Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dr. Seuss, Political Cartoonist

by Stephen J. Gertz

Seuss's Uncle Sam.

From 1941 through 1943, Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) created political cartoons for PM Daily, wartime propaganda for the left-leaning newspaper issued in New York by Field Productions, ultimately contributing 400 to PM's editorial and front page.

A complete run of PM featuring all of Geisel's wartime cartoons - all 146 issues - has just come into the marketplace. Each of the cartoons is highlighted by his pro-American, anti-isolationist views, and signed "Dr. Seuss," long before Geisel became the beloved Dr. Seuss, grand master of children's literature.

The Saturday Evening Post had published his first cartoon under the name Seuss in 1927. He subsequently became a successful advertising artist and writer, and, in 1937, had the first of his over sixty children's books published, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins followed in 1938, The King's Stilts and The Seven Lady Godivas in the next year, and Horton Hatches the Egg in 1940.

The crisis in Europe troubled him deeply. Mussolini irritated him and Seuss drew a cartoon lampooning Il Duce, submitted it to PM, which accepted it and then kept him busy warning of Fascism and isolationism, taking particular glee against American hero, isolationist, and Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh. He attacked wartime prejudice against Jews and black Americans. He took shots at anyone who criticized President Roosevelt's handling of the war, including Congress and the press; criticism of aid to the Soviet Union; anti-Communist paranoia; rumor-mongers; and anything and anybody he considered to be giving aid to the Nazis and Japanese, sowing disunity, and undermining the war effort.

Dr. Seuss's experience as a wartime political cartoonist influenced his later books for kids. Horton Hears a Who (1954) is a parable about post-war relations amongst the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Japan. Yertle the Turtle (1958) warns of the dangers of those who wish to rule the world, Yertle standing in for Hitler. Seuss later admitted that when he first drew Yertle the turtle had an Adolf brush mustache.

The faces, figures, creatures, and backgrounds we associate with Geisel's children's books are on display in these cartoons, which share remarkable similarities to the unique worlds he created for children, Dr. Seuss before he became DR. SEUSS.

Images courtesy of Royal Books, currently offering this collection, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest:

Lost, Unpublished Dr. Seuss Manuscript Surfaces.

Lost Dr. Seuss Manuscript Sells For $34,004.

Rare, Unpublished Dr. Seuss Original Artwork Comes To Auction.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Davy Crockett, King Of The Wild Frontier, Letter $20K-$30K

by Stephen J. Gertz

An extremely rare signed autograph letter by nineteenth century American folk hero, frontiersman, and politician, Davy Crockett (1786-1836), has come to market. Written from Washington D.C. ("Washington City") on December 24, 1834 to Messrs. E. L. Carey & A. Hart, Crockett’s Philadelphia publishers, it is being offered by auctioneer Profiles In History in its Rare Books and Manuscripts sale on July 10, 2013. It is estimated to sell for $20,000 - $30,000.

Within, Crockett writes about his new book, An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East, the sequel to his A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834).  The letter proves that he, though unschooled and unconcerned about it, took an active role in the composition of his own works.

Crockett writes in full:

Gentlemen your favor of the 20th Inst. came safe to hand and I saw Mr. Asgood and obtained his permission agreeable to your request and here enclose his letter to you [not present] which I hope will be agreeable to your wish. I have written and taken to Mr. [William] Clark 55 pages of my new Book. Mr. Clark sais it will do excelent for him to work upon and he sais he will make you a Book that will flll expectation. Excuse hast I am your obt servt David Crockett.

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett was a best-seller. The sequel, published a year later in 1835, also enjoyed a wide success, with subsequent editions in 1837, 1840, 1845 and 1848. It records Crockett's “Extended Tour” for three weeks, April 25 - May 13 (or 14), 1834, parading himself before admiring throngs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Jersey City, Newport, Boston, Lowell, Providence and Camden to promote the Narrative… It was the blunder of his political career. Running for reelection to Congress, the tour, organized by the Whigs, attempted to parade Crockett before the masses, exploiting his popularity. His constituents in Tennessee's 12th district did not, apparently, appreciate Crockett courting the favor of Northeasterners and he narrowly lost the election.

Crockett, member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Upon his return to his home state he said, "I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas." No word where Tennesseans wound up but Crockett definitely went to Texas, where less than a year after the first edition of the Tour appeared, he was killed at the Battle of the Alamo, March 6, 1836.

Crockett prided himself on his lack of education - he once said that correct spelling was “contrary in nature” and grammar was “nothing at all." This letter confirms that, indeed, Crockett was a very bad speller an' his grammar weren't so good. It also confirms that Crockett, however awkwardly,  wrote his own books - with the aid of a “ghost-writer,” U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania William Clark (1774-1851), who, in this context, may be thought of rather as Crockett's editor.

As far as Crockett’s involvement in writing the Tour James Atkins Shackford wrote:

“David did not, of course, write the Tour, but merely helped to collect Whig notes and newspaper clippings recording ghost written speeches. Another man wrote the book from these ‘scissors and paste-pot’ gleanings. A few portions bear his touch, but most is so inferior, so a affectedly ‘backwoodsie,’ so full of sham vernacular and impossible harangue (though the views expressed are the anti-Jackson Whig ones of his letters and Congressional speeches) that the Tour richly deserved the oblivion that it promptly received” (David Crockett: The Man and the Legend, 1956).

