Friday, November 29, 2013

A Biblio-Pig To Serve Your Book Needs

by Stephen J. Gertz

Fetch me Moore's Porcine Husbandry, Biblio-Pig.
That's a good boy. Bring it here.

I like pigs.
Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us.
Pigs treat us as equals
(Winston Churchill)

Lew Jaffe, The Man With the Bookplate Jones, is holding a contest on his blogsite, Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, to seek from collectors the most interesting bookplate featuring an animal. The example above is entry No. 8, starring a pig who we shall call Murgatroyd as personal book servant/librarian. Currently in progress, the competition will run through midnight, EST, New Years Eve 2013. Entries must be from your own collection with only one entry per person.

All animals, real or cryptids, are eligible, including unicorns; Nessie; Sasquatch; the Brosno Dragon; Malambo, the face-eating brain-sucker; the Abominable Snowman; Manananggai, the scourge of the Philippines who preys upon pregnant women and sucks the blood from their fetuses; the Minhocão; the Mongolian death worm; the elusive Chupacabra; Bandersnatches; the Cheshire Cat; Marsh-wiggles; Mel, the kosher Jubjub bird absent from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky because it was published on Yom Kippur and Jewish Jubjubs take that very seriously; Hobbits; and the Sunda Colugo, which is a real animal, the nocturnal Flying Lemur of Malaysia that does not fly and is not a lemur but spreads its patagium to glide from tree to tree and is not to be confused with Cynocephalus volans, the Philippine Flying Lemur, which also doesn't fly and isn't a lemur but whose flesh is considered a delicacy among Filipino gourmands who eschew Manananggais for obvious reasons.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a copy of They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads From the London Review of Books by David Rose, which documents the unusual mating calls of  book-obsessed animals seeking a Malambo for companionship, cuddles, and pas horizontales de deux with mutual face-eating.

Image courtesy of Lew Jaffe, the Bookplate Junkie, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest:

Bookplate Special On Menu At Bonham's

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"All Women's Colleges Should Be Burned"

by Stephen J. Gertz

Alonzo B. See, elevator manufacturer and outspoken foe of higher education for women, who retired in 1930 as president of the A. B. See Elevator Company, which he founded in 1883, died last night at his home, 373 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn, at the age of 94. Unknown to the general public, except that his name had been read by many elevator passengers, Mr. See became 'suddenly famous' to use the phrase of a New York Times editorial, when in 1922, in reply to a request from Adelphi College for funds, he replied that 'all women's colleges should be burned'" (New York Times, December 17, 1941).

That statement sparked a national controversy, causing many readers of The New York Times to “hit the ceiling faster than they ever ascended in one of the See elevators,” as the Times afterward quipped.

A collection of letters by Alonzo B. See, in his time America's most notorious misogynist-provocateur,  has come to market.

His original 1922 letter (leaked to the NY Times, and his copy included in the collection) to Adelphi College, a women's school in Brooklyn, NY, reads in part:

"If I had my way I would burn all the women's colleges in the country...of all the fool things in the world I think the college for women is the worst. When they graduate from the colleges they cannot write a decent hand. They know nothing about the English language. They cannot spell. They are utterly ignorant of the things they should know, and they have their brains twisted by studying psychology, logic and philosophy and a lot of other stuff not only useless but positively harmful - a lot of stuff which could have been concocted only in the diseased brains of college professors...nothing would be better for the girls that are now in colleges than to be taken out of the colleges and put to hard manual labor for at least a year, so that there might be put into their heads some little trace of sense..."

In the Foreword to Schools (NY: Privately Printed, 1928), See's out-of-this-world thesis on education in general and female education in particular, he declares: "We have a nation to save. To save the nation the children must be rescued from their mothers and from pedagogues, the women must be rescued from themselves, and men must rule their homes again."

Misogyny was as easy as A.B. See. 
Photo credit:

Moreover, "there should be an end to all this talk about the goodness of women. It does no good, and it is not true. Men are better than women. Men are more truthful than women. Men are not deceitful like women. Men are more honest than women. Men are not quarrelsome like women."

Furthermore, "fathers should watch over their girls, make them obey absolutely and make the girls wait on them in every particular - that is, bring them their slippers, get their hats and coats and wait on them in every other way."

This was red meat and carnivores of both sexes of all ages ate it up and spit it out in letters to the editor appearing in newspapers throughout the country.

At least one woman challenged him to a debate but he gave her the bum's rush, asserting that "I never discuss anything logical with women. They can talk straight for about five minutes and then they go off the handle. They haven't got the reasoning power a man has, and I wouldn't think of debating with any woman on any subject."

He was himself a compulsive writer of letters to the editor or anybody who'd listen. As an example, on November, 1926, according to the Times' obit, he was on the attack: "The schools injure the eyes, the nerves and the whole physical natures of the children, causing some to succumb to diseases they could have withstood if their health had not been undermined in the schools."

In a December 1922 letter to the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, See wrote, "women average about five ounces less less brain matter than the men, and the part they lack is the reasoning capacity."

In a 1925 letter to an admirer he stated, "A feminist is a woman with a feeble mind, whose brain cracked when she tried reason."

A dire influence upon The Little Rascals.

[Note to female readers: please holster your side-arms].

Newspaper readers who had come to enjoy See's over-the-top pronouncements even as they denounced them must have felt chagrined when they read in April, 1936 that See had "changed his mind about women."

What happened?

It seems that he held a dinner in his home to entertain fifteen women who had achieved prominence outside the house, husband, and children. To a goading Times reporter who cued him on the animosity he had aroused among women in the past, See replied:

"Well, that is all changed now. Up to tonight I still had that same opinion. But I changed it tonight."

For all the hoopla that accompanied his earlier declarations, this one was ignored by the media. As the Times wryly noted, "the attention given to this astonishing about-face was microscopic."

