Translate

Friday, March 30, 2012

A revealing book inquiry from J.J. Lankes

From that wonderful cache of Schulte's Bookstore correspondence I obtained a few years ago, I've plucked another interesting letter to showcase here. This one was written to Schulte's in 1944 by the renowned woodcut illustrator  Julius John (J.J.) Lankes (1884-1960), whose illustrations I featured in a recent post about Robert Frost.


Mr. Lankes wrote the New York bookseller from his Hilton Village, Virginia home in August of 1944 seeking a particular title: Hillier's Treatment of Manic Depressive PsychosisHe also expressed an interest in other titles the bookseller might have on the same subject. He signed off his book request with another request about how to answer him--specifically, by letter, but if the response were by post card, Schulte's should do so without reference to the subject. 

Who's privacy was Lankes trying to protect? His own? A family member's?


At the time this letter was written, Lankes was working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (succeeded by NASA) as head of technical illustrating in the reproduction section. Of this period in his life, Welford Dunaway Taylor writes in The Woodcut Art of J.J. Lankes (David R. Godine Publisher, 1999) that Lankes would much rather have been making a living as a woodcut artist. He seems to have been very dissatisfied with such labor, but knew he had to do it to survive.

But Lankes' dissatisfaction may have been more than just a temporary, work-related bad humor. In Taylor's book, Robert Frost, with whom Lankes enjoyed a long collaborative relationship, is quoted as having said "Lankes doesn't like anything." 

Taylor also writes of Lankes' close friend Robert P.T. Coffin describing Lankes as a hard man to live with and that his work as a woodcut artist was about all that gave him any pleasure--everything else disappointed him.

Whether these psychological assessments were self-revelatory to Lankes or communicated to him by close friends or family, it would appear by his book inquiry to Schulte's Book Store that he wanted to learn more about what he might have assumed to be a " manic depressive psychosis." 

It's also interesting to note in Taylor's book that Lanke's woodcut art declined significantly during his tenure with NACA. Could this have created a vicious cycle of sacrificing creative work for unfulfilling work to meet living expenses, which fed back into a growing depression? 

Sherwood Anderson provided a personal portrait of Lankes as a younger man at the height of his artistic abilities in this 1931 Virginia Quarterly Review article:


Anderson alternately characterizes Lankes as moody and silent and talkative and accommodating. Are there clues here to a possibly developing "manic depressive psychosis?" If so, Lankes apparently sought refuge in his creative expression, something he may have been denied in later years, either through necessary "survival" work or declining abilities. 

Anderson writes of this "very significant man" from the perspective of the Great Depression of the 1930s when the whole country was "spiritually tired" and darker moods prevailed with many. Out of this darkness, Anderson found light in the work of J.J. Lankes.
He is reasserting the life and the beauty buried away in things, is always reasserting it in every woodcut he makes. It is his determination, his assertion and reassertion, as well as the beauty of his work that, it seems to me, makes Lankes, the Virginia woodcut man, one of the very significant living artists of our day.

Further reading: The Private Library's blog post: Lankes, Frost and The Private Library.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Labels

