Friday, June 29, 2012

Astonishing Gandhi Archive Estimated $622,000-$870,000 At Sotheby's

By Stephen J. Gertz

A highly important and revealing archive of letters, papers, and photographs of M.K. Gandhi, one of the towering figures of the twentieth century, comes to auction on July 10, 2012 at Sotheby's -London. The trove is estimated to sell for €500.000 - €700,000.($622,000 - $870,000).

The archive was the possession of Hermann Kallenbach (1871-1945), a German Jew and successful architect originally from East Prussia who had settled in Johannesburg and was Gandhi's constant companion during the great man's last decade in South Africa. They met in 1904.

"He used to say to me often that when I was deserted by the whole world I would find him to be a true friend going with me, if need be, to the ends of the earth in search of Truth..." (M.K. Gandhi, March 25, 1945).

The years that followed the initiation of their friendship saw Gandhi's political maturation and spiritual growth, the period that prepared him for his future return to and activism in India. Kallenbach played a key role in Gandhi's life not only as someone who arguably knew him better than anyone else  but who played a unique role in Gandhi's transformation from lawyer to Mahatma.

This was not a friendship of equals. Kallenbach became one of the first believers in Gandhi's philosophy and struggled to follow his strict and exacting regime. Kallenbach became deeply involved in the struggle for Indian rights in South Africa, was imprisoned in 1913 for doing so, followed Gandhi from vegetarianism to increasingly restricted diets, practiced sexual abstinence, and adopted a simple, communal lifestyle.

In 1910 he bought a 1,100 farm twenty miles from Johannesburg and turned it over to Gandhi. The two were closely involved in managing the farm. The archive documents the farm's purchase and the friends' acquisition of fruit trees, as well as arguments with neighbors over grazing rights.

It was Gandhi's aim to have Kallenbach return with him to India via Britain in 1914 but the declaration of war between Britain and Germany occurred while they were at sea. Upon their arrival in England Kallenback was declared an enemy alien and was interned for the duration of hostilities, afterward returning to Johannesburg. Gandhi had made his way to India but the two friends never lost contact.

In poignant letters the archive reveals Kallenbach's deep intimacy with Gandhi's family; he was something of a surrogate father to Gandhi's four sons, two of whom had remained in South Africa. Their letters, along with those from other family members to Kallenbach, provide the richest source yet for insight in Gandhi's personal life in India.

Kallenbach would not see Gandhi again until 1937 when he visited his friend and remained in India for two years.

This extraordinarily rich archive stands alongside the main group of Gandhi's letters to Kallenbach (sold at Sotheby's in December 1986) as a testament to this hugely significant figure in Gandhi's life and important member of his inner circle. It is a key and crucial biographical source for Gandhi.

Images courtesy of Sotheby's, with our thanks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bring Me The Head Of St. Lawrence Of Rome, Patron Saint Of Librarians

By Stephen J. Gertz

Martyrs roasting on an open fire,
Larry's last words bravely won:
Though it's been said many times many ways,
"Stick a fork in me, I'm done."

He's a patron saint of librarians because he sacrificed his life to save Church documents. He's the patron saint of cooks because he knew what it was like to be on the wrong end of a basting brush. And he's the patron saint of comedians because he was dying onstage yet still riffed a wisecrack.

The only Church deacon (of seven) to survive the Emperor Valerian's persecution in 258, St. Lawrence was afterward soon arrested for refusing to turn over Church treasures. By legend he was grilled to death and is said to have had the presence of mind to joke to his torturers, "I'm done on this side; turn me over."

There but for a consonant a myth is born. In the early twentieth century historian Rev. Patrick Healy postulated that the tradition was based upon a simple error. The Church formula for announcing the death of a martyr, Passus est ("he suffered," i.e. was martyred) was mangled, the "P" early lost in transcription, and Assus est - "He roasted" -  became the received truth. Not that Healy's hypothesis was accepted. It threw cold water on St. Lawrence; the faithful prefer the fire.

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).

"His charred body was claimed by the Christians, and his mummified skull is still in the care of the popes. At the Vatican on the tenth of August every year they expose in its golden reliquary the head of Saint Lawrence that still, in the distorted mouth, in the burned bone of the skull, shows the agony he suffered to defend the archives of the popes" (Maria Luisa Ambrosini and Mary Willis, The Secret Archives of the Vatican. New York: 1996, p. 27).

Another apocryphal story, by way of Father Jacques Marquette, is that St. Lawrence inspired the classic Julie London hit tune Cry Me a River before being beheaded (his likely demise).

It is not true, however, that the story of St. Lawrence inspired Peter Greenaway's  1989 cinematic salute to roast human, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

Image of St. Lawrence courtesy of Infolit, with our thanks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Annals Of Sporting, 1809; Or Take This Horse And Shove It!

By Stephen J. Gertz


In 1809, the great caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson, engraved plates after designs by two other celebrated caricaturists, Henry Bunbury and George Moutard Woodward, for Annals of Sporting, a satire of contemporary sporting anecdotes by "Caleb Quizem Esq." Sporting anecdotes as a literary genre would not recover until refreshed by Pierce Egan, his fundamental contributions to sports journalism collected as Sporting Anecdotes in 1823.

How to Vault from the Saddle

In 1808, the year before Annals of Sporting was published, Rowlandson engraved the plates after Bunbury designs for the first collected edition of The Annals of Horsemanship and The Academy For Grown Horsemen, both satires by "Geoffrey Gambado" originally appearing in the late 18th century. The author of its text,  the pseudonymous Gambado, has been tentatively identified as the antiquary and lexicographer Francis Grose, best known for his Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785).

