Monday, April 30, 2012

Magnificent 15th C. Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript Estimated $540K - $800K

By Stephen J. Gertz

Cantor pointing to The Book of Life, opening Yom Kippur.

A mahzor, or Jewish holiday prayerbook, an illuminated manuscript in Hebrew on vellum from Tuscany (likely Florence), c. 1490s, is being offered by Christie's - Paris on May 11, 2012. It is estimated to sell for €400,000 - €600,000 ($540,000 - $800,000).

Ark of the Covenant, with men teaching in the synagogue below.

It is magnificently illuminated in the characteristic style of Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi, known as Boccardino il vecchio (Boccardino the Old, 1460-1529) and considered one of the last representatives of the golden age of Florentine renaissance illumination. His princely clients included Lorenzo de' Medici "Il Magnifico," and Matthias Corvinus

Leaf with illuminated border and headpiece.

While Boccardino's work dominates the first sixty-eight leaves, subsequent illuminations were completed by followers or members of his workshop after Boccadino's designs.

Frontispiece with border medallions.
Note coat of arms in lower panel, flanked by cherubs.

The Jewish community of Florence flourished in the 15th-century, their position closely linked to the fortunes of the de' Medici. Lorenzo il magnifico was their protector; he encouraged Jewish scholarship and scholars. It is, then, unsurprising that Jewish patrons of this Mahzor solicited an artist who worked for Lorenzo for this luxury manuscript. While Christian Florentines illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, this Mahzor appears to be the only example  illuminated by Boccardino.

Mose holding the tablets of the law.
Raising of the Passover Seder basket.

The coat of arms bears resemblance to the Ambron family but coats of arms used by Jewish families were inventions, not official, and variable, employing traditional Jewish symbols. Positive identification is difficult. The manuscript's 16th century binding bears a central medallion combining elements of the armorial devices of various Italian noble families, including the Tedeschi and Uzielli of Tuscany

Leaf with illuminated initial and vignette.
A couple in bed.
The Sabbath meal.

Containing prayers for the entire Jewish liturgical year, the Mahzor  includes: blessing of the Name of the Lord; a hundred blessings to be recited daily; blessing for the Lord; the recitation of Shema and prayers to be said before retiring to bed; for the Sabbath;  for the blessing for a new moon;  for Hanukkah with extracts from the Book of Esther; prayers to be said before reading the Megillah; for Passover;  before the fast of Tammuz, followed by prayers for the fast of the Ninth of Av and relating to the Book of Lamentations, followed by prayers and Psalms; prayers for Rosh Hashanah; for Yom Kippur; for Sukkoth; Tsam'a Nafshi, the 12th-century poem by Abraham ibn Ezra, the author's name picked out acrostically in the margin; and commentary on the death of Moses in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Leaf with illuminated vignette.

This mahzor was still in Italy early in the 17th century when it was seen by the Christian censors Fra Hippolytus of Ferrara and Camillo Jagel who signed the final leaf, in 1601 and 1611(?). An inserted note records the purchase of the manuscript in Frankfurt before 1908. It was published in London, 1930, in Adler's Jewish Travellers, when it was in the possession of E. Bicart-Sée in Paris and then by descent to the present family owners.

Binding, lower board.


MAHZOR. Tuscany (Florence?), c.1490s. Small octavo (6.61 x 4.9 inches; 168 x 125 mm). ii, 442 leaves, apparently complete with catchwords on final versos of many gatherings, some signature still visible, foliation every 10 leaves includes front flyleaves and is followed here, 20 lines of Italian semi-cursive script in black ink, with vowel points, rubrics in smaller script mostly in red or blue, Hebrew square script for initial words, prayers for Yom Kippur highlighted in gold, initial word panels throughout in burnished gold on red, green or blue grounds, some embellished with marginal sprays, text illustrations including the Matzah and Maror, FRONTISPIECE WITH FULL-PAGE BORDER INCORPORATING MEDALLIONS WITH PROFILE HEADS, LANDSCAPE VIGNETTES AND THE COAT OF ARMS OF THE ORIGINAL OWNER, two openings with similar single panel borders and a two-sided floral border on a vellum ground, TWO SMALL, TWO HALF-PAGE AND FOUR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, two of them with full-page borders incorporating coats of arms, edges gilt and gauffered (occasional light losses of pigment or gold, some unobtrusive smudging or offsetting, a few marginal creases, some fading of ink, particularly to final leaf).

