Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2011 Issue

A Holiday and Comedy Catalogue from David Schulson Autographs

Schulson149

Holidays and comedies from David Schulson Autographs.

David Schulson Autographs has released its latest selection, Catalog 149. Holiday Catalog Featuring a Special Comedy Section. The “Holiday” section consists of autographed material from a variety of personalities, from literature, science, invention, music, film, art, and more. The signed letters, photographs, and other documents aren't so much related to the holidays as they make great holiday gifts. The “Comedy” section is more targeted, the writers being comedians, comic actors, comic writers and producers of comedic films. Some of their documents are serious in nature, while in others, their comedic genius shines through. Here are some samples from this holiday catalogue.

We will start with one of America's greatest writers and humorists, Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. In this 1890 letter, Clemens writes to publisher Henry Oscar Houghton. Apparently, Clemens found himself on a subscription list, but could not remember ever signing up. Writes Clemens, “I can't remember about this. Of course I am not denying or repudiating the subscription; I merely have no memorandum of it, & there may be some error. I can forget things; once forgot to die, when four doctors said I was going to go...” Item 7. Priced at $5,500.

Item 17 is a prescription from a doctor with the most ignominious of names – Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. His name will forever be linked to the device of execution, the guillotine, which chopped off its victims' heads. One would think Guillotin some macabre doctor of death, but he was anything but so. He was both a doctor and a political reformer. He was also opposed to the death penalty. What's more, Guillotin didn't even invent the guillotine. What he did was recommend it as an alternative to the method of execution used at the time (pre-revolution France), hanging and worse. Somehow, his name became attached to it. Guillotine believed the device, invented by another, would provide a quick, painless, more humane death. Ultimately, he hoped it would be a step toward the elimination of the death penalty altogether. Of course, when the revolution came, it did anything but reduce the rate of executions. The guillotine began working overtime, chopping off the heads of some 15,000 people during the Reign of Terror. Even Guillotin himself was imprisoned at the time, but managed to escape the device that unfairly bore his name. After the revolutionary period ended, Guillotin figured he'd had enough of politics and returned to medical practice. It was during this period, in 1800, that Guillotin wrote this prescription for a lady for a balm to be placed on her neck. Guillotin died in 1814, thankfully of natural causes. $3,000.

Among the most popular comic actors of the mid-20th century were Groucho Marx and his brothers. The Marx Brothers produced some of the funniest and most popular movies of the 1930s, and decades later, Groucho was still going strong with his television show. In 1943, during the height of the war, Groucho responded to a request for a message to the “soldiers in the jungle” from a corporal serving in Surinam. Groucho responded, attempting to be both humorous and appreciative to the soldiers for their service. He tells the soldiers not to worry about the “4-F's back home.” He notes they don't get much meat now - “the butcher shops have nothing but customers in them anymore.” Marx jokes that he planted a “Victory garden,” but, “I have raised...enough snails to keep a pre-french restaurant running for a century and a curious plant I have been eating all summer...this morning I discovered that I had been munching on marijuana...” Groucho ends by noting, “America is pretty empty without you kids.” Item 16c. $1,125.

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