Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Things We Find in Books-

One of the most fascinating things about bookselling can be the odd items you find in books, and the stories they can lead you to unearth once you begin hunting around. A case in point is a copy of Stanley Casson's 1928 study "Some Modern Sculptors" which we bought a few years ago. It's a great book, but neither scarce nor expensive.

However, when we examined our copy we found that it had once been owned by Francis Henry Taylor, a Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had three typewritten letters from Casson to Taylor tucked inside the rear endpapers!

Well, that seemed interesting, so we started doing some further research...

Stanley Casson (1889-1944) was a multi-talented art scholar and army officer who read Classical Archaeology at Oxford, served as Assistant Director of the British School at Athens, Special Lecturer in Art at Bristol University, and was Director of British Academy Excavations at Constantinople in 1928-1929. His publications include numerous articles and books on the subject of Classical Antiquities.

He also had two distinguished war records, starting the First World War as an officer with an infantry regiment in the trenches of Flanders before becoming part of the British Salonika Force in 1916 and finally serving on the General Staff in 1918. His war poems, written in the Flanders mud, are now part of the War Poetry Collection at Napier University in Edinburgh.

Starting in 1939 he again served the British government in Holland, and later transferred to Greece where he was serving as a liaison officer when he was killed in an airplane crash in 1944.

Now, what about Francis Henry Taylor? Taylor (1903-1957), was a former Curator of Medieval Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Director of the Worcester Art Museum at about the time the letters we found were written, and eventually became Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The three typewritten letters were written to Taylor by Casson, on New College, Oxford letterheads, from the early 1930s. The first letter simply greets him and extends Casson's admiration for an article that Taylor wrote on Greek sculpture; the other two were evidently written after Taylor had taken a trip to London and the two had become friends.

A few excerpts give a general idea of the scholarly goings on:

[Aug 7th] "I enjoyed that evening in London more than I have enjoyed anything in this country for a very long time. My only sorrow is that I cannot give the return party to you here... How precisely I got home after you had decanted me from the taxi I cannot say. By strange luck I got into the right train and there remained semi-comatose until Oxford. Again Heaven aided and there was actually a taxi at the station... Meantime I suggest a good line of research would be to find out if Miss [R] keeps a stature of Hermes in her bedroom... By the way, Wilenski has just written a crazy book on "Modern Sculpture" that I find would serve as an admirable whipping post for discussing the ultra-modern coprolite-sculptors... Eric Gill, whom I saw on Sunday after our carouse, is commissioned to do some 150 full size figures on a new cathedral at Guildford in Surrey. He is getting together a band and going to do it in the real mediaeval manner (I mean as regards the organisation)."

[Nov 2, 1932] "As to the statue, actually I see no reason to doubt it and it really is a scoop... but there will be Hells own row in Greece and someone will get the permanent push in Athens. I cant imagine how on earth they get such things out without being spotted. ... Meantime if in due course I can come over your way, as you suggest, I feel little doubt that I shall see U.S.A. a bit more from the right viewpoint than most of the many academics that sour the atmosphere of your genial land. Gawd, what stiffs we do send you sometimes!".

I love this stuff. Sometimes it's true- you can't judge a book by its covers!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's Hot Outside!

Well, "late next week" turned into more than two weeks, but we are back now, and will be posting here on a regular basis for the rest of the Summer. We've got our new Summer catalog coming out this coming week- watch for more announcements about that in the next few days!

We haven't been blogging the past few weeks, but we've been quite busy getting ready for August and the Fall.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Some Patriotic Music-

Just in time for 4th of July Week, we found an 1831 salute to Old Glory, a single leaf printing the music and words to “Our Flag is Here! An American Patriotic Song”, removed from a disbound portion of the August, 1831 edition of ‘Atkinson’s Casket’. We do not normally go around slicing pages, but this edition was already mutilated, and it seemed that the song would be of interest to American flag enthusiasts of all stripes. The note at the top of the page states-

"The Music and Words of the following Song, were, we understand, composed by a sailor, on board the Java frigate. They have never before, we believe, been published. The feelings of an American tar, are truly expressed in these words, and many a landsman will cordially join in the Chorus. The Song has, we judge, only to be known to become very popular.”

The “Java frigate” referred to was an American 44-gun vessel, named for the famous War of 1812 naval battle between the USS Constitution and the British frigate Java. The American frigate was laid down in Baltimore in 1814, and made her maiden voyage from Baltimore under the command of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry on August 5, 1815. After fitting out she was ordered to the Mediterranean in 1816, still under Perry’s flag, and while there Perry went ashore in Algiers and “persuaded” the Dey of Algiers that it would be better to stop harrassing American interests, as he had promised in a treay signed the previous summer, than to ignore it as he had been doing before the American fleet showed up. Before returning home Perry and Java also sailed, in company with the Constellation, Ontario, and Erie to show the flag off Tripoli. In 1827 Java returned to the Mediterranean under Captain William M. Crane, and was the flagship of Commodore James Biddle for a time. She returned to America in 1831, was based at Norfolk for several years, and was broken up in 1842.

As for the song's immortality, a Google search for the title only brings up one possible match, a transcription of verse by the same title in the Civil War journal of a young woman. The words, while not quite as memorable as those of the Battle Hymn of the Republic or as moving as those of America the Beautiful, have a certain ring to them-

“Our flag is here! Our flag is here!
We hail it with three loud huzzas!
Our flag is here! Our flag is here!
Behold its’ glorious stripes and stars.
That flag is known in every sphere,
The standard of a gallant band,
Alike unstain’d in peace or war,
It floats o’er freedom’s happy land.

Stout hearts have fought for that bright flag,
Strong hands maintain’d it mast-head high;
And oh! To see how proud it waves,
Brings tears of joy in ev’ry eye.

Our flag is here, &c.

That flag has stood in battle’s war,
‘Mid foemen strong and foemen brave,
Strong hands have tried that flag to low’r,
And found a speedy, wat’ry grave.

Our flag is here, &c.

We have put the sheet up on Ebay in an auction starting July 6th. "Foggygates" will be on vacation mode for the week, and will return late next week.