See's copies of the letters cited above are included in the collection along with many more. Some have been published or are publicly known; the majority have yet to be examined by scholars. This archive - over 100 letters -  is being offered for $4,500. It's a small price to pay for the fevered correspondence of a proto-cable TV bloviator whose targets also included trade unions, public education in general, immoral and degenerate Jazz age culture, the New York Chamber of Commerce, you name it. The hits just keep on comin'.

Photo credit: Chester Burger.

Alonzo B. See rests in Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where the Virgin Mary keeps an eye on him with leg poised to kick him upside the head should he open his mouth in the great beyond and disrespect the women in charge.

Unless noted otherwise, images courtesy of Lorne Bair Rare Books, currently offering this collection, with our thanks.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Raymond Chandler Hated This TV Private Eye

by Stephen J. Gertz

“Television's perfect. You turn a few knobs, a few of those mechanical adjustments at which the higher apes are so proficient, and lean back and drain your mind of all thought. And there you are watching the bubbles in the primeval ooze. You don't have to concentrate. You don't have to react. You don't have to remember. You don't miss your brain because you don't need it. Your heart and liver and lungs continue to function normally. Apart from that, all is peace and quiet. You are in the man's nirvana. And if some poor nasty minded person comes along and says you look like a fly on a can of garbage, pay him no mind. He probably hasn't got the price of a television set” (Raymond Chandler).

A one-page, signed typed letter from Raymond Chandler on his personal letterhead to his Hollywood literary agent, H.N. Swanson, is coming to auction at Bonham's Fine Books and Manuscripts sale December 11, 2013. Dated August 8, 1952, and sent from Chandler's home in La Jolla, CA, within he scorns TV private eyes and a particular detective show. It is estimated to sell for $1,500-$2,500.

Here, Chandler, his prose always a fine rustic wine with acidic finish, allows the vino to turn into pure vinegar as he discusses a TV private-eye series that he considers the worst show ever, dips its lead actor into carbolic acid without the sweet smell, excoriates the crass commercialization of the show's sponsor, and denigrates the sponsor's product, apparently the worst of its kind to have ever been foisted upon the public.

TV is so bad he wants a job writing for it.

The letter's a doozy and grand fun. It reads in full:

August 8, 1952

Mr. H.N. Swanson
8525 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood 46, Calif.

Dear Swanie:

Thanks for your wire and good wishes, etc. What's with the TV situation nowadays? Don't' we ever get any offers? There isn't a decent private eye show on the air. I read in the paper where Lee Tracy had made Martin Kane over into something fresh and beautiful, so I tuned it in last night, if that's the correct expression for TV, and if television has done anything worse, I am so happy to have missed it. Between the commercials I tried to study Mr. Tracy's approach to his art but was handicapped by having to look at his face, which on television seems to consist of some doughy substance or perhaps a soft white wax. His talent as an actor is considerable in the right time and place and would have dwarfed the rest of the cast, esthetically speaking, had they not already been dwarfs. He lights a pipe full of Dill's Best with enough enthusiasm to make you think the stuff is tobacco which, if my recollection serves me, it is not. One of these days they ought to try playing the whole program at the tobacconist's counter. I wouldn't be a damned bit surprised if they did, since the obvious destiny of this sort of cheap program is to be one long continuous commercial.

Yours ever,


Martin Kane, Private Eye was television's first detective series. Its roots in radio, it ran from 1949 through 1954.

"Private detective Martin Kane worked in New York solving crimes. Depending on the year, Kane was either smooth and suave or hard bitten and the cooperation he received from the police depended on the year. The only constant was Happy McMann's tobacco shop where Kane hung out" (IMDb).

This was the era in TV when sponsors owned the programs and called the shots. Product placement was the norm and overt promotion of the product within the program was standard. What a coincidence that Happy McMann always has plenty of smoking products from United States Tobacco Co. in stock and that Martin Kane asks for its Dill's Best pipe tobacco by name while he and Happy shoot the breeze and exposition between plot points. Might as well call the show Happy Hour with Dill's, Martin Kane and the story thrown in to fill time between pipe-fulls.

Hollywood Golden age actor Lee Tracy, who, along with William Gargan, Mark Stevens, and Lloyd Nolan, portrayed Martin Kane on radio and TV, took over the role on television in 1952. If his face looked like a  "doughy substance or perhaps a soft white wax," it was likely due to early television's poor lighting highlighting a visage aged in booze; Tracy was an "unapologetic bad boy, notorious for drinking, missing work, and being flippant to interviewers" (Bright Lights).

Early in his film career he perfected the manic man-on-the-make with moxie character that Hollywood and audiences loved during the 1930s. "Tracy was the definitive brash, wily, fast-talking, stop-at-nothing operator. He skated around in perpetual overdrive, jabbing the air with his fingers, spitting out his lines like a machine-gun, wheedling and needling and swearing you can take out his appendix without ether if he's lying (he's got you there — he had it out already.) He was homely and scrawny with a strident nasal voice, but you can't help rooting for his brazen, devious hucksters and reveling in his shameless moxie. He's a jolt of pure caffeine; watching him in action is like gulping a couple of double espressos. Audiences in the early thirties loved his snappy style and irrepressible irreverence; they loved him because he was nobody's fool" (Ibid.).

Dill's Best shag was, apparently, at best strictly from rugs and Raymond Chandler wanted to ream Martin Kane, Private Eye with one of Dill's Best Pipe Cleaners to clear out the gunk. But at this point in Chandler's career his career had gone into hiding. The year before writing this letter, his final screenplay, for Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, was produced.  He and Hitch fell-out during the production and Hollywood never called again. Chandler wasn't getting any offers, was in the midst of writing The Long Goodbye (1953), and, strapped, needed green shag in his pipe to keep pests away from his door.

