Friday, December 16, 2016

Holly-jolly book cover:
"The Cotter's Saturday Night"

  • Title: The Cotter's Saturday Night
  • Author: Robert Burns (1759-1796)
  • Cover artist: Possibly F.A. Chapman, who did the interior illustrations
  • Publisher: The John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia
  • Cover measurements: 6½ inches by 8 inches
  • Date of publication: 1872
  • Pages: 68
  • Format: Hardcover
  • About the author: Burns was a poet and lyricist who was widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. According to Wikipedia, "he is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism." The first country to put him on a postage stamp was the Soviet Union, in 1956.
  • What's a cotter? A peasant who performs labor in exchange for the right to live in a cottage.
  • Is this book valuable? It's a lovely book, but no. There are multiple copies of this specific edition selling online for less than $10.
  • Is it about Christmas? No, despite the festive cover. But one Amazon reviewer wrote this in 2013: "The Cotter's Saturday Night is a tremendous compass pointing to exactly what the modern family needs: weekly downtime taken together to rest, reflect and be with each other. This really makes me desire these things from the days long gone, reminding me of Christmas at my grandparents!" I think we can all agree with that sentiment.
  • Excerpt #1: "The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes, This night his weekly moil is at an end, Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend."
  • Excerpt #2: "At length his lonely cot appears in view, Beneath the shelter of an aged tree; Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through To meet their dad, wi' flichterin noise an' glee."
  • Excerpt #3: "Then, howe'er crowns and coronets be rent, A virtuous populace may rise the while, And stand a wall of fire around their much-loved Isle."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Papergreat is now part of canon in the Marvel Comics universe (sort of)

Back in the halcyon days of 1989, Marvel Comics launched a new superhero team dubbed The Great Lakes Avengers. They were essentially the comic relief of the Avengers pantheon, a bumbling squad featuring the likes of Big Bertha, Flatman, Doorman and Mr. Immortal. In a sporadic series of appearances over the past quarter-century, they have squabbled with other superheroes, changed their team name regularly, played some poker, cycled through a number of new members — the most famous being Squirrel Girl — and botched many jobs that Captain America probably could have handled during his lunch break, while holding a bologna sandwich in one hand.1

Basically, they stunk at the whole superhero gig. (Which was kind of the point.)

They were shelved and mostly forgotten within the long shadow cast by more successful Marvel film, TV and comic properties.

Earlier this year, though, Marvel launched a new comic-book series for The Great Lakes Avengers, with Zac Gorman (writer), Will Robson (artist) and Tamra Bonvillain (colorist) serving as the dandy creative team for the reboot.

Four of the team's founding members are back, with the tagline: "They used to be Avengers. They weren't very good at it and a bunch of them died. But maybe the world is finally ready for ... The Great Lakes Avengers."

At the end of the joke- and action-packed first issue, there was a note to readers calling for new recruits, possibly because this is a superhero team with an unusually high mortality rate.2 It states:
"The Great Lakes Avengers will take anybody -- ANYBODY!!! Do you have an intimate understanding of the physics of Jenga? Can you shove more marshmallows in your face than anyone else? Do you always manage to go to the bathroom right after the toilet paper roll has been refilled? Send letters detailing cool stuff you can do ... and you might just become an honorary member of the Great Lakes Avengers! (They're super desperate!!!)"
As someone who can relate with "super desperate," I figured this might just be the big break that the Papergreat Ephemera Empire was looking for. What if Papergreat was more than just a blog title or a questionable philosophy toward brittle paper products? What if Papergreat was a person? What if Papergreat was a superhero?!?!

So I wrote to the modern-day Marvel Bullpen.

And ... Yahtzee!

In the recently published issue #2 of The Great Lakes Avengers, my submission made it onto the letters page:
After reading your first issue, I believe that the skill set of my alter ego, Baron Von Papergreat, could benefit the Great Lakes Avengers. He is, to my knowledge, the only ephemera-centric super hero.

Papergreat's powers include the ability to decipher any handwriting, no matter how loopy or chicken-scratchy, on old postcards; the ability to find clues, currency and gum wrappers tucked away inside old books; and the ability to save worthless piles of old papers from certain destruction and hoard them for future evaluation.