Mid 16th-century Italian gold-tooled dark brown goatskin over thin wooden boards with strapwork painted in red and yellow, both covers with central cartouche with coat of arms, elaborately decorated with a unicorn and rabbit, hatched leaf and flower tools, solid dots and foliate rolls, evidence of two fore-edge clasps, four nail holes at edge of cartouche, (rebacked, repaired at board edges, paint rubbed, clasps missing).

Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lincoln's Opera Glasses From Assassination Night Come To Auction

By Stephen J. Gertz

The opera glasses owned and held by Abraham Lincoln at the moment of his assassination on April 14, 1865 at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. are being auctioned during an online sale closing on Monday, April 30, 2012 by Nate D. Sanders Auctions. The current bid is $252,582 with only fourteen bids cast thus far.

President Lincoln brought these German-made glasses to assist in his enjoyment of the show, a light-hearted farce entitled Our American Cousin, starring Laura Keene.

During the third scene in the second act, John Wilkes Booth gained entry to the Presidential Box where Lincoln was seated beside his wife, and fired his Philadelphia Derringer pistol into the back of Lincoln's head behind his left ear. Immediately after Lincoln was shot, Laura Keene entered his box and cradled the wounded President's head in her lap. Booth managed to escape the chaotic scene, and Lincoln, unconscious, was carried out of the theater and across 10th Street to a nearby boarding house by a huddle of doctors, soldiers and guards.

Among the guards was  Captain James M. McCamly, an on-duty Washington City Guard and 70th New York Volunteer Infantry veteran. McCamly noticed the glasses had fallen from Lincoln's body, picked them up off of the ground and put them in his pocket. Abraham Lincoln died the next morning, and McCamly served as commander of the honor guard that was part of the Lincoln funeral procession to his burial in Springfield. 

Letter from the Chief Curator of the National Park Service.

Along with the actual pistol that fired the fatal shot, The Ford's Theatre National Park collection houses the carrying case into which these glasses fit ''precisely,'' according to a 1968 letter from the Chief Curator of the National Park Service, Harold L. Peterson. A copy of this letter is included, as is an affidavit from the McCamly family, in whose possession the glasses remained for generations before being bought by the Malcolm Forbes estate.

Affidavit from the McCamly family.

These black enameled Gebruder Strausshof Optiker, Berlin, opera glasses measure 1.5'' high, 4'' across at their widest point, and 3.75'' in length when fully extended. Each ocular tube contains a pair of glass lenses measuring .5'' and 1.5'' in diameter with a late-turned threaded eyepiece. Central spindle contains focus adjustment wheel. Gilt metal throughout. One of the small lenses is chipped from the inside.

This is an amazing artifact, still functional, from one of the most fateful nights in American history. In addition to the provenance documents,  the glasses' sales history will be provided by the auctioneer.

Yes, opera glasses are not books, much less rare books, but these are Abraham Lincoln's opera glasses. To hold them in your hand is to be as close to Lincoln at his assassination as one could possibly be 147 years afterward. They tell quite a story. That's what books are all about. This pair of opera glasses has history written all over them.

Images courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Spelunker In The Cave Of Poverty

By Stephen J. Gertz

In 1715, Lewis Theobald, a British lawyer and budding poet with literary ambitions just beginning to be realized through translations of classical Greek dramas, stood at the entrance of an immense allegorical cavern and, ropes, hard hat, and lantern at the ready, stepped inside the gaping hole.

Journeying through an immense labyrinth with more underground byways than Mammoth Cave National Park, he beheld horrors at every turn. He took notes. The result was a proto-Desolation Row, Bob Dylan in wig and tricorne writing an infernal travel brochure in iambic pentameter inspired by Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser.

Meet the Goddess of the Cave, the Queen of Poverty, a Gorgonesque creature out of Clive Barker, basking in squalor and her power over the world:

Far in the Dungeon's Depth, in sullen Pride,
On matted Straw the gloomy Regent sat:
Famine, Despair, and Sickness by her side,
The Motions of her envious Pleasure wait.
Behind her violent Deaths attend; which, when
Inrag'd, she sends to tempt unwary Men.

Pale was her Face, and shrivell'd was her Skin,
Eyes sunk, and starting Bones; as she were now
The Skeleton of what she once had bin;
So lean and wretched did the Daemon shew:
Her Locks with Filth so clotted, she appears
A Fury, hung with Snakes, instead of Hairs.

Plain was her Furniture, of homely Wood;
And mean, and squallid, was her whole Attire;
Some far-fetch'd Roots and Water were her Food,
And Furz of Heaths the Fewel of her Fire.
On Earthen Lamp twice Twenty Glow-worms lay,
Whose spangled Light supplies the want of Day.

