Saturday, July 25, 2009

Announcement card for Buzz Aldrin signing

I am pleased to be posting my latest acquisition of bibliophemera--an announcement card, or ad card, for a book signing at Louis Vuitton in Houston. Apollo 11 astronaut and moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, appeared in person yesterday at Louis Vuitton to sign copies of his latest book, Magnificent Desolation. I picked up one of these cards at the store before they ran out, then I got in line to get my books signed by Buzz Aldrin. Thus the pleasure at being able to post about it today.

This is special, of course, because of the space history connected with the signing. All this week, Americans, as well as other nations, have been observing and celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the first landing on the moon--the Apollo 11 mission. Buzz Aldrin followed Neil Armstrong as the first two men to walk on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.

The Vuitton card is from the Louis Vuitton Core Values Ad Campaign, photography by Annie Leibovitz. The announcement is printed with the Leibovitz photo of Sally Ride (first American woman in space), Buzz Aldrin, and Jim Lovell (ill-fated Apollo 13). The photo is on thick cardboard stock, measuring 14.7 by 23.5 cm (5.75 by 9.25 inches) and contains the printed announcement on the back.

Here's a video related to the campaign that Vuitton has posted on YouTube.

Most of what I post here is about antique paper dating back to the 1800s and early twentieth century. This Vuitton card is not only my latest collectible, but it is also the newest piece in my collection. Less than two months old at best guess. As Frank DeFreitas pointed out in his review of Ephemera 29, International Fair & Conference, held earlier this year, "The term ephemera does not refer to how old something is... You can have a piece of ephemera from the 1700's, or a piece of ephemera from yesterday." And my latest piece of ephemera is from yesterday.

Appropriately enough, I'll close with the intended result of the ad card. One of them anyway. I'm sure they hoped that the extra traffic in the store would result in increased sales of their merchandise. I don't know how that worked out for them, but it sure got me in there to buy a few books and get them signed. For that, I thank them.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A piece of Harvard Library history:
John Langdon Sibley

Below is a piece of correspondence on Harvard letterhead--The Corporation of Harvard College--dated January 29, 1857. It is signed by two notable figures in Harvard's history: John Langdon Sibley, Librarian, and James Walker, President.

The letter acknowledges receipt of a gift from the publisher, John Ford, Esq., The Cambridge Directory for 1857, 1 Vol to the Harvard Library. Near the bottom of the document, before John Langdon Sibley's signature, is a date of January 29, 1857, which is likely the date of acknowledgment.

John Langdon Sibley was an Assistant Librarian at Harvard for two nonconsecutive periods, 1825-26 and 1841-56. Beginning in 1856, he served as Librarian until 1877. From 1877-1885, Sibley was Librarian, Emeritus. According to information in the link above, Sibley was a noted biographer, best known for his Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University. He was born in Union, Maine on December 29, 1804, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 9, 1885.

Also accessible through the link above are excerpts from Sibley's personal diary, which spans nearly 37 years, with entries beginning on January 1, 1846 and ending on August 29, 1882. He wrote of the details of daily life, as well as local and national current events, and about Harvard, of course.

James Walker (1794-1874) was President of Harvard University from February 10, 1853 to January 26, 1860. He was also a Unitarian minister and religious philosopher. His term as President of Harvard has been called uneventful; no great reforms to report, unless you were a music lover at the time. He did add music to the course curriculum. And for any nonreligious students, Walker's discontinuance of evening prayers were probably a welcome reform in 1855. However, morning prayers, which have been a tradition at Harvard since its founding in 1636, continue to this day, and today they are held in Appleton Chapel, which was built during the James Walker administration. Another building of note during Walker's tenure was Boylston Hall, built in 1857. Walker resigned in 1860 because of illness.

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Love, the fattest bookseller in England

For anyone who may have noticed the overweight man (pictured here) on the left side of this blog's banner, he is John Love, Bookseller, of Weymouth England (late 1700s), otherwise known as the "fatest and heaviest man ever known in England."

I first became acquainted with John Love through his likeness on the back cover of a pamphlet published by Goodspeed's Book Shop in Boston, this being Volume I, Number 6 (March 1930).

Goodspeed used to publish a monthly pamphlet, beginning in 1929, titled The Month at Goodspeed's Book Shop. Each issue highlighted various books, prints, and autographs in their stock. I was fortunate
enough in the last year or two to collect most of the issues published from 1929 through the 1940s. These monthly catalogs had a 40-year run, 1929-1969, and featured well-written, interesting articles about select items arriving in the shop.

