company's designs contains the full text of the book. Where there are shapes in the design the words wrap to the edges rather than being removed or shaded. The font size is roughly 4-point which is perfectly legible with the naked eye if you have 20/20 vision, or with light magnification if you don't. Superman, of course, can read them from across the street.

Spineless Classics now has over sixty books available and regularly creates new designs. Current titles include War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Phantom of the Opera, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, the King James Bible, Frankenstein, Gulliver's Travels, etc.  If you have a specific book in mind and they don't have it they'll do their best to create a poster for you.

Origin of the Species, 1.

The posters are printed on lush, satin finish paper with state-of-the-art printing technology. The text is pin-sharp and the paper non-reflective. You can hang and light it the way you want without fear of going blind while reading it. Unless you're actively reading The Story of OSpineless Classics has yet to reproduce that particular classic, though I suspect it may be on the horizon, perhaps a custom job.

Origin of the Species, 2.

The posters are either 100cm x 70cm or 84cm x 119cm. (A0), frame-friendly sizes. If you choose, Spineless Classics will have a frame handmade for you in black-finished wood.

Reasonably priced, a Spineless Classic on your wall will amaze your friends, break the ice and start conversations. The company is so confident you'll love these poster-books that they offer a full refund guarantee.

For jigsaw puzzle junkies, Spineless Classics offers Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. One look at it and you know it's going to be challenging; 672 pieces of text and white space. Ask the Caterpillar for a hit off the hookah to finish this one.

For the highly letter-ate, a set of Spineless Classics postcards is also available, three each of six titles.

Front and rear.

I'm going to ask Spineless Classics to create a series of posters of the Yongle Dadian, the Ming dynasty book that 3,000 scholars spent four years working on, beginning in 1403, to produce 22,877 chapters in 11,095 volumes, using 370 million Chinese characters. It's the longest book ever written. I'm thinking wallpaper throughout Chez Booktryst, walls, ceilings, floors. Good news: materially as well as metaphysically finally living inside of a book. Bad news: can't read a damned word of it. Another nightmare for  Mr. Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hey, Rare Book Guy: What About Dust Jacket Restoration?

by Stephen J. Gertz

Hey, Rare Book Guy:

I have an old Hardy Boys book. The dust jacket is torn and has pieces missing. Should I have it repaired? How is it done?

- Chip in Milwaukee

Dear Chip: 

You're pulling my leg, right? Chip? As in dust jacket with chips? It could have been worse: Chip on my shoulder, in which case I forget the Chips Ahoy!™ crack, leave Nabiscoworld, shut my mouth, and get on with it.

Okay. How did this wreck of a dust jacket:

Become this attractive dust jacket?

During the 1990s, when restoration of dust jackets reached a high art, it soon became a controversial subject for rare book dealers and collectors.  Good thing or bad thing?

The community of book collectors, as usual, had the final word. No good. A book with its dust jacket present will always bring a premium. But a book with a restored dust jacket will fetch less than the same book with an unrestored jacket. "Untouched" remains the standard, whether binding or jacket. The less monkeyed with the better.

One reason why the community has put the hex on restored dust jackets is simply because DJ restoration has become so fine that it is often extremely difficult to tell if work has been done. When the dust jacket to a highly desirable and expensive first edition is rarer than the book itself, i.e. The Great Gatsby, and its presence increases the value of the book tenfold, the temptation to get clandestinely creative is high.

As long as the dust jacket is clearly identified as restored, no problem. But books with restored DJs and unidentified as such by the unscrupulous are floating around the marketplace and dealers and collectors have to pay special attention.

As always, remove the dust jacket from it's mylar sleeve (i.e. Bro-Dart™). Examine its backside. Tape repairs are obvious. Paper fill-ins can usually been seen upon very close examination, as will tissue to close tears. But not always. Black light the dust jacket and most all restoration work will be revealed; black light loves adhesives and can spot them a mile away.

In expert hands, the inking of lettering and color fill-in to rubbed spots is near impossible to discern. Sometimes, the inks and paint will bleed through to the rear and be obvious but, again, they may not. Black light may reveal the work.

For the average rare book with dust jacket in dishabille, the rule remains the same:  do nothing beyond getting that DJ into an archival-grade mylar sleeve to preserve what remains and prevent further damage. Do not be tempted to amateur repairs. The market has spoken, and the verdict  is, As Is.

Go here to view a step-by-step demonstration in still photographs of how the dust jacket above was restored.

Facsimile dust jackets have also become an issue but are fairly easy to distinguish from the real thing. Their paper is commonly of a lighter weight, and examination with a magnifying glass will reveal the dot-matrix of a digital printer. As facsimile DJs are not relic'd, a brand spanking new DJ on an old book will be as obvious as a facelift on a unreconstructed seventy-five year old body. There's an excellent article on how to identify facsimile dust jackets here.

Whether restored or facsimile, no crime has  been committed as long as the dust jacket is clearly identified by the seller. Repaired or facsimile dust jackets will definitely increase the attractiveness of the book. But restoration does absolutely nothing to increase the value of a book. Restoration of any kind to a rare book lowers its market value.

Hope this has helped.

Say, you wouldn't happen to be related to "Chip"  of My Three Sons, would you?

"Chip" to lower right corner, not affecting text. Portrayed by Stanley Livingston.


Dust jacket images courtesy of paper restoration studio, Poster Mountain, with out thanks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten Little, Nine Little, Eight Little Suffragettes...(And Then There Were None)

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1868, American songwriter Stephen Winner, adapting the Irish folk tune Michael Finnegan, wrote new lyrics for a minstrel show and retitled the song, 10 Little Injuns. In 1869, newer lyrics were written by Frank J. Green for Christy's Minstrels, an American blackface troupe that toured Europe, and the world was thus stained with Ten Little Niggers.