Crockett hoped to have the book completed by the first of January 1835 (or early in February), and rushed to get pages to Clark for correction and editing so that the publisher could begin setting the type. There was another reason for his desire to move the project along with all due speed: Crockett owed $300, and he hoped to be able to ask for an advance. The Tour came off the press in late March 1835. 

Davy Crockett by John Gadsby Chapman.

Crockett remains one of America's great folk heroes and autograph material by him is highly sought-after yet exceedingly scarce in the marketplace, hence the five-figure estimate for this note.

Coonskin hat not included with letter.

Image courtesy of Profiles In History, with our thanks.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Private Moments, Public Reading

By Alastair Johnston

Pursuant to My Last...

After writing about André Kertesz's book, On Reading, and Steve McCurry's blog post about people reading, a couple of friends posted more pictures of readers on (where else?) Facebook that are worth sharing. Kate Godfrey reminded me of the wonderful site UndergroundNewYorkPublicLibrary, which shares images of readers on the New York's subway transit system.

Reading Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives

The images, reminiscent of Walker Evans' project The Passengers (clandestine photos taken on the New York subway between 1939 and 1941 but not published in Evans' lifetime) include identification of the book's title so you can draw your own conclusions about the person in the photo and their choice of reading matter.

Reading Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions

Evans' passengers, by the way, were only caught reading the newspaper ("PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLED"). Another photo, posted on Facebook, of a boy reading in a bombed-out building during the London Blitz led me to a google image search.

A boy sits amid the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid
on October 8, 1940,  reading a book titled 'The History of London.'

This image led me to another biblio-site, called Needful Books, a google community where people are encouraged to post their own photos of books. This photo, posted by Michael Allen on 20 May 2013, is purportedly of a boy reading The History of London. There are other images of books and bookstores that will delight Booktryst readers, and more readers, shared by Mr Allen:

Posted by tanphoto on flickr

Obviously this could lead from here back into historic images of readers. I assumed that in the early days of photography when exposures took a minute or more, photographers would have used books as props quite often, but a cursory glance through the bookshelf shows this not to be the case. There is a lovely shot of a reader in the latest monograph on Clementina, Lady Hawarden, by Virginia Dodier (Aperture, n.d. [1999]) but that reader is soundly asleep. Recently another collection of Lady Hawarden's prints came to light and was auctioned in London. The album contains another reading portrait from the 1860s, one of her daughters, also named Clementina, "reading," but it looks as if the young lady is nodding off.

And to prove, once again, that the old guys stole all our best ideas, here is a favorite image by Alexander Rodchenko, a portrait of his mother from 1924:


Of Related Interest:

Photographers on Reading.

Monday, June 24, 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Earliest Writing Influences

by Stephen J. Gertz

A fascinating and insightful F. Scott Fitzgerald letter has come into the marketplace as part of a current online auction from Nate D. Sanders ending Thursday, June 27th, at 5PM, Pacific.

Addressed to Egbert S. Oliver (1902-1989), Professor of American Literature at Williamette University (and later Portland State University, as well as Fulbright lecturer in India) in Oregon, and author, the letter briefly discusses Fitzgerald's earliest influences on his writing.

It reads, in full:

1307 Park Avenue,
Baltimore, Maryland,
January 7, 1934.

Mr. Egbert S. Oliver
Williamette University,
Salem, Oregon

Dear Mr. Oliver:

The first help I ever had in writing in my life was from my father who read an utterly imitative Sherlock Holmes story of mine and pretended to like it.

But after that I received the most invaluable aid from one Mr. C.N. B. Wheeler then headmaster of the St. Paul Academy now the St. Paul Country Day School in St. Paul, Minnesota. 2. From Mr. Hume, then co-headmaster of the Newman School and now headmaster of the Canterbury School. 3. From Courtland Van Winkle in freshman year at Princeton -- now professor of literature at Yale (he gave us the book of Job to read and I don't think any of our preceptorial group ever quite recovered from it.) After that comes a lapse. Most of the professors seemed to me old and uninspired, or perhaps it was just that I was getting underway in my own field.

I think this answers your question. This is also my permission to make full use of it with or without my name. Sorry I am unable from circumstances of time and pressure to go into it further.


F. Scott Fitzgerald

In  1932,  Fitzgerald  moved to  Baltimore with  Zelda  and their  daughter, Francis Scott ("Scottie"), renting a  house on the estate of architect  Bayard Turnbull; Zelda's mental health  was declining and Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins was considered  the best place for  her to receive therapy. She was later treated at Baltimore's Sheppard Pratt Hospital.

After a fire on the Turnbull estate - which some attributed to Zelda - Fitzgerald moved the household to 1307 Park Avenue, near Baltimore's monument to Fitzgerald's ancestor, Francis Scott Key.

It was in Baltimore that Fitzgerald finished Tender Is The Night. He had been working on it for years and had high hopes for its success and literary acclaim; it had been nine years since The Great Gatsby appeared. Tender Is The Night was published on April 12, 1934, four months after this letter was written. Fitzgerald's mention of "time and pressure" precluding further detail surely refers to the crushing weight of beating the novel into final shape and the anxiety he felt about the novel's reception, all while coping with Zelda's problems and trying to raise a child.

Though the reviews were, for the most part, favorable, Tender Is The Night was "assassinated" (Bruccoli) in the marketplace.