A.S. Burbank (1) Abel Tompkins (1) abraham lincoln (2) ad booklets (1) ad card (2) ad cover (1) ad covers (12) advertising (1) Africa (1) African American (1) Alabama (1) alexandria virginia (1) Alfred Lorentz (2) Alfred Sutro (1) Allentown PA (1) Amalfi (1) american antiquarian society (2) American Book Company (1) American Bookbinders Museum (1) American literature (1) Americana (1) Andrew Hoyem (1) Andy Rooney (1) announcement card (1) announcement cards (1) announcements (1) Anthony Newnham (1) antiquarian book (1) Aoki (1) Arion Press (1) Arthur H. Chase (1) astronaut (1) auction catalogs (1) Australia (1) author (1) author promo (1) authors (1) autographs (1) automobiles (1) Baghdad (1) Baltimore (1) bank drafts (1) Barcelona (1) baseball writer (1) Beatles (1) Berlin (1) Bertha Mahoney (1) Bertha Mahony (1) bibliately (1) bibliomania (1) bibliophilately (1) bibliophiles (4) billhead (6) billheads (4) Billie Burke (1) Birchall's Bookstore (1) Birmingham (1) black culture (1) blotters (1) Bob Dylan (1) Boernicke and Tafel (1) book (2) book caravan (1) Book Club of California (1) book collecting (1) book collector (1) book collectors (3) book design (1) book fairs (2) Book of Kells (1) book shop label (1) book shop labels (1) book shops (15) book signing (1) book store (2) book stores (1) bookbinder (2) bookbinder tickets (2) bookcards (1) booklets (1) bookmark (3) bookmarks (2) bookmobiles (5) Bookplate (4) bookplate design (1) bookplates (15) books (6) bookseller (18) bookseller circus books Maine (1) bookseller labels (5) bookseller labels tickets (1) bookseller reviews (1) booksellers (45) Booksellers' League of New York (1) bookshop (1) Bookshop for Boys and Girls (1) bookstore (6) bookstores (8) boston (11) bottle (1) bouquinistes (1) brattle (1) broadside (2) brochure (1) brochures (1) Brooklyn (1) Bruce Rogers (1) business cards (1) button chaser (1) Buzz Aldrin (2) calendars (1) California (1) Canada (2) cancer medical bookplate (1) catalog (1) catalogs (4) catalogues (2) Catholic books (1) Charles C. Soule (1) Charles Hoy Fort (1) charleston (1) Cherokee (1) children's literature (1) Christmas (1) chromolithograph plate (1) cigarettes (1) Civil War (3) Classic Motorbooks (1) Clayburgh (1) Clements Library (1) collectors (1) collectors' institute (1) Confederate (1) Confederate Home for Veterans (1) Connecticut (1) Cooperstown (1) Cornhill (1) Cosmic Aeroplane (1) covers (1) Croatia (1) Cuba (1) D. Lothrop (1) D. Lothrop and Co. (1) Dartmouth (1) Decatur Illinois (1) Declaration of Independence (1) Dedham Massacusetts (1) Denver (1) Detroit (1) DF Wallace (1) Dial (1) diary (1) Dickensiana (1) die-cut (1) digital ephemera (2) Doane (1) dolls (1) Donohue & Henneberry (1) drug store (1) Dublin (1) Dubrovnik (1) Durrie and; Peck (1) dust jacket (1) Dutch (1) Dutch Booksellers Association (1) dutton (1) Ed Sullivan (1) Emil Prass (1) encino press (3) engraving (1) ephemera (3) Ernest Dawson (1) Eugene O'Neill (1) Eurkea Bazaar (1) European history (1) Evelyn Waugh (1) ex libris (2) exhibits (2) expositions (1) Felix Cunha (1) feria del libro (1) fine printing (1) Firenza (1) Firenze (1) Florence (1) flyaways (1) flyers (1) Fortean Society (1) Foyles (2) France (2) Francis Scott Key (1) Friedrich Furchheim (1) G. Wyman (1) George Doll (1) German (1) Germany (1) GF Warfield (1) ghosts (1) Goodspeed's (2) Goodspeed's Book Shop (1) Grabhorn Press (1) graphic design (1) Greenaway House (1) Greenwich Village (1) greeting cards (1) Haines and Essick (1) Haiti (1) hand fans (1) Hans P. Kraus (1) Hartford (1) Hartford Connecticut (1) Harvard Library (1) haunted (1) headshop (1) Herbert Fahey (1) Herbert Faulkner West (1) Holmes Book Company (1) holt and rinehart (1) homeopathy (1) Horace Mann (1) Horn Book Magazine (1) Houghton Mifflin (1) Houston (4) Hudson's (1) Iceland (1) illuminated manuscripts (1) illustrations (1) illustrators (1) IMBS (1) indiana (1) instructions (1) International Exhibit 1862 (1) International Miniature Book Society (1) invoice (1) Iraq (1) isaiah thomas (2) Italy (2) J.F. Collins (1) J.J. Lankes (1) Jack Kerouac (1) Jacqueline Kennedy (1) James Hustler (1) James Walker (1) Japanese paper (1) Jean Frey (1) jerome holtzman (1) JJ Lankes (1) JK Gill Company (1) John Chapman (1) John Ford Esq. (1) John Langdon Sibley (1) John Love Bookseller England 