Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Great Gift Book for Sensitive Plants and Children of All Ages

by Stephen J. Gertz

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light.
And closed them beneath the kisses of Night.

But the Sensitive Plant which could give small fruit 
Of the love which it felt from the leaf to the root,
Received more than all, it loved more than ever,
Where none wanted but it, could belong to the giver...

"No more tastefully illustrated book of verse could be desired than the elaborately artistic edition of Shelley's 'Sensitive Plant,' edited by Mr. Edmund Gosse, illustrated with much richness of coloring and gracefulness of design by Mr. Charles Robinson, and imported by the Lippincott Co. Mr. Gosse's introduction throws new light on the 'Lady, the wonder of her kind,' who played the part of  'an Eve in this Eden,' where grew the sensitive plant.

A Lady, the wonder of her kind,                      
Whose form was upborne by a lovely mind
Which, dilating, had moulded her mien and motion
Like a sea-flower unfolded beneath the ocean...

"Drawing upon Medwin's notes to a never-published second edition of his life of the poet, [Gosse] tells us that this paragon of her sex was a certain Countess of Mountcashell, an Irish lady about fifty years of age, of sufficient unconventionality to be welcomed by Shelley and his company as a congenial spirit. The notes on this lady and the editor's gleaning of facts concerning the mimosa pudica, or sensitive plant, celebrated by the poet, are interesting.

She had no companion of mortal race,
But her tremulous breath and her flushing face
Told, whilst the morn kissed the sleep from her eyes,  
That her dreams were less slumber than Paradise...

"The illustrations, large and small, accompanying the slender thread of text, form the conspicuous feature of the book, and make it one of the most sumptuous gift volumes of the year. The cover design is a thing of beauty..."(The Dial, December 1911).

And on the fourth, the Sensitive Plant           

Felt the sound of the funeral chant,

And the steps of the bearers, heavy and slow,

And the sobs of the mourners, deep and low;

The Sensitive Plant, like one forbid,
Wept, and the tears within each lid
Of its folded leaves, which together grew,       
Were changed to a blight of frozen glue.

Whether the Sensitive Plant, or that

Which within its boughs like a Spirit sat,      
Ere its outward form had known decay,

Now felt this change, I cannot say.

Whether that Lady's gentle mind,

No longer with the form combined

Which scattered love, as stars do light,        

Found sadness, where it left delight,

I dare not guess; but in this life

Of error, ignorance, and strife,

Where nothing is, but all things seem,

And we the shadows of the dream,   
It is a modest creed, and yet

Pleasant if one considers it,

To own that death itself must be,

Like all the rest, a mockery. 

Thus, here excerpted, Shelley explores the distance between the ideal and the real, the  immortal natural beauty of the earth more satisfying than the promised immortal beauty of heaven, and the burden upon the sensitive soul to triumph over death by being wholly alive while living. The Garden of Eden is here, and now.

And in this edition of a poem originally written in 1820, publisher William Heinemann and illustrator Charles Robinson created one of the greatest illustrated gift books in an era rife with great, illustrated gift books.

"This book... with...  supplements in colour in addition to page designs by the artist is sumptuous in effect" (The International Studio, January 1912).

[ROBINSON, Charles]. SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe. The Sensitive Plant. Introduction by Edmund Gosse. Illustrations by Charles Robinson. London / Philadelphia: William Heinemann / J.B. Lippincott Co., 1911.

First U.K. Robinson-illustrated edition, a Heinemann "Xmas Art Book" that originally sold for 15 shillings. Quarto (10 3/8 x 7 1/2 in; 264 x 190 mm). xii, [4], 17-127, [1] pp. Eighteen full color tipped-in plates, including frontispiece, with captioned tissue guards. Small color, halftone, or black and white (some full page) illustrations to each leaf.

Publisher's original pictorial green cloth lavishly gilt-stamped. Top edge gilt. Illustrated endpapers. Dust jacket.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Notorious Book Condemned by the United States Congress

by Stephen J. Gertz

I, your merry gondolier through the murky waters and curious byways of literature that flow beneath the  bridge of dreamy sighs, bring to your attention, strictly as a caveat lectorem public service, a forgotten classic of 1950s sensationalistic narcotics paranoia and lurid drug eroticism so notorious that it drew the attention of United States Congressman Ezekiel C. Gathings (D-Arkansas) and the House Select Committee  on Current Pornographic Materials, Investigation of Literature Allegedly Containing Objectionable Material of 1952.

