Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wally Skinner's Copy of The Art of the New Yorker 1925-1995

John Wallace "Wally" Skinner was a Cleveland dealer in books and prints who had the good sense to attend the signing event for Lee Lorenz's The Art of The New Yorker 1925-1995. Besides Mr. Lorenz, some dozen cartoonists and others including George Plimpton were on hand to sign the books and personalize them with inscriptions and drawings. Mr. Skinner requested drawings of frogs from the artists, and many of them complied.

Why frogs? Apparently Mr. Skinner was once associated with the Windham Free Library in Connecticut where he learned the tale of the Windham Frog Fight of 1754. Very briefly, the entire town was startled late one night during the French and Indian War by an unearthly loud noise. Some residents thought they were under attack. Some thought the trumpets of Judgment Day were being sounded. The entire town was petrified until the source of the sound was identified as--local frogs. The area subsequently celebrated their frogs on currency and today there is even a Frog Bridge commemorating the event.

Windham Bank One Dollar Note

Windham Bank $5 Note

Willimantic Frog Bridge

Willimantic Frog Bridge

So then, with that as background, let's move on to the recent listing on eBay. Here's how a group of New Yorker cartoonists approached the subject of frogs in 1995:

Wally Skinner's Copy of The Art of the New Yorker 1925-1995 features warm inscriptions and drawings mostly of frogs.

Wally Skinner's copy of The Art of The New Yorker 1925-1995. A dealer in books and prints, John Wallace "Wally" Skinner knew to save the cocktail napkin!

The back cover of The Art of The New Yorker 1925-1995 with a drawing by Saul Steinberg

Of the eleven drawings here, seven are of frogs.

On the inside front cover, six New Yorker cartoonists made drawings. They are Arnold Roth, Jack Ziegler, Arnie Levin, Robert Weber, Frank Modell, and Danny Shanahan. All drew frogs except Weber, who drew a dog. He had the dog say, "Hey Wally/I don't do/frogs but/good luck/anyhow!"

The front free endpaper has original frogs drawn by Edward Koren and George Booth. Bob Mankoff and Roz Chast stick to faces. If that were an Edward Sorel drawing in this book as I first thought, it would be something of a rarity, but more than likely the man with the pipe is by Bob Mankoff and Sorel only signs his name. Victoria Roberts falls back on her Australian background and draws a crocodile, which isn't really like a frog. Ed Fisher signs but does not draw.

"For Wally Skinner--/With best regards./Lee Lorenz"

"For Wally/Very best wishes/George Plimpton." No, those aren't frogs.

This promotional bookmark contains a wealth of information about the signing party. Cartoonist Robert Mankoff's attendance is here confirmed, but he confused me no end by signing his name Rob Mankoff instead of today's more familiar Bob. Marketing Director Diane Vaughan's name appears here as the contact person. Her personal copy of this book was shown on this blog last week. The event was held in conjunction with the New York is Book Country weekend. Author Lee Lorenz is called the magazine's art editor here, which he was indeed from 1973 to 1993 when he selected the covers and the drawings. By 1995, though, his official title was cartoon editor. Françoise Mouly was the magazine's art editor in 1995 and she had jurisdiction over the covers. Still, "former art editor" just wouldn't sound right.
EBay Listing Ended October 30, 2014

EBay Item Description

"Like Charles Addams." That's marketing for you.

Note:  This is the fifth copy of this wonderful book to appear on the blog, and the third that was from the signing event of September 15, 1995. See the other copies here. Each seems fairly unique so far, and there are many more signed and personalized copies out there. Of course, I'd love to see one or two of these hidden copies. Can you help me out, Tina Brown?

If you like the idea of a book full of frog drawings, see what happens when you ask a group of New Yorker cartoonists to make drawings of porcupines in your book. I kid you not.

Books with original drawings in them are one of the great recurring themes of this blog. If you're not already familiar with what's here, I invite you to explore.

Alas, New York is Book Country is no more. I have collected a treasure trove of promotional posters from the event. You won't believe how spectacular they are.

The Town of Windham Seal


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