Friday, August 30, 2013

Greetings From Bob Dylan On Highway 51, $12,500

by Stephen J. Gertz

A one-page, 8 1/2 x 6 inch autograph manuscript in black Flair pen by Bob Dylan from 1973 has come to market. Any Dylan material that finds its way into commerce is precious and highly desirable, and this piece, possessing a typically enigmatic, absurdist and surreal inscription and drawing, is no exception. Offered by Rulon-Miller Books, the asking price is $12,500.

The inscription to an unknown party reads: Proud of You. You never sniffed drainpipes but you have a good grasp of the Alphabet - Highway 51 is not your road. Bob Dylan 1973. To the left of his signature Dylan has drawn the rear end of an automobile with gross tailpipe trumpeting exhaust.

Those familiar with Highway 61 Revisited, the song from Dylan's sixth album of the same name released in August 1965, may be unfamiliar with Highway 51, Highway 61's sister road. Highway 51 appeared on Dylan's first album, Bob Dylan, released on March 19, 1962.

Highway 51 runs right by my baby's door
Highway 51 runs right by my baby's door
But won't get the girl I'm loving
Won't go down Highway 51 no more

Well, I know that highway like I know my hand
Yes, I know that highway like I know the back of my hand
Running from up Wisconsin way down to no man's land

Well, if I should die 'fore my time should come
And if I should die 'fore my time should come
Won't you bury my body out on Highway 51?

Highway 51 runs right by my baby's door
I said, "Highway 51 runs right by my baby's door"
But won't get the girl I'm loving
Won't go down Highway 51 no more
Copyright 1962 © Bob Dylan

Highway 51 is strange. Highway 61 is stranger, a malignant ribbon of asphalt that runs through purgatory straight to hell:

Now the rowin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.
Copyright 1965 © Bob Dylan

Highway 51 is, in contrast, a benign boulevard. Though it's required that you have experience sniffing drainpipes before you hit the on-ramp, it is not necessary that you suck exhaust from a tailpipe as if it were hashish, a standard activity on Highway 61 and key survival skill on the way to Hades. Highway 51 is merely where love escapes to who knows where and leaves hearts behind as roadkill. Knowing the alphabet is a disadvantage; love spells trouble.

The difference between the two roads is the difference between the blues and psychosis. You are advised to avoid both. On the road with Bob Dylan makes On the Road with Jack Kerouac seem, in contrast, like placid motor down a country lane with flower petals strewn in advance of your car.

Image courtesy of Rulon-Miller Books, with our thanks.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Virtue For Girls In The American Toilet

by Stephen J. Gertz

"Children's books joined the crusade against the prevailing 'pride and affectation in dress,' and little girls in particular were regaled with alarming examples to prove that 'prettiness is an injury to a young lady, if her behaviour is not pretty likewise'" (Kiefer, American Children Through Their Books 1700-1835, p. 94).

In 1827 a curious little book was published in New York. The anonymously written The American Toilet - a title that refers to the rituals of daily grooming and dressing, and the items used to do so - was one of the many early books for children issued to instruct them on the path to adulthood and righteousness. The book's emblematic illustrations were accompanied by moral precepts. It is one amongst the genre known as "conduct books" for children.

At this stage in their development all children's books were didactic in nature, and while great for the parents were dry and deadly to the children compelled read them. Fun was not a part of these books; fun, indeed, was frowned upon and not part of a child's education. Childhood as we now understand it did not exist.  In those days childhood was adulthood with baby teeth.

Modesty, humility, cheerfulness, mildness, truth, contentment, good humor, innocence, compassionate tears, moderation, industry, perseverance, benevolence, fidelity, meekness, charity,  circumspection, discretion, piety, and regularity. These are the virtues that young girls in eighteenth and nineteenth century America were expected to cultivate. They are the virtues that many in modern America believe have gone into the toilet and down the drain. They are the virtues taught in The American Toilet. Conspicuously absent are the dubious modern virtues of gettin' jiggy and workin' your twerk.

The book illustrates various toilet articles, each accompanied by a couplet. 

"Touch with this compound the soft lily cheek / And the bright glow will best its virtue speak," reads the verse for Genuine Rouge. The lesson is bared when a hinged flap on the illustration is raised to expose the virtue. "Genuine rouge" is revealed to be not a cosmetic but modesty.

Book collectors familiar with the genre will recognize the format as a movable or transformation book, and an early one, the simplest then imagined, produced, and published, a "flap-book." It is quite possibly the first produced in America. This added a novel and fun aspect to learning virtues, noticeably absent from other conduct books. Of further interest to collectors is that The American Toilet is amongst the earliest color-plate books published in America to employ lithographs original to the United States, here hand-colored.