After spraying paraquat on Marijuana Girl, a paperback original by N. R. De Mexico (Robert Campbell Bragg, 1918-1954, a member of Anaïs Nin's poetry and erotica-writing circle in NYC), the Committee needled the following opus:

A “book which may be considered another Manual for the Guidance of Potential Dope Addicts is Lady of the Evening by Les Scott. The author does mention some of the evils of drug addiction but probably only as a screen to cover his emphasis of its delights. One chapter… is certainly a glorification of the ecstasies to be derived from marijuana cigarettes…There is also a chapter which describes ‘queer’ life in Greenwich Village, with a pseudo-philosophical discussion of homosexuality, both male and female” (House Select Committee  on Current Pornographic Materials, Investigation of Literature Allegedly Containing Objectionable Material, 82d Congress, 2d Session, 1953, House Report 2510, p.16). 

In sum, if not insane, a sultry dame seduces the male protagonist to join her in heroin addiction; household Hints From Heloise in Hell. Soon, he accompanies her to a dope-soaked orgy hosted by a lesbian junkie-pusher. Later, she takes him on a walking-working tour of a shooting-gallery. Later still, dope-crazy Heloise  rushes headlong toward plate glass to swan dive off a balcony yet behold! she is forcibly prevented from becoming a splattered junkie lady of the evening on the sidewalk only to wind up a screaming junkie lady of the evening in a straight-jacket.

Preceding Lady of the Evening, Scott's Touchable (1951) limns the cautionary tale of small-town girl Ruth, who loses herself in “The Inferno” (the Big City) where lesbianism, prostitution, degradation, absinthe, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (here known as “The White Fairy”) find her. It's another don't-miss, over-the-top  pulp fiction portrayal of sex and drugs in post-WWII America. Or, at least, in Greenwich Village,  NYC, where the rest of the country expected this sort of activity and got a contact high reading about it.

("Robert W. Tracy," co-author of Touchable, was the pseudonym of Alvin Schwartz, whose enduring fame is as one of the early writers for Batman and Superman comics during the 1940s - he wrote the first Superman comic to feature Bizarro - and who, later, during the 1950s, wrote for Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman before moving to Canada in 1968 to write documentaries).

Of Scott's Twilight Woman (1952), its dust jacket's blurbmeister  writes, "Tom Grant was convinced that Iris had everything a woman needed. Only she wouldn't marry him. Why? Iris maintained that a woman of the twilight was not good wife material. Grant was convinced she would be better than the woman he had married, Bertha, his ex-wife. Bertha, utterly beautiful, utterly alluring, utterly frigid, but whose white body still held a terrible fascination for him"

"Of course that was before Bertha met Anthony Amato. And then there was red-haired Natalie Jarvis, the estranged wife of a friend. Not to mention Audrey, who 'did her part to keep the kettle bubbling'" (Howard Prouty, ReadInk). Busy Bertha's kettle bubbles bisexually and, by the way, Iris is an "ambisextrous hellion."

A look at the imprint's endpapers tells quite a tale. It's the story of "sophisticate," here a code-word for "adult content," as if the illustration didn't countersink  the nail. "Arco Sophisticates" set  sophistication back a century but made up for it with some of the wildest, most lurid pulp fiction in hardcover you'll ever come across.

Not quite so, however, the many books by Jack Woodford, the 30s-40s screenwriter and author of soft-core pulp, that Arco published. A successful, unpretentious ham n' eggs writer, Woodford wrote a few no-nonsense writing instructional books that get right down to the pith: “One of your first jobs, as you write for money, will be to get rid of your vocabulary.” “Money talks. And writes. And publishes. And reviews. But it can't read.”

Illiterate legal tender aside, the road to Arco Sophisticates begins at  Jack Woodford Press, an imprint established in the late 1940s and edited by two characters with experience publishing and retailing sex lit., Allan Wilson and Moe Shapiro, that the authorities kept their eyes on; it was a division of Citadel Press, which had a reputation for publishing Leftist and erotic literature, and Woodford had been on  the censors' radar for years. Jack Woodford Press reissued many of Woodford's books from the 1930s. By the early  1950s, however, Woodford was an angry alcoholic who felt taken advantage of.

"What Woodford really wanted was to find a publisher with whom he might make more money in royalties and over whom he might exercise more control.

"He had no trouble finding one. During 1951 and 1952, the Arco Publishing Company [established in 1937] issued between seven and twelve novels cowritten by Woodford, as part of their ‘‘Arco Sophisticates’’ series. Milton Gladstone, its founder, had made a publishing breakthrough with a book on how to study for the Army tests, and followed with others in the ‘how-to’ genre. He did not publish much fiction, but obviously Woodford was too tempting to pass up. There were several other writers in the series whose titles, styles, and themes imitated Woodford’s.

"The print runs were approximately 7,000; if Woodford’s contract was like that of other writers, he got an advance of $500 a book, and 50% of all subsidiary rights. In 1952, Gladstone was subpoenaed by the Gathings Committee, and reprimanded for several of the ‘Sophisticates’ because they touched on nymphomania, drug use, gambling, and 'perversions.' One committee member felt he could not even mention many of the titles (Carnal Cargo? Hot Star?); they were 'filthy' and ‘terrible’ (US House of Representatives 230; ‘News of the Week’ 2318). It may have been such pressure that made Gladstone stop issuing the ‘Sophisticates’ line" (Gertzman, Jay A. The Jack Woodford Press: Bestsellers at the Army Base, the Drug Store, and the Tourist Bookstore, 1946–1959. Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 40, Issue 1, February 2007,  pp 25–48).