By the light of this worm-infested Tiffany lamp, the walls of the cavern are revealed. Verbal cave paintings, 127 stanzas worth, they are inscribed with woes and deprivations.

Two tubes extend from deep within the cave as telephone party lines. Listening through one, the Goddess eavesdrops upon a voice damning poverty and praising wealth. Through the other, she overhears a case praising poverty and cursing wealth. The Goddess is pleased; it's a delightful dirge to her ears. For the rest of us, it's a dreary prospectus perhaps foreshadowing the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign, class warfare to some, yawning income gap to others.

By journey's end, our intrepid spelunker has encountered the foul agents of poverty and experienced a filthy laundry list of human misery and ills. The tube in praise of poverty (in this context we presume a tin can with string)  has the last word:

Thus spake the Tube: When lo! on Eastern Cloud,
That sullenly receiv'd her early Light,
The chearful Rosy-finger'd Morning glow'd;
With Blushes, like a rifled Maid, bedight:
Th' Enamour'd Sun, holding the Nymph in Chase,
O'er her young Beauties shed redoubled Grace.

In short, the sun shines on the noble poor. Those living below the poverty line may appreciate the initial warmth of the sun but for them it shines hard and relentlessly, and they are unlikely to appreciate an upside to sunstroke.

Theobald was not a great poet, and this is not a great poem. One contemporary Tweeted this review: "Here in one bed two shiv'ring sisters lye / The cave of Poverty and Poetry" (Alexander Pope, The Dunciad 1:31-32).

Pope and Theobald were arch enemies. Theobald, if not a worthy poet did, however, evolve into one of the great editors of Shakespeare. In 1726, he published Shakespeare Restored, or a Specimen of the many Errors as well Committed as Unamended by Mr Pope in his late edition of this poet; designed not only to correct the said Edition, but to restore the true Reading of Shakespeare in all the Editions ever published. Pope was not pleased, hence the wisecrack in The Dunciad two years later.

It is ironic, and to this eye just plain weird, that this copy of Theobald's paean to poverty is elegantly bound in a rich Art Nouveau binding by Alfred De Sauty.

"Alfred de Sauty (1870-1949) was a bookbinder who produced tooled bindings of exceptional delicacy. De Sauty was active in London from approximately 1898 to 1923 and in Chicago from 1923 to 1935. His finest work is thought to be have been accomplished between 1905 and 1914. Many aspects of his life are poorly documented. For instance, scholars are unsure whether, when in London, de Sauty worked independently, for the firm of Riviere & Sons, or both. While in London, he may also have been a designer for the Hampstead Bindery and a teacher at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. When he lived in Chicago, de Sauty worked for the hand bindery of R. R. Donnelley & Sons. He signed his work at the foot of the front doublure, if present, and at the center of the bottom turn-in of the front upper board, if not. Works he produced in London are signed "de S" or "De Sauty." Works he produced in Chicago are signed with his employer's name, 'R. R. Donnelly'" (Bound in Intrigue, Harvard Botany Libraries Online Exhibit).

It's as if Theobald consulted with a binder to find the perfect design to capture the patronizing spirit of noblesse oblige.

A truly appropriate binding for The Cave of Poverty might be cataloged as, Contemporary full mouldering and mildewed crushed and trampled upon morocco from a goat that died of starvation for want of food stamps, ruled in blind by the blind, with elaborate excuses in faux gilt, raised hackles, spine compartments as run-down, over-crowded, and pestilential tenements. All edges lead.

THEOBALD, Lewis. The Cave of Poverty, A Poem. Written in Imitation of Shakespeare.  London: Printed for Jonas Browne at the Black Swan...and Sold by J. Roberts..., 1715.

First (only) Edition. Octavo (7 5/8 x 4 1/2 in; 193 x 115 mm). [8], 48 pp. Woodcut head- tailpieces, initials.

In an elegant Art Nouveau binding, c. 1905-1910, by Alfred de Sauty (stamp-signed to upper turn-in) in full emerald morocco with a central panel of inlaid red morocco tulips, dark green morocco leaves, and vines outlined in black, repeated on the rear board. Dual gilt fillet borders. All edges gilt. Gilt ruled turn-ins. Raised bands. Gilt ruled compartments with inlaid dark green morocco leaves. Gilt rolled edges.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books with the exception of the titlepage to Shakespeare Restored, which is courtesy of Terry A. Gray of Palomar College. Our thanks to both.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Six Sacred Books In Spectacular Bindings

By Stephen J. Gertz

Dario Ecclesiatico Para o Reino de Portugal,
Principalmente Para A Guide de Lisboa, Para o Anno de 1822.
Lisboa [Lisbon]: Imprensa Nacional, n.d. [c.1821].

