Friday, February 28, 2014

A Rare Book's Roll-Call of Dishonest, Immoral, and Unusual People

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1813, James Caulfield published a new, expanded, three-volume edition of his  Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters, of Remarkable Persons, From the Reign of Edward the Third, to the Revolution, containing 109 engraved plates and 292 pages of accompanying text,  finishing the work originally issued in two volumes 1794-1795 with sixty plates and 214 pages of biographical material.

Caulfield's purpose was to embellish with prints the "twelfth class" section found in James Granger's Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, consisting of Characters dispersed in different Classes (2 vols., 1769), the "twelfth class" being those ‘such as lived to a great age, deformed persons, convicts, &c.’

It is, in short, an illustrated rogue's gallery of the odd, the dubious, the notorious, the eccentric, and the disreputable including:

Mother Damnable, the epitome of ugliness and the cursing, scolding, fuming, fire-flinging shrew not to confused with Mother Louse;

Blash De Manfre, the human Trevi Fountain commonly called the Water Spouter, who earned fame for drinking water in large quantities and regurgitating it as various sorts of wine, simple waters, beer, oil, and milk;

Elynour Rummin, the famous Ale-Wife of England, with "nose some deal hooked, and curiously crooked, never stopping but ever dropping; her skin loose and slacke, grain'd like a sacke, with a crooked back," but whose ale was renowned as A-1;

Margaret Vergh Gryifith, who had a six-inch horn protruding from her forehead;

Mrs. Mary Davis, who one-upped Margaret Vergh Gryifith with two horns growing on her head that would shed and grow again;

Francis Battaglia, alas not known as "Frankie Batts," who would devour half a peck of stones within 24-hours and six days later excrete them as sand through a colon with true grit;

John Clavell, the gentleman highwayman who wrote elegant poetry that begged mercy from judges, nobles,  and King, and was the author of A Recantation of an ill-led Life: Or, a discovery of the Highway Law (1627);

Archibald "Archie" Armstrong, the sharp-tongued master of buffoonery while jester to James I and Charles I, who earned renown and fortune as a Jacobean wise-acre, retired and became a loan-shark, and wrote A Banquet of Jeasts. Or Change of cheare: Being a collection of moderne jests. Witty ieeres. Pleasant taunts. Merry tales (1630);

Ann Turner, "a gentlewoman that from her youth had been given over to a loose kind of life, of low stature, fair visage, for outward behavior comely, but in prodigality and excess riotous," and was executed for murder;  

 Innocent Nat Witt, a poor, harmless idiot;

Moll Cut-Purse, "a woman of a masculine spirit and make [who] practised or was instrumental to almost every crime and frolick;"

Roger Crab, the sack-cloth wearing vegan hermit;

Mary Aubrey, who murdered her abusive husband then chopped him to pieces and cast him thither and yon;

Robert Fielding, gambler, bigamist, suspected murderer, and the vainest of all fops; 

Augustine Barbara Venbek, aka Barbara Urselin, whose "whole body and even her face was covered with curled hair of yellow color and very soft like wool";

Mary Carleton, who used more aliases than any knave in the Kingdom, was married three times, robbed and cheated several people, was often taken to be a German princess or at least a woman of quality, and was tried for bigamy and acquitted;

Mull'd-Sack, b. John Cottington, the genius pickpocket and miscreant who, one night while drunk, accidentally married an hermaphrodite named Aniseed-Water Robin (credited with twice impregnating himself and giving birth to a boy and a girl) in Fleet prison, "the common place for joining all rogues and whores together"; and many more.

James Caulfield (1764–1826) was an author and printseller. "Many old English portrait prints were too rare and valuable to supply the extraordinarily large demand for them. To this end, many old plates were republished and many old prints were copied. Caulfield came to specialize in prints illustrating Granger's twelfth class of people—‘such as lived to a great age, deformed persons, convicts, &c.’—whose portraits were very often the hardest to come by. In 1788 he began his work Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons, a series of reproductions of old portrait paintings and copies of rare old or popular prints accompanied by letterpress biographies" (Oxford DNB).