The True Method of sitting on a Horse Mathematically Delineated.

"The text consists of sixteen letters to, and answers by C. Quizem. The first letter relates the amusing story of a sportsman mistaking his wig for a hare, and bang went the contents of the gun, and the fancied hare lay prostrate!" (Chute).

Only here are wigs considered fair game for hopeless hunters; they rarely provide much skill to fell and, significantly, don't bite when wounded. This holds true for all known species.

Game Wigs.

A Long Bob; A Short Bob.
A Black Scratch; A Physical Tie.
A Sir Cloudesley Shovel; A Three Tier.

"The text, in the form of letters, is a satire on sporting anecdotes and cockney sportsmen..." (Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. 8, no. 11479A).

The Bucephalus Riding Academy for grown Gentlemen.

The author behind the pseudonym "Caleb Quizem Esq." remains unknown. Considering that Rowlandson and Bunbury had earlier collaborated on the two Gambado volumes satirizing horsemanship and that Francis Grose was, apparently, responsible for the volumes' text*, it would seem reasonable to presume that Grose wrote the text to Rowlandson and Bunbury's Annals Of Sporting. The portrait engraving of Quizem, with its references to Gambado and Annals of Horsemanship, certainly suggests it.

However, after checking Grose's pulse I learned that not only is he indeed defunct but that he died in 1791, eighteen years before Annals Of Sporting. He thus seems an unlikely candidate for its authorship. Unless, of course, he shows up as one of the ringleaders of the looming zombie invasion and stakes his claim as Quizem, inquisitor of correspondents amongst the sporting set.


The Black Straddler [and] The short legg;d Shag Hound.

The deliriously amusing plates in Annals Of Sporting include: The Bucephalus Riding Academy for grown Gentlemen (frontispiece); How to Vault from the Saddle; The True Method of sitting on a Horse Mathematically Delineated; How a Man may Shoot his own Wig; The Maid of Mim; Costume of Hogs Norton” (two plates); Game Wigs (two plates); Hounds (two plates); Mathematical Horsemanship (six plates); Fashionable Furniture at Hogs Norton (two plates); and The Bailiffs Hunt (eight plates).

Caleb Quizem Esq.

Note volumes on book stand:
Annals of Horsemanship and Tristram Shandy.

Further note portrait in background of "Geoffrey Gambado,"
i.e. Francis Grose, who wrote the text to Annals of Horsemanship;
Henry Bunbury designed its engravings.

Commonly rebound, the book is rather rare in the publisher's boards (original price 10s. 6d).  "Caleb Quizem" appears to have written only one other book,  another satire titled Economy: a Pindaric Tale in Three Parts (1811).

"First edition of a coloured-plate Sporting-book, which is esteemed on account of its humorous plates by Rowlandson..." (Schwerdt).

"The Rowlandson colour-plates are most humorous" Chute).


[ROWLANDSON, Thomas, engraver. BUNBURY, Henry and George Moutard Woodward, artists]. QUISEM, Caleb (pseudonym). The Annals of Sporting. By Caleb Quizem Esq. and his Various Correspondents. London: Thomas Tegg, 1809.

First edition. Twelvemo (6 3/4 x 4 in; 171 x 105 mm). [10], 104 pp., untrimmed. Hand-colored fold-out frontispiece engraved by Thomas Rowlandson after Henry Bunbury, hand-colored vignette title of a rider falling from Pegasus, and twenty-six hand-colored etched plates by Thomas Rowlandson after Henry Bunbury, George Moutard Woodward, and possibly others.

Publisher's original printed boards. Publisher's advertisements printed on rear board within ornamental border.

Not found in Abbey, Tooley, nor, surprisingly, Siltzer.

Schwerdt II, pp. 119-120. Chute 533. Grego, Rowlandson the Caricaturist, p. 178.  Falk, p. 216. Grolier, Rowlandson 63.

*“Gambado is said to have been Francis Grose, compiler of  A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” (Riely, John C.  Horace Walpole and ‘the Second Hogarth’, in Eighteenth Century Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, Autumn, 1975).

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, currently offering this title, with our thanks.

Of related Interest:

When Horses and Human Keisters Collide.

The Story Of Nobody, By Somebody, Illustrated By Someone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What To Expect When You're Done Expecting: Dr. Spock in 1577

By Stephen J. Gertz

Safety Helmet.

It's in Latin, so it's not quite what you want to have on the nightstand when your baby or child has a bad case of whatever and you can''t translate "Vocant IX-I-I" in time for the paramedics to arrive and resolve the crisis before your kid kicks the bucket.

But though not a popular guide, De arte medica infantium by Omnibonius Ferrari (1577) was a key go-to book on pediatrics, Dr. Spock's Baby & Child Care for sixteenth century doctors and Latin-literate parents who could afford it.

Breast Milk Pump.

Divided into three parts, in 195 pages it covers the management of wet nurses; the care and feeding of the newborn; and the diseases of children.

Typically bound together with De arte medica infantium aphorismorum, a list of 273 aphorisms by Ferrari on the care and diseases of children based on the writings of Hippocrates and Galen but with a number of additions from contemporary sources, the two works present the state of the medical arts for infant care.

Toilet Training.

