30 October 2007

Allen Ginsberg. HOWL. 1955/1956

"...angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry
dynamo in the machinery of night, 
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the
supernatural darkness of cold-water flats
floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, 
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels
staggering on tene- ment roofs
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and
Blake-light tragedy among the
scholars of war, 
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes
on the windows of the skull, 
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn- ing their money in
wastebaskets and listening to the Terror
through the wall..."

Allen Ginsberg. HOWL AND OTHER POEMS. City Lights Pocket Bookshop, San Francisco, 1956.

Current Selling Prices
$4000-$8000 /£2000-£4000

An unassuming small paperback still sold in the same format by City Lights the venerable Beat book store in San Francisco. This is the Sergeant Pepper of the Beat Generation, hard to overstate its impact and importance although like a lot of beat stuff it looks a little dated now, even quaint. Some have remarked its adolescent épatez les bourgeois / nostalgie de la boue tone, one critic talks of how '...Ginsberg gleefully recounts how he and his Ivy League buddies slummed it with the impoverished and the insane, “burned cigarette holes in their arms,” “walked all night with their shoes full of blood,” “jumped in the filthy Passaic,” “threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers,” and “threw up groaning into the bloody toilet.” A day in the life of a slacker. However its proclamatory style can still thrill and it has many great lines, much greater than any of his contemporary beats- in full flow Ginsberg is Whitman incarnate and 'Howl' is the great hipster anthem.

The book was printed by small poetry printer and vanity press (often the same thing) Villiers in London and shipped back to California. Because of the strong sexual, homoerotic and druggy content of the poetry, United States Customs officers and the San Francisco police seized the books, banned their sale, and charged Ferlinghetti (City Lights CEO) and Ginsberg with publishing an obscene book. The judge made the decision that HOWL was not without redeeming social importance, and the obscenity charges dropped. After the immense publicity generated by the case Ginsberg had become a nationally known figure and the book sold millions and still sells well to this day.

I believe 1000 were printed and got through from UK (520 of the second printing were seized) however the book is not scarce but it is hard to find fresh examples. The first state has Lucien Carr's name on the dedication page; no printing notice. It should have the price 75 cents on rear cover and be printed in London, England.

The City Lights edition is preceded by the true first edition -a rare mimeographed edition of 50 copies, typed by Martha Rexroth and printed by Robert Creeley. This followed the famous reading at Six Gallery on Fillmore Street in October 1955. It was publicized by Allen Ginsberg (via a hundred mailed postcards and a few flyers) thus: "6 POETS AT 6 GALLERY Philip Lamantia reading mss. of late John Hoffman -- Mike McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder & Phil Whalen -- all sharp new straightforward writing -- remarkable collection of angels on one stage reading their poetry. No charge, small collection for wine and postcards. Charming event. Kenneth Rexroth, M.C. 8 PM Friday Night October 7, 1955 6 Gallery 3119 Fillmore St. San Fran." On October 7, 1955, in a room measuring 20 x 25 feet with a dirt floor, Ginsberg "read Howl and started an epoch." Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, and Philip Whalen shared the bill and, by all reports, also read brilliantly. Aside from Rexroth and Whalen, all the readers were in their twenties. In the words of Kenneth Rexroth, "What started in SF and spread from there across the world was public poetry, the return of a tribal, preliterate relationship between poet and audience." Among the audience members that night was one who added his own ten bobsworth, the young novelist Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road, published in 1957, was to make this reading and its readers legends in their own lunchtime.

VALUE? This great rarity is preceded by Ginsberg's Siesta in Xbalba mimeographed by the man himself on a freighter in the Alaskan Ocean- (Colophon reads--At the Sign of the Midnight Sun, July, Alaska, 1956.) This is effectively Ginsberg's first book and a copy made close on $10,000 in the Rechler sale in October 2002. 30 years ago a copy made $1300 descibed thus:
'First edition of the author’s rare second book, mimeographed in an edition of approximately 56 copies. The poet Robert Duncan’s copy, with his bookplate laid in and with a Typed Letter Signed (1 p. 4to, Barrow, Alaska, August 5, 1956) from Ginsberg to him presenting this copy: “Havent heard from you directly, would like to, though saw a letter to Creely before exodus from SF . . . enclosed find an earlier poem I mimeographed up out here, am in Barrow Alaska. The sun is out all night. Show this to Olson please, he might be interested in the Mayan material . . . As ever, Allen”. Creased from folding, but a particularly attractive association copy.
At the same sale (Goodwin library) a mimeographed Howl showed up described thus:
'First edition of the author’s first book, a landmark of modern American poetry. Presentation copy, inscribed by the recipient, fellow poet Robert Duncan: “received at Black Mountain College, 1956, from Allen, Robert Duncan.” 17 pages. With 8 corrections in Ginsberg’s hand. Of great rarity: of the 50 copies mimeographed for Kenneth Rexroth’s poetry class at San Francisco State College, only a few are known to survive. This work contains ‘Howl’, ‘A Supermarket in California’, ‘Sunflower Sutra’, and ‘America’-all without the bowdlerization of the first published edition-and the prose dedication to Kerouac and others...'

That made $1600 and might make 10 times that now. The City Lights 'Howl' can be picked up in mediocre condition for a $2000 note, decent ones are twice that and more. Ginsberg's star was in the descendant a while back, possibly due to his ubiquity and his espousal of the boy love organisation NAMBLA; however he is such a big figure in the whole Beat collecting scene that he seems to have sprung back. In the VBS TV documentary on the rocker and collector Thurston Moore Ginsberg has pride of place (See see the fine blog Book Patrol.)

Photo at top is a 1945 snapshot of of Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs together at Columbia University. It recently fetched $7,745.