(In a bibliographical aside, Granger's book made fashionable the practice of extra-illustrating historical or topological books, i.e. pasting in illustrations from other sources, which became known as "grangerizing" existing texts).

In 1819 Caulfield further extended his book to include Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters, of Remarkable Persons, from the Revolution in 1688 to the end of the Reign of George II.

CAULFIELD, James. Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters, of Remarkable Persons, From the Reign of Edward the Third, to the Revolution. Collected From the Most Authentic Accounts Extant. A New Edition, Completing the Twelfth Class of Granger's Biographical History of England; With Many Additional Rare Portraits. London: Printed for R.S. Kirby, 1813.

New edition, expanded and completing the original two volumes 1794-95. Three tall octavo volumes (10 x 5 7/8 in; 254 x 149 mm). viii, 104; [2], [105]-198; [2], [201]-292 pp. 109 engraved plates (one folding), including engravings based upon the drawings of Marcellus Laroon (1653-1702). Publisher's original blue paper covered boards with white printed spine labels

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Together

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1929 Cecil Aldin (1870-1935), an artist with a passion for dogs, published Sleeping Partners, a charming series of twenty colored sketches of his two pooches, Micky, an Irish Wolfhound, and Cracker, a Bull Terrier with a dark patch over one eye, asleep and cuddling on Aldin's sofa. They were, as he dubbed them,  "The Professionals," sophisticated canine models, as opposed to "The Amateurs," visiting dogs lacking poise for posing before Aldin.

Micky and Cracker were Il Divos who needed room to express their artistic souls. Aldin had converted an old Army barracks into a sixty-foot long studio and this allowed his models a runway to strut their stuff for hours until settling into a pose that pleased them and Aldin, who, apparently, had the patience of a saint. "Never work with children or animals" (W.C. Fields).

Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) “was a most prolific artist and illustrator. While living in London, he became friends with the Beggarstaff Brothers (see Houfe under William Nicholson and James Pryde), John Hassall, Phil May and Dudley Hardy, and their influence on his work was great. He produced a great number of prints, a select list of which is included with a comprehensive bibliography in Heron’s book [Cecil Aldin: The Story of a Sporting Artist (1981)]. He did a great deal of advertising work, including posters, for such companies as Bovril, Colman (manufacturers of starch and mustard), and Cadbury’s, and Royal Doulton produced about sixty items with Aldin drawings between 1910 and 1939. Horses, dogs and the English countryside were the major topics of Aldin’s illustrations. The obituary in The Times asserted that ‘there never yet has been a painter of dogs fit to hold a candle to him…Cecil Aldin can justly be described as one of the leading spirits in the renaissance of British sporting art’” (Alan Horne, The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators, p. 67). 

Other books written and illustrated by Aldin include Old Inns (1921); Old Manor Houses (1923); Cathedral[s] and Abbey Churches of England (1924); Romances of the Road (1928); An Artist’s Models (1930); Exmoor, the Riding Playground of England (1935); and Hunting Scenes (1936).

ALDIN, Cecil. Sleeping Partners. A Series of Episodes. London: Eyre and Spottiwoode, n.d. [1929]. First edition. Folio (12 1/2 x 9 3/8 in; 312 x 236 mm). Unpaginated. Twenty recto-only mounted colored plates.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Death Makes A Lousy Nanny, Etc.

by Stephen J. Gertz

Extra engraved title-page featuring
Manny, Moe, and Jack, the last of the Graces.

He can run but he can't hide.
- Joe Louis on ring opponent Billy Conn.

What's up with Death? What's it doing? It never takes a holiday but nowadays it seems to always be someplace else and never near until it is: it's messy and depressing and we keep it in a compartment, generally confined to a television box or computer screen. As if a hotel toilet seat it's been sanitized and deodorized for our protection. Unless, of course, you're in the midst of war and it becomes the close friend you never wanted and don't like but can't get rid of. Death is such a downer, so anti-life. We've buried it as something to be avoided at all costs, life and death as mortal enemies. Kill death before it kills us. We're shocked by its presence; it's alien to our existence.

