Firsts, Rare and Illustrated Books from Locus Solus Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
This month we received our first catalogue from Locus Solus Rare Books of New York City. This catalogue is divided into two sections. The first features art and illustrated books, the second first editions and rare books. Titles in this catalogue are overwhelmingly in the category of literature and poetry, rather than history and other nonfiction. There are both regular first editions and those of special limited printings. In the latter category are 26 items published by the Limited Editions Club. Most are from the 20th century, though the 19th makes an occasional appearance. We will describe a few pieces in way of illustration, though it can be difficult to get a real feel for what is being offered when there is a fairly wide range of material.
Here is a most interesting item for those who like show music: Fly With Me, the Columbia (University) Varsity Show of 1920. That may not sound so noteworthy until you realize who wrote the music for this presentation. The music was by one Richard Rodgers, the lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Both were students at Columbia at the time. And, the lyrics for one song were written by an alumnus of the university of a few years earlier, Oscar Hammerstein. This may be the only piece which lists all three in the same production. This unusual stapled book includes the words and music for thirteen songs. The play was inspired by the recent Russian Revolution, and imagines a Bolshevik University ten years in the future. This copy has the ownership signature of William T. Taylor, who played the romantic lead in the production. Item 268. Priced at $2,500.
Item 59 is a play from Guillaume Apollinaire, who coined the term "surrealism." The play is Les Mamelles de Tireseas, and was published shortly before Apollinaire's death in 1918. We will quote Locus Solus' description of this work: "...Apollinaire's fantastic drama, in which the eponymous heroine's breasts burst out of her costume, inflate, and float over the audience, is noted for its coinage of the term "Surrealist," which appeared on this title page for the first time in any book." Yes, you would need a new term to describe that, and "surreal" sounds appropriate, such events unlikely to occur in real life. $1,250.
If we can have music on paper, how about poetry on record? Here is a most unusual collection of poetry. The title is Twentieth Century Poetry in English: Contemporary Recordings of the Poets Reading Their Own Poems. These amazing recordings not only contain the poetry of many great poets, but their voices as well, reading their compositions. Just a few of the poets you can hear are W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Allen Tate, William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish, Theodore Roethke and Robert Penn Warren. Produced by the Library of Congress in 1949, it consists of ten volumes, each housing five records, and in some cases, printed copies of the poems and biographies. If there is one shortcoming of this collection, it is the one implied by the date of 1949. These are all 78 rpm records. Do you have a record player that plays 78s? Do you even have a record player, or for that matter, know what one is? In an era when even tape players are hard to find, a phonograph that plays 78s is likely to be found only in a museum, but these records are really more to be appreciated as is without scratching a needle over the surface. Item 57. $1,500.