Or particular interest for 21st century mothers are the four text engravings which illustrate a self-operated breast pump for harvesting milk, a device for training children to walk, a  potty-training  toilet, and a helmet made to protect the child's head from injury, each early designs for now commonplace items in the inventory of modern motherhood.

In an age of harsh conditions, the concept of the child as tender and vulnerable and in need of a nurturing environment was beginning to emerge. De arte medica infantium  was amongst the most important contemporary medical books of its kind and provides insight into views on  late sixteenth century child care and psychology that will be startling familiar to modern parents.

Rolling Crib For Training To Walk.

"The illustrations are of interest…as they show two commonly used child-training devices of the past – the running stool, ancestor of the present-day walker, and the chair stool,  which held infants in a sitting position. Both of these devices were denounced by Ferrarius’s contemporary Felix Wurtz, who described the undue strain they put on undeveloped infant muscles” (Norman).

"In 1577 Ognibene Ferrari of Verona, Italy, proposed that the home be 'child-proofed'; offered designs for developmentally appropriate walkers, potty chairs, and helmets; and argued that 'the greatest care must be taken that he does not see terrifying pictures, nor should the one who has charge of him shew himself to him with a stern look on his face, lest he cause him fright, and so through depression and overmuch grieving he be ill affected'" (Review of Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics in JAMA, Nov. 1, 2000).

Amongst the "terrifying pictures" that should probably be kept from tender eyes is any image of mama mia! Italian actress and mama Monica Bellucci in the lobby of the Excelsior hotel in Rome using Ferrari's breast milk pump while the paparazzi pretend to be ga-ga over her pair of peepers rather than endowments. Grown men can barely tolerate the view without convulsions, forget about little Gianni who might grow up to have visions of sugar plums fairies and marriage to La Cicciolina, a terrifying prospect indeed.

FERRARI, Omnibonius. De arte medica infantium, libri quatuor. Quorum duo priores de tuenda eorum sanitate, posteriores de curandis morbis agunt. [Bound with] De arte medica infantium aphorismorum, particulae tres. Brixiæ [Brescia], apud Franciscum, & Pet. Mariam fratres, de Marchettis, 1577.            

First editions, two works in one. Small quarto. [xii], 195, [1] pp.; 22 pp. With errata, four engraved text illustrations, large illustrated woodcut initials, ornamental head- and tailpieces. Marchetti's anchor and dolphin device on both title pages.

Both reprinted in 1598 and usually bound as one.

Adams F-288 (Aphorismorum), F-289 (De Arte Medica, 1598 ed). Normon 787 (De Arte Medica), 788 (Aphorismorum). Grulee 452 (De Arte Medica), 454 (Aphorismorum).

B. & L. Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts is currently offering a lovely first edition copy of these two volumes bound together.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sometimes A Not So Great Notion, Or When Buffoons Horse Around (1831)

By Stephen J. Gertz
 A good rider can hear his horse speak to him, a great rider can hear his horse whisper, but a bad rider won't hear his horse even if it screams at him. 
• • •
 Right now it's only a notion. l think l can get money to make it into a concept, then turn it into an idea - Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), Annie Hall.
I have a NOTION that DUCROW could not excel this...his is all Art, mine Nature.

Some notions are best left just that particularly when they get into the heads of amateurs with horseback ambitions and delusions of grandeur. Slapstick ensues.

I had no NOTION of the Comforts of Hunting by Water.

1831-33. Henry Alken, sporting caricaturist, had a great notion that a series of engraved plates with wittily understated captions satirizing  men on steeds at unsafe speeds and the horse's ass on horseback would tickle the withers of those who find the pretensions of the upwardly mobile downright funny, i.e. everybody. He turned the notion into a concept, the concept into an idea, and Sporting Notions was born, twisting the not-so-great notions of nincompoops in the saddle into a great lampoon.

I have a NOTION that this Bridge will a-Bridge my Sport.

Inspired perhaps by circus performer Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842), "The Father of British Circus Equestrianism," and his popular acrobatics on horseback act at Astley's Amphitheater, Alken, who took special glee when riders landed on their glutes, imagined them as inept performers in a bent Cirque du Soliel, equestrian ninnies in a cirque du oy vey.

I have a NOTION that this may be called "Riding to the hounds at a Smashing rate."

In thirty-six soft-ground etched and aquatint plates, Alken skewers those in over their heads on horseback and drowning while on a fox hunt. Somewhere, the fox is on the sidelines texting his den mates, "ROTFLMAO."

I had a NOTION that Timber jumping was quite an easy thing.
I held him TIGHT in hand, too.

Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1841)  "was the dominant sporting artist of the early nineteenth century... he delivered a long series of designs to the leading sporting printsellers—S. and J. Fuller, Thomas McLean, and Rudolph Ackermann among others.

"He was also a prolific designer, etcher, and lithographer of scenes relating to racing, shooting, coaching, and other sports... He wrote several books on aspects of engraving, including The Art and Practice of Engraving (1849).

"In later life he drifted into ill health, consumption, and poverty... He died in the early summer of 1851" (Oxford DNB)

 I have a NOTION  that the Brute is going to make the best of his way out
and leave us to shift for ourself.

I have a NOTION this is not the HARD way the Man told us of.

Quite scarce, only four copies of Sporting Notions have come to auction within the last thirty-six years but only one, twenty-eight years ago at Christie's in 1984, was colored.