Lithography was developed in Europe and during the early nineteenth century all printers skilled in the process were British, French, or German. With few exceptions all early American color-plate books were reprints or piracies of British editions; there were simply no native-born American printers with the necessary skill set at this early point in the century. The plates/stones were imported; the books printed in the U.S. The lithographs in The American Toilet were, in contrast, made in New York by one of the few printer-publishers in the U.S. with the technical know-how to produce them, Imbert's Lithographic Office, a pioneer firm.

"Anthony Imbert, originally a French naval officer, learned lithography while a prisoner of war in England. He arrived in New York about 1825 and immediately undertook a series of illustrations for a Memoir published to celebrate the completion of the Erie Canal. His other work includes a series of New York views, portraits, and cartoons. He is last listed in the New York city directory in 1835, and he died sometime before 1838, when his widow Mary is listed selling boys' clothing on Canal Street" (Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library).

Advertisement for Imbert in NY American For The Country, January, 1827.

"The American Toilet, a neat little production, sold for account
of a charitable institution, is now at its 2d edition. A few of the
1st edition are yet to be disposed of - price 50 cts."

"The price of the new edition, which has been much
 improved, is 75 cts. in black, $1 colored, neatly bound."

The concept of The American Toilet was not original to the U.S. The book was based upon a flap-book published in London in 1821.

"Small gift books were already popular in England during the 1820s, and the lithographer, Imbert, blatantly pirated a British work to produce his American Toilet. In this delicate little work, the illustrations of various cosmetic canisters have hinged flaps of paper which can be raised to see the 'true' beautifier. Thus 'A Wash to Smooth Away Wrinkles' is revealed to be 'laughter,' 'Genuine Rouge' to be 'modesty,' and so forth" (Reese, Nineteenth Century American Color-Plate Books).

Contrary to Reese, The American Toilet was not a piracy. It was, rather, inspired by The Toilet, which was anonymously written by Stacey Grimaldi, illustrated by his father, miniature painter William Grimaldi, and published in London by N. Hailes and R. Jennings in 1821. I recently had both volumes pass through my hands; the concept is similar, the execution  different, the Grimaldi version with thirty-two pages of text and only nine plates with flaps, the captions not couplets but, rather, extended verses. The American Toilet contains nineteen plates (plus title-page) and no accompanying text. Its illustrations and couplets are completely original.

"Although derivative from Stacey Grimaldi's The Toilet, first published in London in 1821, the American book was the work of the sisters Hannah Lindley Murray and Mary Murray. Neither of them is credited n the book itself, which as copyrighted by George Tracy, and the nature and extent of their involvement in its production is unclear. A second, 'improved' edition was also issued in 1827 for seventy-five cents a copy (the first cost fifty cents), and copies of each were available colored or uncolored. The publication of a second edition indicates some success, and the work was undoubtedly bought as a novelty, since it is probably the first American book to contain transformation plates. It began something of a tradition…" (John Carbonell, Prints and Printmakers of New York State: 1825-1940, edited by David Tatham, p. 24). 

Who were the Murray sisters?

"Hannah Lindley Murray (1777-1836), translator, born in New York City…Her father was a native of Pennsylvania, who settled in New York before the Revolution and was a successful merchant of that city for more than fifty years. The daughter'was an accomplished linguist, and with her sister, Mary, translated Tasso's 'Jerusalem Delivered,' the "Fall of Phaeton' from Ovid, a 'History of Hungary' from the French of M. de Sacy, Massillon's 'Discourses,' and a variety of operas from different languages. She also painted, wrote verses and hymns, and, aided by her sister, composed a poem in eight books on the 'Restoration of the Jews.' None of her writings were published until after her death, when a few of her miscellanies were included in a 'Memoir' by Reverend Gardiner Spring, D. D. (New York,1849)" (Appleton's Encyclopedia).

The first edition of The American Toilet was, apparently, published in 1825. There are five copies in institutional holdings worldwide, all in the U.S. It is scarcely, if ever, seen in commerce. The volume under notice is the second edition, issued without date but, according to the deposit notice verso to the title-page, published on January 11, 1827. It appears that the Murray sisters began the project by producing hand-made copies of the book that they sold to raise money for charity groups. They and their book, it seems, came to the attention of Imbert, who printed it based upon the Murrays' homemade version.

The British version was reprinted more than once. So was The American Toilet. Imbert published a third edition in 1832, and editions, presumably piracies, were published by Kellogg in Hartford, CT in 1841 and 1842 under the title The Young Ladies Toilet. In 1867 another edition was issued, in Washington D.C. by Ballantyne, under the title, The Toilet. There was a crudely produced piracy of The American Toilet published in Charleston, N.C. during the 1830s. "A garish and inferior version on a much larger scale is My Lady's Casket, published in Boston in 1835 [i.e. Lee and Shepard, 1885]" (Muir) with forty-eight recto-only leaves and new illustrations by Eleanor Talbot. The 1827 Imbert edition is typically found with damaged or missing flaps.

