Saturday, March 10, 2018

The various gradients of dragons

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sci-fi book cover: "Adventures on Other Planets"

  • Title: Adventures on Other Planets
  • Editor: Donald A. Wollheim (1914-1990)
  • Authors: Roger Dee, Robert Moore Williams, Clifford D. Simak, Murray Leinster, A.E. Van Vogt
  • Cover illustrator: Ed Valigursky (1926-2009)
  • Publisher: Ace Books (D-490)
  • Edition: Third printing, 1961
  • Book's first publication: 1955 (The stories were all originally written between 1944 and 1954.)
  • Price: 35 cents (I paid $2.)
  • Pages: 160
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back-cover excerpt: "ALL ABOARD FOR OUTER SPACE! Already man is taking the first steps into space! The artificial satellite you've read about in the papers is but the first exciting step that will open up a universe of wonders. Here's a new science-fiction anthology that presents some of the astounding ADVENTURES ON OTHER PLANETS that may be awaiting us..."
  • First sentence (from Dee's story): The Kornephorian robot-ship came in low over the raging sea.
  • Last sentence (from Van Vogt's story): The Rull-human war was over.
  • Random sentence from middle (Simak's story): "Still cabbage soup," said the Encyclopedia.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
  • Thoughts from cyberspace: On the Pamphlets of Destiny website, Lawrence Burton wrote about his admiration for this book in 2016. Here's an excerpt: "The cover alone was difficult to resist ... Science-fiction as a genre has an unfortunate reputation of tending to peddle the same old crap over and over, particularly work of this vintage, and this collection is as good a refutation of the argument as any. Sure, there are spaceships and aliens and intrepid Earth people setting foot on other planets, but once we're past those basics, there's some truly screwy, unpredictable shit going on in this one." ... Some of Burton's online reviews are available in a print collection that's wonderfully titled Crappy 1970s Paperbacks with Airbrushed Spacecraft on the Covers.

Important message from Finland (via Postcrossing)

I realize that it's been less than a week since I shared my mid-winter mailbox arrivals from Postcrossing, but the mailbox contained a Postcrossing item yesterday that's well worth sharing.

Elisa, a gardener from Finland who speaks five languages, sent me a pair of postcards in an envelope. The one shown above is an anti-bullying message from the Finnish Red Cross, for which Elisa has helpfully provided a translation.

The three big words are älä töni ketään — "Don't push anyone." Elisa's translation of the rest of the message, written alongside the Finnish text, is: "Bullying and discrimination is stupid, no matter who the bullied person is. Think about it and join the clever ones."

The printed message on the back of the postcard is Miksei Ystävänpäivä Ole Muuten Joka Päiva, which translates roughly to "Why isn't Valentine's Day every day?" (It also helps to know that, culturally, Valentine's Day in Finland is focused on friendship and appreciation, not romance.)

Elisa, who wrote about enjoying the subzero temperatures and snow in Finland this winter, also included a postcard with the illustration titled "Old Oak and Man" by artist Werner Holmberg (1830-1860).

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Gerald and Blanche bring you Channel Light Apartments

Today we have an unused 64-year-old postcard of a Florida real-estate venture known as Channel Light Apartments.

The "Genuine Kodachrome Reproduction" card, published and copyrighted by L.L. Cook Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shows the exterior of a cheery-looking, light-yellow apartment building, with a few people lounging out front.

The back of the postcard gives us the following pre-printed information:

2639 No. Ocean Blvd.
Pompano Beach, Florida
Highway A1A at Hillsboro Inlet. Private Ocean Beach.
Deep sea fishing fleet for your convenience nearby.
Gerald & Blanche Gelatt — Owners-Managers.

Underneath that, someone has typed "Boat At Your Disposal." I don't know how many promotional postcards Gerald and Blanche had, but it must have taken a long time to go through and type that onto all of them.

There are only a half-dozen references to Channel Light Apartments in the Fort Lauderdale News, all dating between 1952 and 1961. The June 1952 mention is the fictitious-name filing for the business venture. In a 1956 news item, Gerald Gelatt is referred to as "Jerry." And a 1961 advertisement lists the Gelatts and their business on a petition related to a potential Pompano Beach sewer project.