"People who lament the failure of Tender Is The Night generally ignore the fact that Fitzgerald had not had a best-seller since This Side Of Paradise, and even it was not one of the top ten in 1920. Fitzgerald was a popular figure, but he was never really a popular novelist in his lifetime. The Great Gatsby, surely one of the great novels written in this country, was a comparative flop in 1925, selling only about 25,000 copies. Yet one never hears laments about the popular failure of this novel. Between the serialization in Scribner's Magazine and and the 13,000 copies of Tender Is The Night sold in 1934-35, it probably reached as many readers as did The Great Gatsby" (Matthew J. Bruccoli, The Composition of Tender Is The Night, p. 4).

"It is true that Fitzgerald's most ambitious novel was a failure in its own time; and it is true that its reception hurt and puzzled Fitzgerald, and doubtlessly contributed to his crack-up" (ibid).

Here we glimpse Fitzgerald on the cusp of the publication of that book, one he desperately hoped would recapture his literary reputation and secure his finances, a life-saving, do-or-die effort complicated by his wife and marriage falling apart and responsibilities of child-rearing. He takes a moment to recall from dark nights this side of hell how it began for him, when the support of his father and the encouragement of his teachers promised tender nights this side of paradise.

As of this writing the bid is $6,134.

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

Of Related Interest:

Original F. Scott Fitzgerald Manuscript Poems Discovered.

F. Scott Fitzgerald at Princeton.

Original F. Scott Fitzgerald Manuscript Poems Discovered.
In Paris With Scott, Zelda, Kiki, Ernest, Gertrude, Etc.

The $175,000 Dust Jacket Comes to Auction.

A Not-So-Great Gatsby.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mr. Bigamy's Confessions: An Old Seven Wives Tale

by Stephen J. Gertz

Some one has said that if any man would faithfully write his autobiography, giving truly his own history and experiences, the ills and joys, the haps and mishaps that had fallen to his lot, he could not fail to make an interesting story; and Disraeli makes Sidonia say that there is romance in every life. How much romance, as well as sad reality, there is in the life of a man who, among other experiences, has married seven wives, and has been seven times in prison - solely on account of the seven wives, may be learned from the pages that follow.

He's just a guy who can't say no. The guy in question is L.A. Abbott (b. 1813), who, in 1870, published an anonymous memoir of marriage craps, lucky seven not so lucky for our "matrimonial monomaniac," who, evidently, found the process of divorce distasteful so why bother? The trials and tribulations of a bigamist ensue.

It was all a series of misunderstandings, claims Abbott, a homeopathic doctor. When he took a young lass with him on his professional rounds out of town, for instance, she was the one who claimed they were married, not him, who was, after all, still married to another. When his brother-in-law found out about this incident, the gods of matrimony rained hell and Abbott wound up in the hoosegow.

Spoiler Alert: the farmer's daughter makes an appearance:

“From the day, almost, when I began to board with this farmer there sprung up a strong attachment between myself and his youngest daughter which soon ripened into mutual love.”  

Mutual love often ripens in Abbott's life, alas, too often at the same time. First comes love, then comes marriage, then come cops in the jailhouse carriage. It's one misadventure after another as our hero takes it on the lam throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New England, Canada, and California, one step ahead of the authorities - and in-laws with pitchforks and torches. But never for long. You can run but you can't hide: Abbott becomes acquainted with the penal system x seven, prison scrapes and daring escapes. Oh, and he forges bank notes, steals, and kidnaps his own son - who later tries to murder him. Citizens of the Bay State will be fascinated by Abbott's discussion of "Love-Making in Massachusetts," whence the farmer's daughter worsts Abbott in Worcester.

Save for "flogging the devil" out of one wife, it's one serio-comic connubial calamity after another, escapades aplenty, the entire book neatly summarized in its Table of Contents, which reads like a film treatment for a whacked-out farce, Mel Brooks & Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From A Marriage Monomaniac. Caveat: beware of milliners on the make.


CHAPTER I. THE FIRST AND WORST WIFE. My Early History. The First Marriage. Leaving Home to Prospect. Sending for My Wife. Her Mysterious Journey. Where I Found Her. Ten Dollars for Nothing. A Fascinating Hotel Clerk. My Wife's Confession. From Bad to Worse. Final Separation. Trial for Forgery. A Private Marriage. Summary Separation.

CHAPTER II. MISERIES FROM MY SECOND MARRIAGE. Love-Making in Massachusetts. Arrest for Bigamy. Trial at Northampton. A Stunning Sentence. Sent to State Prison. Learning the Brush Business. Sharpening Picks. Prison Fare. In the Hospital. Kind Treatment. Successful Horse-Shoeing. The Warden my Friend. Efforts for my Release, A Full Pardon.

CHAPTER III. THE SCHEIMER SENSATION. The Scheimer Family. In Love with Sarah. Attempt to Elope. How it was Prevented. Second Attempt. A Midnight Expedition. The Alarm. A Frightful Beating, Escape. Floggiing the Devil Out of Sarah. Return to New Jersey. " Boston Yankee." Plans to Secure Sarah.

CHAPTER IV. SUCCESS WITH SARAH. Mary Smith as a Confederate. The Plot. Waiting in the Woods. The Spy Outwitted. Sarah Secured. The Pursuers Baffled. Night on the Road. Efforts to Get Married. " The Old Offender." Married at Last. A Constable After Sarah. He Gives it Up. An Ale Orgie. Return to " Boston Yankee's." A Home in Goshen.