Norman L. Dodge was the editor of the catalog for its entire run and Goodspeed's ceased publication only because of Dodge's ill health. These catalogs are sought after for the wealth of knowledge they contain about rare books and paper. They've certainly become a valued addition to my growing reference library.

Relative to this issue, Goodspeed's must have recently acquired a print of John Love's likeness, or caricature, and included it on the back of their catalog for March of 1930. The blurb about him is, I suppose, the work of Dodge, and characteristic of a lighter side that reveals itself in his writing from time-to-time in these catalogs. It reads as follows:
When he became a bookseller in Weymouth, he gave full scope to his desires; through overeating and drinking, he now grew as remarkably heavy as he was before light and thin--his weight and bulk were the astonishment of all beholders: he was obliged (as our print, which is a striking likeness, shews) to have the waistband of his breeches nearly up to his chin, in order to prevent their falling off.
And yes that was a single sentence, some 75 words, but a piker compared with William Faulkner (Absalom! Absalom!) and James Joyce (Ulysses) who reportedly wrote record-setting sentences containing 1,700 and 4,000 words, respectively!

Back to the big bookseller from Weymouth... I found a bit of history--about all there is--for John Love. It comes from the Book of Days site, an entry for July 21st:
A sad episode in the history of crime is exhibited in the forgeries and subsequent execution of Ryland, a celebrated engraver, who exercised his profession in London during the latter part of the last century. Ryland had an apprentice named John Love, who, terrified by his master's shameful death, gave up the business he was learning, and returned to his native place in Dorsetshire. At that time being exceedingly meagre and emaciated, his friends, fearing he was falling into a consumption, applied to a physician, who recommended an abundance of nutritious food, as the best medicine under the circumstances of the case. Love thus acquired a relish for the pleasures of the table, which he was soon enabled to gratify to its fullest extent, by success in business as a bookseller at Weymouth: where he soon grew as remarkably heavy and corpulent as he had previously been light and lean. So, he may have been said to have achieved his own greatness, but he did not live long to enjoy it; suffocated by fat, he died in his fortieth year, at the weight of 364 pounds.
Three-hundred sixty-four pounds is obese, to be sure, but today that would hardly qualify Love as the "fatest and heaviest man ever known in England." For his times and probably for his height, he may have been the fatest and heaviest known, but he was also in very good company, judging by some of the images presented along with his in the book, Comments On Corpulency: Lineaments of Leanness: Mems On Diet And Dietetics , by William Wadd; John Ebers & Co., London, 1829. Wadd is credited with the illustrations so apparently he is the illustrator of the John Love print Goodspeed's had at one time. Whether this image was drawn from memory of a personal encounter, or from another image, or completely fabricated out of thin (fat) air, I don't know. For now, it is the only image that seems to exist of Love.

You can see Wadd's book online and flip through its pages by clicking on them. John Love makes his entrance at number 98. Can’t read the fine print or make out some of the detail? Click on the magnifying glass and move it over the area in question. Pretty slick.

A few other notes...

John Love died in 1797, according to a 1912 exhibition catalogue titled: "Catalogue of an exhibition of books, broadsides, proclamations, portraits, autographs, etc. : illustrative of the history and progress of printing and bookselling in England, 1477-1800, held at Stationers' hall 25-29 June, 1912" If that is accurate and if the Book of Days piece is accurate about his age at death (40 years), then John Love would have been born about 1757.

A cemetery record in a section of Weymouth records his death in the year 1793. In addition to bookselling, I've found evidence that Love had a circulating library around 1785.

He is also listed in some publications as author, printer or publisher. So by all accounts, John Love appears to have been a well-rounded bookman. Couldn't resist that.

But he doesn't appear to be a happy man. He has the look of a man carrying a heavy burden, and I don't mean physical for the sake of a cheap pun. Look at his expression in the etching. That's a look of deep sadness or depression. Maybe he really was or maybe that's just how William Wadd chose to characterize him. Lacking any other images of his likeness, he will be forever viewed as a morbidly obese, sad man. I'd like to think there was more to him and that the few fragments of his history I've found will support that assumption.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Raymer's Old Book Store, Seattle 1956

Here is a 1956 postcard from Raymer’s Old Book Store in Seattle, one of just a few examples of Seattle bibliophemera in my collection and I'm pleased to have it. The store has a bit of interesting history, as you will read later.