Modern litterateurs will have picked up the reference to Ken Kesey's magnum opus in today's headline, the hard-headed Stamper family's motto, "Never Give An Inch," apropos of the the stubborn pride exhibited by the soft-headed whose self-appraisal of their skills on horseback is off by a mile.

ALKEN, Henry. Sporting Notions. London: T. McLean, 1831-33.

First edition. Oblong quarto (10 1/4 x 14 1/8 in; 261 x 358 mm). Thirty-six hand-colored soft-ground etchings and aquatints with tissue guards as issued without title page, watermarked 1831-1833.

Tooley 54. Siltzer p. 73.

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

Of related interest:

Slightly Nuts But Not Crazy: Artist Henry Alken Lampoons Art.

A Horse's Ass In The Saddle, With Henry Alken.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Novelist Richard Brautigan's Brains At Bancroft Library: A Grand Guignol Adventure!

by Stephen J. Gertz

The Bancroft Library.

The papers of 'Sixties Counterculture novelist and poet Richard Brautigan, who, in 1984, committed suicide at his desk with a gunshot to the head, rest in the The Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley.

Poet J.J. Phillips, while working in the manuscript division at the Bancroft, rough-sorted Brautigan's papers when the library acquired them. She had no idea that latex gloves and surgical mask would be appropriate to the task.

"I know you know that Brautigan blew his brains out, literally blew his mind," she wrote to poet, novelist and essayist Andrei Codrescu at Exquisite Corpse.  "What you might not be aware of is that he blew his brains out all over pages of his last manuscript... I handled them, archived them, ran my hands over his desiccated brain matter on numerous occasions, though at first I had no idea what I was touching because the Library said nothing and even denied what became all too apparent after I eliminated the other possibilities of what this strange stuff could be (I’m not unfamiliar with such things, and my eyes didn’t deceive me).

"The coroner’s report confirmed my suspicions. I see what’s on these pages as something of a completely different order than coffee stains, cigarette burns, the tomato seeds that Josephine Miles idly spat onto her mss., even drops of spittle, blood, semen, and the like.  With Brautigan, these are the actual physical remnants of brain tissue, blood splatters, and cerebral fluid of the very brain that gave birth to the ideas he had and the words he wrote, now creating its own narrative on top of those words; and of course that act insured he’d never think or write another word."

Thus inspired - or, more properly, driven - she wrote a poem about it. 

Brautigan's Brains
Brains blasted there
upon the page
gray matter gobbed
blood of the poet congealed
this grotesque palimpsest
last words concealed
beneath the blood
shattered neurons
glial cells unglued
glopped, splattered

A text of rage coagulated
there upon the page.

Axons impel thought to take
that fatal fiery leap
across synapse into act
fiction into fact.

Atoms smash against the skull
the neural net tattered warp and woof
the brain that strings the words extruded
globbed, fragmented, spattered
last words occluded by the final proof

The text of rage coagulated
there upon the page.

It will come as no surprise to those who knew him that the late Peter Howard of Serendipity Books in Berkeley, CA was in the middle of all this.

"Peter sold the papers to TBL, and even he was a bit dodgy when I asked him about it." she wrote to Booktryst. "When Peter sold the typescript, he said he was going to make TBL buy one whether they wanted to or not." (Pure Peter).

He may have been dodgy then but it didn't prevent Peter Howard from later validating the story by literally putting his imprimatur on it.

"Some years ago," Phillips told me, "Peter sold a limited edition signed typescript of this poem [ten copies], printed over a photo of Brautigan’s face, with the title Apoptosis: or Brautigan’s Brains" [2002]. He later published her poem Nigga in the Woodpile (2008).

And what does the Bancroft Library think about the situation?

"I get the sense," she continued,  "that even now they don’t want people to know what’s on those mss. pages (to my knowledge, the catalog description doesn’t mention this, or didn’t when I last saw it a long time ago) because their attitude was so squirrely and obfuscatory when I began asking questions, which is why I was driven to call the coroner, then send for the coroner’s report (ghastly, a tragic death).

"TBL was (is?) bent on denying the fact of what is undeniably there.  I honestly don’t understand why they wouldn’t either encase those specific pages in mylar or remove them for safekeeping and substitute photocopies.  This for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I don’t think your average literary researcher accessing the ms. would be thrilled to learn that he or she had been unknowingly fingering somebody’s brain matter...What about possible pathogens?  What if he had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?"

Anyone wishing to go trout fishing in the Brautigan papers at the Bancroft Library may first wish to don waders and elbow-length surgical gloves. Or a Hazmat suit.

Mille grazie to J.J. Phillips.

Brautigan's Brains reprinted with the kind permission of the author.

A tip o' the hat to Andrei Codrescu.

Of related interest:

Novelist Richard Brautigan's Unrecorded One Day Marriage Certificate Surfaces.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

18th C. Book Has A Story Without Head Or Tail, Wit or Humor

By Stephen J. Gertz

What maketh thee of this, dear Reader, a trifling little Booke of Great Raritee but who careth? A nonsense Fairy-Tale satire, with the aim of "his Royal Lowness," Prince Toadstool, to win the Rose that rests betwixt Princess Tricolora's lower limbs. Yea verilee, it is a forgotten little bagatelle, of its details Don't ask, Don't tell, a witless wonder wittily told, with whacked-out philippic at end the story sold: Of Vice and Virtue, Mice and Men, and ugly Toadstool with brain a-mold.

