Friday, April 26, 2013

Polar Players

A card with an illustration and text block on Andree's Polar Balloon.Sometimes, as we get older it is easy to forget the excitement of mystery, but in Rauner we have countless items that recapture that childhood imagination—like the Player's Cigarette Cards.  The cards, which came with Player's Cigarettes, each feature a different representation of Arctic exploration: from explorers to ships and the formation of Icebergs, every card tells a short story about the frozen ends of the Earth.

A card with an illustration of the northern lights over a snowy cabin.
One of my favorite of the cards features "Andrée's Polar Balloon." It describes Herr Salomon Andrée, who raised money for his Polar hot air balloon, made from Chinese silk and filled with hydrogen. A few weeks after his departure, a pigeon message was received, after which nothing was heard from him again.

A pile of illustrated cards.
The mystery lies not only in each story, but also in the story of the cards' circumstance: who collected these cards? Were they meant for kids, despite their being contained in cigarettes cartons? What is the connection between cigarettes and polar exploration?

A card bearing an illustration of a group of men smoking, drinking, and playing music together.
If you come by Rauner and ask for Realia 536 you can find out the answers to some of these questions, but even more importantly, you can look at these beautiful cards and discover questions of your own!

Posted for Lucy Morris '14

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Waste Lands

A title page for "The Waste Land."
We have three "firsts" of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. Two variant copies of the first American edition, each with typographical oddities of interest to obsessive collectors, and the first English edition. They are all fascinating in their own right but two things jumped out when we had them pulled for a class last week.

One of our American editions published by Boni & Liveright in 1922 still has its original dust jacket--a rarity in itself--but also a bookseller's advertising tag attached. On the bottom corner of the back cover is simple ad for the original seller of the book, The Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. At the time, it was the largest retail book outlet in the country. It was known as the haunt of Boston's literary elite, but was also famous for innovative sales gimmicks--this being one.
A paper cover for "The Waste Land."The back cover.

The first page of "The Waste Land."
The first English edition will give you goosebumps. It was published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1923. Virginia Woolf herself hand set all of the type (she said her hands were shaking when she finished). The Woolfs had impeccable taste as publishers, but they were not the best printers the world has seen. The type was unevenly inked in the printing process giving the page a blotchy look. In a way, that just makes Virginia's work more apparent and heightens the aura of the book. You can see the handmade quality.

Come see all three by asking for Rare PS3509.L43 1922 copies 1 and 2, and Val 817 E42 Y512.