Saturday, December 30, 2023

Ray Bolger: Two Photos Signed by "The Scarecrow of Oz"

On December 6, RR Auction sold a publicity photo from "The Wizard of Oz" signed to one Dana E. Clarke by actor Ray Bolger, calling himself "The Scarecrow of Oz." It is signed with a black felt tip pen.

Ray Bolger
RR Auction ended December 6, 2023

Curiously, another photograph signed by Bolger to the same recipient was offered by Nate D. Sanders Auctions almost three years ago. This one was signed with a blue pen.

Ray Bolger
Nate D. Sanders Auctions


Friday, December 29, 2023

Garth Williams: Happy New Year?

A drawing by illustrator Garth Williams that failed to make it into The New Yorker in the mid-1940s was sold a year ago on eBay for an undisclosed best offer. Let the revels begin.

Garth Williams
eBay listing ended December 28, 2022


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Sight Unseen: A Witch's Copy of Nightcrawlers by Charles Addams

This may come as a surprise, but I have a predilection for Charles Addams books. If a bookseller from all the way in the U.K. comes along and offers me a copy of Addams's 1957 collection Nightcrawlers adding that it's  "signed by the Author and dedicated," who am I to say, "Sorry, not interested?" But the price, $52.03, seems a little too good to be true. Why? As for the shipping cost from the U.K. of $6.02, ditto. And there are a number of unanswered questions that I just won't ask, not wishing to tip off the seller to the potential giveaway at hand.

As the listing's single photograph shows—well, it doesn't reveal all that much. There is the question of condition. How could a signed Addams collection, surely the pride of any library, lose its dust cover? Well, it does happen; we've seen it. Then there's the question of authenticity: why wouldn't an internet-savvy bookseller show a photo of the prized Addams inscription? And finally, there is always some intrigue about the recipient. Is it one of the artist's high society friends? A lover? A celebrity? My approach to these conundrums is to plan to put the book in a Sight Unseen post and then to go ahead and order it. When it arrives, I report to the readership on the outcome.

Charles Addams
AbeBooks listing accessed November 23, 2023

Charles Addams
AbeBooks item description

The book has arrived, allowing me to photograph the front free endpaper complete with purported Addams signature and inscription:

For those who may not be clear on the key point here, this is neither Addams's handwriting nor his signature. There has been an unfortunate confluence in 2023: three books that I ordered Sight Unseen, two of them by Edward Gorey and this one, lacked the authentic artist signatures I had been led to expect. The two major reasons for this are some combination of bookseller carelessness and buyer avarice. To the credit of World of Rare Books, my money was refunded in full and I was not even asked to return the book. 


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Bob Eckstein: A Hollywood Agent Monoprint

A monoprint is simply a one-off print. With an edition size of one, it is by definition unique.

This particular monoprint by New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein shows a Hollywood agent in his office speaking with a character of Pufnstufian proportions. (Actually, it's Bingo of "The Banana Splits." Sorry, H.R.P.  fans.)

The artist's signature and the caption are printed. The print is additionally signed in full in pencil, dated 2012, numbered 1/1, and branded with a copyright symbol as well.
Bob Eckstein's signature

Why make a monoprint of a cartoon? My conjecture, knowing Mr. Eckstein's practice, is that this is a hand-shaded print. The artist may make any number of prints of his drawing, then shade or even color them, and finally choose a favorite to be the definitive version of the cartoon. The monoprint then effectively serves as an original.

When this print was sold on eBay in October, the seller asserted that this was a New Yorker cartoon. In point of fact it was published in Barron's.
Bob Eckstein
eBay listing ended October 4, 2023

Bob Eckstein
eBay item description

December 28,2023 Update:  In a personal communication, the artist, Bob Eckstein, confirms my conjecture about his use of prints. He also informs me that this cartoon was published in Barron's—I had thought it might be unpublished. I have amended the text accordingly. Thanks, Bob.

Thanks as well to joecab for correcting me about the potential client's true identity in the comments section below. I still contend that the Banana Splits's proportions were "Pufnstufian," but I fear my pop culture cred is fading fast.

Note:  The drawing is archived on CartoonStock's website here.


Monday, December 25, 2023

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #879

There's a line at the Pearly Gates and a skier who bypasses it in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #879 from the issue of December 18, 2023. My sporting caption is shown below. The drawing is by Feggo, whom I like to call Felipe Galindo.

"I wanted the express entrance to have curling."

These captions didn't stick the landing:

"With a lift ticket you get express check-in."
"We also combine a lift ticket with TSA PreCheck."
"The ski jump is for atheists."
"It's the latest way to jump the line."
"Another gatecrasher."
"Guess what else a lift ticket buys."
"We never said the system was fair."