Circa 1910-15, the Pottsville,, Pennsylvania branch of Dives, Pomeroy and Stewart, a department store otherwise known as Pomeroy's and headquartered in Reading, published a pamphlet that adapted the song as a satire on woman suffrage and equal rights, and in so doing conclusively demonstrated that Pomeroy's brain trust would never win a spelling bee.

Or, perhaps, that the people of Pottstown, located in the Delaware Valley forty miles northwest of Philadelphia, then spoke using the "back vowels following the Southern Shift, the front vowels  following the northern pattern...There is some historic indication of sporadic R-dropping in Philadelphia..." (Linguistic Geography of Pennsylvania).

Or, rather, that simply spelling the word correctly would give it legitimacy, and, more to the point, lose the potential for major heh-heh yuk-yuks.

Hence, Ten Little Suffergets.

In the story, ten little girls, each with hair ribbon, black strap shoes and knee-length dresses, carry protest signs supporting women’s suffrage, as well as Equal Rights, No Home Rule, Down with Teachers, Down with the Men, Cake Every Day, and No More Spanking. It's The Little Rascals in pinafores, with an attitude, Darla Hood and Miss Crabtree on the march against Spanky, Alfalfa, Wheezer, and Farina, those pre-pubescent male chauvinist pigs.

As in Ten Little Indians, the group loses a member in each sequence, here for  typical transgressions of little girls: gobbling cakes, crying over a dead doll, kissing a boy, - the usual sins of the  contemporary sub-Sweet Sixteen set, suffragettes as self-destructive children. The girls' protest comes to a violent end when the last girl standing engages in a little blunt-force trauma doll massacre, leaving Lt. Bobby Goren, of TV's Law & Order: Criminal Intent, to sort it all out, the last little girl faked-out by Goren's  third-degree psych-out. The only thing omitted from Ten Little Suffergets is a Criminal Intent-esque last line:

Asst. D.A. Carter: It's reform school for Little Miss Charybdis, the  doll-slaying reformer.

Goren:  'Got my vote.

While no credit is given to the illustrator, the girls appear quite similar to the stylized Campbell Kids, etc. of Grace Drayton (1877-1936), particularly to those in her comic strip, Dotty Dimples. (I pause here for a tartaric & malic acid cocktail to balance the high sugar content implicit in Dotty Dimples, a name I write with insulin-ink to counteract the cloying of readers' - and my - blood).

Beginning with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, by 1887 agitation for a woman's right to vote had led to the merger of the  National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, each respectively addressing federal and state legislation. The National American Woman Suffrage Association led the struggle into the 20th century.

But opposition to the woman's vote was strong with groups like the National  Organization Against Womans Suffrage active in protest. Men were clearly in the majority against the vote for women and some women agreed.

If Grace Drayton was responsible for the illustrations (and verse) in Ten Little Suffergets she was not alone among women who opposed gaining the vote. 

Writer Helen Kendrick Johnson (1844-1917) was against it. From 1894–1896 she was editor of the American Woman’s Journal and founded the Meridian Club in 1886.

In 1897 she wrote what is considered the best summary of the arguments against woman suffrage, Woman and the Republic: A Survey of the Woman-Suffrage Movement in the United States and a Discussion of the Claims and Arguments of its Foremost Proponents (NY: D. Appleton, 1897).  Within, as if a proto-Phyllis Schlafly, she argued that the vote was unnecessary to establish  legal, economic and other equal rights for women, and that the woman's role in domestic matters was essential to maintain and uphold American culture, values, and the republic itself.

This is an extremely scarce lampoon of the women's suffrage movement.  Only one little, two little, three little copies are located in institutional libraries, at Bryn Mawr College's Women’s Suffrage Ephemera Collection, Penn State University, and at the Cotsen Childrens Library at Princeton. And then there are none.

[Anon.] Ten Little Suffergets. Pottsville, Pennsylvania: Dives, Pomeroy, and Stewart, n.d. (c. 1910-1915). First (only) edition. Slim octavo. 11 pp. Front wrapper and each page  with black, white, brown and orange illustrations with comic verse. Printed advertisement to rear cover.

Images courtesy of The Literary Lion, with our thanks.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Damascus Bookshops Victims of Syrian Uprising

by Stephen J. Gertz

Sidewalk booksellers in Damascus' Souq al-Salihiya. Photo credit: al-Akhbar.

The Maysaloun, Zahra, Yaqza, al-A'ila, Fikr wa Fan, and al-Nahsa al-Arabiyya book shops in Damascus, Syria, the city's intellectual hubs and lifeblood, have closed, as have recently many others. They have been converted into fast food shops, pharmacies, shoe stores, internet cafes, and commercial bank branches. The Arab Spring, Syrian uprising, and international sanctions have taken their toll.

One of the oldest booksellers in Damascus, Abu Ahmad, explains that “visitors and customers have become rare these days, and the painful irony is that some of them want to sell their books to us rather than buy our books.”

"The successive closure of the most famous bookstores in Damascus sums up the situation of the market for literature in Syria," Anas Zarzar of Beirut-based al-Akhbar-English, writes. "A quick survey of the 27th annual Damascus Book Exhibition that opened in September might be enough to answer questions surrounding the state of reading in Syria, with the printing and publishing environment in the shadow of a new cultural reality, influenced, like all things, by the events of the Syrian uprising."

Imad Houria, of Alem al-Maarifa book shop in downtown Damascus, an ongoing participant in the book fair, said “perhaps this is the worst year of any that we’ve participated in the exhibition. We were flooded this year with the titles of contemporary political books that treat the Syrian crisis in some of their chapters, but we lost the bet and the books remained piled up in warehouses.”

Another factor is the state of Arab publishing. Houria continued, “the number of books the big Arab publishers were supplying us went down because their owners were afraid of the events of the Syrian uprising and the downturn in the book market.”

In Houria’s book shop business was no better. Bookseller Mohammad Nouri also confirms that Damascus publishers have been printing fewer copies since the uprising began.