Without putting too fine a point on it these titillating novels were not sold in mainstream book shops. In addition to drugstores,  Army bases, chain and department stores, typical retail outlets included urban tourist-tenderloin district, i.e. Times Square, NYC, bookstores.

Gladstone sold Arco Publishing Company to Prentice Hall, a division of Simon & Schuster, in 1978.

It would be a grievous omission to not take note of another of Les Scott's books,  Twilight Women.  “The story of a strange love cult and its secret rites! Rance finds himself in the midst of its wild, sensuous members. Trouble. To love them meant not only violating their society’s moral code but punishment by death.” Great cover art (alas, uncredited) illustrates a nude Betty Page-lookalike with a towel draped over her lap and a tree branch masking her breasts. Given the subject matter of Twilight Woman, the secret rites of the strange love cult in Twilight Women will come as no surprise. It's a fun, camp read.

Leslie Scott (1893-1975) was a prolific writer of pulp westerns with over 250 titles to his credit. Why he decided to rip the canvas off the Conestoga wagon to expose the shocking, sordid shadow-world of modern sophisticates remains a mystery but I suspect a shift in the marketplace led him to trade  gingham for sheer gowns.

That shift was quite specific. 1951-1952 heard the roar of anti-drug hysteria over a drug epidemic that did not exist, whipped up by the media after the Kevauver Crime Committee declared organized crime's involvement with the drug trade as "a frightening menace to the youth of America." Suddenly, dope-themed novels became hot-sellers, particularly in paperback. "Murder, rape, kidnapping speedily went out of style as first-choice plot material" (Gerrity, John. The Truth About the Drug Menace. Harper's, February 1952, p. 27, as cited in my Dope Menace).

I did not presume that Leslie Scott and Les Scott were one and the same person simply because the Library of Congress catalogs their books together so I contacted his son, Justin Scott, who confirmed that Les Scott was, yes, Leslie Scott of pulp western fame.

"He did indeed write Lady of the Evening, Touchable, and Twilight Woman. They were handsomely produced books. I've misplaced my copies, they're around the house somewhere I am sure - and I have fond memories of reading them when I was a child."

Yikes! Call retro-Social Services.

"As for reading the 'lurid,' I was a very lucky kid, because my father conveyed the fact - not often stated in those days - that men and women were equal partners in bed."

Cancel that call.

As for Lady of the Evening getting the third degree glare from Congress, he proudly states, "I cannot think of a higher compliment to my father's work."

It is unfortunate that few, beyond the dweeb writing this post, read United States Congressional Committee reports in search of book reviews. Had the Gathings Report been widely read by the general public I suspect that Lady of the Evening might have become a best-seller.

Lady of the Evening is an essential addition to any collection of drug literature, Touchable a tempting elective. 

SCOTT, Les. Lady of the Evening. A New Arco Sophisticate. New York: Arco Publishing Company,  n.d. [1952]. First Edition. Octavo. 176, [6, as publisher's catalog] pp. Pale green cloth, red lettered. Illustrated endpapers. Dust jacket. 

SCOTT, Les and Robert W. Tracy (pseud. of Alvin Schwartz). Touchable. A New Arco Sophisicate. New York: Arco Publishing Company, n.d. [1951]. First Edition. Octavo. 184, [6, as publisher's catalog] pp. Gray cloth, red lettered. Illustrated endpapers. Dust jacket.

SCOTT, Les. Twilight Woman. A New Arco Sophisticate. New York: Arco Publishing Company, n.d. [1952].  First edition. Octavo. 175, [6, as publisher's catalog] pp. Black cloth, silver lettered. Illustrated endpapers. Dust jacket.

SCOTT, Les. Twilight Women. New York: Beacon B-156, [1957]. 16mo. 186, (5) pp as adv. Illus. wrappers. First Edition, first printing, a paperback original. For some unexplained reason, some date this book to 1952. As Beacon did not begin publishing until 1954 this is clearly a mistake  easily avoided by consulting one of the many paperback reference works.

The Library of Congress' catalog of books by Leslie Scott/Les Scott can be found here.

Images from the author's collection, with the exception of Twilight Woman courtesy of ReadInk, with our thanks.

Thank you to Justin Scott.

A tip o' the hat to William Dailey for permission to plagiarize my catalog notes from yesteryear.

