Apparently the book these leaves came from was ruined by the collector's child: binding snapped, many pages destroyed by crayon. After the wanton slaughter, Doug felt that the thing to do was sell each individual leaf from the volume. The paper is in marvelous shape -- as Doug says, they simply didn't know how to make bad paper back then, and a lot of ragstock 1500s paper has lasted better than 1800s or early 1900s paper. The text is in antique French, but English-speakers can enjoy the hand-set calligraphic type and its decorated capitals (and some students found leaves with very, very old ink notes in the margins). We'll continue selling these leaves until we run out (now $4.00 apiece, since the promotional event has gone the way of all flesh).
This week's Collector's Item isn't quite as old -- merely from 1860:
Rebound in 1863 as the "Grammar School Athletic Prize", this is a little anthology of Alexander Pope's poetical works. Pope was, as the :ahem: always-reliable Internet informs me, considered by many to be the greatest English poet of the early 1700s. This collection contains all manner of elderly sonnets, epitaphs, imitations, moral essays and miscellanies; all of these are illustrated by elaborate etchings; but these are not, I must confess, what first drew my attention to this book. (Perhaps I'm a philistine.) The really magnificent thing is this:
It's a little difficult to initially figure out what you're seeing here: there's a little painting hidden on the fore-edge of the book, and when the gilted side of the text bloc is fanned (as when one might be reading the book), the picture is revealed. I learned of this when a gentleman named Martin Frost came into the shop a few months ago, and told us he was a fore-edge painter. "A what?" quoth I, while Doug cried, "Oh, wow! I didn't know there were any fore-edge painters left!" Doug then proceeded to the glass cases to pull out this little gem and show it to us, at which point I plotzed*.
You can look at Martin Frost's website by clicking here -- it includes some videos of the artist showing the camera his work, so it will make it easier to see what exactly a fore-edge painting is -- but Frost is hardly representative of 1800s fore-edge painters. From what Doug tells me, I gather that fore-edge painting was a pursuit of young Victorian women, who were often bored and probably required an inexhaustible supply of "ladylike" pursuits to assuage the fact that they were practically never allowed to do anything interesting. Presumably, this little volume was won at school by just such a proper young lady, who seized the chance to further decorate her pretty new book (perhaps impressing some of her all-important suitors in the process). I choose to believe that she painted a knight on horseback because she had a secret hankering for adventure and was destined to go someplace fun like the wilds of Kenya, but I could be projecting. You are, of course, welcome to come in and examine her work for yourself, or even buy it for $475.00.
Our Affordable and Interesting piece this week comes from an era in which women were allowed to do slightly more:
Yes. I did a double-take too. And then I really plotzed. A "Doonesbury" musical comedy? This is why I love working here; I could never make this up. It's from 1984, and hence makes quite a lot of fun of Reagan. But I think my favorite part is the bit where Mike, a nerdy but lovable guy, confesses that he wants to propose to his girlfriend:
Mike: In a few weeks, I might ... I might ...
Mark: Might what?
Mike: I might be married. ... I'm still working on my proposal.
Mark: ... I thought you were working on a grant application.
Mike: I've done three rough drafts. I'm on the polish now. Tell me if you think the tone of my opening is right.
Mark: (reads) "Hi, J.J. It's me, Mike." Jesus, Mike, she already knows who you are. You don't have to identify yourself.
Mike: You're right. Nice catch. I'm glad you're checking this.
Mark: (resumes reading) "J.J., you're probably going to think this is a really dumb idea ..." ... Mike, are you sure you're ready for this?
Mike: Of course.
Mark: Mike, if you were really ready for marriage, would you need a script?
Mike: Of course.
I have always wondered where I go next from reading stacks and stacks of Doonesbury collections from the 1980s. (That's where I learned at least 45% of my American History.) I will personally buy this book for you (at $6.00) if you promise to put on a full stage production.
Anyway, I ought no longer distract myself with quotations from the comedy. That's a wrap for today -- but seriously, at least come in and read parts of it yourself. It's pure gold.
* I bet you anything, gentle readers, that my mother is going to send me an email about the fact that I used the term "plotz".