I believe this kind of paper-focused perspective could help an Avengers-level group. Or, if you prefer, he's also willing to just answer the phone, sort the mail and do light dusting.
So, for the record, I just got the words Papergreat, ephemera and chicken-scratchy published in a real live Marvel comic book.

Better yet, this was "GLA hiring director" Zac Gorman's response:
Dear Baron Von Papergreat,
You had me hooked with your powers but you reeled me in with "light dusting." You're hired!
You're hired! This, my friends, is called canon.

It exists in print. It can't be taken back. The door is now officially ajar, ever so slightly, for Baron Von Papergreat to be a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe. It is theoretically possible that he could go on thrilling adventures with Flatman and Big Bertha, sit behind a desk and accept a collect call from Tony Stark, go on a dimension-hopping date with Patsy Walker, or be squished by MODOK within the single panel of his sorry existence in the Marvel universe. All things are possible!

He's canon, baby!4

(Sort of.)

I figure two things need to happen next. First, we need a proposed character sketch for Baron Von Papergreat. I would like to find a Real Artist™ to handle this, because I wouldn't want him to look like Mr. Bird, minus the beak.

Second, Baron Von Papergreat needs a fleshed-out history and origin story. So I should probably get to work on that, as it would clearly represent a wise use of my limited free time. But it will be worth it when he has his own spin-off comic book, Pop! figure and Netflix series, battling Bi-Beast and White Rabbit.5

Canon, baby!

Related posts:
1970s summer comics nostalgia with Thing and Vision

1. I have no idea if Captain America likes bologna. And, if he does, whether he's a mayonnaise guy or a mustard guy.
2. Except for Mr. Immortal. He can't die. Duh.
3. Go ahead, call me a middle-aged nerd. You know you want to.
4. Other Great Lakes Avengers recruits mentioned in the letters section of issue #2 include Awesome Shucks Man and Cheesemonger.
5. Lorina Dodson, to her friends.

Another cozy Christmas postcard

This vintage, embossed postcard isn't specifically pegged to Christmas, but I think it still works as a cozy holiday card. It was published by the Douglass Post-Card Company, located at 27 North 10th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was printed in Germany.

The postcard was never used and printed on the back is "This side for the Address," meaning that it might date to before March 1907, which is when divided-back postcards were first allowed in the United States. Before that, only the address — nothing else — was permitted to be written on the back.

It's high time for this postcard to serve its original purpose. So I'll be using it to send out some holiday greetings this month.

Christmas postcard with a crinoline and a black cat

I learned some new: A crinoline is a structured petticoat configured to poof out a woman's skirt — sometimes, in the extreme, to a circumference of six yards. They were widely popular for a few decades in the mid 19th century before going out of style, but not before thousands of women died needlessly from skirt fires or accidents involving machinery and carriage wheels. Crinolines weren't the smartest fashion fad ever cooked up.

The front of this vintage postcard, postmarked in 1931, features an illustration of a woman wearing a modest crinoline and this verse:

Christmas Greetings
Crinoline is out of style,
Fashion varies — customs too,
But friendship does not
change the while,
And so I send this card
too you.

Yes, it says "too you" at the end, which is clearly a mistake. Postcards need editors, too.

The illustration also features a playful black cat and an interesting fabric pattern that appears on both the curtains and the chair cushion. (I believe that's a Windsor chair, by the way.)

The postcard was mailed to an address in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, one of two cities that attempt to lay claim to the title of Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae. The short note on the back reads "To wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas-gift dust jacket on 1919 Harold Bell Wright novel

Today's Christmas post is presented by Mr. Angelino, who is excellent at sleeping, but is always intrigued by a fine old book or piece of ephemera.1 What he has beside him is a copy of the 1919 novel The Re-creation of Brian Kent, by Harold Bell Wright.2 This is the second novel by Wright to be featured on Papergreat; the first one, way back in 2011, was Helen of the Old House, which had some mystery photos tucked away inside.