Allow, I prithee, the Table of Contents to present this facetious fiction:

Chapter I: Which Promises More Than It Performs.
Chapter II: A New Form of Interviews.
Chapter III: Unexpected.
Chapter IV: In Which There Is Not Much.
Chapter V: In Which the Prince Does Not Know What To Think.
Chapter VI: So Much the Better.
Chapter VII: Worse and Worse. Is That Possible?
Chapter VIII: The Inspector-General in a Terrible Undertaking.
Chapter IX: There Never Was a More Foolish One.
Chapter X: Try To Break an Enchantment.
Chapter XI: More Nonsense; Which Will Surprize Nobody After What Has Gone Before.
Chapter XII: A Touch of the Pathetic.
Chapter XIII: A Leading One.
Chapter XIV: Beware the Colic!
Chapter XV: A Remedy For Gripes.
Chapter XVI: Pretty Pictures!
Chapter XVII: The Best Being the Last.

And now, our story unfolds:
Chapter I

"The Prince Toadstool answered the idea of his name; the Prince Discreet was a charming fellow; the Princess Tricolora was more fair, more shining than a fine day in spring: she detested Toadstool, adored Discreet, and was forced to marry Toadstool. So much the better.

"There is no art in this manner of telling a story. The unravelment is given at the same time as the exposition: but no-one is the more for that in the secret of that fame, so much the better; and this is what I am about to unfold, with all the pomp becoming the gravity of the subject.

"ToadstooI though infernally ugly and a fool, was not for all that lawfully begot. His mother was so execrable that no man had had the courage to take her for better or worse but her money supplied the place of charms: she bought her gallants, and had just arithmetic enough to pay them according to the number of their jobs. Toadstool was the fruit of one of her laborers at that hard work.

"He had a monstrously great head, and nothing in it: his legs were as short as his ideas, so that whether thinking or walking, he always lagged behind. But as he had heard that men of wit, though they do not say foolish things, often do them, he took it into his head to be a man of wit upon the plan of doing a foolish thing, and resolved to marry.

"His lady, mother of the fairy Burning-Sprite, mused a good while about what family she should prefer for this plague..."

Alloweth thy imagination to cut to the chase; voila! a furious finish:

Chapter XVII
[The Final Musings of a Harangue-Utan in a Lather]

"...The so ridiculously called Great have shewn themselves so miserably ignorant, that they seem to have taken it for an admirable improvement arid distinction to invert the order of things, by kicking Nature out of doors, and delivering themselves wholly up to the false refinements of Art which was never designed by Taste for any thing but Nature's very humble servant. Thus sentiment stands banished by them from Love, from everything. 

"But what has this senseless depravity produced? View the actual face of things, and deny it if you can; a destruction to the very foundations, of honor, worth, wit, taste, after which it will be but in course to add, of true pleasure; a chaos of infernal stupidity; a mass of rottenness, which must turn all concern or respect for themselves into such a joke, as must justly and necessarily fink them below the lowest and the vilest of the mob.

"It matters not then as to them whether this tale is purely the work of imagination or not. But it is plain that the author had in view the dressing up Vice in a fool's coat, a way of treating it, towards extirpation, not perhaps less effectual than those austerer preachments, which may be styled the dry-shaving of sheer morality: morality which always does Vice infinitely too much honor, and much less harm than it is aware of, in painting it as an object rather of terror than of scorn and ridicule.

"As to any ludicrous situations in the story, which may have required too strong or too gay a coloring, the author would not, I presume, pay his reader so wretched a compliment as to offer an apology. Nothing. surely but the meanest and most contemptible of all understandings, with the most naturally vicious of all inclinations, could dread or asset to dread the corruption of morals, or any danger from Vice in so grotesque a habit.

"Virtue, nobly secured in a just superiority of taste, feels nothing but what must rather confirm than alarm her for herself, in that monitor, whether presented in the loathsome nakedness of rank obscenity, or less disgustfully and consequently more dangerously wrapped up: in which last form indeed, though it may serve even for a salutary medicine to the never more than a few people of sense; yet as it may also prove a poison to those classes too numerous not to be respected and even tenderly guarded, the young, the unexperienced, the ignorant, the weak and the foolish; any want of having considered enough the consequences to them must render it justly execrable to none more than to whoever may have been unfortunate enough to lay the fumbling block or give the offense.

"In the present however ready-cut-and-dry piece borrowed, as being the first at hand for the purpose, Nonsense never but a volunteer against itself, is pressed into the service of its capital enemy judgment; and may it happily for once, and contrary to its nature, have a little of that power to produce a good effect, of which it has had flagrantly so much to produce the worst!

"If then in this decoy, formed as it is with the most innocent intention on the trite maxim, that "Extremes "touch," any reader should find himself, by what carries the air of the lowest levity, betrayed unawares into a serious train of thinking; if that thinking produces even indignation at any one's amusing himself no better than with reading such damned filth; or what is worse yet, with writing it, in what times  than which never any could more loudly proclaim the [?] of exploding the abandoned futility that so strongly marks them, and of restoring that once so justly admired solidity of the British Genius, which has seen itself so infamously supplanted by dullness, by folly, false wit, false taste, false interests, false politics, and what is there not false among us?

"I say, if I could catch any reader daring to think in this manner ...... 'What  then?' I  would, say -- 'So much the better for him.'"

Within that jeremiad lies the theme, licentious fluff bereft of wit a threat to British lit. supreme; so quoth the raven, "Mama mia!" as if in a bad dream. So much the worst, an 18th century  culture warrior hocks a loogie to the cursed - those who shun Fox News and thus remain unversed.