Sidewalk booksellers, an important part of the Damascus book scene, have also been affected by recent events. Every year, during the holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, it was customary for booksellers to move their stock onto the sidewalks in Souq al-Salihiya,  transforming the open-air market into a Mecca for bookworms.

Azad al-Molla Ahmad, a bookseller from Northern Syria who travels to Damascus to sell books on the sidewalk, preferred, however, to keep his books at home this year. 

Booksellers in Syria have always had difficulties. "There are huge problems to get free information and education," Bettina Laser of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen's CrossCuture Praktika, says. "Libraries are under governmental control and even normal bookstores offer the same range of books for years. They do not change their limited offer and follow the governmental regulations. The government is not interested in supporting reading and gaining knowledge about politics and social behavior."

The streets of Damascus have become a bit too unpredictably exciting these days, if not downright dangerous, and the odds against booksellers are roughly the same as those for Bashar al-Assad opening a kibbutz in the city's downtown - or any other - district.

It is revealing, however, that for purveyors of lingerie in Damascus' souk-al-Hamidiyah business is good, if not brisk.

HALASA, Malu and Rana Salam. The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.

It is unlikely, however, that Syrians are reading about it in the above book.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Thereby Hangs a Quote, and a New, Must-Read Book on Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

When poet, master printer, and Perishable Press publisher Walter Hamady casually mentioned to master printer and Poltroon Press publisher Alastair M. Johnston, Peter Glassgold's book, Hwaett!,  Johnston, without skipping a beat, interjected:

"From Anglo-Saxon. It's the first word of Beowulf."

I have no idea whether Johnston, with whom I am acquainted, had been waiting decades for the opportunity to slip that factoid into a conversation but he did and I'm impressed.

As I am by the new word for today,  "slobagoody," which Hamady uses to describe a slapdash, thrown together, gallimaufry of text, later turned into readable narrative prose.

Hwaett and slobagoody (attorneys-at-law?) appear in Hanging Quotes: Talking Books Arts, Typography & Poetry, a new book by Johnson from Cuneiform Press. It's a keeper.

It's easy to be impressed with all of Hanging Quotes, a series of conversations Johnston had with book and printing people Nicholas Barker; Robert Creeley; Matthew Carter; Sumner Stone; Fred Smeijers; Joan and Nathan Lyons; Sandra Kirshenbaum; Dave Haselwood; Holbrook Teter of Zephyrus Image Press; Bob Hawley (Oyez Press); poet David Meltzer; and Graham Mackintosh, that widely ranges through the world of books, printing, and the visual manifestation of poetry in print.

More than impressed, you'll enjoy the book. Johnston, and his partner in Poltroon Press, Frances Butler, seem to ask just the right questions and pursue the right leads, tapping into their subject's interests, taking the conversation into unexpected places, and allowing it to take delightful turns.  Fascinating anecdotes, details, stories from book and printing history, unusual factoids, and captivating digressions are the reward.

You can read the interview with Nicholas Barker, renowned bookman, author, and editor of The Book Collector, for instance, and feel satisfied with the book without reading further (though you'll be sorry if you stop there). In this interview, which, as all the others in Hanging Quotes, is kaleidoscopic and delightfully all other the place, you'll learn about:

Trade secrets of medieval book illuminators, the private press movement and Barker's welcome apostasy ("Who the hell reads Kelmscott Press books?"), the degradation of paper quality, the improvement in ink, bookshop merchandizing, the importance of visual detail and symbolism and how the ability to read images has decayed, the importance of the shape of letters as a map of the human mind, Congolese bards, calligraphy, copperplate engraving and the personality of the engraver, Victorian typography, Goudy, Gill, Dwiggins, Morison, the importance of curve, and the current state of "Jine" printing.

Did I mention that Johnston, Butler, and those they interview are often quite amusing? This is not an academic book. It's absorbing, engaging,  informative, and highly entertaining; a wish-you-were-there read. You will not get a headache. But if you have one before reading it, Hanging Quotes may do more good than Advil.

You know you're in for a good time when the book opens with these quotes: 

"Tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre" (Everything in the world exists to produce a book - Stéphane Mallarmé)


"Talk is cheap, but a Flair pen costs 69 cents" (Darrell Gray).

I'm still in the book, around three-quarters through it, and am hooked. This, despite a rare, interesting, and heretofore unexplored phenomenon associated with the topography of a book and reading that I experienced with my review copy, which arrived water-soaked in an unlined envelope during a recent  storm. After allowing it to dry I found myself hanging ten while reading Hanging Quotes, surfing the text block, which had more waves than Waimea, up and down, up and down. To all appearances my head was bobbing to music only I could hear.

It's unlikely that you'll experience motion sickness while reading Hanging Quotes, though you'll likely feel pleasantly lightheaded after reading what are simply amongst the best, most engrossing and enchanting interviews we bookpeople will ever be treated to.

I have a good news/bad news fantasy that I'm a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I reach the million dollar round. The million dollar question is, What's the first word in Beowulf?, the ultimate  Trivial Pursuit question from the, alas, never-issued Bibliomaniac Edition. I mentally spend all the money. But I have to correctly pronounce the answer I just happen to know only because I read Hanging Quotes. Yet I didn't put Alastair Johnston on my Friends list; I can't call him.  Preceded by an "Oh" I utter an Anglo-Saxon word I can pronounce.

"Is that your final answer?"

I kiss that windfall goodbye.

JOHNSTON, Alastair M. Hanging Quotes. Talking Book Arts, Typography, and Poetry. [Victoria, TX]: Cuneiform Press, 2011. First edition. Large octavo. 270 pp. Illustrated wrappers. $22.00. Order here to support a small press publisher and allow them to make a decent profit without Jeff Bezos unmercifully squeezing their...uh, margin in the name of public service.