Keep an eye on the nanny.

This is a recent phenomenon. Until the twentieth century, death was an ever-present close companion, always lurking and liable to strike at any moment. Women routinely dying in childbirth; high infant mortality; rampant, intractable disease; and ignorant medical care ruled. How did people cope with it? Religious faith was one way. Facing it dead-on, accepting, and often laughing was another.

There is a rich tradition of illustrated books that treat death as a living character in the theater of life.  The earliest, appearing not long after the Black Plague ravaged Europe, is Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying), two manuscripts from the early fifteenth century on how to attain a good death, the second containing eleven graphic woodcuts. Hans Holbein's The Dance of Death (1538) featuring forty-one woodcuts is probably the most celebrated.

The "dance of death" (or "danse macabre") was a "medieval allegorical concept of the all-conquering and equalizing power of death, expressed in the drama, poetry, music, and visual arts of western Europe, mainly in the late Middle Ages. It is a literary or pictorial representation of a procession or dance of both living and dead figures, the living arranged in order of their rank, from pope and emperor to child, clerk, and hermit, and the dead leading them to the grave." (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Death defeats all challengers.

The nineteenth century saw the publication of William Combe's The English Dance of Death, originally issued in monthly parts, 1815-16, with seventy-three hand-colored aquatints by Thomas Rowlandson.

The book at the doctor's feet is List of Cures.
The leaf on the footstool by Death reads, The Only Infallible Remedy."

Ten years later, in 1826, British painter-engraver Richard Dagley published Death's Doings featuring prose and verse selections by various writers highlighted by twenty-four hand-colored plates designed and etched by Dagley.

Ode To Immortality.
Greece 1824.

The poet is Byron, who died in Greece in 1824
while fighting for its independence.

Dagley continues the tradition, with Death near at hand to everyone no matter who they are, no matter the circumstances. Death is everywhere, all the time, in the background tapping a foot in wait.

"Richard Dagley (c. 1765-1841) was an English subject painter. He was brought up at Christ's Hospital, and at first made designs for jewellery. From 1784 to 1806 he exhibited domestic subjects at the Royal Academy. He then turned his attention to teaching drawing, but again appeared at the Academy from 1815 to 1833. As a medalist he obtained some success, and he published works on gems in 1804 and 1822. His life was a continued struggle against poverty. He died in London in 1841" (Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers).

The ultimate Dear John letter.

The Scroll

The maiden's cheek blush'd ruby bright,
And her heart beat quick with its own delight;
Again she should dwell on those vows so dear,
Almost as if her lover were near.
Little deemed she that letter would tell
How her true lover fought and fell.
The maiden read till her cheek grew pale -
Yon drooping eye tells all the tale:
She sees her own knight's last fond prayer,
And she reads in that scroll her heart's despair.
Oh! grave, how terrible art thou
To young hearts bound in one fond vow.
Oh! human love, how vain is thy trust;
Hope! how soon art thou laid in dust…

Very popular upon its publication, a second edition of Death's Doings with six additional plates appeared in its first year followed by an edition in 1827 and a first American edition (Boston) in 1828. Though well-represented in institutional holdings, the last (and only) copy of Death's Doings with hand-colored plates to appear at auction was twenty-four years ago, in 1990.

Assertions to the contrary, Death does take a holiday: it has recently been vacationing at Club Dead, the last resort to get away from it all, with an all-inclusive package featuring eternal days and nights and all you can eat, though, admittedly, appetites are infinitely suppressed; the only diet that really works over the long-term.

Though booked as far into the future as one can see there's always room at the inn and my 87-year old mother is currently en route to this fabulous ultimate destination spot where Death is headlining the midnight show in the Drop-Dead Lounge and slaying the audience. While there is no turbulence, her flight is in limbo, she's grown impatient, and the family is slicing anxiety into thick slabs, experiencing a thousand deaths as she nears hers. It's not that Death can't make up its mind so much as Death behaving as a cruel tease.