In a post from a few years ago on Book Patrol, longtime Seattle bookman, Taylor Bowie, describes Raymer’s Seattle store on 3rd Avenue as “a dusty and dreary shop of picked-over dross.” I wonder what he really thought?

I still like the postcard, though. I suppose the illustration represents the picked-over dross. Actually it looks like a variant of Carl Spitzweg's Der Bücherwurm. It depicts a book hunter’s haven—the hunter on the step stool, books strewn about, seemingly endless shelves of old books to dig through.

It seems there may have been more than one location for a book hunter to browse the stacks. I have found Raymer's Old Book Store in Salt Lake City, Denver, Tacoma, and Minneapolis, where the store's name looked like this: Raymer's "Old Book" Store.

Anyone interested in learning about the history of bookselling in Seattle would benefit from reading Taylor Bowie’s reminiscences of forty years in the business, Part I of which is featured on the Book Patrol link provided above.

The flip side of the postcard features a note to a customer along with a little salesmanship: "A book has come in that makes me think of you... the book is in fine condition and you should have it..." The note is signed E. Chlarson.

A search of Chlarson turned up a 1948 Saturday Evening Post article that reported on a peculiar practice at Raymer's in Seattle. It seems Charles D. Raymer (founder) for some reason had started a mailbox service in his shop where customers could have their mail sent. He also offered a mail forwarding service. The service began with one customer in 1909 and as of the Post article in 1948, the book store had 600 mail box customers with room for 400 more. At $3 a box per year, the book store was pulling in $1,800 annually just for receiving and distributing mail. Raymer died long before the Post article was written, but his successors, Mr. and Mrs. Lew Chlarson, continued the practice. How far it went beyond 1948, I don't know, but it was the first, and only (at that time) private post office in the United States.

The E. Chlarson who signed the note on my 1956 postcard was undoubtedly related to the Chlarson proprietors in the 1948 Post article.

A customer picks up his mail from Mr. Chlarson
at Raymer's Old Book Store.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A publisher's calendar for Independence Day

Here is an appropriate piece of ephemera for July 4th, Independence Day in America: A 1925 calendar from the American Book Company, which features early meeting places of the legislatures of the original thirteen states. As there are only twelve months to associate with the meeting places, the vignette for the thirteenth state is that of the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, 1776. This is where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on this day 233 years ago. Today it is called Independence Hall. The vignette is printed on the cardboard backdrop that holds the monthly calendars, each with their own vignette.

I've included some interesting history about the Declaration of Independence in a post on Archaeolibris.

Happy Birthday, America!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eugene O'Neill playbill

Reviewing some of my old posts from about three years ago on another blog, I found a piece of ephemera that seems appropriate for this blog, which didn't get going until last year.

This is a 1963 playbill for Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, which I found tucked away inside a worn copy of the book. The play was being performed at the McCarter Theatre of Princeton University during October and November of tht year. As a playbill, there's nothing remarkable or interesting about it, except it features an up-and-coming young actress in the play and a concert ad for a young singer-songwriter beginning to make his mark in the music world.

First, the ad. Flipping through the program I came across a concert ad for Bob Dylan, "America's newest folksong sensation" appearing in person November 16th, his only college appearance that fall. And shouldn't that be "America's newest folksinging or folksinger sensation?"

Grammatical correctness aside, as I flipped through the pages, I also found the star of the play, whose photo on the front cover I hadn't recognized... Olympia Dukakis. Ahh, I thought she looked familiar.

So what else might be in this playbill? More plays that Ms. Dukakis was starring in, plus an ad for a famous Russian puppeteer, Sergei Obratsov.

A good bit of celebrity packed into this little college playbill. But I'm intrigued most by the Bob Dylan ad, being a big fan of his music. Trying to find some cosmic coincidence of fate for pairing Dylan with this early '60s playbill, one has to look no further than the play's 1912 character, Mary Tyrone (Olympia Dukakis) and her drug addiction (morphine). And it was drug addiction, or the drug culture and drug usage, that permeated and partially characterized the artistic, political, and philosophical counter-cultural movements of the 1960s.

Maybe that's a stretch, but, at any rate, the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, who became a somewhat reluctant icon for his generation, had recently recorded his second album. His appearance at Princeton, one of the earliest solo concerts of his brief career at that point, would occur a mere six days before President Kennedy's assassination. The seeds of his enormous success and cultural influence and the wave of counter-culture revolution were, at that time, blowin' in the wind.

1963 album cover for Dylan's second album


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