A small cache of Bibles, prayer books, and an octavarium, each in a stunning binding, has recently come to market. Dating from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, the bindings represent some of the finest work performed in Europe, in various styles and using distinctive materials.

Though they tend to be a bit on the precious side, I'm a sucker for a great embroidered binding. The above Portuguese almanac for 1822 is graced with a contemporary armorial design in full white satin, embroidered with silver and gold thread and multi-colored silks in an elaborate scroll pattern, and embellished with small gold spangles and silver leaves. A central Portuguese royal coat of arms with surrounding embroidered laurel leaves catches the eye and holds it. All edges are gilt and gauffered.

The Holy Bible [bound with] The Book of Common Prayer [bound with]
The Genealogies [bound with] The Whole Book of Psalms.
London: Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1619.

The above early sixteenth century British binding is in contemporary full red satin embroidered with silver thread and colored silks in a floral motif. The central oval sprouts a carnation of embroidered red, green, and yellow silk. The spine compartments feature floral sprays.

Biblia Sacra...Lugduni [Lyon]: Johann Toournes, 1554.

By the time the above Biblia Sacra was published in the mid-16th century, enameled bindings, which appeared from the 11th through the 15th centuries, had become rare as the technique fell into disuse. This example, in contemporary enamelled polychrome calf, with gilt rolled border enclosing red, green, gray, and gilt interlocking strapwork, is remarkable and includes. chased brass corners, and all edges gilt,  gauffered, and painted with floral design.

The Book of Common Prayer.
Cambridge: Printed for John Baskerville for B. Dod, 1762.

The above Book of Common Prayer, printed by the great John Baskerville, hounds the eyes in a rococo design of full contemporary green morocco with a gilt-tooled frame  featuring gilt-stamped snail, insect, and dragon emblems enclosing a central Christogram of onlaid green, red, and citron morocco. Silver clasps close the book on this binding.

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New...
[bound with] The Whole Book of Psalmes.
London: Henry Hills [and John Field]: Companie of Stationers, 1660-1661.

Holy Bible binding, Batman! Near contemporary black morocco with a divided panel of four corner-pieces and a central pointed oval of onlaid red and citron morocco graces the above English bible from the mid-17th century. The whole is gloriously festooned with gilt tulips, leaves, onlaid flowers, and small massed volutes, and small bird-heads at top and bottom.

It's from the Restoration workshop known as the Naval Binder for its work done for the Navy Office in the 1670s - 1680s. Samuel Pepys, Chief Secretary to the Admiralty, commissioned some of the bindery's best work when he wasn't scribbling in his diary.

Octavarium Romanum, sive Octavae Festorum.
Venice: Nicolaum Pezzana, 1755.

This finely bound Venetian octavarium (a religious office-book containing lections, etc., for use within the octaves of festivals.) with its wide outer border and tooling, is suggestive of Neapolitan binding and was possibly wrought by the Salvioni workshop,

It features contemporary full marbled brown calf over pasteboard, elaborately gilt-tooled with gilt-tooled border enclosing a frame of gilt tools painted in silver, black and azure that presents an inner panel with central painted cross-hatched diamond surrounded by small massed gilt tools and ribbons. All edges are gilt and gauffered.

The supernal bindings to these sacred books are enough to bring the faithless to their knees.

All images courtesy of James Cummins, Bookseller, currently offering these items, with our thanks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A 19th Century Emily Post On Laughing Gas

by Stephen J. Gertz

When a book purporting to be a guide to proper etiquette presents  with a titlepage depicting a gentleman hogging all the chairs in the room as he tips backward on one, his feet upon another, hat and gloves planted on yet one more, his right arm casually draped over his chair's arm, cigarette dangling from his lips as he casually reads a volume that is clearly not the Bible (a book traditionally requiring both hands to read), we know that we are dealing with not just any ol' book of etiquette.

Should you get into a Row leave your friend to fight it out,
being cursed low to be seen fighting in the Street.

Here we are confronted by an author, vintage early nineteenth century but influenced by the Punk Movement of the twentieth century, "a shadowy figure" who has flipped the bird to the Queen's propriety. Call it The Anarchist's Guide To Manners; or, Social Grace Gets the Shaft, Gentility Takes a Dive, and the Class System Drowns.

Servants should never condescend to notice
tradespeoples' Wretches, as it shows a want of dignity.