Special, impossible without him thanks to my friend and colleague in crime and publishment, Jay A. Gertzman, whose only connection to Stephen Jay Gertz is our mutual interest in erotica, the book trade, and censorship, fostered through my uncle and one of his mentors, Elmer Gertz, one of the great 1st Amendment/civil liberties attorneys in the United States during the 20th century.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Le Bon Genre: Good Taste is Timeless in Post-Revolutionary France

by Stephen J. Gertz

Rarely seen, the Parisian scene during the rise of the Post-Revolution French middle class  comes alive in  Observations sur les Modes et les Usages de Paris, aka Le Bon Genre.

Originally  published in 1817 with enlarged editions following in 1822 and 1827, only one copy of this title in any 19th century edition has come to auction within the last thirty-six years, the third (1827) and only available early edition, in 1993. OCLC/KVK note only six copies of this edition in library holdings worldwide, no copies of the first edition and only two copies of the 1822 edition.

Le Bon Genre was one of the earliest series of prints to record the social trends and leisure activities of contemporary Parisians. It is the most important fashion portfolio of its time documenting, through its caricatures, the rise of modern Paris and the emerging middle-class bourgeois, its fashions, recreations and dating customs.

It also has fun at visitors' expense, particularly the English, whose customs and fashions the French found incomprehensible and unfashionable; the years of hostility between France and England did nothing to improve relations and the French lost few opportunities to ridicule the British.

Le Bon Genre's popularity influenced most of the later fashion illustrators and journals, as well as the satirical albums typical of France, 1830-1860, and it remains an important record of French social history. It is, indeed, the key illustrated social history of Parisian life of its time, bearing witness to the colorful  post-Revolution period of Parisian society as it evolved into the early Republican era.

Of particular interest is the descriptive text preceding the plates that details the content of each engraving. One is astonished and charmed by images of a  trio enjoying a magic lantern show (#31); three women rapturously eating sorbets (#4); a  trained and costumed dog act (#35); a circus balancing act (#91); a man who eats anything (#93); a huge amusement park slide (#97); and so many more enchanting engravings delicately and vividly hand-colored.

Le Bon Genre…was first published in 1817 and went through several editions. This is a record of English and French fashions since the beginning of the nineteenth century; the English fashions are more in the nature of caricatures, to show how badly Englishwomen dress as compared with the Parisiennes” (Vyvyan Holland, Hand Coloured Fashion Plates 1770 to 1899, p. 51).

“The Bon Genre’s first edition, 104 plates, appeared in 1817. The 1822 edition included eleven additional plates; a third edition was published in 1827. Its illustrations are lively and witty statements of the life of Paris since the beginning of XIXc., with a text of explanatory paragraphs, rather than fashion plates” (Millia Davenport, The Book of Costume, II, p. 814).

“Georges-Jacques Gatine was the leading costume engraver of his time. For many years he supplied plates for the Journal des Dames. He engraved the 115 designs which make up Le Bon Genre, a lively mélange caricaturing people and scenes of contemporary interest” (Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book, p. 141).

Le Bon Genre's publisher and editor, Pierre Joseph Antoine Le Bouc de Mésangère (1761-1830), better known by the name of Le Mésangère, was a fascinating character whose eclectic career covered a very wide period, from the French Revolution (1789) up to the Second Restoration (1815 -1830).

First an eccleslastlc, philosopher and writer, then fashion journalist, Mésangère was, for more than thirty years, editor-in-chief of Le Journal des Dames, a periodical that had an enormous influence upon contemporary French standards of elegance and taste. Born in Anjou, 1761 to a middle-class family, Mésangère entered the order Congregation of the Brothers in 1784, and held the philosophie belles lettres Chair at the College de la Fleche. In hiding during the Terror (1793-1794), after Robesplerre's death (July 28, 1794) he began to be known as a writer for Parisian literary journals.

He wrote Le Voyageur a Paris ou Tableau pittoresque et moral de cette capitale (1797) a book that gained a certain notoriety. In 1799 he became editor of Le Journal des Dames, a woman's magazine founded two years earlier. It reigned supreme amongst the epoch's periodicals for ladies. With engraver Gatine executing the designs, Mésangère was the pre-eminent writer, editor, and publisher of works devoted to French women's fashion of his time.

The contributing artists to Le Bon Genre included George Dutailly, François Joseph Bosio, Louis Marie Lante, Horace Vernet, and others but it is Mésangère (the editor and publisher who guided them), and Gatine (the engraver who executed their designs), who were, and remain, the stars here.

[BON GENRE, LE]. Observations sur les Modes et les Usages de Paris, pour Servir d'Explication aux 115 Caricatures Publées Sous le Titre de Bon Genre, Depuis le Commencement du Dix-Neuviéme Siècle. Paris: Chez L'Editeur [Pierre de le Mésangère], 1827.