Percy Muir, in English Children's Books, discusses the original 1821 version under the rubric, "Toilet Books," a sub-species of conduct books.

If you've been waiting for the toilet-training joke, sorry to disappoint. However flush the possibilities, modesty, discretion, circumspection, meekness, and, in all things, regularity preclude further comment.

[MURRAY, Hannah Lindley and Mary]. The American Toilet. New York: Printed and Published at Imbert's Lithographic Office, n.d. [January 11, 1827]. Second edition. Twentyfourmo (4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in; 118 x 85 mm).  Hand-colored lithographed title page with deposit notice to verso, and nineteen hand-colored lithographed plates with hinged flaps; a total of twenty hand-colored lithographs. Original full straight-grained morocco, rebacked at an early date, with gilt-rolled border and gilt lettering.

Not in Bennett.  Gumuchian, Les Livres De L'Enfance du XVe au XIXe Siecle 334. Rosenbach, Early American Children's Books 683. Reese 51.

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hw 2 Spel Gud Inglsh In 1856

by Stephen J. Gertz

Excepting sittin' fer a spell, at which I excel, spelling has never been my strong suit, or, as it's written in American Phonetic English, "ɛksɛptɪŋ sɪtən fər ə spɛl, æt wɪč ay ɪksɛl, spɛlɪŋ hæz nɛvər bɪn may strɒŋ sut."

As a prepubescent mass-transiter I read speed-writing advertisements inside buses: "F u can rd ths, u cn bcm a sec & get a gd jb w hi pa!" I could read it and looked forward to becoming a sec and getting a good job with high pay. I had little idea what a secretary was but the prospect of earning fabulous wealth as an office peon was compelling, and, until last week, continued to be so. Then I discovered a rare old book and learned that I cd bcm prezident of the Yunited Stats f ownlee I cd spel gd. Immediately, sec dreemz wnt owt th wndw as I cntmplted gdding a gd jb w hi pa bi bcmng a politico.

Biografiz ov th Prezidents ov th Yunited Stats, kompiled by F.G. Adamz and published in Sinsinati, Ohio by Lonli Brutherz, Fonetik Publierz, in 1856 is my bible.

Enterd akordin tu Akt ov Kongres in de yer 1854,
bi Loijli Butherz, In de Klerks Ofis ov de Distrikt Kort ov Ohio.

Containing biographical sketches of all U.S. presidents from George Washington through the date of publication - Franklin Pierce - it is written in phonetic English, which the compiler employs so that immigrants can easily learn the language and assimilate. Politics enters into it; the nativist Know Nothing [American] Party earns a clop on the noggin in the Preface - written in standard English so that readers can get through it without screaming as they run out the door and race down the street in hasty retreat from assault with a deadly shorthand.

“The writer is not entirely with the American Party; so far as he understands its principles, he questions its soundness, even in the out-of-the-way place of a preface; he would say nothing, however, in any place in derogation of what are legitimate American principles. He speaks now only on behalf of American education, - an education which shall imbue the hearts of American citizens with a love of American institutions, founded on a just understanding of them ... To the unphonetic reader there will be a slight obstacle to the convenient perusal of this book; but the writer, - and also its publishers - are as firm advocates of phonetic truth, as they are friendly to the free institutions of their country; and this publication bears witness of their fidelity to both.”

Included, thank you, is a chart of the author's phonetic alphabet of the English language. After perusing it, immigrants were expected to resist the impulse to book return passage to the Old Country, pronto (prntow), in a row boat if necessary. I'm an American English speaker since birth yet after reading the chart I'm ready to renounce my citizenship and flee to whatever nation will take me, no matter the language. Ixnay onway ethay ackowhay Englishway ellingspay, y'know hwot I mean?

If not, I invite you read the opening text to the bio of George Washington, er, Jorj Woinjton.

I got as far as George's dad - "He woz an ekselent fader" -  and then began to hear Hello Muddah, hello Faddah (here I am at Camp Grenada), the novelty song from Allan Sherman's 1962 hit comedy record album, My Son, The Folk Singer.

The cherry tree story, phonetically spelled.

Three pages and a migraine later, I encountered the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. Afterward, I chug-a-lugged a jug of kirschwasser 'cause only a gallon o' cherry brandy could allay the oy vey. The whole story spelled trouble, phonetically or otherwise.

