Thursday, April 30, 2009

Analectic Magazine, Lithography, Naval History and The Star Spangled Banner

The most interesting and important American magazine of the second decade of the 19th century was The Analectic.(as was Joseph Dennie's Portfolio of the first decade) for many reasons- great literature, great history and great illustration.

Begun as an extension of an obscure journal, Select Reviews, it took on a life of its own in January 1813 under its new editor, the reknowned Washington Irving and articles by his brother-in-law, James Kirk Paulding. Irving's interest in the navy was reflected in his reviews and biographical works of such esteemed sailors as Commodore Perry. Irving lost interest in Magazine editorship in 1814 but the magazine continued to thrive, publishing, for the first time nationally, an anonymous military poem set to the music of an old english drinking song (Anacreon in Heaven) "Defense of Fort McHenry" later to be revered as "The Star Spangled Banner" as well as reviews of Lewis and Clark's expedition and an eclectic mix of great topical articles.

The July 1819 issue featured the first American lithogaph, by Bass Otis, here reproduced

The rear wrapper of the issue advertised a number of works by the prior editor and a later series featured early hand-colored engravings and this early view of the capitol in 1820.

Here is a random front wrapper with typically great engraving. I hope you have a better idea now about why wrappers are so important.

While were on landmark buildings, here's the first ever published image of the White House, in a British magazine gloating about their pyrrhic victory in burning it. What goes around, comes around as Uncle Sam said to John Bull!

Enjoy the spring, see you again soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day: First Appearance of Thoreau's Walden

My daughter, Whitney, is visiting from St. Louis and reminded me that today is Earth Day. To commemorate this event, we looked for an appropriate magazine and arrived at Thoreau's "Walden" as a great example of early environmentalism in America.

Many years ago I was driving through Connecticut and happened upon a very remote bookstore. As usual, I asked the proprietor if she had any magazines, and she lead me to the appropriate location in her store. In the stack of old magazines I spotted a few issues of Sartain's Magazine from 1852 - a very rare and late volume. To my joy, unbeknownst to the proprietor, two of the issues were especially interesting to me. The first, from May, contained an article entitled "The Iron Horse" with the author simply identified as "Thoreau." The second issue of interest contained a story entitled "Voyage in a Balloon" by Anne T. Wilbur.

Trying as hard as I could to hide my racing pulse, I enquired as to the price. Seven dollars, each, I was told. I paid the lady and proceeded to enjoy reading the first ever appearance of any part of "Walden" as well as the first American appearance of "Anne T. Wilbur," better known as Jules Verne. Both magazines were in their original wrappers. I have never seen another copy of either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another One That Got Away: Fame and Fortune, The Shadow

Fame and Fortune Magazine:
Adventures in Making Money 1929

"The Shadow of Wall Street" by Frank S Lawton

This pulp from the time of the 1929 crash just sold on eBay for $1500. I was outbid. The imagery is fantastic and quite pertinent to the present economic situation. To paraphrase Santayana, those who ignore the past are doomed to relive its mistakes!
For more background information on this publication and "The Shadow" see

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Girly" Pulps and Censorship in Magazines

I just received this rare first issue pulp magazine that I recently won on an eBay auction. It is the 841st first issue pulp in my collection. The universe of pulp magazines is a little over 1000 titles, including digests, one-shots and girly magazines.
There are two comprehensive checklists of pulps. The first, The Adventure House Guide, got me started on all this craziness. John Gunnison, Doug Ellis and John Locke, with the help of a few other advanced collectors put it out in 2000, creating a checklist with a lot of boxes to check off. This self-admitted fanatic, being tired of stamp and coin albums, took it upon himself to try to get the first issue of each and every one. Nine years later I'm 165 titles short and still trying. So far this year I've reduced the number by a grand total of one, so at this rate, if I live the biblical 120 years I'll get the number under 100!
To makes things worse, Tim Cottrill of Bookery Fantasy published his own guide a few years later that included additional titles, mostly of the "girly", semi-pornographic ilk that I just obtained. The first edition is long out of print but the second is readily available and quite valuable for the bibliographic information and prices it contains.

Pulp magazines pushed the envelope of sex and gore in the 1930's. Things calmed down a little in the early 40's when the victorians got involved. The "spicy" titles were changed to "speed" and the overt sado-masochism and racy sexual content got toned down considerably.
One interesting aspect of this that I've never seen discussed are the "star" issues. Many of the spicy titles were actually issued in two versions, one for the newstand and the other, more lurid version for "under the counter" distribution. Pulp collectors are quitw aware of these but the price guides don't reflect which issue have two versions, nor do they address any difference in price (I suspect the racy versions are rarer and, thus, more expensive).