CHAPTER V. HOW THE SCHEIMERS MADE ME SUFFER. Return to Scheimer's. Peace, and then Pandemonium. Frightful Family Row. Running for Refuge. The Gang Again. Arrest at Midnight. Struggle with my Captors. In Jail Once More. Put in Irons. A Horrible Prison. Breaking Out. The Dungeon. Sarah's Baby. Curious Compromises. Old Scheimer my Jailer. Signing a Bond. Free Again. Last Words from Sarah,.

CHAPTER VI. FREE LIFE AND FISHING. Taking Care of Crazy Men. Carrying off a Boy. Arrested for Stealing my Own Horse and Buggy. Fishing in Lake Winnepisiogee. An Odd Landlord. A Woman as Big as a Hogshead. Reducing the Hogshead to a Barrel. Wonderful Verification of a Dream. Successful Medical Practice. A Busy Winter in New Hampshire. Blandishments of Captain Brown. I go to Newark, New Jersey.

CHAPTER VII. WEDDING A WIDOW AND THE CONSEQUENCES. I Marry a Widow. Six Weeks of Happiness. Confiding a Secret, and the Consequences. The Widow's Brother. Sudden Flight from Newark. In Hartford, Conn. My Wife's Sister Betrays Me. Trial for Bigamy. Sentenced to Ten Years' Imprisonment. I Become a " Bobbin Boy." A Good Friend. Governor Price Visits Me in Prison. He Pardons Me. Ten Years' Sentence Fulfilled in Seven Months.

Attempt To Elope With Sarah Scheimer.
An exciting bridal shower and bachelor party rolled into one.

CHAPTER VIII. ON THE KEEN SCENT. Good Resolutions. Enjoying Freedom. Going After a Crazy Man. The Old Tempter in a New Form. Mary Gordon. My New " Cousin." Engaged Again. Visit to the Old Folks at Home. Another Marriage. Starting for Ohio. Change of Plans. Domestic Quarrels. Unpleasant Stories about Mary. Bound Over to Keep the Peace. Another Arrest for Bigamy. A Sudden Flight Secreted Three Weeks in a Farm House. Recaptured at Concord. Escaped Once More. Traveling on the Underground Railroad. In Canada.

CHAPTER IX. MARRYING TWO MILLINERS. Back in Vermont. Fresh Temptations. Margaret Bradley. Wine and Women. A Mock Marriage in Troy. The False Certificate. Medicine and Millinery. Eliza at Saratoga. Marrying Another Milliner. Again Arrested for Bigamy. In Jail Eleven Months. A Tedious Trial. Found Guilty. Appeal to Supreme Court. Trying to Break Out of Jail. A Governor's Promise. Second Trial. Sentenced to Three Years' Imprisonment.

CHAPTER X. PRISON LIFE IN VERMONT. Entering Prison. The Scythe Snath Business. Blistered Hands. I Learn Nothing. Threaten to Kill the Shop Keeper. Locksmithing. Open Rebellion. Six Weeks in the Dungeon. Escape of a Prisoner. In the Dungeon Again. The Mad Man Hall. He Attempts to Murder the Deputy. I Save Morey's Life. Howling in the Black Hole. Taking Off Hall's Irons. A Ghastly Spectacle. A Prison Funeral. I am Let Alone. The Full Term of my Imprisonment.

CHAPTER XI. ON THE TRAMP. The Day of my Deliverance. Out of Clothes. Sharing with a Beggar. A Good Friend. Tramping Through the Snow. Weary Walks. Trusting to Luck. Com fort at Concord. At Meredith Bridge. The Blaisdells. Last of the "Blossom" Business. Making Money at Portsmouth. Revisiting Windsor. An Astonished War Den. Making Friends of Enemies. Inspecting the Prison. Going to Port Jervis,

CHAPTER XII. ATTEMPT TO KIDNAP SARAH SCHEIMER'S BOY. Starting to See Sarah. The Long Separation. What I Learned About Her. Her Drunken Husband. Change of Plan. A Suddenly-Formed Scheme. I Find Sarah's Son. The First Interview. Resolve to Kidnap the Boy. Remonstrance of my Son Henry. The Attempt. A Desperate Struggle. The Rescue. Arrest of Henry. My Flight into Pennsylvania. Sending Assistance to my Son. Return to Port Jervis. Bailing Henry. His Return to Belvidere. He is Bound Over to be Tried for Kidnapping. My folly.

CHAPTER XIII. ANOTHER WIDOW. Waiting for the Verdict. My Son Sent to State Prison. What Sarah Would Have Done. Interview with my First Wife. Help for Henry. The Biddeford Widow. Her Effort to Marry Me. Our Visit to Boston. A Warning A Generous Gift. Henry Pardoned. Close of the Scheimer Account. Visit to Ontario County. My Rich Cousins. What Might Have Been. My Birthplace Revisited.

CHAPTER XIV. MY SON TRIES TO MURDER ME. Settling Down in Maine. Henry's Health. Tour Through the South. Secession Times. December in New Orleans. Up the Mississippi. Leaving Henry in Massachusetts. Back in Maine Again. Return to Boston. Profitable Horse-Trading. Plenty of Money. My First Wife's Children. How They Have Been Brought Up. A Barefaced Robbery. Attempt to Blackmail Me. My Son Tries to Rob and Kill Me. My Rescue. Last of the Young Man.