Gerald Gelatt served at least two terms on the area Zoning Board of Appeals, according to a 1968 newspaper brief. That might be related to the fact that, in 1964, Gelatt, then a member of the Hillsboro Shores Improvement Association, made a rezoning request to add docks north of Pompano Beach's fishing fleet to accommodate 16 boats. The article about this issue, in the January 27, 1964, issue of the Fort Lauderdale News, was headlined "Boat Report To Stir Tiff." (Well played, copy editor!)

Meanwhile, here's a fishing report from the August 16, 1947, edition of The Palm Beach Post that shows that Gerald and Blanche were both anglers and also that they moved from Iowa to Florida at some point in their lives.

As for their ultimate fates, I think this photograph from Blanche Isabel Stewart Gelatt's Find A Grave page is pretty conclusive evidence that he lived from 1904 to 1980 and was buried at sea, while she lived from 1906 to 1989 was was buried back in Iowa. (This grave is in Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington, Iowa.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"A Child's Garden of Verses" and the work of Eulalie

The Platt and Munk Company apparently found great success over the decades in publishing editions of Robert Louis Stevenson's whimsical poetry collection, A Child's Garden of Verses. In fact, one statistic that's floating around the great unvetted Internet is that P&M sold in excess of two million copies of the book.

This hardcover edition was published in 1932, and I want to share some of the wonderful illustrations by Eulalie Minfred Banks (1895-1999), who went simply by Eulalie. According to her 1999 obituary in The Independent, she earned a flat fee of $950 for her work on this book, which I believe was first published in 1929. That's the equivalent of more than $13,000 in modern dollars, which is a pretty nifty payment. But, in taking a flat fee, she might have left a lifetime worth of much greater royalties on the table. Especially if the figure of two million book sales is accurate.

Of course, that wasn't the only work she did for Platt and Munk. She had a long relationship with the company. According to her Los Angeles Times obituary, she "churned out endless animals for books of nursery rhymes, fairy tales and folk stories that have been reprinted for generations of children."

She also painted murals for Hollywood stars, including Charlie Chaplin.

And there is this wonderful — and, for this blog, relevant — tidbit, also from her Los Angeles Times obituary:
Banks was outraged in 1983 when she was asked to remove gnomes, elves and fairies from a mural she did for a decorator's showcase house in Pasadena.

"They told me the children didn't know what they were," she told The Times afterward. "It's cruel [how] children don't read anymore. ... Now they sit and watch television."

Asked what she would say to a modern child, she said: "Do believe in fairy tales. Hang on to the magic. Never lose your sense of wonder and whimsy, or you'll lose a part of your soul."
When a woman who lived to age 104 says this, you should listen.

So here's a chance for you to enjoy and hold onto some of that whimsy, via Eulalie's work for A Child's Garden of Verses. Here are the endpapers, a pair of line illustrations and a gorgeous full-color work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jazzy advertisements from a 1961 issue of The New Yorker

For just 25 cents, the July 22, 1961, issue of The New Yorker included a bunch of great reading, including an essay on Kuwait, book and jazz reviews and some international commentary filed from Geneva.

There are also, of course, the cartoons — I might do a separate post on them at some point; they're such a cultural time capsule! — and the advertisements, catering to upscale readers who like to travel, drink and enjoy other vicarious pleasures.

Anatol Kovarsky, who did the cover illustration for this issue, died in 2016 at age 97. A 2013 piece in The New Yorker mentions that Kovarsky was still imagining and creating art late in life.

Today, though, I wanted to share some of the advertisements from this 57-year-old issue. I think you'll find some of them to be a hoot.

American Airlines


Eastman Kodak Company

Utell International

Avis Rent-A-Car

Air France Jet

Air France Jet (detail of 3 panels)

Monday, March 5, 2018

From the readers: Treasured copy of "Andersen's Fairy Tales"

Jenny, contacting me through Goodreads, recently sent this query:
Hi there Chris,
I was trying to find the value of an extremely old OLD book. Then I came across your book that your wife gave you for Christmas and it looked very similar to the one I have. Unfortunately I am not good on the computer for the most part so I would not know how to send you a picture on the computer, only on text (sad, I know).