It's not just the cover that's different. All the art inside is as well. So here, for the first time that I can tell, is two versions of a pulp magazine to illustrate my point. They are the first issue, of course, of Spicy Western from 1936:

See what I mean? Amazing stuff.
The issue of censorship in American magazines requires a more comprehensive entry that I will attempt at a later date. It's a beautiful spring day in New Jersey so I'm off to try to hit a little white ball into a four-inch hole. Fore!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Modern Literary First Appearances in Magazines

Since the economic side of collecting seems to garner great interest among my readers, I thought I'd tell you of a purchase I made today on eBay. The picture on this listing appears to the left. Mademoiselle Magazine, June 1945, price $12.45. Any ideas?

It is the first appearance in print of an important American author. I've never seen it for sale before, but if it was in a catalog of Peter Stern, Ken Lopez or Between the Covers (three of America's finest dealers in modern first editions) it would probably be listed for more than $300 in good condition (this one is not- it's missing the back cover, though still quite scarce).

I also received in the mail two other items for which I paid twelve dollars each on a "buy it now"auction. One 1950's issue of Harper's, the other Atlantic, each containing the first printing of a poem by a highly regarded author/poetess who met with an untimely death. Both magazines are in great shape. I would value each at a minimum of $50.

Modern authors in magazines are fun to collect and, with a little homework, can be profitable as well (though, as I said many times, I collect magazines because I like them and not for monetary gain). There is no reference to go to for guidance.
There are many appearances of J.D. Salinger, Steven King, John Updike, Hunter Thompson and others that are generally off the radar screen to eBay sellers but not astute collectors. Enjoy!

Oh, I almost forgot! The two authors I referred to at the beginning of this post?

Truman Capote and Sylvia Plath.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Great Women in American Magazines: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody is another of the grossly underappreciated women in American History. I came to know her by her connections with American magazines (how else?).

Ms. Peabody was one of the founders of the American transcendentalist movement and is best remembered for her role in pioneering juvenile education. A brief biographical essay follows:

When my son Tyson, now 34 and the father of my two grandaughters, was in high school, he told me how impressed he was after reading Henry David Thoreau's monumental essay on civil disobedience "Resistance to Civil Government".

This immediately brought to mind to this incurable collector, the question of where it was first published. To my delight I found it was first delivered as an essay in 1847 and first published in an exceedingly rare magazine, Aesthetic Papers, in 1849. Hence my introduction to the venerable Ms. Peabody who edited the journal.

Of course, the next mission was to obtain a copy. In the days before the internet, finding books was no easy task. I found a copy in an old catalog of M & S Books (Dan Siegel) of Providence, Rhode Island priced at $4500 (a pretty hefty bite in the 1980's when the dollar was worth fifty cents as opposed to today's value of a quarter!). I called Dan and it had been sold.

I then made it known to every major American bookdealer that I'd like to obtain one. No copy showed up for a number of years. Then, one year in the early 90's my customary annual trip to the Boston Book Fair was delayed by a severe snowstorm, causing me to arrive about one hour after the opening. The first dealer I ran into, Rob Roulon of Roulon Miller Books, figuratively punched me in the stomach when he told me that a copy of Aesthetic Papers in original wrappers had been sold to a collector just a few minutes earlier for $1000! As you can imagine, I was not a happy camper.

A few years later I was able to find to the one illustrated above, an ex-lib copy for $1250 (still a pretty good deal). I haven't had a sniff of another one since.

If you read my last blog, I bemoaned the fact that I don't own a copy of the November 18, 1865 issue Saturday Press, that contains the first printing of Twain's "Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". I should also note that two weeks earlier, this obscure magazine first published another blockbuster, Walt Whitman's "Oh Captain, My Caption".

Here we go again! I called Rich West at Periodyssey and he has never held any issue of this magazine. Another holy grail to search for. What the hey, that's what a collector lives for anyhow.
Speaking of transcendendalism, no comprehensive American magazine collection can ignore this important era in our history, which also encompasses the literature of the many utopian communities that flourished at the time. I have quite a few representative magazines but the acknowleged best is The Dial, with contributions by Margaret Fuller (another forgotten female genious) Thoreau and Emerson, to mention only a few. I was able to get a complete bound run from the great Michael Ginsberg and recently obtained another issue in original wrappers from Rich (he may have one or two more- worth owning, 4135271900, I don't get a commission!).

To those who observe, the best of the Easter/Passover season. See you again shortly!