Monday, September 26, 2016

A tiny little catalogue of complete manuscripts: 4 codices and a booklet.

Hermann Ulner Hirsfeld’s
Copiosa Supellex
Elegantissimarum Germanicae
et Latinae Linguae Phrasium

I suppose it will remain a long-term goal of mine to one day produce a catalogue offering nothing but complete medieval manuscripts for sale. In the meantime, this little catalogue of five Renaissance and post-Renaissance manuscript codices (and one booklet) will have to do.

I was delighted to find all of these items in the last several months. The most exciting may well be the 1615 copy of Hermann Ulner Hirsfeld's Phrases, interleaved and turned into a massive (mostly Latin) commonplace book by a Swedish scholar in the 1600s or 1700s. Few books, I think, can give such a fascinating glimpse into a scholar's mind--and his reading--in this period than a commonplace book like this; this scholar (and he does seem to have been a him), living on what some might think were the margins of Europe, nevertheless seems to have been at least trilingual and very active in compiling this book. It's a remarkable thing.

The left page is an inter-leaf; the right is also heavily annotated.
And the 22" tall choir book antiphonary for the Office of the Dead is pretty cool, too.

Beginning of the Office of the Dead, Italian,
early seventeenth-century manuscript
on paper.

Here's a link to the whole catalogue:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pocahontas Coal Comics, 1942

Pocahontas comics #2, 1942
In my last post, I talked about sometimes getting hold of collectible comics; this past week, I attended my regular (nearly monthly) antique auction, where I was able to get a few dozen older comic books, mostly from the 1950s and 60s, but with a couple older ones mixed in.

Among the older ones was this "Exciting True Adventures of Pocahontas" comic book from 1942, which I really couldn't resist. Comics from the 40s are always a bit hard to find, and ones from the war years even more so. When people think about valuable old comic books, it's almost always the superhero books from the war years (or earlier) that are really valuable. This book is scarce but not especially valuable, and it was thrown into a box lot with some other old magazines, and I was literally the only bidder on the box. 

As it says on the front cover of the book, "You have visited one of the most interesting spots in the South--the Exhibition Mine at Pocahontas Virginia." The book, then, was a kind of souvenir or give-away for visitors at the mine, and as the rear cover shows, it was produced by the Pocahontas Fuel Company.

Back cover

Pocahontas, Virginia, is practically on the border of West Virginia, and in these parts the coal industry remains a kind of specter that haunts the region: no longer employing nearly as many Appalachian workers as it once did, the coal industry nevertheless seems to have the people of the region convinced it is still the most important resource in the state. 

I wish I could say that Pocahontas, in this book, acts as a kind of superhero, but unfortunately, she doesn't. And the stories she is in are surrounded by others, including "many pages of startling true coal facts and Indian oddities." More interesting perhaps is the book's insistence (at the top of every right-hand page) that "Coal is the Master Key to Production of All Weapons of War." 

Books like this one will hardly ever keep me in business: if I can sell it at all, I doubt I'll make 20 bucks in profit on it. But in the way this comic book brings together the comic book format (still only a few years old in 1942) with the war effort, the coal industry, and a Native American figure such as Pocahontas, it's a fascinating reminder of how complexly intertwined various strands of American culture can be. 

Here's a few of the startling true coal facts