Friday, August 9, 2019

Abbey Road (the book): A Bookstore Poster

The photo of the Beatles, led by John Lennon, crossing the street above is from a photo shoot that produced one of the most recognizable and iconic record album covers of the 1960s, and all time for that matter: The Beatles' 1969 Abbey Road album. But this isn't the photo used for that album's cover, although it may appear to be at a glance.

Fifty years ago on August 8th, 1969 (I'm a day late getting this out), this photo of the Beatles was taken outside of London's Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles titled their 1969 album after the historic studios in which they recorded it and crossed Abbey Road in a photo shoot that resulted in the album cover below.

Another image from that photo shoot was used for the promotional bookstore poster below that advertised Brian Southall's book, Abbey Road, published in 1982, with a Foreword by Paul McCartney and Preface by George Martin. The book's dust jacket illustration matches what you see on this 12 X 17-inch poster. And what better image to illustrate a book about the famous recording studios than this one, even if it isn't the exact image used for the album?

The differences between photos for the album and the book are obvious. On the album cover, the Beatles are crossing the street from left to right and visible traffic is distant. Paul McCartney is barefoot and holding a cigarette. Contrast that with the outtake photo used for the book's jacket and promotional poster. The Beatles are walking back across the street, right to left, and there is a double-decker bus nearing the crosswalk. Paul is still barefoot, but his cigarette is missing. 

Another of the six photos shot for the album cover went to auction in 2012 and fetched £16,000 (about $25,000)! It also showed the Beatles in reverse direction from what made the final cut for the cover art, but Paul, sans cigarette, was wearing sandals in that one. 

Perhaps a 'backwards' photo is more appropriate for the book jacket as the book takes a look back into the history of the famed Abbey Road Studios.

Monday, June 10, 2019

R.I.P. William D. "Bill" Wittliff (1940-2019)

I'm sad to hear of Bill Wittliff's passing yesterday, June 9, at age 79.

He was a creative force in Texas as an author, screenwriter, photographer, publisher, bookseller, book collector, and designer of books and ephemera. Al Lowman, in Printing Arts in Texas (1975), wrote, "Quite likely there is no more diversely creative talent in Texas today than this gifted designer, artist, sculptor, historian, writer, photographer, and poker player."

I never really got to meet him other than exchanging greetings and thank yous at a book signing in Houston in 2007. I bought five copies of A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove, a collection of his photographs on the set of the Lonesome Dove miniseries in 1989. He was the screenwriter for that much beloved and now classic Western. He personalized a few copies for gifts, signed just his name on a few copies, which went up for sale later in my online shop, and, of course, I kept one copy he signed for my wife and me. It is certainly a treasured keepsake.

I have a small collection of ephemera designed by Bill Wittliff, much of it signed or inscribed, and I  wrote about a few pieces for this blog in 2010. I thought I'd dust off one of them and repost it rather than just reference it with a link. The images needed improvement and the writing gets tweaked a bit, but it's essentially intact from 2010.
About a decade ago I stumbled upon a Texas bookseller's online listing of ephemera designed and printed by William D. (Bill) Wittliff and his Encino Press in Austin, Texas, circa 1960s-70s. The price was very reasonable and I did not hesitate to make that collection part of my collection. In keeping with the content of this blog, I've selected one of several book-related pieces to feature here--a brochure for the second annual meeting of The Collectors' Institute in 1969. Wittliff signed (initialed) the back of the brochure.

I had never heard of this group before, so I did a little research to see what it was exactly and what became of it (assuming it is no longer around). The Handbook of Texas Online has an article on the Collectors' Institute, submitted by the former (and only) president of the Collectors' Institute, Jenkins Garrett.

I learned from Garrett's article that the Collectors' Institute existed from 1968 to 1980. It was "a private association of collectors of library materials, including books, manuscripts, documents, and maps, cosponsored by the Texas State Historical Association and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin."

Reading further, I realized this group's collecting interest focused on some pretty interesting material and, to that end, invited some of the giants of Texas Belles-lettres, publishing, and book design to speak to the group. What an opportunity that was! Workshops were also held to address collector interests.

The meeting's itinerary, presented inside Wittliff's brochure (below), gives an indication of what one could expect at these meetings. Looks like some pretty distinguished bookmen giving talks, conducting roundtable discussions, or being honored. Very interesting and educational, by all appearances.

The group had twelve such annual meetings, but never met again after the 1980 meeting. I don't know why, perhaps interest waned toward the end.

I hope to find more ephemera and related items about this organization and its meetings and workshops. Meanwhile, here's Jenkins Garrett's article:

COLLECTORS' INSTITUTE. The Collectors' Institute was a private association of collectors of library materials, including books, manuscripts, documents, and maps, cosponsored by the Texas State Historical Association and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. It was organized on November 23, 1968, with more than 150 members. Between the fall of 1969 and 1980 twelve annual meetings were held, with programs of general interest in the area of publishing, authors, and collections. Speakers included Carl Hertzog, Hallie Stillwell, Lawrence Clark Powell, Archibald Hanna, J. Evetts Haley, and John Graves. In addition to annual meetings, workshops were held each spring. The workshop programs focused on questions of interest to collectors, such as identity, preservation, repair, and maintenance of printed and manuscript material.