Full disclosure:

Alastair M. Johnston designed the print edition of A Wake for the Still Alive, Booktryst's series from last year. He's a friend but I have no idea what the "M" stands for; it's news to me. I'm hoping, Murgatroid.

Kyle Schlesinger, publisher of Cuneiform Press, along with his associate, Wm. S. Burroughs aficionado Jed Birmingham, is a friend of ours through Mimeo Mimeo, their publication (and website) devoted to the mimeograph revolution and grass-roots printing. Read Booktryst's O Solé Mimeo here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Living With Burroughs

The following originally appeared in e*I*21, Volume 4, Number 4, August 2005 in slightly different form.

by Stephen J. Gertz

For one year I lived with the grandmaster of Beat literature, William S. Burroughs. I remember it well. It was 2002. Burroughs died in 1997. Though I have paranormal experiences from time to time (generally confined to sexual encounters) this was not one of them. Although….

If the soul of an author resides within their text, their spirit haunts the manifestation of the text, the physical object that is the book itself. Handling and, I dare say, fondling the book can evoke the jinn within; the book as an Aladdin's lamp, the essence of a writer summoned forth with a caress.

I've had Marie Antoinette in my hands: I handled a set of beautifully bound volumes in full crimson morocco leather with elaborate gilt decoration and ornamentation with the armorial device of Antoinette; her copy, and I experienced an olfactory hallucination, her scent in my nostrils. I spent an afternoon with Mark Twain, examining and cataloging a copy of his A Dog's Tale with a particularly intimate and poignant inscription written in his hand. I felt he was at my side, whispering in my ear; we shared a cigar.

I've had many similar experiences but none more dramatic than the year I was surrounded by arguably the finest private collection of William Burroughs material in the world. Joe Zinnato, a friend and book dealer, had amassed the collection over a 30-year period but was now seeking capital to expand his holdings in another area of literary interest. We made a deal whereby Dailey Rare Books of Los Angeles, the rare book sanctuary I once called home, would represent the collection's sale, an amalgamation of original manuscripts with corrections in Burroughs' hand; letters, scribbled scraps; the overwhelming majority of Burroughs' titles and editions found in Maynard & Miles' bibliography, many signed; over 150 magazines with Burroughs' contributions, all quite rare, many signed, with additional articles/stories of interest from other notable writers, including Charles Bukowski; Burroughs contributions to other books and anthologies; a great deal of ephemera including autograph post- and greeting cards, a boxful of private snapshots and more formal photographs all but one never published; LP records, videos, reel-to-reel and cassette tapes featuring Burroughs; original cover art by frequent collaborator, Brion Gysin; artwork by the literary artist himself; and a sheaf of letters from Paul Bowles to a third party discussing Burroughs, Tangier, Maurice Girodias, and more.

I was surrounded by eighteen boxes representing not just the man's work but his life. And Burroughs' presence was palpable; El Hombre Invisible, the nickname bestowed upon him due to his tall, gaunt, ashen, spectral appearance - he looked like a hip undertaker; his life, indeed, a hip if painful undertaking - was in attendance. Like a kid in a candy store, I was in nirvana, Burroughs at my side as I examined each piece.

It isn't often that one has the opportunity to track a literary creation from conception, drafts, layouts, printing, publication and sales but here it was: the archive to Burroughs' TIME, one of his better "cut-ups."

Though Dadaist Tristan Tzara had experimented with the form, taking established text, deconstructing it by scissoring it into pieces and reassembling the scraps into a literary collage, it was Burroughs who fully explored and exploited the idea, one that began when artist and Burroughs' friend and frequent collaborator, Brion Gysin, accidentally cut through a newspaper he was using as under pad for an art piece he was cropping with a razor-knife. It was a natural extension to what Burroughs had done with Naked Lunch, which was written in pieces, scraps and shards of text over time, then typed into manuscript. The manuscript was then deliberately shuffled like a deck of cards; the text requiring a few shuffles before Girodias finally accepted it for publication. The shuffles were never random; this was not a chaotic, chance editorial exercise but rather the willful reorganization of text toward a determined, ordered end.

And so here was the original issue of Time magazine Burroughs used with all the spaces where text had been cut-out; a 26-page signed, typed manuscript with corrections in his hand; another draft, a 14-page typed manuscript with autograph corrections; an 11-page typed manuscript/collage with title page; a 12-page photo-negative of the prior item with extra drawings and highlighting by Joe Brainard; a 32-page small mock-up of the book in ink by Brainard; the cover as prepared by Burroughs with art by Gysin; the publisher's ledger/account book with production costs, orders to whom and how many; and over 100 pieces of mail concerning ordering and publication, including the copyright certificate, and the complete list of where copies of the 1-10 edition and 1-100 edition were sold, providing a remarkable insight into the marketing of the book.

I have not been able to read Time magazine since without reflexively juxtaposing text:

"J-Lo and Ben split over Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Martha Stewart Living With Alzheimer's Disease in the Sudan where civil war fought with box-office bomb Gigli poisoned well-water taints the oases bottom line Kofi Annan Lincoln's secret lover on Martha's 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets during K-Mart Blue-Light Special Forces operations in Afghanistan to flush Osama from movie theaters in Darfur where children are starving for entertainment the whole family can enjoy without retribution from death squads Martha claims ‘innocent!’”

There's an 8x10 black and white photograph of Burroughs in Paris standing on rue Git-le-Coeur outside of the most famous fleabag-flophouse in literary history, the nameless joint otherwise known as The Beat Hotel by its eccentric guests, whom John De St Jorre in his history of the Olympia Press, Venus Bound (1996), characterized as "a colorful collection of painters and prostitutes, jazz musicians and petty criminals, poets and hustlers, writers and junkies." Whoosh! I’m carried away on a magic carpet to my spiritual home; I've a room down the hall from Burroughs, picking goatee'd hipster lice in berets out of my hair while Burroughs, in the communal latrine, curses in his deadpan-ironic nasal monotone that octopus tentacles are strangling his bowels, that he'd give Jesus a blowjob for a decent shit, his cuckoo ca-ca clock clamorin' for constipation's end.

