Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dunsany's "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder"

Twelve tales from Dunsany's The Book of Wonder first appeared in The Sketch between December 1910 and March 1911.  Two further tales were added when the book appeared from William Heinemann in November 1912.

In May and June 1914, six more tales appeared in The Sketch under the header "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder." These tales, plus thirteen more, were collected in book form as Tales of Wonder, published by Elkin Mathews in October 1916.  An American edition (with the stories slightly rearranged and a new Preface dated August 16th, 1916, added) appeared in November 1916 from John W. Luce & Company, retitled The Last Book of Wonder.

The retitling indicates that Dunsany, his outlook certainly darkened by the War,  would no longer write in the fabulist and wonderful style he had perfected over the course of his first seven short story collections.  One further collection of such material would appear after the War as Tales from Three Hemisphere (1919), but this book was not a gathering of newly written tales but of previously uncollected ones.  Dunsany's next two books (after Tales of Wonder / The Last Book of Wonder), Tales of War (1918) and Unhappy Far-Off Things (1919), are rather dire reading, being as the tales were written as war-time propaganda.

It's sad that in Dunsany's oeuvre there are no volumes comprising The Second Book of Wonder, The Third Book of Wonder, etc.  Dunsany's movement away from such tales of wonder is a sad loss of literature that might have been.

Here is the banner heading that prefaced "Episodes from The Second Book of Wonder" when they began appearing in The Sketch on 13 May 1914. It's nice to hear Dunsany's early voice again, even as he hawks his own wares.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Early Caitlin R. Kiernan

Caitlin R. Kiernan was born in 1964 as Kenneth Robert Wright.  Before she transitioned around 1990,  two early stories appeared in The Freshman Sampler (1985), edited by Peggy B. Jolly, a compilation written by students in the Freshman Composition Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The first story is "The Burning" (pp. 18-20, signed as by Kenneth Robert Wright), and it concerns a fire encroaching upon the narrator's grandmother's house.  Some of the descriptions anticipate Kiernan's later lyrical prose.  Here's a sample of the narrator watching the fire:
The sky was clear as spring water, dotted with a million sparkling specks of starlight and an orange sickle of moon, building toward the bloated roundness of harvest. The fire was little more than a red halo in the darkness, moving deliberately down the eastern slope of Double Oak Mountain. We sat and watched, and listened to the strange stillness in the air. No crickets. No katydids. A dry breeze rattled the last of summer's leaves from the limbs, like the plaything of some phantom child.
The second story is "Another Christmas Carol (p. 42, signed as by Kenneth Wright) tells of an adult's disillusionment with childhood memories of Christmas.

Wright also published three professional articles in the field of paleontology (a few abstracts of Wright's work also appeared in the Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science in 1986 and 1987).  I will merely list the references to the articles here.

March 1988, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 8(1): 102-107. "Selmasaurus Russelli, A New Plioplatecarpine Mosasaur (Squamata, Mosasauridae) from Alabama" by Kenneth R. Wright and Samuel Wayne Shannon.

September 1988, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 8(3): 343-345. "The First Record of Clidastes Liodontus (Squamata, Mosasauridae) from the Eastern United States" by Kenneth R. Wright.

January 1989, Journal of Paleontology 63(1): 126-127. "On the Taxonomic Status of Moanasaurus Mangahouangae Wiffen (Squamata: Mosasauridae)"

In 2002 Kiernan contributed one further professional article:

March 14, 2002, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22(1): 91-103. "Stratigraphic Distribution and Habitat Segregation of Mosasaurs in the Upper Cretaceous of Western and Central Alabama, with an Historical Review of Alabama Mosasaur Discoveries" by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

The Freshman Sampler had three further editions, in 1988, 1990, and 1994 (co-edited with Linda B. Moore).  I have not seen any of these later editions and do not know if Wright's contributions reappear in any of them. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dunsany in the early 1910s

The Sketch also has some nice photographs of Dunsany, at the time he was writing the tales for which he would become famous.  Here are two, the first from the 4 January 1911 issue, the second from the 13 May 1914 issue.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sime in 1910

A nice photograph (by E.O. Hoppé) of S.H. Sime appeared in The Sketch for 28 December 1910. The demonic face, with lighted eyes, peering down at Sime is a nice touch, but what is Sime holding in his hands?  It looks perhaps like a figurine of a couple embracing, but I'm not sure.  Any thoughts? 

