Friday, August 3, 2012

Games of the XIII Olympiad

Actually, there wasn't a 13th Olympiad since the year was 1944 and World War II was still in progress. Instead of holding the Games in London as planned, the International Olympic Committee held a much smaller "Jubilee" in neutral Lausanne, Switzerland to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first modern Olympiad.

Several commemorative items were issued as part of the celebration including this collection of odes by Pindar titled Olympiques (Lausanne: √ąditions A. Gonin, 1944). Illustrated by Swiss artist Hans Erni, the book included all fourteen of the Greek poet's Olympian victory odes - each dedicated to a specific athlete's triumph in the ancient Olympic Games. Erni's illustrations include the mythical founding of the games by Heracles as well as selected depictions of the heros. The volume also contains a brief history of the ancient games and Pindar as well as an analysis of each ode.

Interestingly, there appears to be no mention of World War II or any explanation of the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the 1944 Games.

Ask for Rare Book PA 4275 .F8 E76 1944.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mencken's Tessie

We recently acquired a small, but rich collection of letters by H.L Mencken. While Ambrose Bierce is the 19th-century's greatest curmudgeon, surely Mencken deserves consideration for the the title in the 20th century. He is known for his harsh criticism, cutting wit, and general intolerance for the American middle class (the "booboisie," as he famously called them). But in this letter from May 21, 1921, we see mourning and emotion cloaked in his typically urbane prose:
Our old dog Tessie died on Sunday. A tooth abcess [sic] developed gangrene and the horse-doctor gave her a sniff of prussis acid. She went out instantly. Tessie was 16 years old, a great age for a dog. She never married. We miss her enormously. Sunday afternoon my brothers and I buried her in the garden, and today I ordered a small tablet to be set in the wall, thus "1905 - Tessie - 1921". Tessie was a Presbyterian.

Twain could hardly have done better. The letters will join our existing Mencken Collection, ML 693, which will be the subject of another posting.