CHAPTER XV. A TRUE WIFE AND HOME AT LAST. Where Were All My Wives? Sense of Security. An Imprudent Acquaintance. Moving from Maine. My Property in Rensselaer County. How I Lived. Selling a Recipe. About Buying a Carpet. Nineteen Lawsuits. Sudden Departure for the West. A Vagabond Life for Two Years. Life in California. Return to the East. Divorce from my First Wife. A Genuine Marriage. My Farm. Home at Last.

Wright, in American Fiction 1774-1900, wrongly includes the book as a novel. Kaplan, in contrast,  rightly includes it in American Autobiographies. It's too fantastic to be phoney. “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't” (Mark Twain).

Twain would have loved this book. Groucho Marx would have had a field day with it.

Capt. Spaulding: [to Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead] Let's get married.
Mrs. Whitehead: All of us?
Capt. Spaulding: All of us.
Mrs. Whitehead: Why, that's bigamy.
Capt. Spaulding: Yes, and it's big of me too.

N.B.: A word to the wise (and wives): If you write and publish a book anonymously keep your name off the copyright page.

[ABBOTT, L. A.]. Seven Wives and Seven Prisons: or, Experiences In the Life of a Matrimonial Monomaniac. A True Story, Written By Himself. New York: Published for the Author, 1870. First edition. Twelvemo. 205 pp. Original green cloth, gilt lettering. Frontispiece, three plates.

Kaplan, American Autobiographies 10. Wright II, 3. 

Images courtesy of Garrett Scott, Bookseller, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Quincy Adams, The Sleeping-Pill Poet

by Stephen J. Gertz

American diplomat, Harvard professor, Secretary of State, member of the House of Representatives, Senator, son of a President, and himself President of the United States, sure. But John Quincy Adams, poet?

"Could I have chosen my own genius and condition, I would have made myself a great poet," he once declared, as cited in Nagel's John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life (1997). Actors want to be musicians; musicians want to be actors; writers want to be athletes; everyone wants to be what they aren't, except, perhaps, to be an insurance salesman, a species, I imagine, that would like to be anything but what they are. We all dream about what we wanted to be and might have been if only life hadn't gotten in the way.

John Quincy Adams read copiously and wrote poetry throughout his lifetime. He enjoyed composing secular and inspirational verse, hymns, translating poetry into English, and writing his own versions of the Psalms.

His poems, when published, were not well-received. When Dermot MacMorrogh or the Conquest of Ireland was issued (Boston: Carter, Hendee, 1832), a reviewer ripped him a new canto:

"This work consists of three parts, each very remarkable in its way. These parts are, first, the Title Page; second, the Dedication and Preface ; and, third, four Cantos of Rhyme. The most noticeable part of the title-page is the announcement of the author's name. Indeed, it is that short sentence of four words, By John Quincey Adams, to which Dermot Mac Morrogh will be solely indebted for all the attention it will receive. Were it not for this magic sentence, we doubt if many readers would get further than the middle of the first Canto; and we are quite certain that none would ever reach the end of the second. But as it is we are sure the work will be read through; for, in spite of yawns innumerable, and a drowsiness most oppressive, we have read it through, ourselves; and whatever effect it may have produced upon us, or whatever may be our opinion of it, we dare say, there will be found quite a number of persons, who, by the help of the author's name, will discover this Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century to be full of all manner of wit, genius, and ingenuity, and a striking proof that talent is not a mere bent towards some peculiar style of excellence, but an inherent power, which qualifies its possessor to succeed alike, in the closet and the council chamber, in politics and poetry, in business and philosophy.

"So much for the title page…" (The New-England Magazine,  Volume 3, Issue 6, Dec 1832).

That review was written a few years after Adams' Presidency and while he was a member of the House. He may have been President, he may have been a sitting Congressman, but that didn't stop the New-England Magazine's litterateur from lambasting the former President's literary ambitions.  Politicians can do many things when they leave office but entering the arts is not one of them; the waters are more treacherous than the Bermuda Triangle, which is to say, more dangerous than Beltway gossip and the D.C. commentariat. Newt Gingrich's historical novels? Consigned to Davey Jones' Locker almost immediately after publication. Jimmy Carter's The Hornet's Nest? Call pest control. Former Senator Gary Hart, writing as "John Blackthorn," published four novels. Remember I, Che Guevara? Me, neither.

While it is true that "politics is show business for ugly people," it is also true that fiction is a sinkhole for politicians, despite their routine ease with it during the pursuit their day jobs. But verse?

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Pols writing poetry?
What, nothing else to do?

Ten years after Adams wrote Dermot MacMorrogh..., he composed the poem whose manuscript appears above:

Not Solomon the wise, in all his glory
Bright bird of beauty, was array’d like thos
And thou like him shalt be renown’d in story -
Bird of the wise, the valiant and the free.
Borne on thy pinions, down the flight of Time
Columbia’s chosen sons shall wing their way;
United here, in harmony sublime
To teach mankind the blessings of her sway.
Oh! counst thou bid the floods of discord cease
And to the ark return, like Noah’s dove.
Thy voice would turn, surest Harbinger of Peace
This world of sorrow, to a world of Love
                    John Quincy Adams
Washington 9. June 1842

Under the spreading chestnut tree a former prez writes purplely.

This manuscript poem by John Quincy Adams, on stationary with a vibrantly hand-colored Eurasian bullfinch perched on a sprig of holly as header, is being offered by Profiles In History in its Rare Books & Manuscripts Sale, July 10, 2013. It is estimated to sell for $800-$1200. 