[Anonymous]. Did you ever see such damned stuff? Or, so-much-the-better: a story without head of tail, wit or humor. Rantum jantum is the Word, and Nonsense shall ensue. London: C.G. Seyffert, 1760. First (only) edition. Small octavo. vii, 168 pp.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Troubling Questions In Stolen Book Of Mormon Case

By Stephen J. Gertz

First edition, 1830.
Image courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

When the story of the theft of a first edition of the Book of Mormon broke this past May 29th many members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, the premier trade organization for professional rare booksellers in the U.S., were uneasy. "There is just a whole lot of bad in this story," was a comment left on Facebook by one.

It was not just because the book was stolen. We take a very dim view of book thieves  yet drawing and quartering is no longer, alas, an accepted punishment option.

No, there were other, more compelling reasons for our discomfort.

There is only one reason why rare book news hits the front page of newspapers and that is when a very expensive volume, worth at least six figures, is involved. Big money gets attention.

So it came as no surprise that major news sources picked-up a story about a stolen book declared to be worth $100,000. The fact that it was the Book of Mormon and that between Broadway and the Beltway Mormonism is receiving much public attention was certainly a factor. And, too, that the rare book dealer who owned it was an endearing 88-year old Mormon woman and poet, Mrs. Schlie.

Major money involved, eight law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, engaged in the hunt, a national dragnet to apprehend the thief and recover the $100,000 book.

But the book was never worth $100,000. At the time of the thief's capture the value of the book had declined to $40,000 with no explanation. But even that estimate was too high.

Auctions records reveal that since 2007 the average sale price for first editions of Book of Mormon has ranged from $40,000 to $60,000, the copies in not terribly good condition, per usual. Those sales, however, were for complete copies.

Mrs. Schlie's copy lacks fifty leaves (100 pages) and as such is near worthless as a collectible first edition. Law enforcement thought it was chasing a thoroughbred. It was actually hounding a dog.

Who excised those pages? Mrs. Schlie. For what purpose? To sell the leaves as "heirlooms."

Since the mid-20th century, when rare and antiquarian booksellers throughout the world organized national and international trade associations to establish professional standards and codes of behavior and ethics, the breaking-up of rare and valuable books to sell leaves or illustrations is not countenanced.  Not at all unusual in prior centuries before the trade matured, the practice is now shunned by all responsible and respectable booksellers.

Her copy, prior to removing the leaves, was worth, compared to other copies recently at auction, approximately $30,000.

"Concerned that the book was badly worn and that continued deterioration would end its inspiring mission, Helen consulted with experts at the Smithsonian Institute and the National Museum of Art. After much heart-felt prayer and consideration, Helen has determined that the best way to continue the journey of this copy of the Book of Mormon is to have the pages unbound and individually mounted in free-standing double-faced frames so that both sides can be viewed" (from Mrs. Schlie's website).

The most recent first edition copy of the Book of Mormon to come to auction fetched $45,000 at Bonham's-New York in 2010. The lower cover was detached, the leaves were browned and foxed, and the corner to one leaf was lost. Two years earlier, in 2008, a first edition copy with both covers detached, spine loose, and text block shaken sold at Sotheby's-New York for $30,000.

Mrs. Schlie's copy seems to be in like condition: a train wreck. But because most first edition copies are found in similar states of distress prices remain healthy. Her copy was still viable as a collectible. If she wished her copy to continue its inspiring mission and journey the accepted and proper thing to do would have been to have it professionally restored preserving as much of the original binding as possible, or commission a preservation box to house and protect it as is to maintain what's left of its original integrity.

Based upon her price list for leaves, the initial estimation of the book's value, $100,000, is left in the dust. She is offering leaves for $2500-$4500 each. The book contains 588 pages (294 leaves). At the low of $2500, she can potentially reap over $735,000. Nice return on a book worth $30,000 before it was plundered.

Mrs. Schlie's underlying purpose in selling individual leaves is to raise money for Mormon missionary work. That is a worthy goal (though I suspect that the LDS Church is doing just fine, financially). But at what expense?

She is destroying a copy of the sacred text of Mormonism. As most extant copies (forty-three at auction since 1976; though rare it is not scarce in the marketplace) are in poor condition destroying her copy to preserve it was completely unnecessary.

It's no secret that beat-up copies of the Gutenberg Bible were once broken-up to harvest leaves to either sell individually or to replace lost pages in an otherwise sound example.

(I had a Gutenberg leaf pass through my hands ten years ago, $60,000 on consignment. And I am aware of a modern dealer who had multiple facsimiles made of a Gutenberg leaf he owned, then cut out individual words from the genuine leaf and inserted them into a window where the same word appeared on the facsimile; he sold Gutenberg Bible words!).

The Gutenberg Bible, though the first printed edition, is not the first appearance of the Scriptures. The first edition of the Book of Mormon (Palmyra, NY: 1830) is, however, the first time the complete revelations of Joseph Smith were exposed to the world.

Why the Smithsonian and National Museum of Art gave her their blessing to break-up the book is a mystery. I find it inconceivable that they would give Mrs. Schlie the okay to break-up  her copy. You would think that they, as conservators of historic and artistic treasures, would try to dissuade her. I suspect they did. Mrs. Schlie does not say what their response was, only that "heartfelt prayers and consideration" followed the consultation, suggesting that they may have said Don't do it and she did it anyway after struggling with her conscience. Note, however, that the Smithsonian and National Museum of Art, experts in their areas of collecting interest, are not experts on rare books. If Mrs. Scheil needed reliable advice she should have considered an ABAA-member rare bookseller with  experience selling Mormoniana. (Scroll down to Specialization).