Another: Burroughs and Gysin superimposed over a section of Notre Dame cathedral taking their place as the stoned saints of Beat amongst the saints in stone bas-relief that adorn its façade.

And another, perhaps the most succinctly defining image of Burroughs ever, he at a construction site standing in front of a large sign: "DANGER."

I open the box of snapshots - over 60 color photos, many taken by Burroughs' bibliographer and friend, Barry Miles - and I'm immersed in Burroughs private life in Tangier as no other who didn't know him personally or view these photographs could be: WSB in a red bathing suit sunning himself on the roof of his apartment building--a startling image as he is almost always seen in his uniform: dark suit, white shirt and tie; Burroughs comfortably sitting between two of his Moroccan boy-toys, youngsters in full Arab drag with crossed swords in their belts, and Burroughs’s jinn whispers in my ear: "those junior janissaries of jism had Damascus steel in their shorts and lips made for mouthfuls of phallic mirth"; Burroughs sitting in front of his typewriter, caught in the act with Gysin standing at his side; and many, many others. I'm embarrassed yet thrilled by the intimacy; I'm a fly-on-the-wall spying into WSB's quotidian life.

I want to dive into the boxes of books but simple physics prevents me from jack-knifing into the library, so I take them out individually: a pristine copy of a first edition Naked Lunch in very fine dust jacket. Few realize that many of Girodias' Traveller's Companion paperbacks with their simple, uniformly designed printed green wrappers, were issued with djs. I pass my hand over the stylishly designed dj and, to my surprise and annoyance, Jack Kerouac shows up, dripping 100-proof ectoplasm. The guy needs to be seriously squeegeed. He’s a bloated, bleary wreck.

“What brings you here, Jack-o?” Bill politely asks.

“Stakin’ my claim, Bill, just stakin’ my claim.”

Apparently hung-over from a drinking session with Mom in the afterlife and desperate to shore-up his  literary reputation, he starts riffing on his importance in the literary canon.

"On the Road is the archetype American novel, the quest for bountiful horizons, the car as modern-day horse galloping into flaming sunsets that never sink into the night, toward frontiers unfettered by geography, a road trip of the mind traveled on the double-laned mystic highway boundless and beautiful and fueled by Benzedrine; an American classic that captures - and continues to do so - the optimistic, fundamental American yearning for adventure, redemption and home that is just over the next hill if we have the courage to drive fast and forward. Hell, it so captured the American imagination that an early '60s T.V. show was based on it, Route 66 starring George Maharis and Martin Milner with a theme by Henry Mancini. Whad'ya think, Bill?"

"I'll let 'Unfortunately Straight Steve-arino' answer, ol' Jack." He gave me the nod.

"All you say is true," I began, "and On the Road certainly spawned a T.V. show but it was also responsible for every single piece-of-shit 'buddy' road movie ever made since to its eternal shame. What's more, methinks you a little too enamored by the sound of your own voice in print; you're the Thomas Wolfe of the Beat Generation, verbose 'til the reader wants to scream and I have bad news for you: like Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again. Your writing’s a combination of speed and Ex-Lax, projectile diarrhea of the mind. You weren't really a member of the Beat Generation, you were the prior generation’s last gasp, stuck in an idealized version of a bygone America, your Pre-WWII childhood tethering you unmercifully as you tried to break free of it and your mother.

"Billy-boy, in contrast, shucked all that. He rejected that America of down-home constipated consciousness, that childish yearning for a past that never was, that prolix, 19th century reminiscent novelistic style of yours out of time and out of gas for the Atomic Age. True, Naked Lunch is for many the anti-meal but so is James Joyce, for God's sake. As far as Naked Lunch never being adapted for television, that is all to it's credit. And while Cronenberg imaginatively adapted it for film, Naked Lunch has spawned not one idiotic movie after another as On the Road has. Billiam turned 20th century writing on its ear by sodomizing straight narrative up the Yazoo. Naked Lunch is not an American novel much less an American classic. It is, however, to its glory, a classic of world literature, transcending American parochialism to speak to the transnational, universal consciousness of the trickster renegade within us all that seeks to break the boundaries of the internal landscape. On the Road is petroleum-fueled metal on wheels, a hip bumper-car that ultimately crashes into the walls of East and West Coast; Naked Lunch is a nuclear age powered rocket puncturing the sky, shooting into space to another world.

"You say you influenced pop-culture. True, but that was close to 60 years ago. Naked Lunch, as all great art--and the book is a work of art--though it made an immediate impact amongst the cognoscenti, had a delayed influence upon popular culture. Decades after its publication it would inspire the Punk movement, David Bowie, Kathy Acker, Philip K. Dick, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and many others; a who’s who list of poets, artists, novelists, filmmakers, etc. In 1972, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker named their new group Steely Dan, thereby becoming the first group, musical or otherwise, to be named after a dildo. Not just any dildo but the most famous dildo in all of world literature, Burroughs' keister-pleaser in Naked Lunch, and I chuckle every time I hear Steely Dan on the radio, wondering if station management has any awareness that their disc jockeys are announcing a song by the great dildo band, Fagen's lyrics archetypal examples of Burroughs' Dada-Dante-esque world.

"No one can read your Visions of Cody in its complete, posthumously issued edition without experiencing, to one degree or another, drooping eyelids. One may get nightmares, one may even experience nausea but no one, no way no how, can ever fall asleep reading Naked Lunch.

"But most of all, Jack, you commit the unpardonable sin of absolute humorlessness or at best humor without a trace of tangy, social bite. WSB's work, in contrast, overflows with tartly ironic, acid wit; this guy could do stand-up - certainly not in a typical Vegas lounge but in a nice, seedy roadhouse joint in purgatory, The Infernal Komedy Klub where over-the-top Dadaesque ironic burlesque routines are appreciated.