Third edition, with eleven additional plates not found in the first edition of 1817. Folio (15 1/2 x 10 5/8 in; 394 x 263 mm). [4], 27 pp of descriptive text, 115 hand-colored plates engraved by Georges-Jacques Gatine and printed by Vassal et Essling.

Colas 2240. Vicaire I, 839-842. Rahir 332.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Wild Ride Journal of a Hollywood Bookseller: The Burning Passions of Mickey Tsimmis, 4

by Arnold M. Herr
Book scrounging in a Rolls-Royce:

I was scheduled to be interviewed by Weldon Broadstairs Piffle of the BBC, who was certain his listeners in the U. K. would be astonished to learn that there are actually purveyors of old and rare books in Hollywood. 

I phoned Piffle a day or two before his arrival at my bookstore on Fairfax Ave. and suggested that if he wanted to talk to a bookseller who not only dealt in old books, but was very old himself, he might want to talk with Mickey Tsimmis.  I told Piffle that Mickey’s Megalopolis Book Shop was only a short distance from mine and that he might find Mickey to be more of a fountain of early and arcane Hollywood booklore than I. 

Piffle wasn’t aware of Mickey’s reputation or of his existence and asked me how he might prepare for the interview.  I suggested a tetanus shot.  He said he would take the necessary precautions and then offered to pick me up at my place so we could drive over to Mickey’s. 

At 1:00 p.m. on the appointed day, Piffle showed up driving a 1929 Rolls-Royce shooting brake.  That’s what he called it, a shooting brake. 

Me:  It’s a woody, a station wagon. 

Piffle:  No, no.  Shooting brake.  It was designed for the hunt. 

Me:  What are you hunting for today?  A pastrami sandwich at Canter’s?

I had to admit though, it was a beauty.  The sheet metal was deep, deep red –  and then there was the wood, which covered most of the vehicle aft of the windshield, and that was blond and light brown.  With lots of nickel-plated trim, especially the radiator shell and the headlights, which were the size of garbage cans and made by Lucas, the Prince of Darkness.  And it had right-hand drive.  It sat in front of my store, gleaming.  Passersby glanced at it covetously; I wished they looked at my books that way.  I thought to myself, I’m a buck ninety-eight kind of guy.  If I’m gonna ride in that thing, I’m liable to break out in hives.

My sister , who was helping me at the store that day, stood in the doorway, enchanted by Piffle’s ride, his accent, and his Hawaiian shirt. 

Piffle (fumbling some coins out of his pocket):  I never know what to feed these parking meters here.

Me (pointing toward the Rolls):  Try a gold sovereign.

After the introductions, Piffle and I drove off to meet Mickey.

We pulled up in front of Megalopolis Book Shop just as Mickey and two people I’d never seen before came bumbling out the door.  The guy was very small with what appeared to be elm blight on his skin.  The woman towered over him; she also towered over Mickey, Piffle and me, and easily outweighed each of us by 75 pounds easy.  I had just stepped out of Piffle’s car when Mickey caught sight of me.

Mickey:  Just in the nick of time!  My car won’t start.  These folks have a book collection down in Gardena and we have no way of getting there. 

Me:  But this isn’t my car Mick, it belongs to Mr. Piffle here, the BBC guy... 

Piffle (to Mickey):  A pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr. Tsimmis.  I’d be delighted to make my car and my services available to you.

Me (leaning over and whispering in Piffle’s ear):  Big mistake.

Piffle ignored me and smiled happily as he shook everyone’s hands.  The couple were Lance and Penelope Schportzl. (I couldn’t make this stuff up).

Mickey (to Piffle):  Thanks Mr. Chump.

Me:  Piffle.

Mickey:  Mr. Piffle.

With Lance’s help, Mickey and I tossed a mess of cardboard boxes into the back of the Rolls and we all piled in and escaped the pull of Hollywood’s orbit.

As Weldon Broadstairs Piffle tooled down the Harbor Freeway I would turn to look at Lance and Penelope in the back seat to try and learn about the books we were going to see.  I was able to study the large and very deep vertical indentation in Penelope’s forehead.  It was maybe an inch and a half long and about an inch deep.  Mickey was holding a couple of quarters in his hand and I caught him also staring at the dent.  He later told me he had an impulse to insert a coin and pull her arm to see if he could roll cherries.  He wondered what the payoff might be.  I figured about a week in intensive care.

Meanwhile, Piffle was bubbling with enthusiasm about a first-hand look at the used book business.  He spoke into his recorder as he drove and told his listeners he was accompanying a pair of old California book hands on a possible book-buy.  He babbled while steering and shifting gears and would occasionally aim the microphone at  Mickey or me for a response to one of his questions. 

I asked Lance about the books; were they modern first editions, antiquarian books, fine bindings, illustrated books, early science, art, law, children's books?  But Lance wasn’t very forthcoming; I had the impression that he wasn’t really sure himself about what to expect.  Which led me to wonder:  are these his books?  Did he have authorization to consummate a deal?  This didn’t feel right and I sincerely hoped we weren’t going to get pinched for a B&E.  It wouldn’t be the first time for Mickey and me, but it might look bad with the BBC along for the ride. 