On the cover is a number 0742 in small print. On the cover also is, "Charles E. Graham & Co. New York. Made in the USA"

On the inside second page it says, "Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales." Then, "Translated from the Danish by Carl Siewers." Then, "Charles E. Graham & Co. Newark, N.J. -- New York." On the fifth page it says, "Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales. The Tinder-box."

The cover is in pretty rough shape for sure!! The inside pages (not including the first page that is torn off, but is there) are in decent shape. They are the color of paper bags from the grocery store. At first I thought it was typed by hand because each letter is indented a little on the paper. The binding is tight and I don't dare open the book all the way because the paper will crack off because it is so old and dry ... but to me it is a true treasure!!!

My parents were antique book dealers in their own stores, renting space from nice stores in Minnesota, and then online. My sweet father passed away when I was 29 years old (I saw you are 47 and so am I) and now my mother is in assisted living. She had to leave her house after breaking her hip and as I was going through the THOUSANDS of books they had stored in the house and huge garage, I found this gem of a book just as I was about to leave the house for the last time.

I have tried researching it, but your book is the ONLY one that resembled my book.

Is there any information you could share with me about your book or mine? I don't think I will be selling it, but would love to know the value of it. S.O.S. Chris!! You are my only hope to learn about this old of a book by Hans Andersen.

* * *

Chris says: Three things to start with: (1) Thank you for taking the time to write to me and share your story. I love hearing tales of discoveries such as this one. (2) Please understand that, in book-sleuthing matters, I am a rank amateur, just like Christopher Reeve in The Remains of the Day, and cannot be considered an expert or final word. There are folks who do this for a living. I just dabble on the Internet. (3) The most important thing you wrote was "to me it is a true treasure!!!" For so many books, the value is what we assign to them, based on memories, experiences and personal connections. You clearly have a strong connection to this book, given the family business and how you discovered it.

So, starting off, it seems as if you and I have nearly identical copies of Andersen's Fairy Tales. The only differences, based on your notes:

  • The number printed on the bottom of the cover is 0546 on mine and 0742 on yours. I'm not sure what that number represents.
  • Your book makes reference to Newark, New Jersey, on the title page. Mine does not.

When I did my original (brief) research on this book a few years ago, I could not determine a date of publication. I guessed that it was "likely between 1880 to 1910." I still think that's correct, probably toward the later part of that range. It's almost certain that there were multiple editions, each slightly different, during that time period.

I found a listing for a book similar to ours on The cover is identical. This one is listed as being published by Graham & Matlack. Neither of our books make reference to Matlack, which is an interesting clue. I found a 1918 obituary for Lee R. Matlack in a journal called "The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer" that states:
"Lee R. Matlack, formerly a partner in the firm of Graham & Matlack, publishers in New York, died at his home in Philadelphia on August 21st, aged forty-five.

"Mr. Matlack was well known to the booksellers of the country as a salesman. While a boy he started in the book business with the old firm of Porter & Coates. Afterward he went with the J.B. Lippincott Company, and for many years he travelled for the Henry Altemus Company. Ten years ago he became a salesman for Hurst & Co. and then, in 1912, he joined with Charles E. Graham and established the publishing firm of Graham & Matlack. Genial and always honorable and square, he made hosts of friends, who will sadly miss him."
If we are to take that obituary information at face value, then the Graham & Matlack editions of Andersen's Fairy Tales were published in 1912 or after, while our editions are sometime prior to 1912, before Charles Graham added his partner.

Whether it's just Graham or Graham & Matlack, I don't think they can be considered top-flight or prestige publishers. They focused, perhaps, on works that did not fall under copyright and that could provide maximum profit. A website by Stephen Railton and the University of Virginia that focuses on the history of Uncle Tom's Cabin contains a short mention of a Graham & Matlack edition of that book. You can see that the cover design and binding are similar to that of Andersen's Fairy Tales. Railton writes:
"This cheaply illustrated and printed book is a good example of how much borrowing went on among many of the publishers who brought out versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the decades after the copyright lapsed. Although the only author credited is Stowe herself, the text below was almost certainly derived (without acknowledgment) from the adaptation 'by Mary E. Blaine' published by Barse and Hopkins in their PLEASANT HOUR SERIES children's book, which earlier (also without acknowledgment) had been derived from an adaption by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall's c.1904 TOLD TO THE CHILDREN EDITION. In addition, Matlack and Graham re-used the dozen black-and-white illustrations from this edition in their PICTURE BOOK version of the novel, intended for younger readers."
You can see some other Matlack & Graham editions, all with colorful and imaginative covers, at this eBay search.