It's interesting to contemplate Chandler writing a detective series for TV. Never an ace with plotting - his novels are almost incoherent in that department - he wished to write for a medium that, at least in its early years, was plot-driven. And then the sponsors: he would, without a doubt, have been subject to their whims and interference. I think it safe to say that if Chandler had ever actually written for television it would have been a personal and professional disaster.

MARLOWE, Episode 3, The Case of the Bottle Blonde

INTERIOR: Happy McMann's Beauty Supplies

Happy, from thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away. She was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. She lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain. She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket. I'm running out of quotes from my novels here, can you help me out, Hap?


You sure it was a real blonde, Phil?


Only her hairdresser knows for sure. 
I'm going over there and put her on the grill.


ESTABLISHING SHOT: EXTERIOR: Irma's Salon de Beauté on Hollywood Boulevard.

MARLOWE (Voice-Over)

It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in...


INTERIOR: Irma's Salon de Beauté. 

Irma is sitting on a grill.

MARLOWE (voice-over)

...I had her in the hot seat. 
I'd brought a bottle along for spiritual purposes 
and poured her a drink.




Only my bartender knows for sure.

(after downing a long gulp)

It's like butterscotch. Goes down nice n' easy.


It should.
 It's Clairol Nice N' Easy Natural Butterscotch Blonde, 
permanent with 100% gray coverage. 
Tones and highlights in one easy step.


You got me, gumshoe.
 I thought I could cover it up.


Not in this town.
The streets are dark with something more then night.
But not that dark.
Now, spill. And don't leave any highlights out.

(Panicked, shaking her hair)

I can't. They're permanent!

(Grabbing her by the shoulders)

Take it easy!

CUT TO: C/U on Marlowe


 Nice N' Easy. From Clairol.

And now, an episode (alas, not the one with dwarfs) from the show Chandler scorned, Martin Kane, Private Eye starring Lee Tracy. Kane doesn't show-up until 5:42 into the program. He is lighting his pipe, full, of course, with Dill's, the better to solve this pickle.


Letter image courtesy of Bonham's, with our thanks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spectacular Th. Jefferson Letter On Lewis & Clark Est. $500,000-$700,000

by Stephen J. Gertz

A historically rich and highly significant signed autograph letter from Thomas Jefferson to Dr. William Eustis of Massachusetts, a political ally, is being offered by Sotheby's in its Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana sale, December 5, 2013. It is estimated to sell for $500,000-$700,000.

On two pages dated June 25, 1805, Jefferson, three months into his second term as President, refers to politics and the decline of the Federalists, news from Merriweather Lewis, information on the Indians encountered by the Corps of Discovery, receipt of a barge with Indian tribal deputies sent back by Lewis, the new Michigan Territories, trade with the Indians as a means to peace, negotiations with Spain, the French and British navies in American waters; it just goes on. It is a supremely succulent historical document, bountiful Americana, and, further, one of only two letters by Jefferson discussing the Lewis and Clark expedition to come to auction in over sixty years.

The letter was part of the collection of Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States. Jefferson composed it on a bifolium of wove paper watermarked "J. Larking."

The letter reads in full:

Washington June 25 05

Dear Sir

Your two favors of the 2d & 10th inst. have been duly received with respect to Mr. […], as he was to obtain the testimonies of his character in the Eastern states, & was himself in the same place with Genl Hull in whose gift the office of Marshall for Michigan was, I left him to satisfy General Hull himself on that point, I thought it best to add no bias by expressing any wish of mine to the General. I therefore did not write to him on the subject. - I believe, with you, that the Boston maneuver has secured the death of federalism at the end of the present year. The steady progression of public opinion, aided by the number of candid persons who had voted with them this year, but will be displeased with this measure, cannot fail to join Massachusetts to her sister states at the first election. The arrangement you suggested in your letter of the 10th could not be adopted, because a prior one had been initiated. The person appointed is very distant & will not be here till Autumn. Within a month from this time our annual […] will take place, for the months of Aug & Sep. I have the pleasure to inform you that one of Capt. Lewis's barges returned to St. Louis brings us certain information from him. He wintered with the Mandanes, 1609 miles up the Missouri, Lat. 47 Long. 107 with some additional minutes to both numbers, all well and peculiarly cherished by all the Indian nations. He has sent in his barge 45 deputies from 6 of the principal nations in that quarter who will be joined at St. Louis by those of 3 or 4 nations between the Missouri & Mississippi and will come on here. Whether before our departure or after our return we do not yet know. We shall endeavor to get them to go on as far North as Boston, being desirous of […] them correctly as to our strength and resources. This with kind usage and a commerce advantageous to them, & not losing to us, will better know their & our peace & friendship than an army of thousands.

I receive with due sentiments of thankfulness the invitations of my Eastern friends to visit that portion of our country. The expected visit from the deputations of so many distant nations of the Indians, provisional arrangements with Spain in lieu of the permanent ones proposed, in which we are not likely to concur, the presence of English & French fleets in the American seas, which will probably visit & purplex our harbors during the hurricane season will not permit me to be so far from the seat of government this summer. Add to this that should I ever be able to make the visit I would probably be more generally agreeable when there shall be less division of public sentiment than at present among you.

Accept my friendly salutations, & assurances of great esteem & respect.

Th. Jefferson.

•  •  •

Jefferson's mention of General William Hull refers to his recent (March 22, 1805) appointment of the soldier-politician as Governor of the newly created Michigan Territory as well as its Indian Agent.

At the time Jefferson wrote to Eustis the Federalists (who lost the presidential election of 1804) were in decline, having little support outside of New England. They would not regain strength until 1812.

Dr. William Eustis.