She asked a collector-trader to initially appraise her copy. He provided the estimate of $100,000 for a copy in average condition. But the question remains why, since she specializes in Mormon material, Mrs. Schlie required an outside opinion when auction records and current dealer offers are readily available on the Internet?

In concert with her admission that she didn't carry insurance for the book or properly secure it (she stored it in an unlocked file cabinet drawer), two basic and essential precautions for professional rare booksellers, one can only conclude that, no matter how nice and genuinely good-hearted this attractive elderly woman may be, Mrs. Schlie has not conducted herself as a professional.

Mrs. Schlie is not liable for the inordinate media coverage that has surrounded this story. But she is responsible for declaring a grossly inaccurate market value that  got the media's mojo workin', as well as somewhat culpable for not keeping the book safe in the most fundamental manner. She didn't ask to be robbed but she assumed a huge risk and lost. Three cheers to law enforcement for recovering the book.

“The first edition is not quite as good as having the gold plates but it’s right next to it," said Brent Ashworth, the collector in Provo, Utah who provided the estimate of $100,000 to Mrs. Schlie.

For the record, the only time a first edition Book of Mormon has ever sold at auction for $100,000 or more was at Swann Gallery March 22, 2007.  It fell under the hammer for $150,000 (not including premium). Why? It was a monster association copy, that belonging to Denison Root, brother-in-law of Joseph Smith, and signed by Orson Pratt, an early Church apostle. Further, Root's inscription indicates that the book was a gift to him from Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith's brother.

Had that copy been stolen it would have warranted the attention of the media and the extraordinary efforts (and expense) of law enforcement across the country to recover it. But not this one, henceforth to be justifiably referred to as the notorious Schlie copy - or what's left of it, the Schlie scraps, which, if all sell at the minimum aggregate of $735,000, really is almost as good as having the gold plates.

There was never a legitimate excuse to break up this copy. Devout Mormons who value the sanctity of their scripture in its original form may wish to politely pass on Mrs. Schlie's "heirloom" Book of Mormon leaves. There is a hidden stain on each of them.

SMITH, Joseph. The Book of Mormon. An Account Written in the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken From the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. Octavo. 531 pp. Publisher's original calf binding.

Howes S623. Grolier, American 37. Sabin 83038. Streeter Sale 2262.

Recent auction records for a first edition of the Book of Mormon, courtesy of ABPC:

Bonhams New York, June 23, 2010, lot 3488. 1st Ed - 1st Issue. Period sheep - worn, lower cover detached. Foxed, browned, 1 corner torn with loss.  Serenus Burnet copy -  $45,000.

Sotheby's New York, Dec 11, 2008, lot 142. 1st Ed. Contemporary sheep - spine loose, covers detached, text block shaken, titlepage loose. , $30,000.

Christie's New York, Dec 5, 2008, lot 290. 1st Ed. Contemporary sheep - spine chipped, rubbed, lower cover wormed. Foxed. John Preston-Augusta Gibbons-Julia Cullen copy/ $48,000.

Swann, Nov 18, 2008, lot 191. 1st Ed. Original calf - extremities scuffed & worn, chipping at base of backstrip, front hinge starting. Foxing & browning; minor soiling to titlepage; 3 small wormholes on rear pastedown; without index pages. $62,500. -

Pacific, Jan 24, 2008, lot 107. 1st Ed. Original calf - front pastedown holed, scuffed, darkened, chipped & joints cracked. Some foxing. $70,000.

Christie's New York, Dec 3, 2007, lot 192. 1st Ed. Modern half morocco gilt. Titlepage creased with pencil marks; some browning & spotting; without the extra leaf of Testimonies, final blank & index. $45,000.

Pacific, Oct 11, 2007, lot 247. 1st Ed. Original calf - rebacked, worn & hinges reinforced. $90,000.

Christie's New York, June 19, 2007, lot 283. 1st Ed. Contemporary sheep - spine ends chipped, front cover bowed, circular stain on front cover. With the extra leaf of testimonies. Lacking final blank. $55,000.

Swann, Mar 22, 2007, lot 204. 1st Ed. Original calf - worn, tear to front free endpaper. Titlepage & endpapers browned. Signed by Orson Pratt. Denison Root copy, presented to him by Hyrum Smith. $150,000.

Skinner, Nov 19, 2006, lot 477. 1st Ed - 1st Issue. Original calf - worn & chipped. Spotting throughout. $75,000.

Christie's New York, June 14, 2006, lot 588. 1st Ed. Original sheep - old library shelf label on spine, rubbed, hinges tender. Pencil marginalia; some browning & spotting; a few pale stains. Buell - Thomson - Knight - William Carey College copy. $60,000.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just Say Da: Unique Rare Books With Original Russian Watercolors At Auction

By Stephen J. Gertz

Original watercolor by Georges Kars Kralupy for David Golder.

Lot 192 is a singleton. a richly illustrated first edition copy of Iréne Némirovsky's (1903-1942) David Golder (Paris: 1929) featuring sixty-seven original watercolors by artist Georges Kars Kralupy (1882-1945).