TRIVIA. The first encounter of Ginsberg and the Beatles at a party in 1965 has been recounted by Miles, Jeff Nuttall (who refers to John then as 'a sharp little mod') and Karen Moller--here is her eyewitness account, for which much thanks:
'A few days later, the third of June, was Ginsberg's 39th birthday. David Larcher, a well-off and occasional participant in counterculture activities, had a big house and decided to give him a birthday party...he was a heavy drinker and often indulged in drugs. By the time I arrived, he was already flying high and naked. Bizarrely with his now-hairy body and massive beard, he hardly looked naked until a girl draped his underpants around his head.
Miles had invited the Beatles but no one expected they would actually show up. Probably not even Ginsberg, as he hung a sign on his penis that said "No Waiting." When John Lennon and George Harrison eventually arrived with their wives, Ginsberg seemed to have forgotten that he was totally naked. In an attempt to embrace Lennon, he raced across the room like a streaker. Harrison turned his back to shield Cynthia and Patti, while Lennon put his hands up to fend off the human missile about to collide with him. "Hey man!" he said, "You don't do that in front of the birds." Within minutes, they were gone. Lennon was rather straight in those days, perhaps scared of the wrong kind of publicity until later, when having become so famous he didn't worry about showing his own bare ass.'

29 October 2007

Richard Burton. Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah. 1855

"His dress and appearance were those suggesting a released convict...He wore, habitually, a rusty black coat with a crumpled black silk stock, his throat destitute of collar, a costume which his muscular frame and immense chest made singularly and incongruously hideous, above it a countenance the most sinister I have ever seen, dark, cruel, treacherous with eyes like a wild beast's. He reminded me by turns of a black leopard, caged but unforgiving  ... . In his talk he affected an extreme brutality, and if one could believe the whole of what he said, he had indulged in every vice and committed every crime. I soon found, however, that most of these recitals were indulged in pour epater le bourgeiose and that his inhumanity was more pretended than real. Even the ferocity of his countenance gave place at times to more agreeable expressions, and I can just understand the infatuated fancy of his wife that in spite of his ugliness he was the most beautiful man alive. "  -- Wilfrid Blunt, Diaries.

"The man riveted my attention. He was dark and forceful, and masterful, and ruthless. I have never seen so iron a countenance."
Bram Stoker 1879.

Richard Burton. PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A PILGRIMAGE TO EL-MEDINAH AND MECCAH. 3 Vols. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London 1855–1856.

Current Selling Prices
$6500-$20000 /£3200-£10000

I was thinking of this book recently while listening to an audio CD of John Dunning's 'The Bookman's Promise' travelling to an auction. The plot centers around a lost / stolen collection of Burton first editions in particular a signed presentation copy of an 1855 'Medinah'. The 3 volume work is described (improbably) as 'factory fresh' and our hero Janeway, cop turned bookdealer, pays $30,000 for it in 1997 - at the time this was equivalent to £20K. It seemed a bit strong but this was fiction. Auction records reveal this as the highest ever record:
Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-90 - [Alternate Names: Baker, Frank] - Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.  L, 1855-56 - 1st Ed - 3 vols. 8vo, - contemp half calf - joints & edges rubbed - With 14 litho plates, all but 1 colored or tinted, folding map & 3 plans. - Lacking ad leaves at end of Vol I; some spotting - Inscr to Stick in the Mud & sgd with his Arabic signature - Christie's South Kensington, May 8, 2003, lot 261, £11,000 ($17,930) - BMNH
This is about £13k with commissions. A very decent unsigned copy with 'minor wear' - the Peter Hopkirk copy - achieved £12000 in 1998. Given these records, it is not unimaginable that a signed copy in supernatural condition could make £20K +.

Burton is seriously collected and appears to be rising in value. He was was an explorer, linguist, and cultural anthropologist of the highest calibre--also a soldier, diplomat, mystic,sexologist, orientalist, sportsman, drinker, superb fencer and a spy - handsome, manly, possibly bi-sexual, possibly a killer and 'the most beautiful man alive.' In his time he seems to have been regarded rather like Crowley in the 1920s - a scandalous, outrageous and dangerous figure. 'Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah' is one of the great travel classics along with Doughty's 'Arabia Deserta.' He was fluent in Arabic (and in more than 20 other languages!) and disguised himself as a Moslem in order to penetrate, at the risk of his life, the holiest of Islamic shrines, forbidden to non-Moslems. He acquired the art of disguise when roaming among the villages of Southern Scinde. Less than half a dozen Europeans were known to have made the hajj, or pilgrimage, to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina and lived, and of those only the Swiss explorer J. L. Burckhardt had left a detailed account. During the several days that Burton spent in Mecca, he performed the associated rites of the pilgrimage such as circumambulating the Kaaba, drinking the Zemzem water and stoning the devil at Mount Arafat. His resulting book surpassed all preceding Western accounts of the holy cities, even Burckhardt who, as it notes in the preface of this work
:...was prostrated by sickness throughout the period of his stay in the Northern Hejaz, he was not able to describe it as satisfactorily or minutely as he did the Southern country, — he could not send a plan of the Mosque, or correct the popular but erroneous ideas which prevail concerning it and the surrounding city."
Because Burton respected and admired Muslim customs and beliefs, the Muslims downplayed the intrusion with the comment that Burton was in reality an Arab.

VALUE? 'Medinah' appeared in grained ink blue cloth with 15 full page illustrations, 6 of which are in colour, plus 2 fold out maps and 1 fold out diagrams. A second edition, slightly revised, came out in 1857 and is worth about a tenth of the first's value. As recorded above a fab copy can be cashed in for ten grand English, rebound copies about a third to a half of this.

TRIVIA. He was accused of having murdered a man on this trip to Mecca. The story was that on the journey he had accidentally revealed himself as a European and killed the man (in some versions a boy) to keep his secret. While Burton often denied this, he was also given to winding up the gullible - a doctor once asked him, "How do you feel when you have killed a man?" Burton retorted, "Quite jolly, what about you?" When asked by a priest about the same incident Burton is said to have replied "Sir, I'm proud to say I have committed every sin in the Decalogue."

On reaching the Holy City he performed all the rituals of the Hajj and was so affected by it that on returning to London he formed a company to enable pilgrims to reach Mecca more easily: "The Hadjilik, or Pilgrimage to Mecca, Syndicate, Limited." In Burton's tremendous enthusiasm for this pilgrimage he may have minimized its dangers. An early example of a themed holiday-- how real this syndicate was, whether it was a full fledged travel bureau etc., remains a mystery.

His 'Kasidah' of 1870 - a "Lay of the Higher Law" was said to be by one Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî but this was simply a pseudonym which Burton used as the author of this poem; he originally credited himself only as the "translator". My favourite lines, oddly topical, are:
All Faith is false, all Faith is true: Truth is the shattered mirror strown
In myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own.