"I kont tel a li, pa, yoo no I kont tel a li. I kut it wid mi hacet," said George, who, unaware that a weird diacritical mark was necessary to pronounce "hatchet" from "hacet," left his fader in the dark. "A hacet, Jorj? Hwot the hell are you talking about?"

Phonetic spelling systems for American English have been around since Benjamin Franklin, who, in 1768, wrote A Scheme for a new Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling in which he proposed a phonetic system for standardizing the spelling of English. The alphabet was later published in Franklin's Political, Miscel­laneous, and Philosophical Pieces (1779). 

Sample of Franklin's phonetic system (1768).
"Much as the imperfections of the alphabet will admit of;
the present bad spelling is only bad because contrary to
the present bad rules: under the new rules it would be good -
the difficulty of learning to spell well in the old way is so
great, that few attain it; thousands and thousands writing on
to old age, without ever being able to acquire it. 'Tis, besides
a difficulty continually increasing; as the sound gradually
varies more and more from the spelling: and to foreigners."

Suddenly, F.G. Adams' phonetic system of spelling seems as clear as can be; Franklin should have stuck with electricity.

•  •  •

N.B.: As one who once spent a New Years Eve in a grueling six-hour game of dueling homonyms à deux, the thought of phonetically spelling and then trying to distinguish hew from hue is too much to bear - or bare.

ADAMS, F.G. Biografiz ov [the] PrezidentS ov [the] Yunited St[a]ts. Kompild By F. G. Adamz. Sinsinati [Cincinnati]: [Longley Brothers, Phonetic Publishers, transliterated from phonetic], 1856. Second edition (first in 1854). Small octavo.  219, [1], fourteen woodcut illustrations. Gilt-pictorial blue cloth.  

Many thanks to Garrett Scott Bookseller, currently offering this item.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Glorious Future Of Detroit Under Glass, Including Television And The Hyperloop, In 1884

by Stephen J. Gertz

Poetical Drifts of Thought or, Problems of Progress. Treating Upon The Mistakes of the Church - The Mistakes of the Atheist Infidel and Materialist - God Not the Maker of the Universe - Progress the Evidence of a Merciful But Not All-Powerful God. Reconciliation of Science and Christianity. The Formation of a Solar System - Evolution - Human Progress - Possibilities of the Future - Including Spicy Explanatory Matter In Prose. Embellished with Nearly 200 Illustrations. Together with a Number of Fine Poems on Popular Subjects. Including Sketches of the City of the Straits - Past, Present and Future.
Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus (We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes”) - Motto of Detroit.

Current reports of Detroit's collapse are premature. Lyman E. Stowe, a citizen of pre-Motor City, saw the present in 1884, was pleased, and predicted a future for the metropolis that makes anything H.G. Wells ever wrote seem the product of a pedestrian mind completely lacking in imagination.

The first three of fifty-five stanzas to be recited to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

It's a future based upon electricity, chemistry, the abolition of ignorance, and the reconciliation of science and religion. It's a future told, for the most part, in poems that threaten the very existence of poetry. Scansion, smansion, who needs it? When you write fifty-five quatrains in praise of Detroit's present and direct that they be recited to the tune of Yankee Doodle, Erato sticks a feather in her cap, calls it macaroni, gets buried in poetical snowdrifts of thought and prays for a St. Bernard to find her beneath the avalanche.

Detroit in 1884.

Poetical Drifts of Thought is one of the many eccentric self-published works of American 19th-century imaginative writing yet it stands out from the usual crowd of crazy texts by sewing utopian literature, futurology, freethought, Swedenborg, Darwin, and social engineering into a crazy quilt that just won't quit. Lyman E. Stowe was a rugged individualist in the sea of rabid individualists that emerged during the Second Great Awakening in the United States, when the American ethos of individualism met evangelicalism and singular opinions and beliefs were tossed into a Christian fruit salad to present to the world a medley of motley ideas, many radical, in search of acceptance by someone, anyone - please listen!

The Flying Machine of the near Future.

Amongst the many visions Stowe has of Detroit in the year 2100 are air travel; television (“Seeing Distant Friends by Electricity’s Aid”); control of global weather patterns...

Elon Musk's Hyperloop.

...and travel by cars through underground pneumatic tubes. And you thought Elon Musk's Hyperloop was futuristic?  Late!

Food inhaled, not eaten, with acid-reflux vanquished.
Inhaling nutriment in gaseous form via electrical and chemical process.

How 'bout the replacement of solid foods with “nutritive gasses”? Combined with nitrous oxide for belly laughs?

Manufacturing clothes by gathering the particles direct from
water, earth, and atmosphere by electricity and chemistry.