My mother, never known for sharp humor, has made a startling debut as deathbed quipster, making sardonic jokes during brief  periods  of lucidity. Asked the other day if she needed anything she replied, "a shroud" dare I say deadpan. Death is jerking us around. All we ask is that it get on with the show and be done with it.

We're dyin' here.


DAGLEY, Richard. Death's Doings; Consisting of Numerous Original Compositions, in Prose and Verse, the Friendly Contributions of Various Writers; Principally Intended as Illustrations of Twenty-Four Plates, Designed and Etched by R. Dagley. London: Printed for J. Andrews and W. Cole, 1826.

First edition. Octavo (8 1/4 x 5 1/8 in; 211 x 131 mm). xviii, [2], 369, [1, blank], [1, list of plates], [1, printer's slug] pp. Twenty-four hand-colored etchings.

Not in Tooley, Abbey, or Hardie.

The Plates:

1. The Poet.
2. The Pilgrim.
3. The Scroll.
4. The Artist.
5. The Cricketer.
6. The Captive.
7.The Serenade.
8. The Toilet.
9. The Mother.
10. The Hypochondriac.
11. Life's Assurance.
12. The Antiquary.
13. The Champion.
14. The Glutton.
15. The Last Bottle.
16. The Hunter.
17. The Alchymist.
18. Academic Honors.
19. The Empiric.
20. The Phaeton.
21. Death's Register.
22. The Lawyer.
23. The Bubbles of Life Broken By Death.
24. The Epilogue.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Great Gadsby: A Rare Book Written The Hard Way, No "E"s

by Stephen J. Gertz

Today is Lipogram Day on Booktryst, and because it is Lipogram Day we celebrate Gadsby, a novel from 1939 whose sole claim to fame is that of its 50,110 words not a single one contains the letter "E." 

Lipograms, which have nothing to do with liposuction unless you're vacuuming avoirdupois letters from a composition that could use a little less around the middle, are simply forms of writing from which the author has omitted a certain letter or letters from the alphabet.

The form dates to the ancient world. The Greek poets Nestor of Laranda and Tryphiodorus wrote lipogrammatic adaptations of Homer, with Nestor composing an Iliad, followed by an Odyssey by Tryphiodorus.

If you're a writer composing in English the most challenging lipogram will involve leaving out our most common vowel, "E." Gadsby novelist Ernest Vincent Wright gave himself a rigorous task: no common English words such as "the" and "he"; plurals in "-es"; past tenses in "-ed"; and even abbreviations like "Mr." (for "Mister") or "Bob" (for "Robert"). In short, he deliberately gave himself a pain in the ass to work through. To ease his E-burden and avoid mistakes he tied down the "E" on his typewriter's keyboard.

Personally, I consider that cheating but shiftless scribe that I am, I once wrote an entire novel without using any letters from the alphabet. It was harder than you think. I had to jerry-rig a shield over my keyboard to prevent all twenty-six letters from being accidentally depressed. It was grueling. The prose was pristine (as well as the paper when printed-out) but the story pointless, as well as invisible. It was an ordeal. I had to take days off to recover and got nothing written at all.

Lipograms are just about the silliest form of writing endeavor I can imagine, the writer held hostage to a form that is more puzzle than novel, an intellectual game of dubious literary value where form trumps content and quality goes down for the count. So it was something of a miracle that Wright not only pulled it off but did so with aplomb. He tells the story well, the necessary substitution of words without "E" flowing smoothly off the page rather than causing the pain associated with a dentist pulling "E"s out of your gums without anesthesia.

An anonymous narrator relates the tale, which begins c. 1906 and continues through World War I, Prohibition, and the presidency of Warren G. Harding. The narrator introduces us to the city of Branton Hills, its history, and sterling citizen John Gadsby's place in it. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts abound, as if a Jamboree hit town and afterward left the scouts behind with sticks, string, and kindling fluff that ignite a political career when middle-aged churchman John Gadsby wakes up his sleepy, isolated community with the help of these youngsters, and soon becomes its Mayor in the process. 