Image courtesy of Profiles In History, with our thanks.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photographers On Reading

By Alastair Johnston

Who doesn't love a good book? And in our image-saturated society, who doesn't love a good photo of someone else reading? The Hungarian photographer André Kertész (1894-1985) published a book of sixty-three candid black and white photos of people reading, called appropriately enough ON READING (New York, Grossman, 1971). 

It celebrated the universal joy of reading in a poetic elegy of private moments made public. Kertész gained recognition as a photographer and was able to travel the world and always when the opportunity arose made snapshots of readers for his project. 

Since it began in 1915 with a group of three boys reading in his native Hungary, it's clear Kertész came to think of it as a century-long project! Kertész died in 1985, but his work endures. A gift of 120 of his reading photos was the basis for an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago in 2006. More recently, in 2009, his work was celebrated at the Photographers' Gallery in London, and in 2011 the Carnegie Museum of Art hosted an exhibit of his "Reading" pictures.

To me it's odd that as recently as 1971 -- which is in some people's living memory, though still B.C. (Before Computers) -- the world was black and white. But more specifically the world of fine art photography was black and white, and for some collectors and curators remains so.

Photojournalism has changed a lot in the last generation, just as reading has. Now artists like Alex Webb and Steve McCurry regularly dazzle us with news photos that are works of art in their own right. Webb works in the margins: he likes the places where borders exist and throw up societal conflict. He responds to chaos in spots where most of us are disconcerted and the last thing we want to do is pull out a camera and start getting in people's faces, like at a funeral in Haiti. He has a painter's eye, gets the tropical colors, scorched shadows & dramatic cropping effortlessly into the frame and manages to tell a story at the same time. And one of the most visually striking parts of Webb's work is its richly saturated color. He says,
As I understand it, one of the tenets of Goethe’s theory of color is that color emerges from the tension between light and dark, a notion that seems to resonate with my use of color, with its intense highlights and deep shadows. Also, my photographs are often a little enigmatic — there’s sometimes a sense of mystery, of ambiguity.
He makes it sound simple! But then he is capable, in his books, of taking Cartier-Bresson and Lee Friedlander to another level, through his use of color.

National Gee has long fostered talented photographers. There's a whole new bunch to watch, including Michael Wolf (who started out at GEO in Germany, but now works in Hong Kong) and David Liittschwager, who takes Avedon-like portraits of endangered creatures. The most celebrated, and with good reason, is the spectacularly gifted Steve McCurry. He is an unassuming bloke, a face in the crowd, which is a good asset for a street photographer: Someone you might see loitering on a bridge and not think, "A perv, call the cops!" He's just hanging out, waiting for that moment when the flower seller rows his boat underneath. He's there every day -- as long as it takes -- and, after ten days, the light is right, a slight haze, even the water wants to look good, everything comes together and he gets the shot. One photograph. A very Zen exercise. But how many times have you missed the shot, because your mind wasn't there in the moment, or your reflexes weren't quick enough? But people reading are in their own time and space, and that is all the time in the world for them -- suspended over the abyss of an author's black words in a limitless white expanse, the white of the page blending into the sparkling scrim behind their eyes -- as well as for the observant to capture their portrait. 

McCurry has updated Kertész, and he does it with such aplomb: it's on his blog which he regularly fills with masterpieces as if he were just dealing cards but somehow hitting full house after flush after Aces and Kings. And as he travels the world, adding images to his own "People Reading" category, it's gratifying to see that books and newspapers are still crucial to people's lives.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Comes To Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

One of the most important literary relics of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway’s fully documented typewriter, on which he typed his last book, is being offered by auctioneer Profiles In History in its Rare Books & Manuscripts sale, Wednesday, July 10, 2013.  It is estimated to sell for $60,000 - $80,000.

The Halda Swedish-made typewriter is fully functional and comes with its original leatherette case exhibiting somewhat tattered transportation stickers from the American Export Line and the French Line. Both have crucial identification in an unknown hand, marked “E. Hemi...” on the American Export Line sticker, and “Hemingway” with destination of “Le Hav...” on the French Line sticker, each torn and scuffed from extensive travel. The typewriter was obtained from famed author A. E. Hotchner, Hemingway's close friend, who wrote the definitive biography, Papa Hemingway.

Hotchner obtained the typewriter from the heirs of well-known Hemingway friend Bill Davis, Teo and Nena Davis. Bill Davis maintained a house in Malaga, Spain where Hemingway lived in 1959. Author Hotchner indicated in a private interview that he was there with Hemingway in that year when he was typing portions of The Dangerous Summer, on this very typewriter during 1959-1960. During this period, Hemingway was working on the final draft of his Paris memoirs from the 1920s which would later become A Moveable Feast, so it is quite possible this typewriter was used in creating that work as well. The typewriter is accompanied by a signed letter of provenance from Nena Davis, who witnessed Hemingway using this typewriter while writing The Dangerous Summer, his non-fiction account of the rivalry between bullfighters Luis Miguel Dominguín and his brother-in-law, Antonio Ordóñez, during the "dangerous summer" of 1959.

This typewriter was last seen in the marketplace in 2009 when it was offered by John Reznikoff's University Archives for $100,000.

For perspective, in 2009 Christie’s-New York sold author Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter, used to compose his novels, for the extraordinary sum of $254,500. Had this Hemingway typewriter been used to write The Sun Also Rises its estimate would surely exceed that quarter million dollar price.