An anonymously written and illustrated satire in panorama format with hand-colored engraved title-page, and twenty-three hand colored and captioned engraved plates without imprint, the only clue to its authorship is the signing, "HH," found on some of the plates.

There are some Old People who affect a dislike for
Tobacco Smoke when at Meals. Stuff!
You may as well object to the smell of the Meat!

Who is "HH," this beau-jester undermining interpersonal relations, Western Civilization and all it stands for?  Hans Holbein? Humbert Humbert? Hubert Humphrey?

Publicans should never forget to taste their Customers
Liquor first - it looks friendly and condescending.

The Shadow knows:

Wha a Goth he must have been who call'd fashion a
foolish thing. How foolish a Man wold look out of it!!

"Henry Heath (fl. 1822–1842), caricaturist, is a shadowy figure. Because of a similarity in style between William and Henry Heath and their collaboration on three prints, it has been suggested that they were related, even as brothers (George, Catalogue, 9.liv). Henry Heath etched theatrical portraits from 1822 and both social and political caricatures from 1824, his work being published by Fores and Gans. In 1831 he started to imitate the political caricatures of HB, changing from etching to lithography and adopting the monogram HH. About this time various sets of his comic vignettes in the manner of George Cruikshank were issued and were collected in 1840 under the title of The Caricaturist's Sketch Book; in the 1830s he also drew cockney sportsmen, following the example of Robert Seymour. One cartoon by him was published in Punch in 1842. In the same year he drew some amusing caricatures of Queen Victoria's visit to Scotland, after which, according to M. H. Spielmann (The History of Punch, 1895, 452), he emigrated to Australia. Dorothy George called him ‘a competent and versatile but very imitative caricaturist’ (George, Catalogue, 10.xliv)" (Oxford Online DNB).

Grimacing behind a visitor is esteemed
excessively well-bred in young Ladies

In its irreverent attitude and inversion of acceptable behavior, Heath's The  Book of Etiquette is on a par with Pierre Loüys Manuel de civilité pour les petites filles à l'usage des maisons d'éducation, a book of etiquette for young girls to assist in reaching their potential on the expressway to erotic fulfillment and eternal damnation.

Perhaps this book of demented etiquette was, indeed, written by Humbert Humbert before he met You-Know-Who.

HEATH, Henry. The Book of Etiquette. London: T. McLean, [ca. 1830].

First edition. Octavo (6 7/8 x 3 7/8 in; 175 x 98 mm). Hand-colored engraved title-page, and twenty-three hand colored and captioned engraved plates, mounted on stubs, without imprint as issued but some carry the initials "HH."

Abbey, Life in England, 513.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Story Of Nobody, By Somebody, Illustrated By Someone

By Stephen J. Gertz

The Original Story Of O.

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit
(From Nothing Comes Nothing).

Since Nothing is with Nothing fraught
Then Nobody must spring from naught.

"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen..."

But Nobody's not talking so we have to depend upon Something Concerning Nobody (1814), a curious satire edited by Somebody, and delightfully illustrated by Someone, for answers. Nobody has nothing to worry about in this testament to his non-existence; Nobody, it turns out, lives. It's Being and Nothingness without the annoying phenomenological ontology, cut-to-the-chase existentialism. Nobody, it turns out, is somebody and nothing to sneeze at.

Nobody's afraid of him.

Somebody, Nobody's biographer,  begins with a Dedication to the object of his essay: "I...content myself with courting Nobody's applause, whose patronage I can at all times command, heedless of public approbation," signing it, "With all due deference, Sir, Your most obsequious And very humble servant, Somebody."

Nobody at the door.

It is Nobody's curse that he has no body,
simply head, arms and legs.

Somebody did his homework.  It's a difficult task to trace the lifetime of "the renowned Mr. Nobody, whose existence was not only anterior to Adam's wearing green incomprehensibles, but even before the sun, moon, or stars  moved in the realms of endless space." With this statement, Somebody moves from existential philosophy into modern theoretical physics and the mind-bending consideration of something out of nothing, somebody out of Nobody, and chaos theory.

Somebody consulted "The Chronicles of Chaos, a volume so vast and intricate that few heads can even think upon the subject without becoming moon-struck; or, to speak more comprehensively, bereft of their wits." The work of Doctor Dennis O'Dunderum, Doctor Brady O'Blunder'em, and the compendium of Doctor Wiggins Wig-all ("published in folio, Basel edition, vol. 192, page 1379, beginning at line 106") was also studied. 

A domestic scene: Nobody at home.