Ernest Vincent Wright was a graduate of M.I.T. and served in the First World War. A warehouse fire shortly after the book's publication accounts for its rarity. With dust jacket it is absolutely scarce. According to the jacket blurb it took Wright 150 days to complete the work, but, apparently it was years in the making; hamstringing your keyboard will only go so far - you have to plan ahead. The novel, such as it is, has become legend in word circles, admired by lexicographers, lipogrammatists, puzzlers, and language freaks.

Gadsby has its own Wikipedia page which notes: "The book's scarcity and oddness has seen original copies priced at $4,000 by book dealers."

Wikipedia needs to update its entry. There is only one copy with dust jacket currently being offered in the marketplace. The asking price is $7,500.


NB: In further honor of Lipogram Day this post was written without "X" being the first letter of a word. This, despite my best efforts to work Xanthans, Xanthate, Xanthein, Xanthene, Xanthine, Xanthins, Xanthoma, Xanthone, Xanthous, Xenogamy, Xenogeny, Xenolith, Xerosere, Xerox, Xiphoid, Xylidine, Xylidins, Xylitols, Xylocarp, Xylotomy, Xanthan, Xanthic, Xanthin, Xenopus, Xerarch, Xeroses, Xerosis, Xerotic, Xeruses, Xiphoid, Xylenes, Xylidin, Xylitol, Xyloses, Xysters, Xebecs, Xenial, Xenias, Xenons, Xylans, Xylems, Xylene, Xyloid, Xylols, Xylose, Xylyls, Xyster, Xystoi, Xystos, Xystus, Xebec, Xenia, Xenic, Xenon, Xeric, Xerus, Xylan, Xylem, Xylol, Xylyl, Xysti, Xyst, Xerostomia, or Xylophone into the narrative. 

No excuse.

WRIGHT, Ernest Vincent. Gadsby. A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter "E." Los Angeles, Wetzel Publishing Co., (1939). First edition. Octavo. 267 pp. Original red cloth stamped in black on upper cover and spine. Dust jacket.

Image courtesy of Rulon-Miller Books, currently offering this title, with our thanks.

Monday, February 10, 2014

This 1898 Lost Gem Of Oriental Romanticism Is Intoxicating

by Stephen J. Gertz

The following is my Historical Note to a new translation of Haschisch by Fritz Lemmermayer, originally issued in 1898 and now published for the first time in English by Process Media in association with RKS Library Editions. The black and white illustrations here (as well as the original cover art in color) are by Gottfried Sieben and are taken from the first German edition. All of the striking and plentiful original illustrations are present (and faithfully reproduced) in this exciting new edition along with many supplemental illustrations that illuminate the history of the book. - SJG.

Some novels die and justifiably remain dead. A few are resurrected by bookish saviors and, re-examined, rise to deserved new life. Haschisch by Fritz Lemmermayer is one such literary Lazarus. 

During the nineteenth century Europe was infatuated with the Orient in general and the Muslim world in particular. The Ottoman Empire, which in the late 17th century beseiged Vienna and put all of Christian Europe at risk, had receded as a threat. Translations of The Arabian Nights appeared in French (1704) and English (1706), kindling popular interest in the Orient. Diplomatic and commercial ties with Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, increased during the 18th century and Turquerie, an Orientalist style imitative of Turkish culture and art, had developed into a popular fashion by century’s end. By the beginning of the 19th century literary Romanticism had established itself. Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley, amongst others, lured by the exotic East, indulged, to popular success, their fascination for the foreign in their work. Oriental Romanticism, which captured their fantasies, was the result.

By mid-century the European craze for all things Oriental was at its height. The paintings and color-plate albums of Amadeo Preziosi, a Maltese count and artist who had become a resident of Istanbul, provided a lush feast for Europeans hungry for visual representations of this strange world of unusual costume, customs, and, let us not mince words, alluring women, mysterious with titillating possibility behind the veil. And, too, the use of opium and hashish in the East had captured the Romantic imagination as a gateway to the Oriental mind and fantastic visions not otherwise available to Western man. The exotic East possessed a strong sensuous undercurrent and it will come as no surprise that a genre of erotic literature arose in parallel to Oriental Romanticism to satisfy the European male’s desire, The Lustful Turk (1828) being an early example. The region was perceived to be an erogenous zone.