William Eustis (1753-1825) was an early American physician, politician, and statesman from Massachusetts. A practicing doctor, he served as a military surgeon during the American Revolutionary War (notably at the Battle of Bunker Hill), and resumed his medical career after the war. He soon, however, entered politics, and after several terms in the Massachusetts legislature, Eustis served in the United States House of Representatives March 1801 - March 1805  as a moderate Democratic-Republican, the party of Jefferson.  He later served as Secretary of War 1809-1813 under President James Madison. In 1823 he became the 12th Governor of Massachusetts.

Images courtesy of Sotheby's, with our thanks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

England's Greatest Type Designer Is Not Who You Think It Is

By Stephen J. Gertz

William Caslon, John Baskerville, Eric Gill, and Matthew Carter: these are the names we associate with great British type design. To the top of that list add Richard Austin. Modern typeface design begins with him.

Who was Richard Austin and why are his typefaces so important? And who, by the way, was Richard Austin, wood-cut engraver?

Rich. Austin
Engraver of Dies, Stamps & CopperPlates

Cuts all Sorts of Musick, Engravers Tools, Steel Letters,
& Figures for Letter Founders, Mathematical Instument
Makers, Steel Engravers, & all Arts -
N.B. Copper Plates neatly Printed on the
Shortest Notice.

Richard Austin (1756-1833), type-cutter, created the types for Bell & Stephenson's British Letter Foundry in 1788, as well as types for other foundries. In 1812, Austin produced the types known as Scotch Roman. He also perfected the revolutionary Porson Greek typeface of Cambridge University Press. He established the Imperial Letter Foundry in 1815. Richard Austin, "who changed the whole character of Type Founding from the old face style (as it is now termed), with its disproportionate letters and long s's, into the truly elegant characters of the present day" (James Mosley) was the father of modern English typefaces. To his everlasting credit, he killed the traditional f-like long "s" that bedevils modern readers of eighteenth century and earlier texts in english.

His son, Richard Turner Austin (1781-1842), was a prolific wood-cut engraver. It was once thought that Richard Austin, typeface designer, and Richard Austin, wood-cut engraver, were one and the same person. Alastair M. Johnston, in his new book, Transitional Faces, sets the record straight.

This is the first full-length study of the Austins and their place within British printing and publishing history. Based upon previously unpublished material, Johnston, the printer and publisher (of Poltroon Press in Berkeley, California), has written a rich, vibrant, and engaging account of the Austins, their times and the milieu within they lived and worked.

This exhaustive investigation, which includes 158 pages of text plus an illustrated survey of Richard Turner Austin's engravings (with 130 examples) and appendices totaling an additional 205 pages, might, as is so often the case with scholastic work on a somewhat obscure subject, be an arid affair, desiccating the frontal lobes of readers. Fortunately, Mr. Johnston (a contributor to Booktryst) is incapable of producing such a work. His analysis of type design and its particulars, which might otherwise cause eyes to glaze, is, in Johnston's narrative, enlivened by his liberal wash of colorful detail and vivid characterization of people and places. 

The book's title, Transitional Faces, refers to British printing during the Georgian era when type-designer Austin flourished. The British government, protective of industry, had prevented foreign craftsmen from working in the trade but their skill could not be ignored. The French were doing marvelous things and their influence upon type-design in Britain was enormous. Richard Austin's incorporation of French type aesthetics into British design, "began an era in English type founding (referred to as 'transitional' by Updike, II, 116, 142), a glorious but short-lived time of harmonious types that had the larger-on-the-body proportions of the Romain du roi with the modeling of Baskerville but with more color and fine serifs…'it represents in fact our first independent design,' said [Stanley] Morison, 'owing only its scale to continental models…the type possesses a harmony in serif formation as between roman and italic not possessed by the French type.'"

It's impossible to discuss the career of Richard Turner Austin, the wood-engraving son of Richard Austin, without surveying the work of the great Thomas Bewick and the world of eighteenth century wood-cut book illustrations. Johnston has, thankfully, devoted an introductory chapter to printed eighteenth century art to prime us on Austin Jr.

Because of Thomas Bewick's influence on wood-cut illustration, Richard Turner Austin is often presumed to have been a pupil or apprentice of his; Austin hewed closely to Bewick's style in his natural imagery. Indeed, many of Austin's unsigned blocks have been attributed to Bewick. and, too, much of Austin's early work copied stock blocks or the work of Bewick. For this reason, early historians neglected him.

But Austin Jr. made connections and was soon executing engravings after paintings by William Marshall Craig (c. 1765-1828). In 1819 he moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he worked consistently for the next ten years, his blocks, alas, unsigned. We know he did the work simply because, as Johnston points out, there were no alternative engravers who might have produced the scores of woodblocks that suddenly appeared in the "Athens of the North."

Yet by 1839, Richard Turner Austin's reputation and work were in critical decline. His wood-cuts, rarely signed, slowly fell from notice and he became a footnote in wood engraving history.

It's a direct line from Richard Austin Sr. to W.A. Dwiggins, the great twentieth century typeface designer. In 1939, Dwiggins modeled his Caledonia for linotype after Austin's Scotch Roman. Austin's Bell and Scotch Roman faces were major influences upon Matthew Carter's digital typefaces.

"Thus," as Johnston concludes, "the essence of Austin, diluted somewhat by modern technology, is still a part of our typographical experience."

With Transitional Faces Alastair Johnston has resurrected the lives of the father and son, and reevaluated their careers. The Austins now take their rightful place in the history of British printing and engraving.