"I rest Bill's case."

"A little rough on ol' Jack, weren't you, Steve-o?" Burroughs dryly commented.

"He's dead, he can take it," I coolly replied. “The nerve of this uninvited juice-head, horning in on my literary séance!” I turned to Kerouac. “Hit the road, Jack.”

I swear I caught Kerouac posing in his mother's Maidenform bra swilling Jack Daniels before dematerializing in a puffy huff back to wherever he's now calling home.


Now another: one of only 90 copies of the giant, enclosed in custom wood portfolio edition of Seven Deadly Sins with 7 woodblock silkscreen prints 45 x 31 inches on white 2-ply museum board each signed and numbered, a few of which Joe had archivally mounted and framed. I've got them standing upright on the floor and the effect is as if Burroughs had a mini-cam implanted backward in his forehead and I'm watching streaming, screaming video of Bill's brain at work. I've got so much of this stuff around me, have become so well acquainted with Burroughs that we're now on a first name basis.

Christ! Here's a beautiful copy of the British "Digit" paperback edition of Junkie, a book that comes on the market about once every ten years and now fetches upward of $5K depending upon condition, an almost mythic edition that few have actually seen, the first U.S. edition "double Ace book" paperback almost common by comparison. Joe has wisely enclosed both editions in plastic sleeves; my salivary glands are in overdrive.

I open the boxes of magazines with WSB contributions, the overwhelming majority signed. I've never told Joe but I took all of them out of their meticulously organized order within the boxes and rolled in them: one of 50 copies of the offprint to Burroughs' Letter From A Master Drug Addict to Dangerous Drugs; a copy of Big Table; Floating Bear; City Lights Journal; Cleft1, 2:4-7; Bulletin From Nothing; Insect Trust Gazette; Fruit Cup; Gay Sunshine; and hundreds more, including the rare Marijuana Newsletter 1:1,3.

Oh, my God! A 33-page original typed manuscript of his annotations to the catalog of the Burroughs archive in Lawrence, Kansas - his hometown - containing inked corrections in his hand.

A Xerox typed manuscript of Port of Saints presented to Richard Aaron (Am Here Books) by Burroughs; unique because Burroughs never kept the original manuscript. Aaron provided a sworn, signed statement of provenance and circumstance to Joe. I'm looking the manuscript over and I realize that this is so radically different than the published edition that it constitutes an original unpublished manuscript. I’m one of maybe ten people in the world to have seen and read it.

There's a cryptic autograph scrawl of Burroughs' on Pennsylvania Railroad letterhead that reads: "At Prie Ricard [sic?] rooming with Indian boy - deformed genitals on the other (Gerard) - I was, perhaps, coming down with jaundice - any one can see suffering. Does he think I dislike him? Some one has come for the laundry. I can hardly drag myself around. Then I might put out the dog and the [?] that vowed to bite our [?] where we lay."

A Letter to the Editor of After Dark Magazine on Burroughs' letterhead that sets the record straight, as it were: "Correction: William Burroughs is not going straight [heterosexual]. He knows it. Wouldn't You?"

I'm touched by a Christmas card with a short, warm inscription signed "Bill”; odd evidence that Burroughs, for all his radical, kaleidoscopic prose and messenger from the underbelly persona, is at heart a nice, thoughtfully tender guy from the Midwest. 

An autograph postcard to a publisher passes through my hands.

Dig this: Veteran Sirens, a 17-1/2x23" painting by Bill. It's advanced primitive fingerpainting, and most would say, "I coulda done that," but they didn't. Burroughs did.

Lookit! R. Crumb's Meet The Beats poster #2, one of five copies lettered A-E and signed by WSB. Listen! Original master 7" and 5" reel-to-reel tapes of Burroughs' audio collages, etc., including the master for the Call Me Burroughs LP; Bill's master audio cut-up of Dutch Schultz & Young Queer; Bill reciting Willie The Rat; the master of Bill reciting The Last Words of Hassan Sabha; much more to listen to - my ears are ringing - not the least of which is a tape of Burroughs singing (!) medleys of Marrakesh music; he makes Yoko Ono sound like Barbra Streisand in comparison, and must be heard to be believed but believe it, I heard him.

I reach back into a box and take out The Cat Inside, one of eighteen copies signed by Bill and Brion Gysin out of a total edition of 133 copies, and printed on fine Crisbrook paper, the entire book produced and published by the legendary Grenfell Press in 1986, the last collaboration between Burroughs and Gysin and certainly Burroughs' most sentimentally affecting work, written at a time when his personal and artistic maelstrom had somewhat settled and he could delight in the simple comfort of feline companionship and relate to the feline soul. Yet Burroughs was always--and remains, even after his death--the hippest cat on the scene. Bill's jinn leans over to me and whispers these words from the text, which can stand as a Beat Manifesto: "We are the cats inside. We are the cats who cannot walk alone, and for us there is only one place."

For Burroughs, that place, wherever it might have been in his head when he penned those lines, is in the literary firmament, his outlaw star burning through our polluted atmosphere to illuminate the post-modern human condition which may not be pretty but in the right light - Bill's light - can be seen in all its painfully dissonant beauty.


The bust pushed the big money into hiding, and institutions cried poverty. I couldn't sell the collection even at a dramatic discount to $225K. I packed it all back into the boxes, those corrugated cardboards filled with Aladdin's lamps. Joe has been selling the collection piecemeal over the last couple of years, and I often wonder if some lucky someone has taken any one of the items into their hands and lovingly rubbed it, thus releasing Bill's jinn for another one-on-one with El Hombre Invisible.

Special thanks to Joe Zinnato; all Burroughs-related photography courtesy Joe Zinnato Collection, now, alas, broken-up and sold.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is the Bibliophilist a Man, a Woman, or Gertrude Stein?

by Stephen J. Gertz

The Bibliophilist by Alan E. Odle, c. 1910.