Through 1973 transcripts of the meetings were published and distributed to the membership. Jenkins Garrett was president of the Collectors' Institute from 1968 through 1980. From its organization in 1968 through the fall of 1970 Kenneth Ragsdale, a fulltime staff member of the Texas State Historical Association, served as voluntary secretary and coordinator of the institute. In 1974 John Payne, a fulltime employee of Humanities Research Center, volunteered to take over these responsibilities. He served through the fall meeting of 1980. The organization was discontinued after that meeting.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Emil Jeschke - German Books in Cleveland

Here's an old billhead from 1887 for Cleveland, Ohio bookseller, Emil Jeschke. He was a dealer in German books and periodicals. As stated above the graphic in the upper-left corner, he regularly imported books on every German steamer: "Books for technical and artistical use."

Speaking of "artistical," Jeschke employed a local engraving firm, Mugler Engraving Co., to create a fitting logo for his correspondence. The result, which is featured on this billhead, is a display of German books (authors Goethe and Schiller are indicated as is publisher Kosmos). Atop the stack of books is what appears to be a bust of Beethoven.

This July 1st transaction appears to be for one of the periodicals Jeschke advertised - three current year issues of "Season" (May, June, July) at 30 cents each. "Season" may be an abbreviation of a title and from the English spelling, it does not appear to be a German language periodical.

Emil's profile on the Internet some 130 years later is pretty thin. His business ended several years after this transaction took place. A notice in Publisher's Weekly from 1891 indicates a sheriff's sale was conducted to dispose of his stock of German books on January 17, 1891.

From books to baskets?

The next mention of Jeschke I can find is later that same year in an 1891 Cleveland, Ohio directory, where he is listed as a basket manufacturer by the same name at the same business address that is on his bookseller billhead.

A reference in the archives of the Cuyahoga Probate Court indicates a lawsuit against Emil Jeschke in 1891, which probably had everything to do with him closing the bookstore and liquidating his assets through the sheriff's sale. 

If nothing else, Jeschke appears to have been resilient, though transistioning from a bookstore to a basket making enterprise is a curious development, to say the least. Looks like he had some competition with at least six other basket manufacturers in Cleveland. I'd bet the competition wasn't that stiff in Cleveland for selling German language books. Perhaps the market wasn't there by 1891 to sustain a bookseller with that niche. Hopefully, the basket market was.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Harry Falkenau - Bibliophile and Antiquarian

Bibliophile and antiquarian are but two words to describe Harry Falkenau (1864-1907) of Chicago. And he was quite accomplished at both, as well as oration, but his real passion was music. This 1903 postal card, however, introduced me to Harry the bookseller and his penchant for rare books as both collector and dealer.

The postal card here served as a business communication, or receipt,  to Iowa College Library in Grinnell, Iowa, acknowledging receipt of payment for an unnamed book.

 Falkenau gained some notoriety as a Cornell University student when he defended Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass against obscenity charges in 1882. A gifted orator, Falkenau was selected three years later to deliver a commencement speech at Cornell and Whitman surfaced again. His speech was titled, The Poetry of the Future as Foreshadowed in the Writings of Walt Whitman.

He also composed music and played violin and pianoforte. He was a member of the Irving Literary Society (a regular venue for his musical performances), a Fellow in Literature for a year after graduation in 1885, and worked as an Assistant Librarian. He could play Chopin's Nocturne and teach Chaucer and Shakespeare, both of which he did his last year at Cornell.

His love of music and literature created a natural career path, first as a drama critic in San Francisco and later for the Chicago Herald. It's uncertain what prompted him to transition from music into books at that time in his life. Perhaps he was burned out with writing and needed a change of scenery. Whatever the case, it was likely a natural progression given his background and tastes.

He bought an antiquarian book shop in Chicago at 46 Madison Street. The 167 Madison Street address indicated in his stamp on the McKinley Postal card was his second shop, where he apparently dealt in rare books the rest of his brief life. He died at age 43.

During his tenure as an antiquarian bookseller, Falkenau left little in the way of content for future Internet searchers a century later. There is a decent Wikipedia page, which supplied much of the above information and there is the postal card now in my collection that corroborates his business address and nature of his stock. Little else was found during my searches, other than newspaper mentions, until I stumbled across an old newspaper article that featured him as a bookman.

So Harry Falkenau was part of a queer class (anachronistically speaking) of Chicago men who knew first editions and lived in their books! This 1897 article published in the Inter Ocean, an old Chicago newspaper, begins with a harsh admonishment of book buyers who have little or no interest in a second-hand shop that deals in rare books: "The ordinary, uneducated, ignorant, unintelligent, and ignoble man regards a second-hand bookstore with as much lack of interest as a bicycle rider does a blacksmith shop.