JOHNSTON, Alastair M. Transitional Faces. The Lives & Work of Richard Austin, Type-Cutter, & Richard Turner Austin, Wood-Engraver. Berkeley: Poltroon Press, 2013. First edition. Octavo. x, [2],, 387, [1] pp. Illustrated throughout. Burgundy cloth, gilt lettered. Illustrated endpapers. Dust jacket.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Robert E. Lee, Gentleman & George McClellan, Jerk

by Stephen J. Gertz

Two signed autograph letters by the American Civil War's commanding generals, Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army and George B. McClellan, commander of the Union Army at the war's onset, are coming to auction at Swann Galleries Autograph sale, November 26, 2013.

The Lee letter, dated March 13, 1855
, is estimated to sell for $25,000-$35,000. The McClellan letter, composed May 14, 1854, is estimated for $100-$200. Both were written to Captain George W. Callum (1809-1892), a supervisor in the Corps of Engineers and instructor of engineering at West Point.

Each is indicative of their personalities. Lee is humble and gracious; McClellan is stilted, egotistical, and condescending, deigning to accept an offer.

Lee, a colonel at the time and Superintendent of West Point, expresses regret at his departure from the Corps of Engineers to accept an appointment as Lt. Colonel of the 2nd Cavalry, stating his preference for Engineer duty to that of Cavalry during peacetime, and remarking on West Point business including his assurance to Callum that he will continue his work on the Register of [the Officers and] Graduates.

...I assure you my separation from the Corps of Engrs is attended with bitter regret…

While acknowledging the compliment bestowed on me by the Pres: as unexpected as undeserved, I confess my preference in time of peace for Engr duty over that of Cavalry; But so long as I continue an Officer of the Army, I can neither decline promotion or service...

...The item introduced into my estimate for the Register of Graduates has been granted. I shall give to my successor your Mem: & inform him of our understanding as to your undertaking its preparation…

"Mr. Newlands has not yet been able to finish the record of changes in the Register he loaned us. I will endeavor to have it completed and returned to you before I leave...

I am as yours,


McClellan, then a lieutenant and writing from Philadelphia, was bored to tears with peacetime service. He commanded an engineering company while serving at West Point. In 1853, at the behest of Jefferson Davis, then U.S. Secretary of War, he was assigned to survey an appropriate route for the nascent transcontinental railway. He flubbed the job, overlooking three hugely superior routes. He was insubordinate to political figures: when the governor of the Washington Territories ordered McClellan to turn over his expedition logbooks so he could determine just what the hell had happened, the short in stature, long on ego lieutenant refused. It is believed that he did so because of embarrassing comments he recorded throughout the log.  He had a big mouth.

After mature deliberation upon the testimony adduced I have come to the conclusion that if you still want my very valuable assistance at the Assay office I am perfectly willing to accede to your offer. It is desirable for me, for many reasons, to be in the East for a while. I would be glad if you would move in the matter as soon as possible, for should this project fail I will apply for a leave of absence for six months [...] before I am bagged for any out of the way service...

Sincerely your friend,

Geo B. McClellan

Translation: "After condescending to think about it I've decided that if you still require the wonderfulness of myself and all that my majesty can contribute, I will deign to accept your request."

McClellan's desire to to stay in the East (Philadelphia) for a while refers to his courtship of Mary Ellen Marcy, his future wife. The reference to applying for a six-month leave "before I am bagged for any out of the way service" was prescient. In June 1854, a month after this letter was written,  he was bagged for out of the way service by Jefferson Davis, who ordered him to embark on a secret reconnaissance mission in Santo Domingo in Haiti. Jefferson Davis saw something in McClellan that others failed to observe, and in 1855 McClellan was promoted to Captain.

The estimates for the letters reflect the value and esteem that collectors (and history) have placed upon these two major figures. Robert E. Lee is considered to be one of the greatest generals of all time. His brilliant, often audacious maneuvers and battlefield instincts led to victory after victory - as long as George B. McClellan commanded the Union forces.

McClellan knew how to build an army but was reluctant to use it. Insecure behind a facade of confidence, he was loathe to admit mistakes and accept responsibility; he offered President Lincoln nothing by excuses for his inaction and timidity, and he never hid his disdain for his Commander-in-Chief. Until Lincoln relieved him of duty, the position of the Union army was dire.

How badly has McClellan fared in the marketplace? The letter offered above is one of two being offered in the same lot estimated at $100-$200. Only his Civil War correspondence fetches decent prices but compared to Lee, Grant, Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and other War Between the States luminaries, prices for McClellan letters are lame. According to ABPC, $8,500 is the top price paid for a McClellan ALS within the last thirty-seven years (To Gen. Ambrose Burnside on May 21, 1862, expressing pride in his past victories & preparing for battle at Richmond). In 2004, a McClellan autograph letter signed fetched $3,200. Two years later, in 2006, the same letter sold at auction for 3,000.

In 2011, a signed copy of Robert E. Lee's farewell letter to his troops ("General Order #9), dated April 10, 1865, sold at Christie's for $80,000. "After 4 years of ardous service...I bid you all an affectionate farewell. [Sgd] R.E. Lee Genl.

McClellan never seemed to accept responsibility for his failures; he blamed others. Lee, in contrast, wore his shortcomings - such as they were - heavily. When Robert E. Lee was appointed Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia he accepted with solemnity. When George B. McCellan was promoted to Commander of the Army of the Potomac he reveled in his newly acquired power and fame.

One was a gentleman, the other a jerk.

Images courtesy of Swann Galleries, with our thanks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bible Of Unconscious Buffoonery

by Stephen J. Gertz

Extra engraved titlepage.

Imagine that you've written a book that no one will publish; it's considered over-long and looney. So, to pump-up its importance, impress, and tacitly solicit subscriptions, you ask eminent men, oh, around sixty of 'em, to contribute "panegyricke verses upon the Authour and his booke" extolling your wonderfulness and that of your volume. Amazingly, they do. But your contributors ridicule the book.