There wasn’t much conversation coming from Penelope; she was content with looking out the window and sniffing the emissions on the 110 Freeway.  I’d be willing to bet she really wouldn’t have objected to Mickey’s trying to stuff quarters into the slot in her forehead.  And I’d also wager that Lance would have been pleased to have had the extra dough.

Forty-five minutes later we pulled up to what looked like an abandoned house on a dismal, parched street.  Everything around the place was neglected and down-at-the-heels.  I told Piffle that this could work to a bookseller’s advantage; unprepossessing surroundings often held genuine treasures. 

Mickey (from the back seat):  That’s right, outward appearances are often misleading.  Look at me.

Piffle turned in his seat and looked long and hard over his shoulder at Mickey.  He withheld comment.

Lance told us to wait in the car while he scurried to the front door.  He pulled a key ring from his pocket but he made sure we couldn’t see him fumbling with the locks on the door.  Strange that he should be so furtive about this I thought, as the rest of us climbed out of the car.

Piffle (into the tape recorder):  We’re now standing outside a typical substandard tract home in one of many deep, dark subdivisions surrounding Los Angeles, California. The view from the sidewalk reveals a lawn that looks as if hasn’t been weeded since Harry Truman was president.  I see a faded bedsheet covering the large window at the front of the home.  And yet, if I am to believe what I have been told, as unpromising and unappetizing as this appears to be untold treasures may be lurking within. 

Mickey (shouting to Lance):  What’s taking so long?

Just then, Lance threw his weight against the door and it popped open.  We all then marched across the lawn, up the two steps and into the house.  The place had been closed up for too long and the funk came rushing out to meet us.

That’s not all that came rushing out to meet us.  Hard on the heels of the funk came the men in blue.  The Gardena police.  Half a dozen officers came tumbling out of the house as four police cruisers came screaming around the corners and up the street, screeching to halt behind us, blocking in the Rolls in case we were thinking of making a getaway. 

Unruffled, Piffle continued to burp up the narration for the BBC audience.

Piffle (into the microphone):  And here come the local gendarmarie.  I think the locals refer to their city police as the “fuzz.”  Which would lead me to think that small-town coppers would be called “lint.”  That rustling sound you hear is me reaching for my press credentials to show to the officers, and prove that I am only a reporter covering this event and that I have no criminal intent. 

Loud voice:  Drop that weapon!  Down on your knees and lace your fingers behind your head!

Piffle:  But officer, it’s only a tape recorder.  I’m a reporter from the BBC.  Look, here’re my…

Loud voice:  You wanna get tased? 

Piffle:  No, no, PLEASE.   YAAAAAHHHHHH!

[Clatter on soundtrack.   ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTT!!  Flopping sounds.]

Piffle:  Sniffle.  Oooh.

Loud voice:  You calmed down now?  Good.  I’ll pull out the darts.

Piffle sat up and turned off his tape recorder.  No point in having BBC listeners hear Piffle screaming and falling to the ground, so we’ll switch back to my voice.

Turns out that Schportzl had been looting what appeared to be abandoned homes in and around Gardena.  The local police had picked up scent and had been keeping tabs on him.  Penelope had more or less been going along for the ride, neither aiding nor abetting.  She was mentally too far out of it to be criminally involved.  Mickey, Piffle and I were soon released.  Since none of us had actually entered the property, we couldn’t be held for breaking and entering, although one of the coppers was convinced we had foreknowledge and were therefore culpable.  But the investigating detectives convinced him the city had no case against us.  Lance was handcuffed and deposited in the back of one of the police cars.  They didn’t know what to do with Penelope though.  They were hesitant about releasing her into her own custody.  It seemed she had nowhere to go.

Detective (to Mickey, Piffle and me):  Any of you guys want her?

We all declined. 

Detective (shrugging):  All right.  I’ll turn her over to social services.

Mickey (walking over to the detective and Penelope):  Excuse me officer. I have to do this…

Mickey began inserting quarters into the slot in Penelope’s forehead.  He managed to stuff in five of them and then pulled her arm.  No cherries.  No ringing bells.  
He was, instead, rewarded with two months in traction.

Next: Mickey Tsimmis has a doctor's appointment and borrows underwear for this special occasion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The ABC Book of Edmund Dulac

by Stephen J. Gertz

It was the era of the lavishly produced and illustrated gift book for children yet the volumes were designed and executed with the buyer in mind: the child's parents. Until the era ended with World War I illustrators Arthur Rackham, Charles Robinson, Beatrix Potter, etc. were in demand and thrived.

