Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Chronicle of Magazine Covers (2) 1800-1810

The magazines published in the first decade of the nineteeth century are not particularly interesting from a graphic standpoint. The most important magazine, Joseph Dennie's (aka Oliver Oldschool) Portfolio was a quatro, issued without wrappers until 1806, publishing the first American fashion plate in 1809. The opening article is by John Quincy Adams!

As printing expanded west, the technology of engraving was delayed in following. The first thespian magazines appear. The Apollo is the very rare first magazine printed in Delaware.
Of all, the cover of The Ordeal is the most ornate.

Literary Miscellany is the first of many magazines to be printed at Harvard.

In this decade, forty cities in fifteen states and the District of Columbia accounted for 139 different magazines. My collection has examples of well over half the titles. The best reference is the doctoral thesis of Benjamin M. Lewis from the University of Michigan, republished in a 77 page pamphlet in 1959. Here is one page from this authoritarian work.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Chronicle of Magazine Covers (1) 18th Century

My trip yesterday to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in nearby Manhattan inspired this and what will be a series of posts. There was an exhibition, more or less a collage, of the magazine photography of contemporary sports figures that immediately reminded me of the wealth of graphic Americana that I've been collecting for the last thirty years. The images have been sitting on my hard drive, ostensibly for use in a "magnum opus" magazine history book yet to be written. I thought I'd start to share them with you.

Ergo, here is a fantastic documentary panoply of magazine cover illustration that I shall present chronologically. Within it you will find the evolution of printing technology and design that it one of my particular fascinations within the heretofore uptapped wealth of information that lies within (and here, on the cover of ) American periodicals. Very few captions are necessary. The art speaks for itself. Enjoy the show!

The Eighteenth Century:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

National Geographic Magazine

Today, about 50 million people read "national Geo" every month in 32 different languages. A complete run on DVD or hard drive will be available from the publishers in December.

The first issue was more of a scientific journal and was sent to all of the 206 original members of the society. The first volume has of four issues, published irregularly. There have been many reprints, most are so identified. The 1964 reprint of the first issue is now somewhat scarce and sells for about $50. A good review content and current values of all of the issues can be found at
I obtained my copy of the first issue in 1987 as a highlight in the purchase of a huge lot of first issues (the collection that really got me started). The front cover was glued to the title page and the back cover was half missing. At the time and now, the authoritarian work on National Geographic collecting is a book by Edward C. Buxbaum. The first edition was written in 1935 and the third greatly expanded edition is available from Bob Fleck's Oak Knoll Press in Delaware.

I spent about $2000 having my copy restored. I reached out for Buxbaum (a Milwaukee chemist) in an effort to authenticate my copy and found that he had died. His wife, though, sold me an extra original back cover of a first issue that she had and I was then able to match up the paper and refabricate my issue from all original material. I then had a slipcase made by a binder.

The original first issue of 206 is printed on very distinctive laid terra cotta paper. All repros are on a different stock. My scan of the original appears above. I would estimate its current value at $8000- $10,000.
It's hot and rainy in New Joisey. Have a great day!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My trip to Hartford: Godey's Magazine 1834, rare Edgar Allan Poe appearance

There are only a few great paper shows left worth traveling to:

1) Papermania in Hartford

2) The paper shows in Allentown at the fairgrounds

3) Pulpcons- Chicago and now Columbus

4) The Ephemera Society annual meeting

5) The New York, California and Boston Book Fairs

Today was my adventure to Hartford. Fortunately, the room was still full and the attendance was strong. Good material was abundant though the really good stuff was a bit overpriced.
It's a two hour drive from New Jersey and the weather on the road held up despite the proximity of Hurricane Bill.

I bought a few minor items and had one great find- a bound volume eight of Godey's (1834) containing a short story, the anonymously published first national magazine appearance of Edgar Allan Poe entitled "The Visionary". I've been looking for it for quite some time to add to my considerable Poe holdings. Some writers become dated with time (in the 1920's Ben Hur by Lew Wallace sold for thousands of dollars, today it's less than a hundred), EAP just keeps growing in importance- one of the greatest magazine characters ever.

My copy is in great shape with all the engravings present, contemporary binding (front cover detached) and minimal foxing. The only copy presently for sale on the web is for $1200 and is considerably lesser condition. Mine- $150, thank goodness the dealer didn't do his homework- there was another dealer's price in it for $600 but fortunately no attribution to Poe.

I won't retire on this item but it paid for the trip and a very nice day catching up with my friends in the book trade. In retrospect, I forgot to go back and buy a Playboy (1953) number one for $1250. I should have bought it since at that price it could easily be re-sold on eBay for a healthy profit. As I've said over and over, knowledge is power. Good Hunting!
Next Blog: National Geographic.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Davy Crockett's first magazine appearances

My last post provoked some further research and a wonderful ongoing dialogue with perhaps the world's leading authority on Crockett, Professor Michael Lofaro of the University of Tennessee, introduced to me by my dear friend, Joe Rainone, a fellow fanatic collector who shares my passion for the origins of American popular culture.

With respect to my assertion that this appeared to be the introduction of Crockett to American magazine readers, I stand corrected, as it turns out, what I actually found, and possibly was the first to document, was the first image of Crockett ever published. The 1833 book about him, Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, which I had not seen, does not contain illustration.