1700s Goodspeed William Wadd (1) John Penington (1) John Rothensteiner (1) John W. Park (1) Johnny Appleseed (1) Jones' Bookstore (1) JR Osgood (1) Justin Brierly (1) Justin Brierly Denver Neal Cassady Jack Kerouac Beat Generation (1) Katherine Goddard (1) Ketterlinus (1) Kitemaug (1) Knoxville (1) label (1) law books (2) LBJ (1) Leipzig (2) Leona Rostenberg (1) letter (3) letterhead (2) letters (5) Levi K. Fuller (1) librarian (2) librarians (2) libraries (9) library (1) library accessions list (1) library catalogs (2) Little Brown (1) Lloyd Adams Noble (1) London (1) Longfellow (1) Los Angeles (2) Lowman and Hanford (1) lunar landing (1) Macedonia (1) Macmillan (1) Magazine ads (2) Maine (1) Malta (1) manuscript (1) Marian Cutter (1) Mark Twain (1) martyr (1) massachusetts (1) Mayfair Bookshop (1) McGirr's (1) medical (1) Menno Hertzberger (1) menus (1) Michigan (1) Michigan history (2) miniature books (2) Minneapolis (1) Minnesota (1) motorsports (1) Mrs. Paul's Kitchens (1) Mundelein (1) Museum of Printing History (1) Naples (1) Napoli (1) National Library Association (1) Neal Cassady (1) Nederlandse Boekverkopersbond (1) Nevada (1) New Hampshire (2) New Mexico (1) New Orleans (1) New York (7) New York Public Library (1) newsletters (2) Nice (1) Niles Michigan (1) nuns (1) Oakland (2) Oklahoma (1) Olympia Dukakis (1) Ontario (1) opera (1) Oregon (1) Ottawa (1) P. Garrett & Co. (1) pamphlets (1) Paris (1) Patriot (1) patriotic (1) Penguin Book Shop (1) Penn Letter Book (1) Pennsylvania (1) Philadelphia (5) Philip Greely Brown (1) photos (1) Pilgrim Bookshop (1) Pilgrims (1) playbill (1) Plymouth (1) poets (1) Poland (1) post card (2) post cards (1) postal covers (1) postal history (1) postcards (5) Postcards Leipzig Publishers Booksellers Buchhändlerbörse (1) President Kennedy (1) President Truman (1) press photos (1) press release (1) Princeton (1) print announcements (1) printer (4) printers (5) Printing (1) printing arts (2) program (1) promotional letters (1) promotional photo (1) prospectus (1) prospectuses (2) Providence (1) publisher (6) publisher insert (1) publishers (21) publishers booksellers encyclopedias dictionaries (1) publishers Japan (1) Publishing (1) Puerto Rico (1) Ransom Center (1) Rare Bibles (1) rare books (1) Rasmussen (1) Raymer's (2) Raymond Carver (1) reading (1) receipt (1) receipts (1) Reed Books (1) review copy (1) review slips (1) Rhode Island (1) Ricardo Veloso (1) Rice Institute (1) Richter (1) riverrun bookshop (1) Robert Frost (1) rodeo (1) roger beacham (1) Rose Wilder Lane (1) Roxburghe Club (2) Rumball-Petre (1) Russia (1) sales receipts (1) sales rep (1) Salt Lake City (1) Samuel Hooper Hooper (1) San Diego (1) San Francisco (7) Santa Fe (1) Saunders (1) Sausalito (1) Schomburg (1) school (1) Schulte's Book Store (4) Schumann-Heink (1) Scofield Thayer (1) Seattle (2) ships (1) Sidney L. Smith (1) Sidney S. Rider (1) Sierra Leone (1) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1) small presses (1) Society of Lincoln's Inn (1) south carolina (1) south dakota (1) Southwest (1) Spain (2) spelling (1) Springfield Illinois (1) St. Paul (1) stamps (1) Star-Spangled Banner (1) statements (1) stationers (3) Stefan Lorant (1) Sun Iron Building (1) swap cards (1) Switzerland (1) teaching (1) Tennessee (1) Texas (4) Thanksgiving (1) Thatcher (1) The Netherlands (1) The Tides (1) The Virginian (1) Theodore Dreiser (1) Tibbals (1) tickets (2) Ticknor (2) Tiffany Thayer (1) trade card (2) trade cards (6) trading cards (1) trailers (1) Treves. Florence (1) Trinity College (1) typewriters (1) typography (1) Universalists (1) University of Delaware Library (1) University of Michigan (2) University of Texas (1) university of texas-pan american (1) university presses (1) Utah (1) valentines (1) Valletta (1) Vermont (1) W.E. Osborne (1) W.I. Whiting (1) W.M. Morrison (1) War of 1812 (1) Waring (1) Waterbury (1) Western Americana (1) Westerns (1) Wiener Library (1) william and barbara holman collection. book arts (2) William Briggs (1) William Goddard (1) william r. holman (5) wire photos (2) Wisconsin (1) Wister (1) Witkower's (1) wittliff (3) woodcuts (1) Wooster Ohio (1) worcester (1) World War II (1) writers (1) Zagreb (1) Zahm (1)
 
Creative Commons License
Bibliophemera by Chuck Whiting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.