What makes this Wright book interesting is that is has a second dust jacket, sitting atop the original jacket, which sort of doubles as a Christmas gift wrapper. Here's a look...

There are two inscriptions on this "Greetings of the Season" jacket. The first one is actually part of the illustration. It mentions Auntie Sue and Betty Jo, who are characters in the novel.3 Below that, we see that the book was gifted to Francois, from "Des Cones (HS and Co.)." I'm a little stumped about whether Des Cones is a person, place or thing.

While the gift dust jacket is, understandably, a bit worn, it's done a nice job of protecting the original dust jacket underneath.

Both dust jacket illustrations are the work of artist J. Allen St. John (1872-1957), who is well known for his artwork for Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and has the sweet moniker, according to Wikipedia, of "The Godfather of Modern Fantasy Art," inspiring the likes of Frank Frazetta.4

This novel was published by The Book Supply Company of Chicago and had a price of $1.50, which would be about $21 today.

One final cool thing is this "Ye Librarie Of" bookplate for Frances Jenkins, which is affixed to the inside front cover. Frances, I would guess, is "Francois."

1. Mr. Angelino, our youngest cat, is also known as Mr. A and Mystery. Mr. Angelino is the name he had at the shelter, so we didn't change that.
2. Despite being nearly a century old, The Re-creation of Brian Kent is well-reviewed on Goodreads.
3. This same illustration serves as the book's frontispiece.
4. Frank Frazetta is featured in the February 2016 post "'Creepy' would like to you drop that expensive smoking habit."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

1911 holiday postcard sent to Hortonville, Wisconsin

This simple, peaceful postcard was postmarked on January 2, 1911, in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin.1 It was addressed, somewhat sloppily, to what looks like "Gertrout Meshke" of Hortonville, Wisconsin.2 There have been some people named Gertrout, but I'm guessing it's more likely this was a misspelling of Gertrude or Gertraud.

The short note, written somewhat like a haiku, states:

how are you
folks all
we are all
good by
in care of the
Hotell Dixon

Here is an old postcard showing the Dixon Hotel in Wisconsin Rapids.

1. On that same date, according to Wikipedia, Ray R. Myers, "the world famous armless musician", was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now I totally have to look that guy up.
2. Not to be confused with Hortonhearsawhoville.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 10)

Pictured below is a full-page from "The Do-It-Yourself Book" section of 1929's The New Human Interest Library. (We're going through the book from front to back, by the way, and this is Page 57 of 397.) The illustrator for this collection of famous-building silhouettes is listed as "F.X.H." at the bottom. That's Frank X. Henke, an artist for whom biographical informational is scarce online.1

On this page, Henke illustrates well-known structures such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal, and Westminster Abbey.

There are also a number of structures that might not be as familiar to the general populace these days. The second row continues three mighty edifices from what is now Khorsabad, Iraq, but was once, many centuries before Christ, the Assyrian capital of Dur-Sharrukin.

King Sargon II's city included this observatory2 and grand palaces. It was excavated during the middle of the 19th century, when Dur-Sharrukin was, for a time, mistaken for Nineveh, a later Assyrian capital that is believed to have once been the largest city in the world.

In March 2015, Khorsabad, which is about 12 miles northeast of Mosul, was extensively damaged and ransacked by the terrorist/military group ISIS. Last month, National Geographic provided an update, with the help of satellite imagery, of what is currently known about Dur-Sharrukin/Khorsabad. The article is title "Iconic Ancient Sites Ravaged in ISIS’s Last Stand in Iraq."

1. Interestingly, though, it looks like his name kept being handed down. I found multiple online references to businessmen who I can only assume are his descendants — Frank Xavier Henke III and Frank Xavier Henke IV.
2. Some illustrations of the "Observatory," which is also called a temple by some: 1. Conjectural Restoration at All Mesopotamia Tumblr, 2. 1867 engraving of reconstruction, from Getty Images, 3. "Actual Condition of the So-Called Observatory," and illustration from an 1884 book.

When that Christmas holiday angst creeps up on you

2¾-inch by 3½-inch Victorian trade card with no identifying information.
Now back to thinking about what you're giving your Aunt Rufetta for Christmas.