So what is the value of our editions of Andersen's Fairy Tales? In terms of the vintage-book market, I would say it's not much. Both of our books, especially as you have described yours, are in fair to poor shape. Tears and damage and brittle pages matter to buyers. Browsing various websites (Amazon, AbeBooks, etc.), the few copies I could find are selling for less than $10 in most cases. A couple copies have higher prices ($60-$70), but I'm almost certain those are pie-in-the-sky figures and that it's unlikely there would be a buyer at that price.

And so I would return to what I stated at the beginning. The only value of these books that matters is what they mean to us personally. That's something you cannot put a price on. Congratulations on your find, and I'm glad that it's a treasure in your eyes.

Postcard of Goat Island Bridge at Niagara Falls

This postcard, mailed from Niagara Falls to Philadelphia in July 1913, features the Goat Island Bridge.1 The descriptive text on the back of this H.H. Tammen Company card states:
A beautiful bridge structure, one of the sights of Niagara, taking the place of several crude wooden affairs that previously served as passageways. The mingling of quiet pastoral scenery and the madly rushing torrent of the river below form the rarest scenic combination in the world.
Goat Island Bridge takes you between the United States and Goat Island.2 Today, it is reserved for the Niagara Scenic Trolley, and cars are not permitted. Goat Island, part of the United States, is a major tourist destination but still retains a fair amount of undeveloped woodland (with foot trails passing through).

Perhaps the unlikeliest attraction on the island is the Tesla Monument, a statue of inventor Nikola Tesla that was gifted to the United States by the government of Yugoslavia in 1976. The reason for it being located there, according to the Tesla Memorial Society of New York, is that "Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse built the first hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls and started the electrification of the world."

To wrap up, here's the July 1913 note that was scrawled onto this postcard:
"We came across the bridge to view the falls by night. Are sitting on the stone rail. Want to see them by moonlight. We had a very tasty supper and I enjoyed what I ate — but my appetite has not come back. We see a very great improvement and find quite a busy town. The place is full.

1. Also happening in July 1913: A huge gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg; Tony Wilding wins his fourth straight Wimbledon crown (though he would be killed in World War I less than two years later); "spirit communication" with "Patience Worth" begins; future President Gerald Ford is born and given the name Leslie Lynch King Jr.; and a motorcade of sixty vehicles travels from Hyattsville, Maryland, to the United States Capitol carrying a petition with 200,000 signatures of persons favoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow women to vote.
2. I am not 100 percent sure whether the Goat Island Bridge pictured on this postcard is the same one that's there today. There's a good chance it's been upgraded or replaced during the past century.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Nope. Nope. Nope. Never bringing this book into the house.

Presenting More Tales of Unease, a paperback anthology edited by John Burke and published in 1969 by Pan Books (as you can tell by the friendly-flute-player logo in the upper right). This probably provides some good insight into how disturbed the folks of 1969 were.

You can see the table of contents here.

Fortunately, used copies of this book start at $9,000 at Amazon, probably because they're all cursed and necromancers can use them to open the gates of Hell. But, hey, if you see a cheap copy at a bookstore, definitely buy it and then stick it in a bag in your cellar until you can flip it for enough money to fund a year of college for your kid.

Catalog for 1928 A.J. Pennypacker sale of antique furniture

"Largest Sale ever held in the State of Pennsylvania" claims the cover of this 24-page staplebound catalog from 90 years ago.

Antiques dealer A.J. Pennypacker's four-day whirlwind sale was slated for October 3-6, 1928, in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.

The catalog is filled with photos of dressers, chairs, tables, painted chests, bottles, tableware, and more chairs.