Below, Reznikoff talks about this typewriter and demonstrates its functionality.


Images courtesy of Profiles In History, with our thanks. 

Of Related Interest:


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Feast Of Fine Bindings

by Stephen J. Gertz

[Church of England]. The Book of Common Prayer…
London: W. and J. Wilde, 1699.
Binding by Richard Balley.

We've pulled out the white linen tablecloth, set the table with sterling dinnerware,  crystal champagne flutes, and platinum serving tray spread with fine bindings. Bon appetit!

Plunging necklines, sure. Backless bindings?

Seven "backless" bindings by Richard Balley, a late 17th century bookbinder in London, are known to have survived, and the above example is possibly the best preserved: because of their construction they opened poorly, were fragile, and easily fell apart. As such, they have little practical value and are noteworthy only because of their decorative nature; they are, at best, binding oddities. In the early eighteenth century the "wicked old biblioclast" and "the most hungry and rapacious" of book collectors, a bookseller who stood at the center of the London booktrade, John Bagford, wrote of Richard Balley that, "he hath contrived to bind a book that at sight you could not know the fore-edge from the back, both being cut and gilded alike, but this is a mere piece of curiosity, but still shows the genius of the workman."

FRENAUD, André. Enorme Figure de la Déesse Raison.
Paris: Joseph Zichieri, 1951.
Binding by Pierre-Lucien Martin.

Bound in 1967 in black goatskin after a design by Pierre-Lucien Martin (1913-1985) the above book is one of only twenty-four copies on papier pur chiffon d'Auvergne from a total edition of only thirty-four copies, this being copy no. 28.

Pierre-Lucien Martin studied bookbinding with Charles Chanat and design with Robert Bonfils and worked for several binders until winning the Prix de la Reliure Originale after World War II and opening his own bindery. Such was the demand for his work that he had to step away from actual binding and employ others as forwarders and finishers to execute his designs.

As here, lettering, multi-colored onlays, and trompe-l'oeil effects characterize much of his work

SUARES, André. Cirque.
Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1933 (but unpublished).
Binding by Paul Bonet, 1956.

André Suarès' Cirque, featuring illustrations by Georges Rouault, was never published as planned. Only five copies, put together from disparate elements as maquettes by binder Paul Bonet between 1956 and 1959, have survived. Bonet designed their bindings, René Desmules forwarded, and André Jeanne finished them. Each is slightly different, a variant of the above example.

LUCIUS APULEIUS. De Cupidinis et Psyches Amoribus fabula anilis.
London: Ballantyne Press for he Vale Press, 1901.
Binding by Sibyl Pye.

Anna Sybella Pye, aka Sibyl, (1879-1958) is considered to be one of the most original bookbinders of the twentieth century. She began binding in 1906, met Charles Ricketts, whose bindings for his Vale Press she greatly admired and became her primary influence. He designed tools especially for her, including a few for this binding but most here are of her own creation. Here and elsewhere she specialized in inlaid bindings, excising the foundation leather and fitting leathers of other colors into the empty space, a much more difficult technique than onlaying, the far simpler and common method of applying thin leather atop the foundation. Her bindings were exhibited in Europe and and here in America. Her best work dates from 1925-1940.

BUNYAN, John. The Pilgrim's Progress.
[Shakespeare Head Press for]:
London: The Cresset Press, 1928.
Binding by Philip Smith, 1972.

Profiles In Binding: Philip Smith was born in 1928 and in 1972 designed the above binding shaped to a head in profile at board's fore-edge, the head in question that of the Pilgrim of title, his progress limned in the elaborate scenes symbolically depicted in different leathers.

In 1957, Smith joined the bindery of Douglas Cockerell & Son (Sydney Morris Cockerell). In 1961 he established his own shop to work as an creative book artist.

Paris: Tériade, Théo Schmied, 1951.
Binding by Rose Adler, 1952.

Born in Paris, Rose Adler (1890-1959) designed jewelry, clothes, furniture, toiletry items, even mirrors but she is best known for her bookbinding designs, which later in her career became simplified, relying upon her choice of colors and mix of calf and goatskin leathers. 

She did not execute her binding designs but, rather, depended upon skilled craftsmen of her choice, which, more often than not, was, as here, Guy Raphaël, a long-time collaborator.

[Sammelband of Seven German Protestant Theological Works].
Breslau: Scharffenberg, 1573-1575.

The above volume is bound as a Sechsfächerband, a six-fold binding that can be opened in one of six different directions, revealing one book at a time. These type of bindings are generically known as Vexierbücher (puzzle or tease books, i.e. bindings that vex). As with Balley's backless bindings, multi-fold bindings are structurally weak and fall apart if stared at too hard for too long.

Produced from the mid-sixteenth century forward, they are primarily found on religious and devotional books. Why?

It appears that they provided quiet, unobtrusive amusement during long church sermons. As sacrilegious as this may seem, it's innocence itself compared to playing cards or little games during religious services; two examples of six-fold bindings on devotional books from the mid-late sixteenth century contain little boxes to store cards, etc.

In the late fourteenth century, Jean de Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429), famed doctor of theology, religious orator, and chancellor of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, condemned the playing of cards in church. His complaints were, evidently, ignored. Churchgoers continued to struggle against boredom, whether playing cards, twiddling thumbs, or amusing themselves with curiously bound prayer books.