You include their mockery, anyway. Some attention is better than none. You underwrite the cost of printing the book yourself and in doing so produce one of the great vanity publications ever issued, and if your contributors insult you, well, how flattering to your vanity that these great men took the time to do so.

Such was the case of Thomas Coryat (1577-1617) and his book, Three crude veines are presented in this booke following (besides the foresaid Crudities): no less flowing in the body of the booke, then the Crudities themselues, two of rhetoricke and one of poesie…, popularly known by its title from the engraved titlepage/frontispiece (and subsequent editions) as Coryat's Crudities: Hastily gobled up in five moneths trauells in France, Sauoy, Italy, Rhetia com[m]only called the Grisons county, Heluetia alias Switzerland, some parts of high Germany, and the Netherlands. Newly Digested in the hungry aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, now dispersed to the nourishment of the traveling Members of the Kingdome.

Coryat's traveling shoes.

Within, Coryat records his step-by-step 1,975 mile schlep across Western Europe. He didn't intend for it to be funny, it just turned out that way. Outlandish, toilsome and wacky adventures are related with such sober and solemn seriousness that the clod is completely unaware that he is a clown in his own touring circus.

"There probably has never been another such combination of learning and unconscious buffoonery as is here set forth. Coryate was a serious and pedantic traveller who (as he states in his title) in five months toilsome travel wandered, mostly on foot, over a large part (by his own reckoning 1,975 miles) of western Europe. His adventures probably appeared to his contemporaries as more ridiculous than exciting, but at this remove, his chronicle by its very earnestness provides an account of the chief cities of early seventeenth century Europe which is at least valuable as it is amusing. It was probably his difficulties with the booksellers which induced Coryate to solicit the extraordinary sheaf of testimonials prefixed to the volume. Possibly he acted upon the notion apparently now current among publishers of social directories that every person listed is a prospective purchaser of the work. At any rate he secured contributions from more than sixty writers at the time. Among his panegyrists appear the names of Jonson, Chapman, Donne, Campion, Harington, Drayton, Davies of Hereford, and others, each contributor vying to mock poor Coryate with solemn ridicule." (Pforzheimer) 

Now, imagine you're Ben Jonson, one of the contributors. You've read the book, and, after re-inserting your eyeballs - which, as if in an animated cartoon, grew to the size of softballs and popped-out of their sockets - you consider what to make of this. As your contribution you write a verse explanation of the engraved frontispiece, decoding its emblematic illustrations. It reads, in part:

Our Author in France rode on Horse without stirrop,
And in Italic bathed himselfe in their syrrop.

His love to horses he sorteth out strange prettilie,
He rides them in France, and lies with them in Italie.

You get the idea. It's an Elizabethan comedy roast but the roastee (known as the British Ulysseys, with accent on Odd-essy), basking in the attention, is deaf to the jokes. It's Mystery Science Theater 3000, the book edition, with eminent readers hurling written wisecracks at the deliriously ridiculous and over-long text while they peruse it from their reading chair, rather than vocally razzing a deliriously ridiculous and over-long movie from their seats in the theater.

Here's an excerpt from John Donne's panegyric to Coryat and his Crudities:

This Booke, greater than all, producest now,
Infinite worke, which doth so farre extend,
That none can study it to any end.
Tis no one thing; it is not fruite, nor roote;
Nor poorly limited with head or foote.
If man be therefore man, because he can
Reason, and laugh, thy booke doth halfe make man.
One halfe being made, thy modesty was such,
That thou on th' other halfe wouldst never touch.
When wilt thou be at full, great Lunatique?


Coryat apparently experienced this - and the other testimonials - as "Oooh, they like me, they really like me!"

I am sory I can speake so little of so flourishing and beautifull a Citie [as Turin]. For during that little time that I was in the citie, I found so great a distemperature in my body, by drinking the sweete wines of Piemont, that caused a grievous inflammation in my face and hands; so that I had but a smal desire to walke much abroad in the streets. Therefore I would advise all English-men that intend to travell into Italy, to mingle their wine with water as soone as they come into the country, for feare of ensuing inconveniences... 

In short, Coryat was drunk during his entire stay in Turin.

Complete copies of Coryat's Crudities are scarce. "Perfect copies with the plates intact are not common...The D.N.B. has repeated the statement that the Chetham copy is the only perfect one known" (Pforzheimer).

A complete copy has, however, recently come into the marketplace.  Offered by Whitmore Rare Books, the asking price is $25,000. Despite its faults it's one of the great travelogues.

"Coryate drew on his experiences in writing Coryats Crudities (1611), which was intended to encourage courtiers and gallants to enrich their minds by continental travel. It contains illustrations, historical data, architectural descriptions, local customs, prices, exchange rates, and food and drink, but is too diffuse and bulky - there are 864 pages in the 1905 edition - to become a vade-mecum. To solicit ‘panegyric verses’ Coryate circulated copies of the title-page depicting his adventures and his portrait, which had been engraved by William Hole and which he considered a good likeness. About sixty contributors include many illustrious authors, not all in verse, some insulting, some pseudonymous" (DNB).

Coryat Meets Margarita Emiliana bella Cortesana di Venetia,

As for Thomas Coryat, the "great Lunatique" died in 1617 and now permanently sleeps with the horses in Italy, which beats sleeping with the fishes in Sicily. It's the difference among character assassination, corporeal execution, and the bestial joy of equine companionship on an arduous journey; bathing in horse-piss in Italy was a bonus, pass the Purell, please - and a barf-bag and incontinence pad, the better to endure Coryat's voyage to France and his feed to hungry fish as written in chapter one's first sentence:

I was imbarked at Dover, about tenne of the clocke in the morning, the fourteenth of May, being Saturday and Whitsun-eve, Anno 1608, and arrived in Calais (which Caesar calleth Ictius portus, a maritime towne of that of part Picardy, which is commonly called le pais reconquis; that is, the recovered Province, inhabited in former times by the ancient Morini) about five of the clocke in the afternoone, after I had varnished the exterior parts of the ship with the excrementall ebullitions of my tumultuous stomach, as desiring to satiate the gormandizing paunches of the hungry Haddocks (according as I have hieroglyphically expressed it in the front of my booke) with that wherewith I had superfluously stuffed my selfe at land, having made my rumbling belly their capacious aumbrie.

