I, Lydia, will be your hostess here. I’ll be posting a new entry every Wednesday (and possibly some scattered commentary at other times as well). Unless a reader would like to contribute a better idea, I think I shall split each entry into three sections, each covering a different type of item: one wonderful collector’s item, one affordable and yet still interesting thing, and one of my personal favorite objects that may or may not have been around for a while.
Today’s Collector’s Item is this amazingly beautiful book:
Words fail me! -- but I will do my best for you, gentle readers. It's a 1923 limited edition of a Paul Claudel poem, in French with glorious illustrations by Audrey Parr. And yet, though it's in French, it's a Japanese-style book: a sort of accordion of paper with a wooden board on either end. Since it's so unusual, I looked around the Internet to find out more about it; I discovered several webpages explaining that Claudel worked on his poem for some time -- and had some lovely sketches of cloaked figures from Parr -- but simply couldn't figure out how to lay out his book until he went on a diplomatic mission to Japan. There, Claudel was inspired by the books he saw to create this beautiful fusion of cultures: the poem in columns across the folded paper, while the dramatic Parr illustrations move in staggered iterations across the top. This book currently graces the counter in front of the window, where we can see it from behind the counter; with the sun falling through the window behind it, those blue cloak illustrations practically glow. We're charging $800.00 for this item -- lower than any price we could find on the Internet; only one thousand copies were put together back in 1923.
In Affordable and Interesting, we have these two comics:
Asterix is a rather exuberant comic, originally in French (this is an English translation), about an ancient Gaul and his adventures. His best friend makes menhirs for a living, and his village druid can mix a potion that makes anyone who drinks it invincible. Asterix's adventures focus mainly on hunting wild boar, outsmarting and outfighting the Roman invaders, and going on crazy journeys throughout the rest of the ancient world. The comic is $4.50, a real steal if you ask me ... but then, I used to obsessively read the Asterix comics as a child, and I have a special place in my heart for them (I was a pretty weird child).
Tintin is a better-known figure: he's a straight-as-an-arrow reporter whose idealism and exceptionally white dog both help him through dangerous international intrigues. Also originally in French, this is an English translation, and appears to be about Tintin rescuing an abandoned briefcase and getting into lots of trouble ... I haven't read it yet, but I will if no one buys it for a while (at only $9.00).
Of course, that's if I don't spend my entire budget on this Favorite:
It's a late 1800s edition of a bunch of Kipling poems, titled after his famous work "The Vampire". "The Vampire" (as you can read for yourself by clicking here) is a rather passive-aggressive poem about women and the evils thereof. But it's not just the pretty cover that attracts me to this book, nor the fact that I can read the contents and then make fun of Kipling's misogyny and imperialism. It's the clippings laid into the front:
Now, these clippings aren't dated, so we have no idea when they're from. But they're clearly very old -- almost as old at the book itself? One is a random story about two street urchins getting in a scuffle; who knows what that's about -- nothing important. The second, however, is a "Woman's Version of the Vampire", apparently written into the paper by a Ms. Francis B. Ross. It's about as snippy as the original poem; the final verse goes:
And it isn't the ache of the heart, or its break
that stings like a white-hot brand --
It is the learning to know that she raised a god
and bent her head to kiss the rod
for one who could not understand.
Goodness. Ms. Ross was not very happy, was she? But it gets better! It appears that the next week, a disgruntled gentleman named Mr. James Melville, Jr. wrote in yet another version of "The Vampire", this one from the point of view of the (as the newspaper calls it) "eternal masculine". His poem is titled "The Verdict", and here's the last stanza:
Life had a claim -- he paid it well --
and fate claimed a willing fool;
he had no voice in what befell;
the passion he bore he could not quell;
his only fault -- that he loved too well.
One wonders if Mr. Melville and Ms. Ross had a history, eh? You can own that history (and also this book) for $125.00.
Well, that concludes today's entry. Thank you for coming by, and stay cool in this August heat -- remember that we have air conditioning here ...!