The Waste Land. T.S. Eliot 1922 / 1923

O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd.
Unreal City

T. S. Eliot. THE WASTE LAND. Boni & Liveright, NY 1922 / Hogarth Press, London 1923.

Current Selling Prices
$2500-$10000 /£1200-£5000

The most famous long poem of the 20th century. Seen by many (inc Cyril Connolly) as the greatest triumph of literary modernism. There is a scene in the TV version of Brideshead where the effete Anthony Blanche proclaims the poem through a megaphone to his languid fellow students at Oxford - 'o o O that Shakespehearian Rag- It's so elegant /So intelligent ' - the scene gives an idea how the poem was received at the time. The anthem of a generation. Waugh took the title of his novel 'A Handful of Dust' from the poem. An old poet I used to buy books from (George Barker) had known the great man when he worked at Faber. He said that Eliot told him that when he wrote 'The Waste Land' he always had the seedy Praed street area of Paddington in mind. Not so shabby now but there are still vestiges of it's former squalor.

The Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas, endowed with billions, has the dedication copy (below) as well as Evelyn Waugh's entire library (4000 books) + Joyce's library from Trieste (632 books) +Coleridge Family library, W.H. Auden, E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Anne Sexton, Wyndham Lewis, J. Frank Dobie, Christopher Morley, Sir Compton Mackenzie and Oliver La Farge.

The poem was first published, without the author's notes, in the first issue (October 1922) of The Criterion, a literary magazine started and edited by Eliot. The first appearance of the poem in the USA was in the November 1922 issue of The Dial magazine (actually published in late October). Both periodicals have sold for over $1000 each at ebay - they love literary periodicals there. In December 1922, The Waste Land was published in the US in book form by Boni and Liveright, the first publication to print the notes. It is said they were demanded by the publisher to bulk the book out a bit.

In September 1923, the Hogarth Press, a private press run by Eliot's London champions Leonard and Virginia Woolf, published the first UK book edition of The Waste Land in an edition of about 450 copies, the type handset by Virginia Woolf. (She wrote in August 1923: 'I have just finished setting up the whole of Mr. Eliots poem with my own hands: You see how my hand trembles'.) Some copies have hand written corrections by her.

The Boni NY edition was 1000 copies, the first 500 being bound in the publisher's flexible black cloth, the remaining 500 or so copies of the first edition were bound in a more solid cloth. The first issue has a dropped “a” in mountain on page 41. In the second sate 'mountain' reads 'mount in' a misprint that persists in the quite valuable NY 1923 second edition.

VALUE? Both the US and the UK are basically $10,000 / £5000 if in decent condition. No jacket assumed on the US edition, (although it can have one.) Copies in compromised condition can be had in the low thousands. The 1971 signed limited Faber edition in vellum (300 copies only) printed by Giovanni Mardersteig on the hand-press of the Officina Bodoni in Verona goes for circa £2000 in nice nick and has been that price for a decade. The Duke of Windsor's copy made $3000 at the Al Fayed sale in Paris. The preferred edition aesthetically is the rather fragile UK edition from Hogarth Press (1923) although it doesn't tend to last well so that clean intact copies are valuable. Many copies have been sophisticated or restored.

A copy turned up at a US book fair around the turn of the century inscribed by Eliot thus "au grande poète français Paul Valéry hommages de l'auteur T. S. Eliot. 1.xi.23.". It had been brought over by a very high end Parisian dealer and was snapped up at circa $10,000 and winged it's way around the fair adding $10K or more each time. It made $95,000 at the Rechler sale and was last seen at $250,000, about what it takes to stop it selling entirely. Another copy presented by Eliot to Geoffrey Faber with a great inscription in Italian (from Dante) can be had for £85K, another inscribed to Richard Aldington with a few corrections made £90,000 in 2001. Nice copies of the US first in jackets have made as much as $45,000 in auction this century. The outlook is probably healthy, there won't be a TV series or a George Clooney movie but unless we are in for some apocalyptic dumbing down it will always be known and celebrated as the supreme achievement of 20th century poetry.

The text can be found online sometimes with extensive annotations e.g. at the Tripod site. However clicking on the links in the poem takes one to commercial sites - when you click on 'Starnbergersee' in line 9 it tries to book you a holiday in Bavaria; I guess these academic sites have to pay for themselves.

28 October 2007

Shakespeare and Co., - George and Sylvia and Bill

Our photo shows George Whitman and his daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman at George's world famous bookshop in Paris, France - Shakespeare & Co. The guy in the middle is, of course, Bill Clinton, who dropped by this summer. He is one of many distinguished visitors to the Left Bank bookstore--the visitor's books is signed by many a writer--Durrell, Miller, every Beat who ever published a book and wore a beret + serious celebs like Bruce Springsteen (left the comment 'a rocker and a reader') Jackie Kennedy and Johnny Depp.

A friend who was in the shop sometime in the mid 1990s was approached by a raincoated figure carrying a Russian newspaper who asked her in a flat London demotic "where's the Louvre' - it was Bowie, the thin white duke himself. At our shop (Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road) the best we can do is Michael Foot, the Jesus and Mary Chain and the late John le Mesurier (+ Quentin Tarantino and also Martin Stone tells me he once met Captain Sensible here--it doesn't get much better.) Martin, who worked for George for a while recalls meeting Francis Bacon in his shop and being taken for a meal by him at the next door restaurant La Bucherie.

What I like about this picture is George's pyjamas. You wouldn't catch the unlettered Bush or his poodle Blair posing with a beautiful young girl and an old geezer in pyjamas. The charismatic Clinton is way beyond all that. George is not the only bookseller who affects pyjamas in his shop--there is the Suffolk (Chapel Books, Westleton) bookseller Bob Jackson, no mean player when it comes to eccentricity--on cold days he wear two pairs. George of course is famous for wearing two or more pairs of trousers in the French winter. In a trade full of characters he is, definitely, at number one--his Wikipedia entry has some detail e.g. his flair for cookery-'...on Sunday mornings he cooks his guests a pancake breakfast, brewing up a thin ersatz "syrup" out of some burnt sugar and water.'