Clothes may make the man but in Detroit's future man doesn't make the clothes. In a stunning blow to the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, clothing will be manufactured using a combination of electricity and chemistry to process particles of water, earth, and atmosphere into a three-piece, custom-made 100% merino wool canvassed suit with structured waist, single vent, hand-rolled lapels, padded shoulders, and handsome silhouette.

Preface as excuse for the book.

Typical in books of this nature, the author has his own ideas about book format and punctuation. Since he believes that a preface is nothing more than an excuse for a writer to rev-up before mouthing off, he calls it like he sees it. Then makes his excuse for writing the book.

Super-sized quotations marks lest the author forget them,
to be inserted by the reader where appropriate.

Stowe makes every attempt to be scrupulous with crediting other writers "but for fear that I might sometimes miss, I place these large quotation marks, large enough for all to see, and ask the fastidious reader to place them where they belong." In short, he leaves the copy editing to the reader.

Eden on Lake Michigan in the year 2100.

Current denizens of Detroit will be pleased or piqued to learn that in the year 2100 they will become peasants under glass, sharing life with hothouse flowers and exotic fruits in a greenhouse gotham where it's sunny, warm, and wonderful all year 'round.

Detroit in the year 2100, the City covered in glass and iron for
20 square miles. Heated by the internal heats of the earth, lit up
with electricity, with perpetual summer days and tropical fruits and
flowers growing all year 'round.

La dolce far niete aside,

All have a certain work to do,
Yet all are gents and ladies too;
All free from strife and toil and care,
They float and breathe the perfumed air.
Sweet music's swelling chorus rings,
And soothing echoes outward flings,
From cheering bands, their sounds inspire
Like sweet Aeolian harp or lyre

Here, Stowe apparently references The Funk Brothers, the uncredited and largely unheralded studio musicians who were the house band hand-picked by Berry Gordy in 1959 for Detroit's Motown Records.

The Battle of the Future.
Detroit's favorite son, Ted Nugent, at upper far right
(of course), attacks those at left (naturally)
who would undermine the Bill of Rights.

You'd think that one who envisions a paradise city under glass would avoid war - the results would be shattering - but no. Aeriel ballets with bullets n' bombs will still have their place as long as man has an immortal soul.     
"The mind is but organized matter, there's no immortal soul.

In a blow, however, to Christianity as we know it, Christian Lyman E. Stowe asserts that "the mind is but organized matter, there's no immortal soul," a strange sentiment from an anti-materialist but "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Discovery of the Art of Renewing Life.
Then again, who needs an immortal soul when life can renewed as if a subscription to LIFE magazine? I see Ford's River Rouge factory repurposed, renewing life on an assembly line.

In what will be major news to the faithful of all monotheistic religions, Stowe asserts that God didn't make the universe and God's not All-Powerful. Then who, Henry Ford? (Ford thought so). 

Other books by Lyman E. Stone include: My Wife Nellie and I; a Poetical Sketch of Love and Fancy with Other Poems, Including Blank Lines for Autograph and Remarks (1895); What Is Coming is a Wonderful Exposition of the Prophecies and Comparison with Ancient and Modern Historical and Political Events Together with an Ample, Though Concise History of Money from King Solomon's Time to the Present (1896); Stowe's Bible Astrology: the Bible Founded on Astrology (1907); Astrological Periodicity: A Book of Instructions, Showing Man, Beast and Plant are Subject to the Influences of the Planets ... [which gives good and evil periods, which can be taken advantage of and be a benefit, not only to the individual, but to all classes of people (1907); Right Hours to Success (1907); Karmenia; or, What the Spirit Told Me, "Truth Stranger Than Fiction" a Series of Short Occult Stories, Real Experiences During the Life of a Man 72 Years of Age, Garnished in the Clothes of Fiction (1918).

All to be read to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

As for Poetical Drifts of Thought, "The book is what the title implies - 'Drifts of Thought.' You say you don't believe it or agree with it all. Well, I don't blame you, for I don't know as I do my self. Yet my theory is grounded upon logic that seems indisputable within the bounds of anything come-at-able.

"We all have a right to express our thoughts, and by free expression of our thoughts we learn from one another, but I must now say for the present, Good By. Good By."

See you later, alligator. Bankruptcy? Don't have a goiter, you Detroiter. This, too, shall pass - like that gaseous meal you just inhaled.

STOWE, Lyman E. Poetical Drifts of Thought or, Problems of Progress. Treating Upon The Mistakes of the Church - The Mistakes of the Atheist Infidel and Materialist - God Not the Maker of the Universe - Progress the Evidence of a Merciful But Not All-Powerful God. Reconciliation of Science and Christianity. The Formation of a Solar System - Evolution - Human Progress - Possibilities of the Future - Including Spicy Explanatory Matter In Prose. Embellished with Nearly 200 Illustrations.. Together with a Number of Fine Poems on Popular Subjects. Including Sketches of the City of the Straits - Past, Present and Future. Detroit, Mich.: Lyman E. Stowe, Publisher, 1884.