All images reproduced from The Wormsley Library: A Personal Selection by Sir Paul Getty (Maggs Bros./Morgan Library, 1999), with our thanks. If you love fine bindings, this book, the catalog to the Morgan Library's exhibition, is a must for your shelf. 

Of Related Interest:

Magnificent Bindings, Bound To Be Great. 

The Guild of Women Binders, Bound To Be Great.

More Magnificent Bindings, Bound To Be Great.

The $65,000 Binding, Bound To Be Great.

Drop-Dead Gorgeous Bindings, Bound To Be Great.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alan Turing Takes Off At Christie's

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of Alan Turing's On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the entscheidungsproblem (1936), the foundation of modern digital computing and Turing's most important and lasting achievement to mathematics, is being offered by Christie's-London in its Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts sale tomorrow, June 12, 2013. It is estimated to sell for between $22,830 - $30,440 (£15,000-£20,000).

It's one of ten lots of Turing material being offered, a trove for the collector of rare science, mathematics, or technology books.

"In 1935 while at Cambridge, Turing attended M.H.A. Newman's course on the Foundations of Mathematics. While Kurt Gödel had demonstrated that arithmetic could not be proved consistent, and it was certainly not consistent and complete (see lots 137 and 138), the last of mathematics' fundamental problems as posed by David Hilbert remained: is mathematics decidable? In other words, was there a definite method which could be applied to any assertion which was guaranteed to produce a correct decision as to whether that assertion was true. Known by its German name Entscheidungsproblem, Newman posed the question as to whether a mechanical process could be applied to this. By the words 'mechanical process' what Newman really meant was 'definite method' or 'rule;' but for Turning 'mechanical' meant 'machine.'

"Turing imagined a machine set up with a table of behavior to add, multiply, divide, etc. If one assembled lots of different tables for lots of different calculations, and then ordered them by rank of complexity, starting with the simplest, then in theory it would be possible to produce a list of all computable numbers. However, no such list could possibly contain all the real numbers (i.e. all infinite decimals), and therefore the computable could give rise to the uncomputable. Thus Turing understood that no machine -- or "definite method" "mechanical process" -- could ever solve all mathematical questions; and therefore the answer to the Entscheidungsproblem was that mathematics was undecidable.

"Unfortunately, Alonzo Church had fractionally pre-empted Turing by coming to the same conclusion on the Entscheidungsproblem. However, Church had used the very different approach of lambda calculus, and Newman realized the greatness of Turing's paper lay in his unique approach and conception of machines to attack mathematical problems. Thus, this paper also laid the foundations for modern digital computing. It was a brilliant amalgamation of pure mathematical logic and theory with a practical engineering component. The abstract machines described in 'On computable numbers' would become the reality of Colossus and modern microprocessors."

This copy was the property of acclaimed mathematician and author R.O. Gandy, who inscribed the first leaf in ink below half-title "with a few corrections to misprints etc. by ROG," and added some pencil marginalia.

• • •

My thanks to Sven Becker of Christie's for tolerating my wholesale reprint of his catalog note for this lot. If I had to study the material all by myself I'd be thrown back to 1979, when I gamely attempted to read and understand Douglas R. Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning Godel, Escher, Bach. An Eternal Golden Braid: A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll,  and soon ran out of luck when I ran out of smarts, this area of thought lost in a fifth cerebral ventricle which only I possess: the sinkhole at the center of my brain.

TURING, Alan. On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Offprint from: Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, ser. 2, vol. 42. London: November 12th 1936. Octavo (275 x 184mm). 34pp., 230-262 (only, lacking last two leaves, pp.263-266). Stapled (lacking the original wrappers, first leaf almost detached, soiling and staining). Provenance: R.O. Gandy.


On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. A correction. Offprint from: Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, ser. 2, vol. 43. London: 1937. 8° (275 x 184mm). 4pp., 544-546. (Creasing and soiling to gutter.) Original olive-green wrappers, stapled (one staple lacking, the remaining one rusted, soiling and staining, wrappers detached. Provenance: R.O. Gandy (small correction in pencil to first page).

UPDATE 6/15/2013: Sold for $29,325 (£18,750), incl premium.

Images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Caution: These Books Are Too Hot To Handle

by Stephen J. Gertz

Cover art by Lou Marchetti.

Stories that scorch the visual word form and Exner's areas, the reading centers of the brain…Plots that burn…Books that ignite the senses, singe the eyes, sear the emotions.

These are the tomes that try men's souls, too heated to hold…

Cover art by Robert Stanley.

…too torrid to read without flame-retardant underwear.

Summer reading that sunburns...

…Infernos in print...

…Romantic rotisseries.

Books that inflame family and friends...

...cry Hell from Mountain of Fire and Miracles publishing, "a full gospel ministry devoted to the Revival of Apostolic Signs and Holy Ghost fireworks"...

...and commit arson on unsuspecting readers.

The books about off-duty firemen with fire in the pants,

and flaming fly balls that light up the outfield.

The hypothetically explosive books that generate anomalously high energy under certain specific reading conditions that cannot be replicated outside of a library...

or strip joint.

The books about sordid dens where hot wax was made to melt turntables and heat up the ears,

...and made again.

These are the books you read with oven mitts.

And this is the refried title with sizzle lost, a title whose pilot light has extinguished with temperature falling to absolute zero.

It's a title to forever retire, an appellation to entomb in a deep freeze,  a cliché now

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