"Ever since we were urchins at school we recollect the mischief that Nobody did. We find, however, by Somebody, that Nobody is more amusing than we suspected; though we fear, if we inquire for Somebody, as the author of Something about Nobody - nobody will own it. This piece, 'a trifle light as air,' will amuse in spite of criticism - not as a literary bagatelle, but as a 'Picture Book.' Nobody perhaps will know so much of the letter-press part as ourselves; nor will any body believe that Nobody goes to Paternoster Row, nor that Nobody travels.

"'On his way from the city towards the west end of the metropolis, our Nobody, instead of passing along St. Paul's Curchyard, though for to be godly, and therefore proceeded by the way of Paternoster Row, the renowned mart of literature, in order to take a peep at the liberal GENTLEMEN booksellers of the present era.'

"Winners will be laughers whether booksellers or authors, for which Nobody will blame them; and if Somebody's book 'goes off' well, buyers will laugh at Nobody" (The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature, 1814, Article 20, p. 218).

Somebody & Nobody

Who's responsible for this work of mind-warping whimsy? Who is the Somebody behind Nobody?

William Henry Ireland (1775 - 1835)  is the pseudonymous Somebody. He is known as a poet, writer of gothic novels, and histories. But his primary claim to fame is as the Thomas J. Wise of his time.

"Perhaps the most brazen literary forgeries of all were those of William Henry Ireland. William Henry Ireland was born in London in 1777, the son of Samuel Ireland, a self-taught artist who had achieved considerable commercial success with a series of illustrated travel books. Samuel Ireland also fancied himself an antiquarian. He collected books and artwork and had an enthusiasm for William Shakespeare which bordered on idolatry. His devotion was such that he read nightly to his family from the works of Shakespeare and sought memorabilia and artifacts relating to the Bard. During a research trip to Stratford, for what was later published as Picturesque Views on the Upper, or Warwickshire Avon (1795), Samuel Ireland is alleged to have been duped into purchasing such fraudulent artifacts as a purse and chair formerly belonging to Shakespeare. His son William accompanied him on this trip and was able to witness firsthand his father's passion and, perhaps gullibility, towards any and all things relating to Shakespeare.

"William Henry Ireland, like his father, was an avid reader and a collector of books and antiquities. His biographers suggest he was also familiar with James Macpherson's Ossian poems and with the life and work of Thomas Chatterton. At some point, the younger Ireland apparently decided to emulate these two figures in an effort to satisfy his father's desire to obtain a document in Shakespeare's handwriting...

"In December 1794, William Henry Ireland informed his father that he had discovered a cache of old documents in the possession of a wealthy acquaintance. Among them was a deed bearing the signature of William Shakespeare which he accepted as a gift from his friend on the condition that it remain anonymous. William in turn gave it to his father who was beside himself with joy at his son's discovery. William had satisfied his father's lifelong dream to possess an actual specimen of William Shakespeare's signature" (William Henry Ireland and the Shakespeare Fabrications, University of Delaware Special Collections).

Nobody scents it.

And what of the anonymous artist who has so keenly captured the essence of Nobody with nothing to go on? 

George Moutard Woodward (1760?-1809), “caricaturist, son of William Woodward of Stanton Hall, Derbyshire, was born in that county about 1760. He received no artistic training, but, having much original talent, came to London, with an allowance from his father, and became a prolific and popular designer of social caricatures, much in the style of Bunbury, which were etched chiefly by Rowlandson and Isaac Cruikshank. Although their humour was generally of a very coarse and extravagant kind, they display a singular wealth of imagination and insight into character, and some are extremely entertaining. Among the best are ‘Effects of Flattery,’ ‘Effects of Hope,’ ‘Club of Quidnuncs,’ ‘Everybody in Town,’ ‘Everybody out of Town,’ and ‘Specimens of Domestic Phrensy.’ Woodward…was of dissipated and intemperate habits, spending much of his time in taverns, and died in a state of penury at the Brown Bear public-house in Bow Street, Covent Garden, in November 1809” (Oxford DNB).

Nobody arrested in his Minority.A case of arrested development.

It is ironic that the man who forged Shakespeare would make much ado about Nobody. 

In the modern world, the subject of something about Nobody was revisited by one of America's  lesser known philosophers, from the Steubenville, Ohio, school of thought.


[IRELAND, William Henry]. [WOODWARD, George Moutard, illustrator].  Something Concerning Nobody. Edited by Somebody. Embellished with Fourteen Characteristic Etchings. London: Printed for Robert Scholey, 1814.

First edition. Octavo (7 3/8 x 4 7/8 in; 188 x 125mm) . xv, 191 pp. Fourteen hand-colored engraved plates.