It isn't often that an author opens his book with a tableau presenting the painting of a ship with his (or anyone else's) diarrhea. It's a riveting first sentence with repulsive denouement; readers may spew the contents of their now tumultuous stomachs through their northern orafice. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, a dark and stormy night, with emphasis on the dark storm raging at Coryat's southern orafice. Yet sunny skies and silliness await the intrepid reader. Be not afraid. Read on ye armchair traveller, you have nothing to lose but your sanity to this seventeenth century version of your friend's interminable seminar with soporific slideshow about a recent vacation, no detail too picayune to omit. Coryat, for instance, never fails to tell the exact time of day that something occurred, and, it seems, reports on everything he put in his mouth -

 I did eate fried Frogges this citie [Cremona]

- and everything he encountered, with the possible exception of dust motes. He then concludes his exhausting review of each city with a breezy, unintentionally amusing, "so much for Paris;" "so much for Venice;" "so much for Milan." It's so very much.

Yea, verily and alas, the booke lacketh backgrounde musik by the eminent Elizabethan composer and performer, Boots Randolph, playing that olde English aire, Yaketie Saxe, to highlight its slapsticke gravitie and the inadvertent Keystone Cop qualitie of Coryat's adventures chasing after Europe, and enliven his dreary descriptions.



CORYAT, Thomas. [From engraved title]: Coryats Crudities. Hastily gobled up in five moneths trauells in France, Sauoy, Italy, Rhetia com[m]only called the Grisons county, Heluetia alias Switzerland, some parts of high Germany, and the Netherlands. Newly Digested in the hungry aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, now dispersed to the nourishment of the traveling Members of the Kingdome. London: Printed by W[illiam]. S[tansby]., 1611. First edition.  Quarto in eights (8 1/8 x 6 inches; 206 x 153 mm). [-]2; a8-b8 ([-]1 inserted after a3); b4; c8-g8; h4-l4; B8-D8 (D3 inserted after preceding D); E8-3C8; 3D4; [-]2 (first is signed 3E3; both are errata). Extra engraved titlepage (i.e. frontispiece) by William Hole, five engraved plates (three folding), two text engravings and numerous woodcut initials and head-pieces. With two leaves of errata.

Pforzheimer 218. Cox 98. Keynes 70.

Images courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books, currently offering this volume, with our thanks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

$35,000 Melville Letter To G.P. Putnam: "Herewith You Have A Manuscript"

by Stephen J. Gertz

A signed autograph letter written by Herman Melville to publisher G.P. Putnam covering his submission of a manuscript for consideration to appear in Putnam's Magazine is being offered for $35,000.

Written from 780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield, Massachucetts, site of Arrowhead, the farmhouse where Melville spent his most productive years, 1850-1863, the note represents an important juncture in Melville's career as a writer.

Pittsfield May 9th [1854]

Dear Sir -

Herewith you have a manuscript.

As it is short, and in time for your June number, therefore - in case it suits you to publish - you may as well send me your check for it at once, at the rate of $5 per printed page.

- If it don’t suit, I must beg you to trouble yourself so far, as to dispatch it back to me, thro my brother, Allan Melville, No. 14 Wall Street. 


 H. Melville

At the bottom Melville notes the recipient, G.P. Putnam Esq.

Melville had submitted Two Temples, an unusual short story wherein Melville's protagonist, alone, without money, and lonely in London, retreats to an Anglican parish church for solace. Expecting open arms and sympathy he is instead confronted by a “fat-paunched, beadle-faced man” who refuses him entry simply because he doesn't look right. The man proceeds to a run-down theater presenting a play, finds a comfortable, unobstructed seat, and is offered a free dram of ale from a young spectator seated nearby. Overwhelmed by the welcome and charity he experienced, he reaches the conclusion that this theater is a true church, the other not at all.

Putnam's Magazine rejected it; Charles F. Briggs, its editor, replied to Melville on May 12.

"I am very loth [sic] to reject the Two Temples as the article contains some exquisitely fine description, and some pungent satire, but my editorial experience compels me to be very cautious in offending the religious sensibilities of the public, and the moral of the Two Temples would array against us the whole power of the pulpit, to say nothing of Brown, and the congregation of Grace Church."

At the top of Melville's letter, Briggs wrote a memo to Putnam alluding to his response:

“Melville wants the MS sent to his brother Allan. I have written to him and I think you had better write to him, and get […] to […] Curtis. It will be the best one for his public and the Maga. B.”

Briggs was being careful and the suggestion to Putnam that he also write to Melville indicates the sensitivity of the situation: Melville was a popular writer and they wanted to retain him as a contributor. Briggs is suggesting that to assuage Melville's feelings they should buy another, more appropriate, piece from him.

"The fact that the publisher of the monthly…took it upon himself to write an additional letter to Melville to reassure him of the monthly's interest in and strong support of his ideologically challenging fiction indicates the high status that Melville's tales held for the editors of Putnam's" (Post-Lauria, Correspondent Colorings: Melville in the Marketplace, p. 189).