A close-up of Sime's hands

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Lost Sime Illustration for Dunsany's Book of Wonder

Dunsany's Book of Wonder was published by William Heinemann in November 1912.  It contains fourteen tales, twelve of which originally appeared in a different order (and with texts abridged) in The Sketch between December 1910 and March 1911. The book reprints ten illustrations by S.H. Sime, while the serialization had eleven illustrations.  The Sime illustration in the periodical but not in the book was for the story "The Injudicious Prayers of Pombo the Idolator." I copy it below (click on it to see a larger version).  One wonders if it might have seemed too dark to print in the smaller book-sized format.

If you zoom in you can see what I presume to be the high-priest of Maharrion ("who is neither bird nor cat") to the left of the center, and to the right of it a boy (Pombo?) before "the little idol Duth." I suspect the figure (?) to the left of the base of the stairs is Maharrion "the god of flowers" and the aureoled growth hanging out over the abyss is supposed to be some kind of unearthly flower. Of course for The Book of Wonder, Dunsany and Sime reversed their usual process, and Sime made the illustrations first, and Dunsany then made up stories to fit the illustrations. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The H.P. Lovecraft Collection of Jack Grill and (later) Irving Binkin

In 1975, Jack Chalker's Mirage Press released a two thousand copy edition of A Catalog of Lovecraftiana: The Grill/Binkin Collection, cataloged and annotated by Mark Owings and Irving Binkin. Five hundred copies were cloth-bound, the rest were bound as trade paperbacks. From the vantage point of nearly forty-five years later, the catalog seems very bizarrely arranged. It includes 668 numbered items, the vast majority (the first 586 items) were collected by the first owner “Jack” Grill, with the remaining 82 items added by Irving Binkin as “Recent Additions” after Binkin acquired the collection. The main section of 586 items is divided into seven sections, 1) Professional Periodicals; 2) Amateur Press Works; 3) Books by Lovecraft; 4) Anthologies, Novels and Author Collections with HPL Material; 5) Books about Lovecraft; 6) Letters; 7) Photographs and Miscellaneous. Most of these sub-sections are repeated twice in the “Recent Additions” section.

The catalog also has short note by Irving Binkin in dedication to “Philip Jack Grill,” and a short introduction by L. Sprague de Camp. The use of “Philip Jack Grill” is somewhat erroneous, for “Jack” was Grill's nickname and doesn't seem to have been part of his legal name. He was born Philip Grill in New York on 29 June 1903. He was the son, and second of two children, of Philip Grill (1869-1938), a post office clerk, and his wife Katherine (1871-1941) or Katie. His sister was Clara Grill (1898-1967), who was a hair dresser in a beauty parlor. Grill was probably nicknamed “Jack” to distinguish himself from his father with the same first name. The younger Philip Grill appears in the 1930 and 1940 Censuses as an art worker for a newspaper, or as an artist. He never married.

Jack Grill seems to have began obsessively collecting Lovecraftiana in the late 1940s, and the collection he amassed is very impressive. George Wetzel contributed “A Memoir of Jack Grill” to Huitloxopetl, 1972, published by Meade and Penny Frierson, and reprinted in The HPL Supplement #3 (March 1974), also published by the Friersons. The memoir (collected in Wetzel's Collected Essays on H.P. Lovecraft and Others, e-book 2015; but it is worth noting that a slightly different version, with extra potentially controversial comments, appeared in Marginalia #1, Wetzel's contribution to the 26th mailing of the Esoteric Order of Dagon for May 1979) is about ten pages long, and contains some fascinating observations, including quotes from Grill's letters, and an account of their one meeting when Grill came to visit Wetzel. Their friendship, mostly epistolary, went from about 1955 through 1959, when Wetzel notes, Grill stopped answering his letters.