These poor souls who are satisfied with an “eighteenth edition or two hundred and fiftieth thousand” printing of a book unknowingly advertise themselves as “philistine and shoddy.” How’s that for a snooty attitude toward the general public of book buyers?

The unnamed reporter who wrote this article didn't have to go far for his story. Falkenau's shop was in the Inter Ocean building. The reporter quoted Falkenau as having claimed to possess the largest stock of its kind in the West and then wrote that Falkenau “fed an eager, aspiring reporter with many facts about the business yesterday.” I take this to mean that the above characterization of the man on the street who doesn’t know squat about books comes from the mouth of Harry Falkenau himself, unless the eager, aspiring reporter exercised some literary license with what he heard. 

Much of what follows in this article is Falkenau's musings and grumblings about the rare and used books trade and how business is conducted. Interestingly enough, a lot of what he has to say still holds true for dealers in the trade today.

To engage in this business needs a peculiarly constituted man. It is an art rather than a business. A second-hand bookseller must know every one of his large stock as well as a horse trainer knows his horses.

The stock kept has to be immense, because there is no regular place where stock can be replenished. He must buy his stock when it is offered to him, and then he must wait until the man comes along who wants the particular books. There is a saying among second-hand book dealers that there is “a man for every book in the world,” just as there the right man for every woman, but to bring the two together is as difficult to bring the right man and woman together. Thus it happens in the book trade that there are many divorces, and many books that languish in single loneliness.

It is interesting, however. There being no fixed prices for old books—so much depending on condition, etc.—the gambling element enters largely into it. The hunters’ instincts are also appealed to. As an instance, a man picked up an original edition of Tamerlane from a lot of rubbish for 10 cents and sold it the next day for $1,800 . You are on the hunt all the time, and you can never tell in what odd corner you may come upon your quarry.

Most of the books are got through the sale of libraries. These are sold through the death of the owner, through poverty, through moving away. Books cannot be compressed, or lessened in weight. And they damage considerably through  moving. The carefully selected library of the father falls to the son of sporting proclivities, and to him they simply waste room. These the book dealer gets hold of and puts again into circulation among those who appreciate the gift of the gods.

The old book dealer begins generally, as Mr. Falkenau did, by being a collector. When he goes into the business, he gives up collecting, because he then realizes the immensity of his undertaking, and the impossibility of ever even approximately realizing it. Collecting old books is like seeking the everlasting fountain of youth, or the philosopher’s stone, and the only ones who are ever cured of the mania are those who turn dealer. Others, especially if it takes the turn of collecting first editions, keep on, ever hopeful, till their death. That is one of the mitigations of the disease; as in consumption, the patient is cheerful till the last.

Then after the funeral, the sorrowing widow sends down  to the dealer, to make an estimate of dear John’s books; and though she pretends to think that she is getting woefully cheated by the price offered, she really is so much amazed at what his old rubbish is worth that she quickly accepts the offer, thinking that there is probably some mistake and that he will find it out if he goes away and thinks it over. (For John always represented to her, when finances were under discussion, that his books cost him but a trifle.) 

The article goes on to talk about the bane of booksellers everywhere--the book thief. On this topic, Falkenau has much to say, as reported in the article. 

Thieves are especially hurtfully, he reports, to booksellers who regard their books almost as friends. Stealing a treasured friend goes beyond hurtful, it is insulting. 

Falkenau appears to view practitioners of his trade as tender-hearted and vulnerable to anyone who shows the slightest interest in his first editions, original imprints, etc. Even though a dealer may suspect a book thief in his midst, he cannot resist showing his treasure because "who knows but that his heart will be turned by books, even as men have been won by women--far less fascinating than books."

One last observance from Mr. Falkenau on how he interprets what outsiders see when looking in at the bookseller and what he thinks of booksellers.

Common people think of book-sellers as isolated hermits, who live in a miraculous manner by the grace of God for denying themselves from the world and for burying themselves in dry but worthy occupation. But old book men regard themselves as the aristocrats of the business world. They form a guild of their own, and through their paper, keep in touch with one another all the world over; in touch in a mercantile and in an intellectual way.

Obviously, Harry Falkenau had a passion for books and for his trade. He had a passion for music. What was missing? Something... With all the contentment he seemed to have in his life, it was a surprise to learn of his suicide in the newspaper report below. He was "despondent" (blamed on insomnia) and had retired to a fruit farm in Michigan to live and hopefully get the rest he so badly needed. It wasn't enough. A family friend provides insight in the obituary as to what his family life was like. He evidently hid his depression very well. Perhaps a closer inspection of the Inter Ocean reporter's article on Falkenau will provide some clues as to an underlying mental illness. 

The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) January 22, 1907


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