This letter is highly significant. Two Temples represented the metaphysical path that Melville had begun to travel with Moby-Dick and had further bestrode, deepening his spirituality. His earlier works had been popular; $5 a page was top wage for a short story; he was still in demand. (And Melville desperately needed the money). Beginning, however, with Moby-Dick, religious themes began to rapidly creep into his work. His readership began to slowly creep out, and from then on publishers became increasingly wary to publish Melville. Two Temples, so overtly theological and spiritually rebellious, was, if not the beginning of the end, a definite so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen to Omoo, amen.

Melville autograph material is scarce. Most of his surviving letters defy wakefulness. This letter, one of the few featuring content relating to his writing and with a revealing backstory, opens the eyes and keeps them open.

Image courtesy of Biblioctopus, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bob Dylan's Legendary Tarantula Proofs Bite At $10,000

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of the pre-production uncorrected galley proofs of Bob Dylan's first book, Tarantula, has come to market. Spiral-bound in the original salmon-colored wrappers, it is being offered by Biblioctopus of Century City, California. The asking price is $10,000.

Why the hefty price tag? Tarantula was published in 1971. These proofs - of which only "a few copies" were produced, according to publisher Macmillan's press release - are dated 3 July, 1966 ("376") with "pub. date: Aug 1966 Price: $3.95 (tent.)" in holograph ink at the top of the front cover. In short, the proofs were printed five years before the book was actually published.

What happened?

Dylan's motorcycle accident happened.

Publication plans were in motion when Dylan had his fateful accident on July 29, 1966. Hospitalization and recovery surely distracted him but Dylan was never really committed to this collection of prose-poetry to begin with. 

"Things were happening wildly in that period," Dylan recalled to an interviewer in 2001. "I never had any intention of writing a book. I had a manager [Albert Grossman] who was asked: he writes all those songs, what else does he write? Maybe he writes books. And he must have replied: obviously, sure he writes books, in fact we're just about to publish one. I think it was on that occassion that he made the deal and then I had to write the book. He often did things like that."

Further movement on the book ground to a halt. 

Except from bookleggers, one of whom was in possession of a stolen copy of these proofs, photocopied it, and printed and published the result. Subsequent pirated editions (over a dozen) followed, each based upon third or later generation photocopies of that first pirated edition of these proofs.

First authorized edition, NY: Macmillan, 1971.

Here, then, is the fabled, earliest and scarcest of all editions of Tarantula in print, one of perhaps only 3-5 copies produced, eleven inches in height, seventy-eight pages in length, and $10,000 in cost.

here lies bob dylan
demolished by Vienna politeness -
which will now claim to have invented him
the cool people can
now write Fugues about him
& Cupid can now kick over his kerosene lamp -
bob dylan - filled by a discarded Oedipus
who turned
to investigate a ghost
& discovered that
the ghost too
was more
than one person

(From Tarantula, ©Bob Dylan).

View some of the Tarantula piracies here.

Images courtesy of Biblioctopus, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest:

Greetings From Bob Dylan On Highway 51.
Very Early Bob Dylan Song Manuscripts Surface.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Book Illustrations Of Humphrey Bogart's Mother

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1898, Baby's Record was published by Frederick A. Stokes Co. of New York. Issued in three simultaneous editions featuring one, six, or twelve color illustrations (all here), the book was by Maud Humphrey, who, in the same year, married Dr. Belmont De Forest Bogart. A year later, on Christmas Day, she bore a son. The couple named him Humphrey.

Maud Humphrey was born in 1868 to a well-to-do family in Rochester, New York. Demonstrating a precocious talent for drawing, by age twelve she was taking art classes and soon became one of the founding members of the Rochester Art Club. As a teenager she began to receive commissions to provide illustrations for children's magazines.

At age eighteen she went to New York City and enrolled at the new Art Students League, later making the obligatory pilgrimage to Paris to continue her studies at the Julian Academy. Returning to New York, her ambition and ability were rewarded by her era: it was the beginning of what is now known as the golden age of book illustration, which dawned in the mid-late 1890s with the development of improved printing techniques and color-printing processes, and set when World War I began.

She became a highly in-demand illustrator for magazines, children's books, and advertising, her idealized and highly sentimental portraits of rosy-cheeked babies and youngsters very popular. Ivory Soap was a client, as was Mellin's Baby Food. She preferred to use live subjects and master Humphrey clocked many hours as a babe posing for his mother's Mellin's Baby Food illustrations, often dressed-up in little girl's clothing. 

She ultimately became one of the most sought-after and highly paid female illustrators in the United States, her work reproduced for calendars and all manner of merchandise.

Other books illustrated by Maud Humphrey include Sunshine of Little Children (1888); Babes of the Nations (1889); Baby Sweethearts (1890); Bonnie Little People (1890); Ideals of Beauty (1891); Famous Rhymes from Mother Goose (1891); The Light Princess (1893); The Book of Pets (1893); Little Playmates (1894); Old Youngsters (1897); Little Grown-Ups (1897); The Littlest Ones (1898); Little Rosebuds (1898); Sleepy-Time Stories (1899); Gallant Little Patriots (1899); Children of the Revolution (1900); Little Continentals (1900); Little Folk of '76 (1900); Young American Speaker (c. 1900); and many more.

Maud Humphrey, along with Jessie Wilcox Smith, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Queen Holden, and Frances Brundage, was amongst the most sought-after illustrators of the late nineteenth through early twentieth century, her annual income often reaching upwards of $50,000. The average illustrator was earning approximately $4,000.

The combined income of the Bogarts allowed their son, Humphrey, to grow up in prosperity. The family lived in a large, posh apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, and retreated to an elegant "cottage" on their 55-acre estate on the shore of Canandaigua Lake in upstate New York.

Draw it again, Mom. But, please, no more pinafores.

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, Maud Humphrey walks into mine, Café Booktryst, where the suspicious, the dubious, the imperiled, and the dispossessed read at the bar until the worst blows over.

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