Regarding authorship, see British Museum N&Q, 4th ser., VII, 474.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Booktryst Takes A Break

By Stephen J. Gertz

Booktryst takes a break this week to eat more white bread, be shocked, say hello to Mummy and report on the bomb in our house, consider the terrible price of Rochelles's bigger boobs, and continue our journey on the gateway to Hell.

We shall, like MacArthur, return, after our splendid vacation-tour from Peak Experiences reenacting the Bataan Death March.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Three Strange And Beautiful 16th Century Fantasy Maps, Another From 1617

By Stephen J. Gertz

MUNSTER, Sebastian. [Europe depicted as a Queen].
Basel, c. 1580. German edition. Colored. woodcut (260 x 160mm).
MCC I: 6.
During the late sixteenth century, a few cartographers designed and published a handful of maps with anthropomorphic countries and continents, with animal as well as human forms.

Sebastian Munster's created this famous example, a map of Europe that depicts the continent as a queen. The head represent Iberia, Denmark the left arm and Italy the right with Sicily an orb in her hand. The British Isles are shown, but not integrated into the figure. The map originally appeared in Munster's Cosmographei (1550).

BÜNTING, Heinrich. Asia Secunda pars Terræ in Forma Pegasir.
Magdeburg, 1581. German edition. Colored woodcut (300 x 370mm).

In the famous fantasy map depicting Asia as Pegasus, the winged horse of Perseus, the head is Turkey and Armenia, the wings Scythia and Tartary, forelegs Arabia, hind legs India and the Malay Peninsula. The map appears in Bünting's Itinerarium, in which the author, a theologian, rewrote the Bible as a travelogue, with other fantasy maps including the World as a cloverleaf.

BÜNTING,H. Die gantze Welt in ein Kleberblatt
Magdeburg, ca. 1581. Colored woodcut.
Shirley, World 142.

 And here it is. This extraordinary curiosity is referred to as the Clover-leaf, for obvious reasons. Heinrich Bünting's design was inspired by the trefoil form of the arms of Hanover, his native town. Despite the map's unusual appearance the fact that Jerusalem appears at the centre leans strongly on the tradition of medieval world maps. Bünting's work Itinerarium Sacrae Scriptura...was essentially a theological commentary with other maps of great curiosity.

VAN DEN KEERE, Pieter. Leo Belgicus.
Amsterdam, 1617. Colored engraving.
Van der Heijden, Leo Belgicus 4.2.

Pieter Van Den Keere's Leo Belgicus is, perhaps, the most celebrated example of cartography as patriotic expression. The lion had long been a national symbol of Holland and Belgium. Indeed, most of the coats-of-arms of the countries' seventeen provinces feature a lion. The map was a statement of unity, since at the time the seventeen provinces comprised a single nation, although under the control of Spain.

Van den Keere (Kaerius) was one of the most skilled Flemish engravers of the early seventeenth century. The Leo Belgicus is perhaps his finest work, its rich ornamentation includes three couples along the bottom in the characteristic dress of Friesland, Holland, and Belgium.

First three images courtesy of Altea Gallery Antique Maps, Sea Charts, Atlases & Globes, with our thanks.

Image of Leo Belgicu courtesy of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps, with our thanks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Death To The Fascist Insect!

By Stephen J. Gertz

It's Death To The Fascist Insect That Preys Upon The Life Of The People Day at Booktryst. On this day thirty-eight years ago, Patty Hearst was on the lam with the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

She had, on April  3, 1974, announced that she was now one of them and had adopted the pseudonym "Tania." Now she was in prep for her debut, on April 15, as an urban guerilla bank robber. Death To The Fascist Insect Blah, Blah, Blah, was the SLA's mission statement, radical politics at its buggiest.

In its dehumanization and abstraction of the individual it's a line, however, that Joseph Goebbels would have been proud to call his own, except, of course, for the anti-Fascist part. No little irony there. No matter  the politics,  the wider the division the more they all begin to look, sound, and behave alike until you reach, as here, the absurdum ad reductio, a Fascist anti-Fascist motto that, out of context, reads as a parody of political propaganda. But no laughing matter. When  radical extremists act out individuals tend to die.

The Secularist's Adopted Grandfather
N.p., n.d. [ c. late 19th century].
Handbill with unattributed woodcut.

Flanking the woodcut is text reading,
"Secularists, are you proud of your Grandfather?"
and " We should respect our Parentage - Dr. Darwin."
A previous owner has inscribed the words,
"Orang Outang - horrid beast - I am not like you in the least."