According to Wetzel, Grill “collected HPL photos, letters written to and by HPL; he interviewed HPL acquaintances, visited many of the Middle Atlantic and New England towns to which HPL had made antiquarian tours, and accumulated many other odds and ends of Lovecraftiana.” An odd, shy man, Grill wished he was “a writing fellow,” but his only writings were letters—in an execrable hand-writing, without paragraphs and mostly without dates.

Grill died in Brooklyn on 12 April 1970. His parents and sister had predeceased him. A lawyer had to deal with effects, and arranged an auction at the Brooklyn house. Enter Irving Binkin (1906-1989), one of those typically eccentric old-style book dealers with a good nose for finding rarities. According to an article by Jack Chalker (“Irvin[g] Binkin Meets H.P. Lovecraft” published in Chalker's fapazine Viewpoint no.1, February 1973; reprinted in Alien Critic no. 5, May 1973), Binkin found the house full of hundreds of No-Cal soft drink cartons, filled with books and papers. The lawyer had listed the collection as being on “Love and Love craft” but quickly Binkin realized that it wasn't sex stuff but a massive collection about a person named Lovecraft. Binkin successfully bid on the collection, though the lawyer withheld some of what he thought were personal effects, at least until an heir could possibly be located. Later Binkin acquired these items, which turned out to be more Lovecraft letters and photographs. Having seen the photographs, Binkin realized that Lovecraft had been a regular customer at his bookstore, just off Red Hook in Brooklyn, over forty years earlier. As he read through the collection, Binkin was bit by the Lovecraft bug. Later he would telephone Jack Chalker, because he was the author of The New H.P. Lovecraft Bibliography (1962), and this connection brought about the catalog of the Grill/Binkin Collection, compiled by Mark Owings and Binkin, and published by Chalker's Mirage Press.

So what was in the Grill/Binkin collection? The main section lists ten Lovecraftian issues of Home Brew, nearly ninety Lovecraftian issues of Weird Tales, and thirteen of the fourteen issues of The Acolyte, a Lovecraftian fanzine edited by Francis Towner Laney from the early 1940s. But the real heart of the collection was in the manuscripts, letters and photographs. A number of these are visible in the twenty pages of photographs in the middle of the catalog: the manuscripts of “The Cats of Ulthar” (dated June 15, 1920) and “Some Dutch Footprints in New England” (1933), as well as Lovecraft's Astronomical Notebook, 1909-1915. Grill seems to have gotten a lot of stuff from Wilfred Blanch Talman, Samuel Loveman, and Cliff and Muriel Eddy, among others. I note that Wetzel, in his memoir of Grill, quotes a letter from Grill (circa June 1957) stating he'd acquired unpublished stories by Hazel Heald, “The Basement Room” (5 pages) and “Lair of the Fungus Death” (25 pages), from Heald herself. But what happened to all this stuff? The Heald stories are not listed in the Grill/Binkin catalog. For “The Cats of Ulthar” I note that in Lovecraft's Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition (2015), S.T. Joshi remarks about “the absence of a manuscript” (Volume I, p. 151), while as regards “Some Dutch Footprints in New England” in Lovecraft's Collected Essays, Volume 4: Travel (2005), Joshi based the text on the typescript in the John Hay Library but also notes that an autograph manuscript is “also extant” (p. 255).

But where is all of this material now? In the 1975 catalog, Binkin is said to be hoping to sell the whole collection in the future to some library. But did he? Or did he sell some things piecemeal? Or did the collection disappear into some limbo after Binkin's death in November 1989, just as it very nearly did after Grill's death in 1970? Such thoughts provide a cautionary tale for collectors and their collections. However prized and cherished they may be while the collector is alive, what happens to such materials after the collector passes?