A documentary titled "Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man", by Gonzague Pichelin and Benjamin Sutherland,came out in 2005. At the end of the film George demonstrates his unique approach to hair styling by trimming his hair using flames from a candle to set his hair on fire then damping it out. A visit to Paris used to be incomplete without attending a reading at George's followed by his legendary chicken dumplings. He has been generous to many a young traveller--in the 1950s a young Beatnik--now an eminent bookseller- was given a fiver (with no expectation of repayment) by George to get back to England. Many a backpacker has crashed at the shop when funds ran out and paid for the stay with a bit of washing up or carpentry etc.,

All hail George and Sylvia and Bill! Sylvia, 22, now runs the shop, while George,90, keeps abreast of the times reading the Herald Tribune and perusing printed out emails. Sylvia now puts on a well respected annual festival --during her 2006 Literary Festival, the French Minister of Culture awarded George the "Officier des Arts et Lettres" medal for his contribution to the arts over the past fifty years. There are weekly events at the shop detailed on their Shakespeare & Co website. There are many claims on the Web that it is the most famous bookshop in the world - these would have Basil Blackwell, Christina Foyle and Tim Waterstone turning in their graves let alone Mr Barnes and Mr Noble. Let's say for the moment it is the coolest bookshop in the world.

22 October 2007

Bibliomancy - divination by the book

The Occult Sciences; A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment (A.E. Waite.)

I found this in A.E. Waite's 'Occult Sciences' (1891) between Belomancy and Capnomancy (divination by smoke) - a method of detecting witches and sorcerers and also using a Bible for prediction etc., Belomancy, by the way, is divination by arrows...

"...Occasionally the forms of divination exceeded the bounds of superstition, and passed into the region of frantic madness. There was a short way the sorcerers which was probably the most potent discoverer of witchcraft which any ingenuity could devise. A large Bible was deposited on one side of a pair of weighing scales. The person suspected of magical practices was set on the opposite side. If he outweighed the Bible he was innocent; in the other case, he was held guilty. In the days of this mystical weighing and measuring, the scales may be truly said to have fallen from the eyes of a bewizarded generation, and to have revealed 'sorcery and enchantment everywhere.'

Bibliomancy, however, included a more harmless practice, and one of an exceedingly simple character. This was the opening of the Bible with a golden pin, and drawing an omen from the first passage which presented itself. Books like the Scriptures, the "Following of Christ," and similar works, abound in suggestive and pertinent passages which all men may apply to temporal affairs, but declares that he had recourse to it in all cases of spiritual difficulty. The appeal to chance is, however, essentially superstitious."
It has been said that the art movement known as Dada was started by someone (Tzara?) opening a Zurich town directory and blindly plonking his figure down against the name of a Swiss burgher called Dada - another dubious example of divination by book.

[I swear I have had some pretty heavy bibles in my time and still have a few in stock that weigh as much as 30 pounds but I have never seen one as heavy as a man.]

VALUE? If you have a clean copy of A.E. Waite's 'The Occult Sciences; A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment' (Kegan, Paul, London 1891) it is worth about £100 but not a great deal more. Waite is not Crowley and this is not one of his most sought after books. The big money with Waite is with his work on Freemasonry and such titles as ' The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts. Including the Rites and Mysteries of Goetic Theurgy, Sorcery and Infernal Necromancy' (Redway 1898). Waite was good on ritual and ceremonial magic but auction records reveal nothing over £100 whereas on ABE you can find some 'advanced' $1500+ prices from dealers patient enough to wait long nights and days for a sale.

20 October 2007


I concluded the last Boccaccio entry by mentioning the connection of the divine Diana to the Decameron. The copy that sold in 1812 for the gigantic sum of £2260 was bought by the Marquis of Blandford (another name from the tabloids.) It seems to have passed into the hands of Lord Spencer--Lady Diana's great, great grandfather. In the 1878 'Notes & Queries' it is noted: 'When the members of the British Association visited Althorp last September they inspected, amongst other unique specimens of early printing, the "lion of Althorp," the celebrated 'II Decamerone' of Boccaccio, printed in 1471 by Valdarfer...' It is probable that the young Diana (who described herself as 'thick as a brick') may have been shown the 'Lion of Althorp' or seen her father displaying it. The book is no longer mentioned amongst the glories of Althorp and may have been 'deacquisitioned' or, in our post literate age is not worth mentioning any more.

The Decameron is often cited as the first great work in the humanist tradition; it's publication coming at a time of intense religiosity, Godbothering and repression was viewed very dimly by the church. There is some suggestion that copies of early editions were burnt in Florence on the orders of Savonarola which may account for their great rarity. They may have also been burnt by his followers in the 'bonfire of the vanities.' The excellent Via Libri which searches the world's major library databases reveals 4 copies--the British Library has a rather defective one, also Manchester, Paris (imperfect) and Milan. Jackson (below) notes that there is one at the Vatican and another in the Magliabecchi at Florence. Possibly there is one in America. The anonymous scholar at N & Q goes on:-
Although this is the earliest known edition of the ' Decamerone' bearing a date (1471), it is by no means certain that it is actually the " editio princeps," the date of the "Deo Gratias " edition (so called from these words appearing in the colophon) being as yet unknown, the question remaining just as it was left by Dibdin, who at first thought it was printed in 1472, but on further and more careful examination inclined to the belief that it was printed in 1470.

In June, 1819 the library at White' Knights, formed by the Marquis of Blandford, then the Duke of Blenheim, was dispersed, and the ' Decameron' again came into the auction room. This time Lord Spencer (who had underbid the book in 1812) stopped at £700 and the dealer Longman obtained the prize for £750. They sold it again for £750 to Lord Spencer. Holbrook Jackson in his monumental work 'Anatomy of Bibliomania' (1928) discusses the whole thing as a supreme manifestation of the disease of bibliomania. 'Anatomy' is a weighty, slight OTT book -a pastiche of Robert Burton's 'Melancholy' masterpiece-- but if Burton is, say, Lennon then Jackson is Meatloaf. I think this analogy works. Basically it is a good mix of Dibdin, a large dose of Andrew Lang (the finest of all writers on book collecting) a splash of Leigh Hunt, Lord de Tabley, Richard de Bury, Rosenbach, Isaac D'Israeli, Gellius and a couple of shelves of books on book collecting, bibliomaniacs and rare books. Book collecting books were quite prevalent at the turn of the century with emotive titles such a "Shadows of the Old Booksellers' and 'Books in Bottles and 'Enemies of Books.'