First edition. Tall octavo. 319, [1] pp. Illustrated throughout with woodcuts. Publisher's gilt-pictorial green cloth over beveled boards.

Not in Negley, Utopian Literature, nor in Sargent, British and American Utopian Literature. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Masterpiece Posters From The German Secession

by Stephen J. Gertz

Lithograph in colors, c.1918.
Printed by Van Leer, Amsterdam.
41 x 30in. (104 x 78cm.)
£6,000–8,000. US$9,100–12,000. €6,800–9,000.

On October 2, 2013, Christie's-London is offering some of the finest posters to have ever been designed in its Graphic Masterworks: A Century of Design sale.

Here are eight masterworks from the German Secession, each a visual treat.

CHRIS LEBEAU (1878–1945)
Lithograph in colors, c.1915.
49 x 35in. (125 x 90cm.)
£5,000–7,000. US$7,600–11,000. €5,700–7,900.
Lithograph in colors, 1918,
Printed by Senefelder. 45 x 33in. (114 x 84cm..
£6,000–8,000. US$9,100–12,000. €6,800–9,000.
lithograph in colors, 1905.
Printed by M.Dumont Schauberg, Köln.
40 x 25in. (101 x 64cm.)
£8,000–10,000 US$12,000–15,000 €9,000–11,000
GUSTAV KLIMT (1862–1918)
Lithograph in colors, 1898.
Printed by Anst V.A.Berger, Wien. 25 x 18in. (64 x 47cm.)
£15,000–20,000. US$23,000–30,000. €17,000–22,000.
CARL KRENEK (1880–1948)
lithograph in colors, 191. 25 x 19in.(63 x 48cm.)
£6,000–8,000. US$9,100–12,000. €6,800–9,000.
lithograph in colors, 1903.
Printed by S.Lankhout & C.O., Haag. 33x 47in. (85 x 121cm.)
£8,000–10,000. US$12,000–15,000. €9,000–11,000.
JACOB (JAC.) JONGERT (1883–1942)
Lithograph in colors, c.1920.
Printed by Immig.
40 x 30in. (101 x 77cm.)
£5,000–7,000. US$7,600–11,000. €5,700–7,900.

All images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest: 

Stunning Modernist Posters At Swann Galleries.

Seven More Stunning Modernist Posters.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet Gumbo Chaff, The Ethiopian Flute Instructor, etc., etc.

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1848, a curious little volume of "negro melodies of the day," The Ethiopian Flute Instructor, was published in Boston. Containing ninety-one songs for the flute, including Band of Niggers, Get Along Home Yaller Gals, Jim Crack Corn, Carry Me Back to Old Virginia, Happy Are We Darkies, Jim Crow Polka, De Old Jaw Bone, My Pretty Yaller Gal, Old Zip Coon, Stop Dat Knocking, and many more, it was written by one "Gumbo Chaff."

Who was Gumbo Chaff? He's credited as A. M. A. First Banjo Player to the King of Congo, and author of the Ethiopian Glee Book, Ethiopian Accordeon Instructor, Ethiopian Violin Instructor, Ethiopian Flute Instructor, &c., &.

He wasn't Ethiopian, an upscale American euphemism for a black man. Gumbo Chaff wasn't even a man. He was a folk character who became a song which became a pseudonym.

Gumbo Chaff was one of the earliest black-face characters in America, based upon characters found in tall tales told by river boatmen and frontiersmen during the Jacksonian era. The song Gumbo Chaff merged these frontier elements with stereotypes of black slaves, creating a new character who lived

On de Ohio bluff in de state of Indiana,
Dere's where I live, chock up to de Habbana,
Eb'ry mornin early Massa gib me likker,
I take my net and paddle and I put out de quicker,
I jump into my kiff and I down the river driff,
And I cotch as many cat fish as ever nigger liff.

Gumbo Chaff, the song, was first performed in the early 1830s. It became a standard in the repertoire of early black-face performers such as Thomas Dartmouth Rice and George Washington Dixon. Because of the song's popularity, the contemporary black riverboatman became a popular character in minstrel shows, and black-face singers routinely performed "Gumbo Chaff" with a mock flatboat on stage.  

So it made sense for a publisher in Boston to ascribe authorship of a collection of minstrel songs to Gumbo Chaff. The author was actually Elias Howe Jr., the book's publisher and also author of minstrel song collections for banjo, accordion, voice, and violin. He was - no surprise - a white man.