Further research, using the index of David Sloane's invaluable book on American Humor Periodicals led me to a well produced Philadelphia magazine, The Ariel. Most fortunately, my collection contains a run of this most interesting publication and, sure enough, Crockett is mentioned in both the issues of January 24th and February 7th 1829. These do appear to be the first magazine appearances, though Dr. Lofaro speculates that Davy showed up earlier in newspapers.

Interestingly, these accounts contain some of the tall tales and bragging that were later to make the self-promoting Crockett an American icon, inspiring Walt Disney to cast Fess Parker as Crockett in the series of programs that members of my generation grew up with.

So here for your reading pleasure are the aforementioned articles:

Have a great weekend.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Yankee in Magazines: Yankee Doodle, Yankee Notions

I begin this post with the question of the origin of the word "yankee", which I find has no clear answer. There are many apocryphal stories. The one about a supposed letter, from General Wolfe, referring to his American troops in the 1750's has no documentation, though clearly by the Revolutionary War it was a term used first by the British to describe an American from New England and then by the Americans themselves.
One thing that appears rather consistent through history, and is unfortunately being demonstrated again presently, most notably but by no means exclusively in Iraq and Pakistan, is ethnic bias and nationalism. In this light, I would favor the version of the Dutch term"Jan Kees" or "John Cheese" prounounced in dutch "yahn keys", as a descriptive yet derogatory term for those from New England. This also ties into the name "Jonathan" as a common term for an American by used by the English. (the "ask Brother Jonathan" Trumbull story has also been credibly refuted).
The best and most credible academic treatment on the web is an article by Dave Wilton for Word

What I can speak to with assurance is magazines, so here is what I can tell you with, as we say in medicine, "a reasonable degree of probability"!

The first magazine with "yankee" in the title was created by John Neal in 1828. The Yankee began as a weekly quarto (about 9 x 12 ") on January 1, 1828, and after thirty eight issues combined with James W. Miller's Boston Literary Gazette and moved to Boston. The very first words written by Neal in it were "The word YANKEE is no longer a term of reproach. It is getting to be a title of distinction- our hope is to make it yet more respectable."

After two volumes, in August 1829, it became a monthly octavo (folded 8 times to a size of 6 x 9") that has two extraordinary highlights, the first mention of Edgar Allan Poe in print (other than the iconically rare and valuable self-published "Tamerlane" in 1827) in an encouraging yet brief literary notice in September 1829 and a lengthy review of "Tamerlane" and "Al Aaraaf" in 1829. Apparantly, Neal was a pretty good judge of talent! I am fortunate to own both of those, the latter of which was obtained for a pittance. The former, in pristine wrappers, I believe I paid about $1500 for in the early 90's from a Baltimore book dealer, Tom Edsall. I've never seen any others offered for sale.

The indispensible Union List or Serials (ULS) then lists Yankee Farmer (Boston)(17 ULS holdings, none complete) in 1835 and Yankee Miscellany (Boston) (6 ULS holdings, 2 complete)in 1839 as the next uses of the word. Yankee Miscellany's inaugural essay states "Its very name will cause old gouty John Bull (the British equivalent to Brother Jonathan and later, Uncle Sam) to roar, and well it may, for the yankees, God bless them, are jovial fellows, all."

This takes us to the next highlight, the important illustrated humor magazine, Yankee Doodle, (New York) in 1846. ULS lists seventeen institutional holdings, most incomplete, for the entire run of 52 weekly quarto issues. I was fortunate to get my complete run at the New York Antiquarian Bookfair in the early 90's for $350, grossly underpriced, even then, and one of the few great volumes fortunately missed by friend and master comic historian, Richard West, of Periodyssey, who, as a dealer, would shop the show prior to the public (me) being let in.

Other than the wonderful illustration a great highlight is the serialized "Authentic Anecdotes of Old Zack" (aka Zachary Taylor) by none other than Herman Melville, later of "Moby Dick" fame (the idea for which, by the way, was borrowed from another magazine story "Mocha Dick", by J.F. Reynolds, that appeared in Knickerbocker on 1939).

This takes us to 1852 and the arrival of another important humor periodical Yankee Notions, or, Whittlings of Jonathan's Jack Knife. (numerous holdings, none complete!). The satire and illustration is first rate. The hand-colored frontispiece of volume one is remarkable for its beauty and the tie-in to our friend Brother Jonathan (here with a remarkable resemblence to his successor as the American image, Uncle Sam) are great examples of contemporary American humor and creativity.

After 1852, the volume of yankee material is quite large and, obviously, the term acquired a new meaning and importance as our country divided shortly thereafter along the lines of slavery Here's a smatttering of later uses of the word in my collection, including a wonderful cover of Babe Ruth, the greatest New York Yankee (a laughable irony in baseball terms (shouldn't it be the Boston Yankees) and an oxymoron that would make any self-respecting 17th century dutchman cringe!). Interestingly, the dialectic captions reinforce the country bumpkin image of the "common man" American of the time.

Once again, the great American magazine shows its incredible value in documenting popular culture. Now off to NYC, despite the rain, for a little museuming and, hopefully, dinner with my two grandchildren. Up to this year, I didn't think NYC had a monsoon season.
Happy August,