Jackson writes:
Bibliomania scorns all that is cheap, except to hope that it may become dear. They are like those reprehended by Seneca, who loathed the very light because it was free, and who are offended with the sun's heat, and those cool blasts, because we buy them not. They gloat on prices, and nothing pleases them but what is expensive. If one appraises a shabby but rare little pamphlet of no intrinsic value at a high price, they will covet it for that reason alone: it's value is wholly a scarcity value; but it is the same with books of nobler status, as those rare edition of classical works which no one heeds until someone bids high for them.

Take, for example, the story of the copy of the First Edition of Il Decamerone di Boccaccio, 1471, which was sold by auction at the dispersal of the Roxburghe Library, in 1812, for £2,260, which up to that time was the highest sum of money ever given for a book. The copy had long been coveted by bookmen, both sane and insane; it was perhaps the most notorious volume in existence; and Nicol, in his Preface to the Sale Catalogue of the Library, described it as one of the scarcest, if not the scarcest book in existence, for it had preserved its uniquity for over three hundred years; it had been a bone of contention among collectors in the reign of the first two Georges: Lord Sunderland and Lord Oxford had both coveted it, but it became the property of the Duke of Roxburghe, for the gallant price of 100 guineas; which Marchand, in his Histoire de L' Imprimerie (1740) notes among the excessive prices up to then given for rare books. When the record price of 1812 was known among collectors, a craze for the books set in; bookmen were afflicted with a desire for copies as thought they had been stricken by some infectious disease: every man pretending to some information about books was set-a-hunting for it: from the half-ruined mansion on the summit of the Vosges to the castellated heights along the Rhine, a search was made; some supposed copies might lurk in Swiss chalets, and Berne, Basle, and Zurich were examined with the sedulous pertinacity of an excise officer; Italy was ransacked; all the cradle-towns of the art of printing were explored; a copy might still be lurking in the Subiaco monastery; Perugia, Brescia, and Bologna, places then rarely visited by Englishmen, were minutely examined, in vain; and the only result of all this mighty hunting was a glimpse of the copies in the Magliabecchi at Florence and the Vaticano at Rome, which were public property, and could not be removed.

That this craze was irrational cannot be denied; these hunters had no desire to read Boccaccio in the First Edition, or to study its bibliographical or typographical parts: they were moved by its high price, and such pleasure as they might have procured from the discovery of another copy would have been related to its monetary rather than its literary value. Aldous Huxley argues, a picture may give aesthetic pleasure, and in buying a picture one buys the unique right to feel that pleasure; with a book it is different; nobody, he says, can pretend that 'Venus and Adonis' is more delightful when read in a fifteen thousand pound unique copy than in a volume costing one shilling; on the whole, the shilling edition is the better, so he concludes that the purchaser of the fabulously expensive old book is satisfying only his possessive instinct, and, doubtless, I would add, his vanity.
There are many italicised passages in this piece that I haven't the time to put in, but the above should give a flavour of HJ's highflown, not to say overblown, style.

VALUE? Surely several millions of dollars. A 1494 Decameron with many minor faults and a leaf missing made $375,000 in 1994. The 1471 first printing is one of the most valuable books in the world, potentially superior in value to a decent Shakespeare First Folio or even a 'Canterbury Tales' [Westminster: William Caxton, c.1478]. Chaucer of course translated Boccaccio's 'Palamon and Arcite' for part of the 'Knight's Tale.'

Fashions in collecting have greatly changed since 1812 and fashion is, according to Jackson, the great determiner of prices. Boccaccio's name does not excite in the way it might have done 200 years ago and the taste for continental literature may have become slightly flaccid. A Bay Psalm Book might make more money because it is American and America is still the richest country.

The only places these books will show up unrecognised are very old houses--you need the family to have been there about 500 years. There are a surprising amount still standing - mostly in unravaged parts of Europe. Come to think of it there is one that I drive by occasionally in Old Suffolk. Next time I might cross the moat and hand them my card ('Vast Libraries Purchased.')

The British Library seems to have a copy but from the description it sounds incomplete--presumably it can be ordered up. It lacks the leaves 1, 8, 9, 109, 110, and 241. The illustration above shows Boccaccio pointing to the goddess Fortune who stands beside a wheel upon which her victims rise and fall. It is miniature from Boccaccio, De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, trans. Laurent de Premierfait (Paris, 1467). (Reproduced from Glasgow University Library Special Collections. Many thanks.)

15 October 2007

Robert McCloskey. Time of Wonder.1957

Robert McCloskey. TIME OF WONDER. The Viking Press, New York, 1957.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$500 /£170-£240

Author and illustrator Robert McCloskey (1915 - 2003) grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, a small town which formed the basis of his books 'Lentil '(1940) and'Homer Price' (1943), but it was New England that provided the backdrop for his most beloved children's books. These were 'Make Way for Ducklings' (1941), about a family of ducks who make their home in the Boston Public Garden, and 'Time of Wonder' (1957), set in the coastal islands of Maine, both won the Caldecott Medal. He was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in April 2000.

'Make Way for Ducklings' is his big book - it has sold well over two million copies. There is a bronze statue in the Boston Public Garden of the mother duck and her eight ducklings. The book is also the official children's book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and there is an annual parade of children in Boston to honour the book.