The Elias Howe Company was a 19th and early 20th century musical firm located in Boston and founded by Elias Howe, Jr. (1820–1895), a fiddler. This Howe was not that Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, but a contemporary and possibly a distant relative. How many Howes of the same name at the same time could there have been in Massachusetts, one fiddling in Boston, the other sewing across the river in Cambridge? What, you were expecting Minstrel Songs For The Sewing Machine? Tote that barge, lift that bale, sew that hem, mend that seam!

Howe's first collection of songs, for the fiddle, appeared in 1840 as The Musician's Companion. By 1850, Howe had published several other song collections and musical instruction books as noted above. In the same year he sold his copyrights to the Oliver Ditson Company of Boston and, by agreement, refrained from publishing music for ten years, after which he returned to publishing and became one of the country's most prolific music publishers. During the American Civil War Howe expanded his business to include manufacturing drums for the military. He was offered the position of Director of Bands for the United States Army with the rank of Lt. Colonel by President Lincoln but he chose to continue manufacturing drums and fifes and publishing books on their performance by marching bands.

Of note to folk musicologists is that on page forty-two of this volume the music for Stephen Foster's  O! Susanna appears. This was not the first publication of O! Susanna - that occurred in the same year (Cinncinati: W.E. Peters, 1848) - but it seems to be the song's second appearance in print, and its first in a published collection. The first public performance of the song occurred on Saturday, September 11, 1847, when the Eagle Ice Cream Saloon in Pittsburgh, PA presented a "Grand Gala Concert." At that performance "Susanna - A new song, never before given to the public," was sung.

Here's a modern perfomance of Gumbo Chaff:


CHAFF, Gumbo (pseud. of Elias Howe), The Ethiopian Flute Instructor, Containing Full and Complete Instructions, With All the Popular Negro Melodies of the Day, Including Those of the Christy Minstrels. Boston: Published and Sold by Elias Howe, 1848. First edition. Oblong 4to. 6 3/16 x 9 3/4 inches. 48 pp. Quarter cloth over printed wrappers.

Images courtesy of John Howell For Books, currently offering this volume, with our thanks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Gravity's Rainbow Archive Screams Across The Sky

by Stephen J. Gertz

A screaming comes across the sky.
- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow.
The most demanding novel anyone has ever written… [and] the most important work of fiction yet produced by any living writer - Bruce Allen, Library Journal, March 1, 1973.

A small archive of correspondence between novelist Thomas Pynchon and Bruce Allen, whose review of Gravity's Rainbow in the March 1, 1973 issue of Library Journal emitted the sparks to Pynchon's genius that would ignite an incandescent shower of praise, has come to market.

The archive includes a 200-word signed typed letter (carbon) from Allen to Pynchon effusively praising Gravity's Rainbow and referring him to Allen's review.

Two additional carbons of letters to Pynchon from Allen, dated late 1975 and mid- 1976 are included, as well as Allen's heavily annotated proof copy of Gravity's Rainbow used for his review and his copy of the book's first edition.

The centerpiece of the archive is Pynchon's 260-word response to Allen's initial letter on the author’s trademark graph paper, dated March 25, 1973, along with its envelope.

Pynchon acknowledges Allen’s praise gratefully (“Thank you for that really extravagant review of Gravity’s Rainbow. It was a good ego trip for me, and I guess it must’ve cheered up Viking’s advertising people too”). He goes on to agree, in principle, with Allen’s point that at $15 the hardcover is expensive (“ feeling was that the whole fucking thing ought to be paperback”) and suggests Allen take it up with Viking, although he feels that Viking wasn’t as able to subsidize a project like Gravity’s Rainbow, as easily as say, Random House would have (“ be fair, Viking is trying to survive as a smaller independent publisher...and it costs them more to put out a book than the biggies like Random House...Thanks for caring enough to write to Viking, anyhow”).

Then, forty years before the publishing world would be fractured by the rise of digital technology, Pynchon writes of the current state of publishing and the writer's place at the shallow end of the income stream.

"But till writers get their own publishing and distribution operation together, this 19th century dispensation wherein the Man gets to make off with 85-95% of the writer's earnings will go on prevailing, and all the talk is sort of academic.

The letter also provides a glimpse of the author’s thoughts on his place in the literary continuum at a critical juncture in his career and in the publishing industry. "If the book sells lousy they'll call it Viking's Folly, and if it sells good it will be a great enlightened Watershed In Publishing History or something…if anybody can predict…"

Pynchon manuscript and autograph material is legendarily scarce. According to ABPC, the only such Pynchon material to yet come to auction was a one-page signed letter dated 1981 refusing permission to write about and anthologize some of his early stories. It sold at Swann Galleries for $12,000 on April 23, 2009. The cache under notice, however, is a much more important and significant catch, offered by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller.