There The Bibliophilist sits, a stout, androgynous figure in a voluminous dressing gown and slippers, reading and smoking by the light of a candle resting atop a pile of books including volumes by Balzac, Swift, Dante, Vuillier, Goya, and Richard Payne Knight.

Here The Biblioiphilist appears on Whatman wove paper watermarked 1907, in pen and black ink by Allan E. Odle (1888-1948), c. 1910, in the style of Aubrey Beardsley.

Of Odle, little is known. He was married to novelist Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957), fifteen years his senior. A book illustrator, he designed the dust jacket for the Ordinary Edition of James Hanley's Ebb and Flow (London: John Lane at the Bodleyhead, 1932), and other Hanley novels for Lane, and provided illustrations to Candide (G. Routledge, 1922), Richardson's Backwater (1916), and a U.K. edition of Twain's  salute to scatology and Elizabethan manners, 1601 a Tudor Fireside Conversation (London: Printed for Subscribers only and to be sold at ye beare Backside-in-Maiden Lane, 1936), amongst others. He was known for his grotesque style, and was connected to the surrealists, as was Richardson's work favorably compared to the key surrealist/stream of consciousness modern novelists, particularly Gertrude Stein.

Did Alan Odle, a young artist in his early twenties very much into modernism, cross paths with Gertrude Stein who, from 1903-1912, lived in Paris with her brother, Leo?  Perhaps while Odle was an art student in Paris and she a modernist art critic making her mark? Did she sit for him and then reject the portrait as a bit too grotesque? Alternatively, is this an anonymous impression of her by Odle? Or is the similarity between the figure in The Bibliophilist and Gertrude Stein simply a delightful coincidence?

Bloomsbury-London is offering The Bibliophilist at their Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper sale, December 15, 2011 without identifying the figure. The estimate is £150-£200, the same as when Bloomsbury previously offered this so far homeless drawing in which Odle has, to all appearances, captured  Gertrude Stein in what might be an unrecorded Stein portrait.

Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Félix Valloton, 1907.

ODLE, Allan E. The Bibliophilist. N.p., n.d. [c. 1910].  325 x 310mm., signed lower right, titled upper right, a marginal dampstain centre left.

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions, with our thanks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Goldilocks Had Silver Hair and Trod the British Stage

by Stephen J. Gertz

From: COOPER, [T. George]. The Story of the Three Bears,
of Little Silver Hair and the Fairies,

as performed at the Haymarket Theatre in 1854.

In 1854, Goldilocks, that fickle food taster, chair sitter, bed sleeper, and precocious felon of the breaking and entering ilk, brought her act to London's Haymarket Theatre for a special Easter performance.

But you would not have recognized her. She had silver hair.

Who knew that the story of the girl with the golden tresses who home invades and chow-down fresses had been adapted to the stage? And what was a fairy queen doing in the production?

In this dramatization of the classic childrens story, the heroine is called Silverhair, she runs away from her mother to escape a wooing squire, and winds up at the house of the three bears, who are not happy with the picky, picky, picky child for eating their porridge, sitting in their chairs, and sleeping in their bed. Silverhair is rescued from their wrath by the fairy queen. 

While the story has been around for approximately 200 years, the earliest recorded version is The Story of The Three Bears metrically related, with illustrations placing and dating  it to Cecil Lodge in September 1831. One  Eleanor Mure had written the story in verse and illustrated it for her nephew from the story she  knew through oral tradition. In Mure's version  it is an old woman  who intrudes into the bears' home, sampling their food, etc. (Opie, Iona and Peter. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 199-200).

In 1837, Robert Southey published the story in volume four of his seven volume collection of essays, The Doctor &C (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Green, and Longman, 1834-38), under the title The Story of the Three Bears. Here, too, the intruder was an old woman. Another early version is known as Scrapfoot, and a fox is the moocher in the bear's house.

In 1850, however, the fox and old woman were jettisoned when the story was published in the anthology, A Treasury of Pleasure Books for Young Children (London: Grant and Griffith, & Joseph Cundall). The protagonist was now a young girl named Silver Hair, and it is in this iteration that the story was adapted for the Haymarket Theatre's 1854 Easter production. In 1855 she became Silver-Locks in Aunt Mavor's Nursery Tales (London: George Routledge & Co.). In 1868, she became Golden Hair in Aunt Friendly's Nursery Book (London: Frederick Warne), and somewhere a scholar is probably investigating whether the blonds have more fun trope is somehow connected to Golden Hair; only her  hairdresser knows for sure. In 1904's The Old Nursery Stories and Rhymes (London: Blackie & Son), Goldilocks made her debut.

The old woman was too hot. The fox was too cold. Silver Hair was too  soft. Golden Hair was too hard. Goldilocks was just right. The name stuck.

COOPER, [T. George]. The Story of the Three Bears, of Little Silver Hair and the Fairies, as performed at the Haymarket Theatre as an Easter piece in 1854. Quarto. Twenty ink drawings by T. George Cooper with quotations from the script and the musical score. Two drawings full-page, the remainder two to a page, drawn directly into a contemporary, gilt morocco Victorian album.

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions, offering this item as lot 462 in its Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper sale, December 15, 2011, with our thanks. It is estimated to sell for £400-£600 ($627-$940).

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Most Pirated Novel of the 20th Century

by Stephen J. Gertz

"O, so you've got a copy of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover,'
exclaimed Bob and Pearl, and they proceeded to make themselves
perfectly at home in a strange house. Their hostess has about given up
thoughts of a bridge game."

From a cartoon pasted into a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover
(Florence: Privately Printed [New York: Samuel Roth, 1928,
the foremost pirated edition]). Special Collections, Morris Library,
Southern Illinois University.