Just two years before this sale, in October 1926, Pennypacker had been involved in a bit of harrowing misfortune, as documented by The Morning Call of Allentown:

A.J. Pennpacker, Driver of Car, Had Just Made Purchase

An automobile load of antiques being transported by A.J. Pennypacker from Easton to his store at 601 Main street, Pennsburg, was burned up when the engine of the machine caught fire after it skidded into a pole at the eastern end of Bethlehem at about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

In the collection, valued at $500, which Mr. Pennypacker had just purchased at Easton, was a picture, "George Washington at Philadelphia." Other articles were mostly of old and rare chinaware. An old-fashioned, long-handled, fire shovel and two pairs of antique fire tongs were the only pieces salvaged.
A loss of $500 would be the equivalent of more than $7,000 today, but it might not have been as bad of a setback as you might imagine. An April 1931 newspaper article, again from The Morning Call, paints a picture of a very prosperous antiques-dealing business for Pennypacker.
Pennsburg Antique Collector
Made Many Famous Transactions

A.J. Pennypacker Has Annual Sales That Have Brought to Pennsburg Many of the Leading Collectors Throughout the Country

[Snip] ... In offering the type of antiques that are both useful and ornamental to residents of Pennsburg and vicinity we find that A.J. Pennpacker, of 501 Main street, has established himself as one of the foremost representatives of his community.

[Snip] ... His annual sales are an event that bring buyers from all over the country. Representatives of some of the world's foremost antiques collectors have attended these sales and Mr. Pennypacker's reputation for good judgment and straightforward dealing has become a byword in this section.

He has been affiliated with this line of endeavor for twelve years and during this period of time has gained a conversance with his field that sets him apart from the average dealer.

Many of the most notable sales in this entire area have been handled by Mr. Pennypacker. To Francis T. Garlin he sold a highboy for $17,000. It was brought from Texas by Mr. Pennypacker.

Another highboy brought $12,000 and was purchased by I. Sacks, of Philadelphia.

Mr. Kern of Philadelphia paid $16,000 for four chairs and a like number brought $25,000 when sold to H.F. Dupont, of Wilmington, Delaware.

[Snip] ... Mr. Pennypacker served in France and is now a member of the American Legion. ... He is a member of the L.O.O.M., of Allentown, and the Orioles, of Boyertown. ...
As just one example, let's assume that $17,000 highboy was sold in 1930, as the Great Depression was getting underway. That would be the equivalent of a quarter-million-dollar piece of furniture today.

Also, the "I. Sacks" is almost certainly a misspelling of legendary dealer Israel Sack. And, yeah, Henry Francis du Pont was kind of rich and famous, too, and could probably use his pocket money to buy four chairs for $25,000.

So let's backtrack now to this catalog and the 1928 sale. In the introduction to the collection of photographs, Pennypacker writes: "This will be one of the largest sales of Early American Antiques, mostly Pennsylvania pieces, ever held in Pennsylvania. ... I am certain it will be worthwhile for any one to come to this sale. I guarantee each and every piece to be genuine and as represented."

And then there is his list. Take a deep breath, because this is just part of it...

  • 25 corner cupboards
  • 7 Grandfather clocks
  • 25 decorated chests
  • 10 slant-top desks
  • 60 bureaus
  • 40 Dutch cupboards
  • 4 Welsh or pewter cupboards
  • 25 drop-leaf tables, including Chippendale and Hepplewhite
  • 25 Chippendale mirrors
  • 35 walnut blanket chests
  • 15 bench tables
  • 20 day beds
  • 15 dough trough tables
  • 500 bottles
  • 200 pink luster pieces
  • 75 sawtooth or pineapple glass
  • 50 pieces thumb fruit glass
  • 100 lamps
  • 35 pieces painted tinware
  • 200 goblets
  • 25 pieces Bennington pottery
  • 200 pieces Sandwich
  • 50 pieces blue glass
  • 75 candlesticks
  • 40 pieces Bohemian glass
  • 75 pieces Spatterware, some very rare
  • 400 Currier & Ives prints, some very rare
  • 50 lanterns
  • 300 homespun linen sheets

Here are some additional photographs from the 1928 Pennypacker catalog...

This gives me flashbacks to the basement of the Wallingford house.