And so on this day we celebrate polarization in American politics. It's poisoning our political landscape but makes for entertaining, if somewhat frightening, reading when radicals of both the Right and Left come out to play, commit themselves to their cause in print, and wreak havoc on rational discourse. The fright aspect is heightened when one considers that radical seems to have  become the new mainstream and moderate the new extreme. 

International Workmen's Association. North American
Section, Pacific Coast Division, Organizer's Circular.
[San Francisco]: International Workmen's Association, [c. 1881].

Buried in the text is an offer to members of a "scientific and
comprehensive course of chemistry," i.e. explosives training.

Coincidentally. Lorne Bair, the social and political history rare literature specialist, has just issued a new catalog, delightfully devoted, as usual, to the often strident and out there voices of yesteryear, reminding us that extreme political expression has always been a part of the American character, an All-Terrain Vehicle cycling though the American psychic velodrome. Now, however, the stakes are higher, and we need to get the poles back on the true American path, a bicycle built for two heading in one direction. Good luck and God help us all.

BOYCOTT Campbell's Cream of Exploitation Soup -
In Support of Mid-Western Farm Workers.
Toledo: FLOC [Farm Labor Organizing Committee], c. 1980s.

"Mmmm, Mmmm, [not so] Good."

When Campbell's Soup refused to negotiate with Ohio
farmworkers, a brilliant functionary of FLOC appropriated
Andy Warhol's classic pop image and created a propaganda
poster that sharply crystallized their message without
inflammatory slogans or wild-eyed declarations of evil.
The boycott worked. In 1986, Campbell's finally sat down
and entered into a collective bargaining agreement.

FAGAN, Myron C. Moscow Over Hollywood.
Los Angeles: R.C. Cary, 1948.

Josef Stalin looms over Tinseltown in this, the foundation
document of the Hollywood Blacklist, preceding the notorious
Red Channels by two years.

Note the cinematic chorus line, presumably singing and
dancing their hearts out during a performance of
The International while a sinister director looks on with
satanic satisfaction.

Protection To American Labor and American Industries.
New York: Ballin & Berman, 1888. Silk bandana.

Republican souvenir of the 1888 election, based upon
the campaign's Protection v. Free Trade issue.

Department of Strange Political Metamorphoses:
In 1888, the Republican Party was anti-Free Trade and pro-Labor.

Their Presidential candidate, Benjamin Harrison, won the election.

The Most Exciting Story of the Century Will Be Printed
in the Utica Saturday Globe.

Utica: Utica Saturday Globe, 1889.

The post-Civil War period saw more than one brand
of white-hooded racist. Here, the Utica, NY Globe advertises
a series of exposés based upon an undercover agent's
infiltration of The White Caps, a vigilante group based in
southern Indiana and contiguous counties in Kentucky and
Ohio. By 1900, the White Caps had disbanded or had been
hijacked by local Ku Klux Klan chapters, which, apparently,
believed that their territory wasn't big enough for the both of them. 

How can you tell them apart?

Is There a Pink Fringe in the Methodist Church?
If so, what shall we do about it?

Houston: The Committee For the Preservation of Methodism, 1951.

Exposé of the Methodist Federation for Social Action,
a faith-based organization following the precepts of
Jesus Christ, written by Methodist followers who

had forgotten them in the midst of paranoia.

WHARTON, Charles S. The House of Whispering Hate.
Chicago: Madelaine Mendelsohn, 1932. A presentation copy.

If only the current U.S. House of Representatives
kept their snarls at a whisper.

Actually, a memoir of three years imprisonment at Leavenworth.
But it might just as well been a memoir of three years imprisonment
in Congress, for most of us a fate worse than death.

491 years ago, on April 19, 1521, Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms and proclaimed in defense of his convictions, "Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen." It is Western Civilization's preeminent statement on individual liberty, conscience, and thought.

Now, however, that eloquent declaration has become debased coin, its currency counterfeit in a culture that has gone mad with self-interest. Martin Luther has transmogrified into Sammy Davis singing I've Got To Be Me (Whether I'm Right. Whether I'm Wrong. What Else Can I Be But Who I Am)," the national conversation deep in schlock-infested waters, the  cacophony of political savagery the diet of worms in the U.S. Diet, leaving the rest of us undernourished.

It's the result of political movements that assert, as Sammy did in that anthem of juvenile yearning, "I won't settle down. I won't settle for less, as long as there's a chance I can have it all."

Calling Dr. Spock...

All images courtesy of Lorne Bair Rare Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera, with our thanks.
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