In 1991 -- in an act symbolic of the end of the 40-year Cold War -- Barbara Bush presented a replica of the US statue (Mother duck and 8 ducklings) to Raisa Gorbachev, who had admired the story and the Boston sculptures. The plaque in Moscow's Novedevichy park reads: "This sculpture was given in love and friendship to the children of the Soviet Union on behalf of the children of the United States." Bless. Mrs. Gorbachev, who died in 1999, is buried in a cemetery near the park. Later the statues were stolen (a fairly typical Russian mafia caper - steal anything that is nailed down) and Mrs. Mallard and three of her duckling were replaced in ceremonies including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the sculptor Nancy Schon.[ W/Q ** ]

'A Time of Wonder' is probably his most attractive book. A small thin quarto Illustrated throughout in colour. A sort of American Arthur Ransome adventure, but aimed at 4 to 8 year olds. The book grew directly our of the experiences of his family at their island home in Penobscot Bay Maine. The tale of two girls on vacation in Maine - written in a slightly dreamy prose poem style, a story full of happiness and excitement, it captures the daily drama of the change of weather, from sun to fog to a dramatic hurricane. It is usually found with the Caldecott medal on the front of the wrapper but to be totally correct it shouldn't have it as the medal was awarded in 1958. It is listed on a site Good Media Good Kids Project as having all the virtues of a harmless and uplifting childrens book, ticking all the right boxes without being bland or mawkish. Many current children's books (like, say, 'Junk' by Melvin Burgess) would fail to pass. Here is the summary:-

No Violence
No Cruelty
No Rudeness
The religion/spirituality in the story is Judeo-Christian and respect for the religion is shown .
No Stereotypes

Key Virtues
Ecological Citizenship/Preserving nature

VALUE? There are 3 copies of RM's 1948 classic 'Blueberries for Sal' at $2000+ over at ABE. There are several copies of his first book 'Lentil' and 'Make Way For Ducklings' at over $1000. You can find a decent jacketed first of 'Time of Wonder' for less than $500 although one might pay over that for a fine copy. Children's books of this period are hard to find in great shape. Kind of book that might show up in the collection of someone now pushing 60 who spent their summer hols in Maine.

14 October 2007


Boccaccio. IL DECAMERONE DI BOCCACCIO. Printed by Christofal Valdarfer. (Venice) 1471.

Current Selling Prices
$4,000,000+ /£2,000,000+

Ultra rare book that caused a sensation in its time and then 350 years later caused Bibliomania to break out in England and parts of Europe. This week I was slightly surprised to see a header for the book at Ebay:

'Decameron, 1471 by Giovanni Boccaccio'

I clicked it with the faintest of hopes that it was an incunable. Not only was it a modern book but you could not be sure you would even get any of Boccaccio's 100 amazing tales as it had the caveat '...You will get the item ordered based on ISBN, NOT based on the auction title or stock picture due to eBay and Muze catalog errors.' So you might get a biography of Barry Manilow or a treatise on war reparations. It lead me to looking in the last 30 years of ABPC auction records for any 1471 Decamerons. There were none and also none in a bunch of older BAR records, lacking a few years, going back to 1938. I suspect there hasn't been a copy through the rooms for 100 years (unless 'the lion of Althorp' copy was at some point put on the block.)

Dibdin writes of seeing this book at the Royal Library in Paris in his 1831 epistolary work 'A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ANTIQUARIAN AND PICTURESQUE TOUR...' He talks of a time in the late 1820s when he spent many weeks looking throught the early books and illuminated manuscripts at the Bibliothèque du Roi in the Rue de Richelieu '...Months and years may be spent among them, and the vicissitudes of seasons (provided fires were occasionally introduced) hardly felt. I seem, for the last fortnight, to have lived entirely in the "olden time;" in a succession of ages from that of Charles the Bald to that of Henri Quatre: and my eyes have scarcely yet recovered from the dazzling effects of the illuminator's pencil. "II faut se reposer un peu." ' After the illuminated books he moved on to the incunabula, books 'likely to afford all true sons of BIBLIOMANIA and VIRTU the most lively gratification.' Here he finds the Valdarfer Decameron:
'This is the famous edition about which all the Journals of Europe have recently "rung from side to side." But it wants much in value of THE yet more famous copy which was sold at the sale of the Duke of Roxburghe's library; inasmuch as it is defective in the first leaf of the text, and three leaves of the table. In the whole, according to the comparatively recent numerals, there are 265 leaves. This copy measures eleven inches and a half, by seven inches and seven eighths. It is bound in red morocco, with inside marble leaves.'
Dibdin refers to a perfect copy sold by auction at the dispersal of the Roxburghe Library, in 1812, for £2,260, which up to that time was the highest sum of money ever given for a book. It caused dealers and amateurs to madly scour the bookshops and book collections of Europe. Nearly 200 years later a sort of low grade Bibliomania broke out here when it became known that 'The Philosopher's Stone' (Potter!) was worth £10,000 +. The Decameron had made at least a million sterling in today's money. (To be continued.)

More coming about Holbrook Jackson's take on it 'The Anatomy of Bibliomania', Princess Diana's connection to the 1471 edition, Aldous Huxley's theory of collecting aesthetics and more pedantry that you can shake a stick at...

The illustration above shows a scene from the Decameron painted by the female PRB Marie Spartali Stillman- "Messer Ansaldo Showing Madonna Dianora his Enchanted Garden". Pursued by Ansaldo, the married Dianora told him she would never grant his suit until he made her midwinter garden bloom with midsummer flowers. Aided by a magician, Ansaldo did it. Her husband ordered her to honor her promise. Not to be outdone in courtesy, Ansaldo released her from her promise. (Boccaccio, Decameron, day x. 5.)

10 October 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird. by Harper Lee.

Harper Lee. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Lippincott, Philadelphia, USA. 1960.

Current Selling Prices
$12000-$15000 £7500-£9000

Up there with the great modern American novels in esteem and price. Won the Pulitzer, the movie won 3 Oscars. She is at the opposite spectrum to your reclusive Pynchons and Salingers - signed copies abound, especially of reprints and anniversary editions. The jacket has points on it, ideally you want the price intact but definitely a Jonathan Daniels blurb/ quote on the flap and a credit (on the rear) to Truman Capote for his photo of young Harper Lee. Capote was a childhood friend, he dedicated 'In Cold Blood to Her.' The character Dill in Mockingbird is based on him. Capote's copy inscribed to him would be way cool, to say the least.

VALUE? A book traded almost to death on ebay but possibly still quite well 'underpinned' - i.e. having a large amount of collectors and speculators. Properly collectable copies are quite difficult, the unlaminated jacket doesn't last well (quite a few are restored) it tends to get rubbed and and frayed, many of the estimated 5000 printed went to libraries and, damn it, people read the book. Condition has to be taken down a notch, as fine copies are not really feasible; even the big money copies were not fine. In terrestrial auctions nice copies have made as much as $15K, and at the 2001 Falktoft sale a sporting $32000 (unsigned.) 2001 was, however, an annus mirabilis for high spot mod firsts. Dot com days. It remains to be seen how long it will be until such prices are achieved again. Inscribed to no one special it has made $40K.