January 13, 2024 Update:  The Finalists

January 15, 2024 Update:
  I voted for the caption from Alexandria.

January 26, 2024 Update:  The Winner 


Sunday, December 24, 2023

François Martineau's Copy of Entre vieilles connaissances by Ronald Searle and Heinz Huber

Over six years when he was traveling the world for Holiday magazine, illustrator Ronald Searle (1920-2011) was able to assemble a substantial collection of drawings on the topic of Germany. Some of these were originally published in Holiday and some in Kristall, a Hamburg publication, between 1964 and 1966.

When they finally appeared together in book form in 1966, they were paired with text by Heinz Huber, a German television documentarian who provided his own independent perspective. The resulting book was issued, remarkably, in three languages. In German, it was called Anatomie eines Adlers: Ein Deutschlandbuch. The English-language version is Haven't We Met Before Somewhere?: Germany From the Inside and Out, translated by Constantine FitzGibbon (1919-1983), who previously had translated Rilke.

French publisher François Martineau (1927-1999) brought out a paperback version for his country in that same year, Entre vieilles connaissances [Between Old Acquaintances] translated by Pierre Kamnitzer. Searle seems to have been pleased with this last version, judging by the unique copy of the book he presented to Martineau. There is an original watercolor of a man wearing traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest lederhosen and dirndl smoking a big cigar and holding a beer stein. The drawing is signed in full and dated Paris, December 1966. Above this, Searle wrote, "—For François Martineau/ who has made a beautiful book/ of these beauties of Germany/ with the thanks of/ R.S."

Black Forest, 1963

Ronald Searle
AbeBooks listing accessed December 9, 2023


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Pierre Daninos and Marie-Pierre Dourneau's Copy of Merry England, Etc., by Ronald Searle

Pierre Daninos (1913-2005) wrote humorous pieces for the French periodical Le Figaro Littéraire. He created the uncannily popular character Major Thompson, the quintessential embodiment of the Englishman abroad in France, cane steadfastly grasped in hand and newspaper tucked under his arm. Daninos's writings were collected in a series of highly successful books. Ronald Searle (1920-2011) was one of the artists to illustrate the Major.

Merry England, Etc., is Searle's consummately British cartoon collection published in 1956. On November 12, 1971, he and his wife Monica dedicated a copy of the fifteen-year-old book to Daninos and his wife, Marie-Pierre Dourneau (1931-2016). This book has an original Searle watercolor drawing of the very properly attired Major Thompson encountering a flamboyant example of the hippie culture of the 1970's. Searle sagely writes, "England has changed a little since the fifties—and this book . . ."

An original illustration by Searle for one of Daninos's 1955 pieces in Le Figaro depicts the Major looking distinctly out of place even in London. It was auctioned by Christie's in 2000.

Perdu dans le Labyrinthe Londonien . . . 
Ronald Searle
Le Figaro, February 18, 1955

Another fine Searle version of the Major, noticeably taller and thinner, appears on the cover of Les derniers carnets du Major Thompson (2000). His physical appearance is quite fluid.

Meanwhile, Searle's hippie in the Daninos book is sartorially related to the one on the cover of The New Yorker from earlier that year.

Note:  I am indebted to the owner of this book for offering these images to me on a silver platter, as it were. Other collectors in possession of such unpublished works by Ronald Searle may similarly incur my debt and gratitude by sending along crisp, clean images suitable for blogging.

You may not be aware that my friend David from Manhattan has shared with us actor James Mason's copy of this very book here.

James Kirkup of the Independent composed an erudite obituary of Pierre Daninos here back in 2005. It is a very British summing up of the writer and his Major Thompson pieces.

Try as I might to give Searle his due in these posts, there is nothing I can hobble together that is in the league of Perpetua, the Ronald Searle Tribute blog sublimely curated by Matt Jones. He even covers Searle's work for Le Figaro here. It should be plain that I've borrowed from his post and he's borrowed from my blog, so it's all very symbiotic really.


Friday, December 22, 2023

Peter Schjeldahl's Copy of Keith Haring [Tony Shafrazi Gallery Catalogue]

In 1982, the Tony Shafrazi Gallery issued a catalogue surveying the work of Keith Haring (1958-1990). The artist inscribed a copy to art critic Peter Schjeldahl (1942-2022) with a full page drawing. Schjeldahl would later become the art critic for the Village Voice in 1990 and for The New Yorker in 1998. The catalogue survived an apartment fire in 2019. A year after Schjeldahl's death from lung cancer, the spiral bound book has been brought to the market.

Keith Haring
Diamond Hollow Books listing on AbeBooks accessed December 21, 2023

Keith Haring
Diamond Hollow Books listing on AbeBooks item description