No less so was and did French illustrator Edmund Dulac (1882-1953). Since settling in London in 1904, he had been an almost instant sensation. Publisher J.M. Dent commissioned illustrations to an edition of Jane Eyre. Not too long afterward, Dulac entered an agreement with the Leicester Gallery to show his work. Publisher Hodder & Stoughton bought the rights to the paintings and used them to illustrate their gift books. In 1907, they issued Dulac's illustrated Arabian Nights to broad critical and popular  acclaim. It is arguably his finest work.

Dulac is not generally known for humor in his work but in 1908, on the heels of Arabian Nights, publisher Frederick Warne issued Lyrics Pathetic and Humorous From A to Z, an abecedaire for children featuring verses by Dulac guaranteed to charm adults as much, if not more so, than the kids  they was aimed at.

"A very attractive quarto, containing delightful drawings, in which that rare gift of colour which distinguishes this artist is reaffirmed...there is no monotony in Mr. Dulac's quaint conceptions" (The International Studio, January, 1909).

"Mr. Dulac's pencil and brush have rarely been more successfully employed. Nothing more original in conception and effective colour printing has perhaps appeared for a long time" (The Daily Telegraph).

"The rollicking figures that illustrate Dulac's alphabet book are, with those of Arabian Nights, among the most delightful of his book pictures. His work here shows his most individual style, his own way of doing things when unhampered by the limitations of a story or of a publisher...seldom did Dulac fail to tuck some whimsy into his book pictures, but the comic style which he launched...achieved sure triumph in the Lyrics..." (Hughey).

I'm convinced that if Dulac, on a roll from A to Z, had decided to throw in a few Japanese kanji children would have said, "supashi-bo," to the amazement of their parents.

DULAC, Edmund. Lyrics Pathetic & Humorous from A to Z. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1908.

First edition. Slim quarto (10 1/2 x 8 1/4 in; 268 x 208 mm). Unpaginated Twenty-four full color plates on glossy paper, with limerick verses, to rectos only. Title page vignette. Illustrated endpapers.

Publisher's original quarter straw cloth over pictorial paper boards. Beveled edges.

Hughey 18.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kelliegram-Telegram To Rare Book Lovers: Fine Binding Alert

by Stephen J. Gertz

TRISTRAM, W. Outram. Coaching Days and Coaching Ways.
London: Macmillan and Co., 1888. First edition.

I have, over the last few years, had a clutch of bindings with handsome and elaborately onlaid and inlaid pictorial work on their covers, each an example of custom bindings by Kelly & Sons, in the binding style known as "Kelliegram."

Front cover, detail.
The illustration reproduces that on
page 171, "Charging a Snowdrift."

Kelliegram bindings, easily identified as genuine by a gilt signature stamped to the rear board's lower turn-in, are highly collectible. They are, indeed, exclusively collected by some fans, much as the vellucent bindings of Cedric Chivers are coveted for the unusual beauty of their execution.

KINGSLEY, Charles. The Water-Babies.
London: Macmillan & Co., 1888.
New Edition. With 100 illustrations by Linley Sambourne.

Front cover, detail.

[The beautifully inlaid and colorful] "Kelliegram bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family had one of the longest connections in the history of the binding trade in London, having been founded in 1770 by John Kellie, as the name was then spelled. The binding firm was carried on by successive members of the family into the 1930s. William Henry Kelly significantly developed the company in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by William Henry, Jr., Henry, and Hubert Kelly, who took control in 1892, taking the firm into the twentieth century...

CRUIKSHANK, Geo. (Illustr.). MAYHEW, Brothers (eds.).
The Greatest Plague in Life; or The Adventures of a Lady
in Search of a Good Servant.
London: David Bogue, n.d. [1847]. First edition.

"…The development [during the 1880s] that came to be known as Kelliegram was one of the bindery's most notable, and the popularity continues today as demonstrated by the prices Kelliegram bindings command at auction and in the rare book trade" (Dooley, John. Kelliegram Bindings).

HUGHES, William R. A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land.
London: Chapman & Hall, 1891. First edition.
Bound by Kelly & Sons for Charles E. Lauriat of Boston.

As often as not, an illustration found within the book was reproduced on the cover with leather onlays (a thin piece of leather glued on top of another piece of leather) or inlays (a thicker piece of leather glued next to another).

HUGHES, William R. A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land.
London: Chapman & Hall, 1891. First edition.
Another copy.
Front cover, detail.

The Kelliegram technique was used by other famous English binders including Riviere & Son, Bayntun, etc.

STOWE, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin; Of, Negro Life
in the Slave States of America. London: Nathaniel Cook, 1853.
Second U.K. illustrated edition.