V., Pynchon's 1963 debut novel, showed things to come. George Plimpton, reviewing it in the New York Times declared Pynchon "a young writer of staggering promise."  The Crying of Lot 49, his 1966 short novel, received decent notices but was, as far as Pynchon was concerned, a failure. Ten years after V., Gravity's Rainbow delivered on the promise, elevating Pynchon to the modern pantheon of novelists.

Above, something you scarcely, if ever, see: the highly private and reclusive Pynchon's autograph signature, the earliest dated yet to appear in the market, as far as I've been able to determine. It closes his last paragraph, which ends with a four-word summary that is almost cosmically amusing in retrospect:

“We’ll see what happens.”

All images courtesy of Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, with our thanks.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Best Literary Coffee Cups

by Stephen J. Gertz

Shakespearean Insult Mug.

Cry havoc, and let's sip the dregs of warm. Forsooth, the best mugs for book lovers drinking hot beverages have been produced, courtesy of The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild, whose motto is "The Unexamined Gift is Not Worth Giving." (Somewhere Socrates is begging his executioner, "Make that a double").

Shakespearean Love Mug.

The origins of the Unemployed Philosophers Guild are shrouded in mystery but the UPG, somewhere in Turin, rips the shroud off:

"Some accounts trace the Guild’s birth to Athens in the latter half of the 4th century BCE.  Allegedly, several lesser philosophers grew weary of the endless Socratic dialogue endemic in their trade and turned to crafting household implements and playthings.  (Hence the assertions that Socrates quaffed his hemlock poison from a Guild-designed chalice, though vigorous debate surrounds the question of whether it was a 'disappearing' chalice).

 Others argue that the UPG dates from the High Middle Ages, when the Philosophers Guild entered the world of commerce  by selling bawdy pamphlets to pilgrims facing long lines for the restroom.   Business boomed until 1211 when Pope Innocent III condemned the publications.  Not surprisingly, this led to increased sales, even as half our membership was burned at the stake.

"More recently, revisionist historians have pinpointed the birth of the Guild to the time it was still cool to live in New York City’s Lower East Side.  Two brothers turned their inner creativity and love of paying rent towards fulfilling the people’s needs for finger puppets, warm slippers, coffee cups, and cracking up at stuff.

"There’s a bad joke: The engineer asks ‘how can I build that?’ the scientist asks ‘how does it work?’ and the philosopher asks ‘do you want fries with that?’  In all fairness to the Philosopher, he’s probably not referring to ontological French fries, but the 18th centrury thinker Jacob Fries.  Anyway, some people think unemployed philosophers are funny.  But why?  Was it funny when philosophers gave us Democracy, Justice, Truth, Science, a sensible analysis of intramundane social practices or Freudian Slippers?" (from About Us).

Banned Books Mug.

The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild has many mugs in its line but for book lovers seeking something to pour their heart into it features the Shakespearean Insult Mug, the Shakespearean Love Mug, the Banned Books Mug, and the First Lines Literature Mug. Each is $12.50.

First Lines Literature Mug.

Henceforth, mugs simply emblazoned with "I Books" will make your coffee taste like last week's grounds and hot chocolate not so hot.

The Dorothy Parker Martini Glass.
"I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most;
Three, I'm under the table,
Four, I'm under my host."

Book lovers who enjoy imbibing liquids whose psychotropic effects exceed those of caffeine will be pleased to learn that the UPG hasn't forgotten you. The Dorothy Parker Martini Glass will gently cradle dry vermouth and wet gin in whatever proportion you desire, whether shaken or stirred, for only $14.95. Olives and pearl onions not included.

"For Best Results Use Other Side."

It has long troubled me that while manufacturers warn us not to pour liquids into television sets, spray underarm deodorant into eyes, use toilet brushes for oral hygiene, and that table salt is high in sodium, etc., mug-makers never provide directions for proper use or safety tips.

 The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild, in contrast, wants you to know that they care about your safety and wish you many happy years of satisfying and successful mug use. To that end, they provide a handy tip on the bottom of each cup and a little printed insert found inside them (the mugs, not the Philosophers) that leads owners to a specially produced video that presents all you need to know about the proper use of your new mug:

Moreover, the bottom of each box declares that UPG mugs are FDA approved and in compliance with California Prop. 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. You can drink with confidence.

I've yet to determine whether or not Eddie Lawrence, "The Old Philosopher," is a member of the UPG but, based upon the confluence of cracked minds, it seems he was a founding father.

Subscribe to BOOKTRYST by Email