An interesting copy turned up at Swann in 2005 signed by Harper Lee and with a signed letter from her dated October 2004 advising the owner to sell it at Swann! It made $19K. Prices on the internet are generally significantly lower than these records, possibly too many copies have been flushed out by these heady prices and the book has become something of a cliché on ebay. That being said no one is presently possessed of a fab copy.

STOP PRESS. The above entry was written in January 2007. Not much has changed since then --it keeps turning up - there is a signed copy described as fine/fine on ABE at $40K -'...it has a bit of top edge foxing and a slight spine lean; near fine in a near fine, unrestored dust jacket with a little edge rubbing.' The seller rightly makes a virtue of its being unrestored; there is a very nice restored one (new endpapers too) from one of the globe's most expensive modfirst dealers at $12000. The much liked dealer known as 'Flatsigned' has 6 copies over $1000- all, except the Taiwanese first, signed by the great writer. These include a reasonable signed copy in a second state jacket at $15000 described thus "This remarkeable item is truly a treasure for a lifetime...' Something of a curiosity is the fact that the signature is '... on new restored end-papers...' Sophisticated stuff.

Most intriguing is a French dealer called Whopper Books with what looks like a pretty nice copy descibed thus -- '... tres bon etat exceptionnel exemplaire du premier tirage du livre le plus célèbre des états unis ! limité à 5,000 pour l'édition de novembre 1960, depuis plus de 50,000,000 ont été imprimé, pour collectionneur avertit représente également un excellent placement. moyen format.' The picture shows a copy in near fine jacket. Unless he is telling whoppers, or it's a later state, at $9,329.56 it's a good buy for a collector. [ W/Q **** ]

08 October 2007

John Lennon. Celebrities Choice. 1966.

(John Lennon & others.) CELEBRITIES CHOICE. National Book League, London 1966.

Current Selling Prices $100 + / £50+

It is always worth looking at pamphlets and thinnish wraps items as they can be rare and are often overlooked. There is at least one dealer who looks at nothing else. This piece from 1966 might attract attention because of the words 'celebrity' - the right contributors can make a pamphlet worth its weight in gold This one not only has a contribution by John Lennon but also Philip Larkin and Harold Pinter. I described the last one I saw thus:
'8vo. Illustrated wraps. pp 24. The favourite books of such diverse celebrities as John Lennon, Julie Christie, J. Paul Getty, Joyce Grenfell, Philip Larkin, Harold Pinter, Margery Allingham, Joan Sutherland, etc. John Lennon had chosen some interesting books. he has divided them into up to the age of 11 (Alice, Wind in Willows), teens (Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984, Sartre, Steinbeck, Thurber), from the age of 20 (De Sade, Heller, A.A. Milne, Alan Watts), current reading (Thomas Stanley, Pre-Roman Britain). Harold Pinter chooses 2 Becketts, a Donne, a Dostoyevsky, a Joyce, and Kafka's The Castle. Philip Larkin as usual plumps for Barbara Pym...'

In Hunter Davies bio of the Fabs he notes that, of the Beatles, only Lennon had a proper collection of books--the only books I can recall Davies mentioning were 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism' and 'The Passover Plot.' I have also read somewhere he had a copy of 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds' - a book that if it was updated would have a chapter on the Beatles. Last week I met a woman in her early 60s who had known the boys in Liverpool in the Cavern days, she described John as short-sighted and consequently rather aloof, Paul as friendly - but all the girls loved George the most and, oddly enough, were also crazy about Pete Best who was considered very handsome. His good looks may have lead to his being edged out of the group...She was at the Cavern on the momentous day that Brian Epstein came to check them out. When, a little later, she turned up at a gig where all the fans were screaming the house down and you couldn't hear the music, she stopped following the group - sic transit gloria mundi...

VALUE? This has sold in the past for $120 and more and appears to be quite hard to find and is easy to miss. It has to be in very nice condition, pamplets often get creased and mangled. Once Beatle collectors have got all the major and minor books they start looking around for ephemeral stuff such as this, what in a bibliography would be a 'B' item (contributions to books.) I once saw a rather silly Beatle book going for £10--an attempted genealogy of the moptops that apparently was produced in a mere handful of copies --that must now be worth a goodly sum. There are also rarish opuscula on trivia such as the supposed death or disappearance of Paul...

07 October 2007

Rupert Annual 1973

(Alfred Bestall.) THE RUPERT ANNUAL.The Daily Express, London 1973.

Current Selling Prices

Rupert annuals are a popular series published by the 'Daily Express'. I am not sure whether today's children read them much but I remember them as magical books and alot of kids read them into their teens. Grown ups now pay serious money for the right ones. Some people found them slightly scary, but they would probably now find some of Harry Potter's encounters frightening. They still appear every day in the Express. Certainly they are highly collectable in England and possibly by British expats all over the globe. At the excellent World Collector's net they have a good guide to all Rupert collectables -not just books but records, 'plush' bears, various games, jigsaws and Lledo diecast vans, string puppets, and the Bendy Toys' rubber Rupert which could be posed in various ways. There are also many badges and brooches and 'pins.' Of the books they say:
A lady called Mary Tourtel was the creator of Rupert, and her first cartoon strip appeared in the Daily Express on the 8th November 1920. The little bear, in many ways similar to today's character though a bit more 'bear-like', and with baggier trousers, was shown setting out to the shops in the village of Nutwood. The caption was in verse.

Mary designed many of Rupert's chums, too, including Bill Badger, Podgy Pig and Edward Trunk and dreamt up the strange, almost surreal world of Nutwood which featured people in medieval dress wandering amongst a mix of incongruities such as clothed animals (who often kept unclothed animals as pets), 'normal' humans, and weird scientific inventions. Mary was fond of using magic to whisk her bear hero away from trouble; her successor, the much-respected Alfred Bestall who took over in 1935, relied on proper twists in the plot. He also introduced a host of new characters, such as Pong-Ping, Bingo Pup, the Professor, Merboy and Tigerlily.

Alfred drew the stories up till 1965, and his last adventure was 'Rupert and the Winkybickies', though he continued to work on the annuals. In 1973, he was upset when a white Rupert was featured on the cover, rather than the traditional brown. Alfred had planned his beautiful painting around a brown bear, and felt there was no contrast between the white Rupert and the pale sky behind him. He was also aware that, artistically, there should have been a shadow on Rupert's face. To appease the artist, a handful of annuals from that year were printed with a brown Rupert, and today, to discover a 1973 annual with a brown-faced Rupert is a collector's dream.