In Germany, Romanticism tended to look inward to Teutonic myth rather than outward to the East. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, a small group of Neo-Romantics, led by litterateur Fritz Lemmermayer in protest to modern realism, turned their eyes toward the Orient. Haschisch, Lemmermayer’s 1898 novel, is not only Oriental Romanticism’s last gasp, but its acme, the literary culmination of two centuries of feverish thought and interest in the exoticism of the East.

We would not know this, however, without the scholarship of Dr. R.K. Siegel who rescued from obscurity this novel, a book lost in the wake of literary modernism and forgotten almost as soon as it was published. It’s a book that, as an antiquarian bookseller, I first became aware of in the mid-1980s through its 1911 translation into, of all languages, Yiddish. The cover art was sensational. A few of us in the trade who had a special interest in the literature of psychotropic drugs were riveted but, preoccupied with quotidian needs, did not have the necessary time to study and determine just what this book was. Enter Dr. Siegel, a dedicated collector-scholar, a breed of book lover that has so often (and to no financial gain whatsoever) devoted precious time to perform the bibliographical spadework for books in general and orphaned literature in particular. It was he who uncovered the first edition in German and then made the study of the novel’s history a personal mission. The results are here and marvelous.

Amadeo Preziosi, Odalisque.

A word on the novel’s illustrations by Sieben. He was unquestionably influenced by Preziosi’s artwork. Stamboul: Souvenirs d’Orient, Preziosi’s widely and wildly popular color-plate masterpiece first appeared in 1858, its fourth and final issue published in 1883 (as Stamboul: Meours et Costumes) to satisfy unabated demand. When Europeans imagined the Orient it was Preziosi’s imagery that they referenced, particularly his women of Istanbul. The faces of the women in Haschisch are directly those of Preziosi’s women. Preziosi’s image of a harem woman, languid and alluring as she is attended by her servants, tempts us with come-hither eyes as she smokes a hookah. Is she enraptured by hashish, or merely smoking tobacco? It is left to the observer to decide.

I think it safe to say, however, that readers will not have to make a decision regarding the novel’s vivid and operatic narrative. Haschisch is a literary cloud of intoxicating smoke, a phantasmagoria in print, once forgotten but now unforgettable.

•  •  •

N.B. The politics of Oriental Romanticism are not germane to this post beyond that almost every 19th century stereotype of the exotic East is found in Haschisch. Romanticism's preoccupation with love, sex, and death gets full play here. Throw in exotic drugs and Muslims and Edward Said would have had a field day with it had he lived to see this publication, which is quite something with production values that belie its cost, and a degree of scholarship that is remarkable. Dr. Siegel is a model literary detective; his informative introduction and notes cover the waterfront. It appears he hasn't missed a thing, which would be a bad thing if the story behind the book wasn't so interesting.

LEMMERMAYER, Fritz. Hashish: The Lost Legend. The First English Translation of a Great Oriental Romance. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Ronald K. Siegel, PH.D. Translations by Hermann Schibli (German); Mindle Crystal Gross (Yiddish). Historical Note by Stephen J. Gertz. Port Townsend, WA: Process Media in association with RKS Library Editions, 2013 [i.e. Feb. 2014].

First edition in English, limited to 418 copies numbered and signed by Ronald K. Siegel, PH.D. Quarto (10 x 6 1/2 inches). xx, 118 pp. on heavy glossy paper. Illustrated throughout in black & white and color. Full blue suede cloth with color illustration laid-on. Gilt lettered spine. Housed in a red suede cloth slipcase. $65.

Full Disclosure: I sit on the Editorial Board of RKS Library Editions, along with William Dailey, Michael Horowitz, and Steven B. Karch, M.D., FFFLM.
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