"Messrs Kelly and Sons, the well-known bookbinders, of 7, Water Street, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C., where they have been established for very many years, have just shown us some admirable specimens of new bindings, which evidence, in a remarkable degree, the tasteful design and skilled workmanship which characterize their productions…

INGOLDSBY, Thomas (pseud. of Richard Harris Barham).
The Ingoldsby Legends. Or, Mirth and Marvels.
London: Richard Bentley, 1864. Later edition.

"...A most choice and luxurious volume which it is a pleasure to look at and handle…a sort of tour-de-force in bookbinding…It is, indeed, wonderful to note the artistic perfection of the workmanship…perfect bookbinding…" (The Bookseller, June 3, 1897). 

All images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Artists' Book Manifesto of American Painting in the 1960s

by Stephen J. Gertz

Walasse Ting

Until the late 1950s, the creation of artists' books had been primarily an European phenomenon. But 1¢ Life, a collection of poems by Chinese-born American painter Walasse Ting (1929-2010), and published in 1964 with sixty-two lithographs housed within silk-screen printed boards, represents an early example of a shift to the U.S. for their production, an extravagant declaration their migration to, and presence in, the New World, a flag boldly planted to stake their claim.

"The book very quickly became the manifesto of a new generation of painters and the expression of the new pictorial research that they were engaged in."

Kiki O.K. [Kogelnik]

Although 1¢ Life was Ting's conception, it was painter Sam Francis who drove this huge project to its conclusion; he recruited the artists and organized their work. Francis also sought and received funding for the project and brought in Swiss publisher Eberhard W. Kornfeld. The works were then exhibited at the Kornfeld und Klipstein gallery in Bern.

Tom Wesselmann

Sam Francis

Robert Indian

The sixty-two lithographs (the images, heavily, although not exclusively, in the Pop idiom),  were created to accompany sixty-one of Ting's "raunchy pidgen English" poems based upon his observations of city life, snatches of street conversation, etc., i.e.:

Walasse Ting

Sun in my stomach
New moon in eyes
I want a hamburger
Loan me two dollars

Mel Ramos

In the poem above, Ting, who had ties to the Paris-based COBRA group of avant-garde artists, captures what could be a street person barking a command, startling,  a bit scary, a bit nuts, annoying, amusing and painful at the same time. Or, perhaps, a Pop snapshot  influenced by cartoonist E.C. Segar's popular character, J. Wellington Wimpy, the ground beef gourmand, Popeye the Sailor's gluttonous friend, and world-class mooch renowned for his 1/4 lb. entreaty to anyone he runs into, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."  Or, that friend who's loaded but never has any cash. All the poem lacks is an appropriate coda:

Sam Francis

Parched is my throat
Thirsty my heart
I want an Orange Julius
Loan me 25 cents more
See you later buddy

Roy Lichtenstein

Ting "wanted to publish the most international illustrated book, intended to illustrate his text, uniting tachisme, neo-dadaisme, pop art, and all other artistic movements.

Pierre Alechinsky

"The idea was born from global experience, close contact with culture, pseudo-culture, primitive existential worries, urban erotic and eastern wisdom. It was a Herculean task, for which only a Chinese would have been able to muster the perseverance" (publisher E. W. Kornfeld).

Andy Warhol

Blending Pop, abstract, and Conceptualist sensibilities "the pop artists formed the central core of the group. The book very quickly became the manifesto of a new generation of painters and the expression of the new pictorial research that they were engaged in...." {catalog excerpt from Gemini Fine Books & Arts, Ltd.).

Cover by Walasse Ting and Roy Lichtenstein.

TING, Walasse. 1¢ Life. Edited by Sam Francis. Bern (E. Kornfeld), 1964. Trade edition, limited to 2000 copies, numbered in color stencil. Folio. 163, (11)pp. Sixty-two original color lithographs, including  thirty-six double-page, by Alan Davie (2), Alfred Jensen (3), Sam Francis (6), Walasse Ting (6), James Rosenquist, Pierre Alechinsky (5), Kimber Smith (6), Alfred Leslie (2), Antonio Saura, Kiki O.K. (2), Robert Indiana (2), Jean-Paul Riopelle (2), Karel Appel (5), Tom Wesselmann (2), Bram van Velde, Joan Mitchell, Allan Kaprow, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, K.R.H. Sonderborg, Roy Lichtenstein, Oyvind Fahlström, Reinhoud, Claes Oldenburg (2), Jim Dine, Mel Ramos (2), Enrico Baj (2). 19 illus.  Lithography by Maurice Beaudet, typography by Georges Girard.

Cloth portfolio, silkscreened in color, designed by Ting. D.j. Slipcase.

A limited edition of 100 numbered copies signed by each artist was also issued.

Castleman p. 208f.; Manet to Hockney 135; Grolier Club 55; Bibliothèque Nationale: 50 livres illustrés depuis 1947, no. 32.

Images courtesy of Ars Libri Ltd., currently offering a copy of 1¢ Life, with our thanks.
Subscribe to BOOKTRYST by Email