VALUE? A fine copy is appearing in auction at Duke's of Dorchester this week. It is estimated at £5000 to £7000. Another copy in a lot is estimated at £5000 to £8000. The fact that that there are two might give a hardened dealer pause for thought as there are only supposed to be about 15 in existence. Duke's, in a slightly different version of the tale, say: 'Alfred Bestall was asked to provide the cover illustration for the 1973 annual and as per his earlier designs, gave Rupert his usual brown face whilst the illustrations within the annual show Rupert with a white face. After printing a small run of the annual, the Express decided to alter Bestall's original colourings of Rupert, changing him from brown to white at the request of many young readers who could not understand why Rupert was brown on the cover but white inside. Bestall was incensed at this decision and never illustrated another cover for the Express. The remaining run of the 1973 annual with a white faced Rupert on the cover continued to use Bestall's signature but the publishers altered the colour of the signature to disguise it in an attempt to appease Bestall. The limited number of brown faced 1973 annuals printed makes this annual particularly rare and only 12 others are believed to exist.'

I shall watch this auction and report back. Early Rupert annuals can fetch good money and the 1936 annual can currently be found on the web in a jacket at the noli tangere price of £6500. The words 'one for the pension fund' are something of a red flag + Duke's have a jacketed one (under)estimated at £200 to £300. Most guide books price it at £2000 to £3000. Bonhams achieved a £1000 for one in 2004 and Bloomsbury £1500 in 2005. Whether anyone will care about Rupert in 2020 is unknowable-- I expect they will--but not as much as they do now. By then it might have become a bear market. Annuals from the 1960s and 1970s generally go for a fiver, they also have brown faced Ruperts on the cover--remember the annus mirabilis is 1973!

TRIVIA Paul McCartney gave Rupert a fresh lease of life when he wrote the song 'We All Stand Together' for an animated cartoon based on the froggy design of the end papers in a 1958 Rupert annual. This song was a hit in 1984 and the video 'Rupert and the Frog Song' won a BAFTA award. It was generally considered a low point in Paul's oeuvre until his appalling Starbucks Album of 2007 / 2008.

A French low alcohol beer is available called Tourtel --it is sometimes known to its waggish consumers as 'Rupert Beer' and is actually the only palatable 'near beer' I have ever consumed. Below is the 1973 annual in the version that you don't want. THE BROWN FACE IS ONLY GOOD ON THE 1973 ANNUAL. [ W/Q *** ]

STOP PRESS Result of the auction of the Chaplain collection is reported thus in today's 'Sunday Express' and seem marvellous, not to say freakish--the publicity could bring other copies out and if so the price may not be sustainable - watch this space:

'Yesterday one of the rare 1973 annuals went for £23,000 and the other for £22,000 at Dukes Auction House in Dorchester, Dorset. The previous record for a 1973 brown-face annual was £16,000. There were gasps of surprise as the bidding for the annuals rocketed past the pre-sale estimates.They formed part of a stunning collection of Rupert memorabilia put together by a later writer of the cartoon, Freddie Chaplain. The items went for more than £100,000. Auctioneer Amy Brenan, said afterwards: “It proves the enduring affection people have for Rupert Bear. Bidders came from all over the country and around the world.”The daughter of Freddie Chaplain, Deborah Taylor, was at the sale. She said: “My father died in 1981 and the collection has been in mum’s bungalow until this summer when she moved into a nursing home. She decided to sell it for her nursing fees and for peace of mind.”

Ms Taylor added: “When I was a young girl, my father told me Rupert stories off the cuff and he would write down the ones I liked.” Rupert Bear is set to make a Christmas comeback as one of this year’s best-selling toys...'

05 October 2007

Albert Speer Nazi Architect

Speer who was released from Spandau in 1966, published his memoirs 'Inside the Third Reich' in 1970, netting himself a personal fortune, disavowed Nazism and died on a visit to London in 1981. Krier's book is, for reasons one can only guess at, extremely hard to find...I have never seen a copy.


ARCHITECTURE. Princeton Architectural Press,1989. ISBN 2871430063

Current Prices $350-$700 /£180-£350

Elusive work on Hitler's architect by Prince Charles's pal, architect and Poundbury town planner Leon "Town" Krier. Not an apologist but clearly fascinated by the power given to one man in building Hitler's dream. I imagine it is an art book, probably not thick. It is always said that not a single Speer project has survived, so a book like this is the only record.

VALUE? Amazon Canada list a copy at $100 but then note it is not available, fairly usual for them. No other copies online for months at a time. No idea of value but anyone paying over £400 would have to be a little in love with fascism or at least Nazi kitsch...half that and one might be right on the money.

STOP PRESS. Above was written December 2006. The book has hardly shown up since then, and is not listed at Addall or Bookfinder. It must be thought of as being worth £200 minimum unless it gets reprinted. The text is in French and English and I have found at least one Speer building still standing - the Zepplintribune, at the Nuremberg parade grounds (pictured below.) There are many ruins and traces + this piece of defiant early Brutalism. Speer was concerned that in thousands of years his buildings would make noble ruins. The Nazis wer a far sighted bunch--how many architects plan for the ruins? Fortunately the ruins came fast.

In an interesting article in NYRB this week Robert Hughes talks of meeting Speer in the 1970s and asking him who he favoured in current architecture. Tellingly, he named Philip Johnson whose own far right past was unknown at the time. Hughes describes PJ's later work as 'a stream of pastiche and kitsch.' Hughes conveyed a copy of Speer's own book 'Architektur' to Johson signed to him 'in sincere appreciation of his most recent designs..' Johnson on receiving it appeared slightly shocked and quickly hid it away. A valuable 'association' item now. [ W/Q *** ]

TRIVIA. 'Fascinating Fascism'. In April this year Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry described the aesthetic behind Nazi Germany as "just amazing". In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, Ferry also revealed that he calls his studio in west London his "Fuhrerbunker". He said: "My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves. I'm talking about Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags - just amazing. Really beautiful." Bryan later apologised profusely.