In 1928, when you write a novel with sexual frankness and unprintable words it will be considered legally obscene and not be afforded copyright protection. You, the author, know that. No one in your home nation will print and publish it without cuts to the text so you have it printed and published n Italy, where printers are unlikely to be able to read your scandalous English prose and the publisher is sympathetic to you and your work. 

You have only 1000 numbered and signed copies printed. You know you're going to be ripped-off by other publishers but you put it out there, anyway; the book needed to be written. It needs to be read. 

In 2011, if you're a collector of D.H. Lawrence or rare book dealer and a purported first edition copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover is offered to you, beware. Buccaneers in England and especially the United States clandestinely flooded the market with, according to Jay A. Gertman (A Descriptive Bibliography of Lady Chatterley's Lover, with Essays Toward a Publishing History of the Book), thirty-one unauthorized reprints with enough similarities to send catalogers to Bedlam and collectors to an early grave. 

And that's only the piracies that have been formally accounted for; there remain others as yet recorded by bibliographers. It's a minefield out there, as potentially explosive as Connie and Mellors's illicit affair in the novel. You walk through this one with steel boots and protective cup, otherwise known as reference books, lest you get lost and step on TNT.

D.H. Lawrence.

Once upon a time last week, a finely rebound first edition of Lady Chatterley... landed on my desk. I knew it was on the way. My employer was excited. I was dubious; I'd marched through this brier patch before and had been seriously scratched. This copy looked like a true first, felt like a true first, but on close, painstaking inspection proved to be a false first edition.

The signature was present, copy number and autograph in blue ink as they're supposed to be. The signature was extremely close to many other samples of D.H. Lawrence's that I'd seen over the years. But it was too close, too neat, too perfect. A person signing 1000 books, even if only fifty to hundred a day, will not be signing their name with an ideal hand. More to the point, nobody, when signing their name in cursive script as they've been doing for decades, stops in the middle of their surname before finishing their signature. This signature had a space between the "w" and "r" in "Lawrence" as if the signatory stopped for a bite to eat before completing it. In every other signature sample the "r" flows continuously from the "w." It was a probable but not positive forgery.

The proper leaf measurement for the true first is 8 15/16 x 6 3/8 inches. As the top edge had been gilt and gauffered, the height measurement would obviously be off. But the width measurement? 6 3/16 inches. No good.

The smoking strike three, however, and the absolutely key bibliographical point to the true first edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover, was the text block bulk measurement. The true first's is 20.1 mm of lightweight, smooth white laid paper without watermark. No other edition, authorized or piracy, has their text block measure to that exact width. It is the one fact that can, unequivocally, distinguish a true first edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover from all the pretenders. This copy bulked to 25.7 mm, the exact measurement of two known, if slightly different, pirated editions.

When queried (as in, we want our money back) the dealer who we bought it from told us that they had once managed a used bookshop in a small city in a heartland, U.S.A. state, and that the book was a walk-in offer from around ten years ago. Let me tell you that, while located in middle America and away from New York (where  most clandestine erotica was published), there was no shortage of pirate copies Lady Chatterley's Lover distributed by mail-order to the hinterlands, even though the chances of Post Office seizure were strong.

The odds for  one of the 1000 copies of the true first edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover safely reaching dead-center America were, however, weak; it was originally sold by subscription only and you had to know the author, the publisher (Florentine bookseller Pino Orioli), or someone who did  to order a copy. Once ordered, you prayed that it wouldn't be seized by Customs and, having gotten through, hoped that it wouldn't be subsequently intercepted by the Post Office. While 500 copies were intended for the United States, "most copies were sold in England," according to  Lawrence scholar Michael Squires (as cited by Gertzman, p. 4). If a copy finally made it  to Middletown its owner would not  later be selling it to a used book shop but, rather, to a respected rare book dealer (who, if the collector was not an original subscriber, had originally sold it to him), or another dealer of stature in the trade who would understand what it was and its worth.

It is, however,  a very well-done piracy. It's in letterpress, with European-style quotation marks, and not a photo-offset reprint. At the front, the mulberry paper with black-stamped phoenix that covered the boards is preserved; the shade is darker, however,  than the true first's. It is, as far as I've been able to determine, heretofore unrecorded.

A true first edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover in fine condition is a $20,000 book. This rebound, purported first was offered at $6,000, its rebinding, as with all rare books, negatively affecting the value of the copy. (Two rebound genuine firsts are currently being offered, one at  $8,500, the other at $7,500). Now that the copy is known to be a piracy, its  value will decline to that of a very attractive pirated edition in a collectible binding.

As always caveat emptor. You don't want a copy of,  and Mellors would certainly object to being referred to as, Lady Chatterley's Dubious Lover. Which leads to this post's denouement, a tasty bibliographical tidbit:

Lawrence's original title for Lady Chatterley's Lover was John Thomas and Lady Jane. Booktryst readers from the U.K. will immediately recognize the English slang terms of endearment for the male and female genitalia. At first the novel's subtitle, Lawrence used it as the full title at the suggestion of Juliette Huxley but changed it back to Lady Chatterley's Lover and deleted the racy subtitle at the behest of the British (Secker) and American (Knopf) publishers who ultimately refused to issue an unexpurgated edition under any title.

LAWRENCE, D.H. Lady Chatterley's Lover. [Florence]: Privately Printed, 1928. First edition, limited to 1000 numbered and signed copies in blue ink. Octavo (8 15/16 x 6 3/8 in). iv, 366, [2] pp, total bulk 20.1 mm. Mulberry paper-covered boards with stamped black phoenix, white paper spine label printed in black, Lady / Chatterley's / Lover / D.H. / Lawrence. Top edge rough trimmed, others untrimmed. Printed by the Tipografia Giuntina, directed by L. Franceschini.

Roberts and Poplawski A42. Gertzman 1.1.a.

When, in 1959, it was finally openly published in the United States in an unexpurgated edition, it caused a sensation, so much so that even Field and Stream magazine reviewed Lady Chatterley's Lover.
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