Némirovsky is primarily known as the author of Suite Française, duet novels portraying life in France between June 4, 1940 and July 1, 1941, the period in which the Nazis occupied Paris.

After the author's death in Auschwitz the manuscript of  Suite Française was kept by her eldest daughter for fifty years until it was donated to a French archive that had it published: it became a bestseller in 2004. The present copy is no. 56 of a limited edition of 100 copies and is inscribed  by the artist to Robert Ellissen.

Original watercolor by Hermine David for Gourmont's Oeuvres.

Next up, lot 193 is a unique copy of the limited edition of Remy de Gourmont's (1858-1915) Oeuvres (Paris: 1930) elegantly illustrated with ninety-eight original watercolors by Hermine David (1886-1970). It, too, is inscribed to Robert Ellissen by the artist.

A trend is developing...

Is it the woman or the moon? It's both, lot 194, another unique and superbly illustrated book, no. 12 of a limited edition of only eighteen copies of Gil Robin's (1893-1967) novel Le Femme et la Lune (Paris: 1925).

It features sixty-eight original watercolors by Sonia Lewitska (1874-1937). 

Yet again, it is inscribed, here to Mme. Robert Ellissen by Lewitska.

Original watercolor by Alice Halicka for Tragédies de Ghetto.

Finally, artist Alice Halicka (1895-1975) illustrated lot 195, a copy of Israel Zangwill's (1864-1926) Tragédies du Ghetto (Paris: 1928), with fifty-seven original watercolors.

You guessed it: inscribed by the artist to Robert Ellissen.

Who were the Ellissens and how did they manage to get the artists to devote their time and talent to illustrate these books for them?

Robert Ellissen was the author of Le Gaz dans la vie moderne (1933); Les villes et l'Etat contre l'industrie privée (1908); Le Concours Sartine 1763-1766 (1922), and a translator. He and his wife were art patrons who befriended and aided the Russian and Eastern European artist-exiles who had emigrated to Paris to escape the anti-Semitism in their homelands, settled in Montparnasse, and established the 1918-1939 Judaic aspect of the Ecole de Paris, its heyday the 'Twenties.

Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stunning 18th Century Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript Comes To Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, Kestenbaum & Company, auctioneers, is offering a  stellar collection of rare Judaica with many luminaries, not the least of which is a beautiful 18th century illuminated Haggadah, the Passover prayer book, with pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations,  by the scribe Nathaniel ben Aaron Segal. Created in Hamburg in 1757, it is estimated to sell for $30,000-$40,000.

Note Ashkenasy square script.

In Hebrew with instructions in Yiddish, it is composed upon thick parchment and written in Ashkenazi square and waybertaysch (women's Yiddish) scripts with the text following the traditional Ashkenazi rites.

Known as the "Lilien" Hagadah, it is part of the collection of the Polish-Jewish artist and early Zionist Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925), who is considered to be the leader in developing Zionism's artistic vision in the early 20th century. Owned by the family for nearly a century, the book was, for a period of time, loaned to the Bezalel National Museum in Jerusalem and was on prominent display in the Monumenta Judaica exhibition of 1963-64 in Cologne, Germany.

Bookplate of Ephraim Moses Lilien.

Nathaniel, the son of Aaron Segal, was a sofer starn - a scribe of Torah scrolls, phylacteries, and mezzuzahs - actively working 1757-1772 in Altona, Hamberg, and Wandsbeck. He is firmly credited with six illuminated manuscripts (four Haggadahs and two Mohel (circumcision practitioner) books.

Why, three hundred years after Gutenberg, were Hebrew books still being copied in manuscript and illuminated? It was an art form not to be discarded; examples survive from the 10th century Muslim community and scholarship suggests that Hebrew illuminated manuscripts date back to the ancient world. They reached their apex in Renaissance Italy, then began to decline as demand and the number of artisans dwindled.

Yet "a new phase in the development of decorated Hebrew manuscripts emerged in the 18th century in Germany and Central Europe, when wealthy Court Jews commissioned handwritten and painted books as luxury items. Many of these are personal prayer books, which include Haggadot, seder berakhot, seder tikkunei Shabbat, and seder brit milah. Some of these manuscripts were intended as wedding presents for brides and contain contemporary depictions of women. Many of the Haggadot were inspired by the printed edition of the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695. Other features that reveal the influence of printed books are the inclusion of a decorated title page or the indication that the manuscript was written using otiot Amsterdam, the style of letters utilized for Amsterdam imprints, even though the book was written elsewhere" (Evelyn Cohen, Illuminated Manuscripts, Hebrew. Ecylopaedia Judaica, 2d ed.).

BTW: The star attraction in this auction is a copy of the Ferrara Bible, published in 1553. It is estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000.

One of the great landmarks in printing, the Ferrara Bible is the first printed translation into Ladino, the  Judaeo-Spanish language, of the entire Tanakh, the Hebrew BIble (Old Testament).

Its publication was the work of Marrano Jews (New Christians) who brought the Spanish language with them after the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492 and had settled in Ferrara in northern Italy, which had a Jewish population as early as the 13th century. These Marranos, who had converted to Christianity strictly to successfully function in Spain, and, post-1492, to stay alive, returned to Judaism after their expulsion.

This translation, based upon earlier medieval Castilian versions, became the canon for the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) of Europe to whom matzoh balls are unknown. As we say in Yiddish,  Oy caramba.


Images courtesy of Kestenbaum & Co., with our thanks.
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