The Summer Dancers – Clyde Miller (Macmillan, 1961)

There are many kinds of endings. There’s the good or the bad. The happy or the sad, and of course also any combination of the above. There are endings that leave you satisfied and there’s the ones that leave you frustrated and angry. The ending to Lost is a good example of the latter, i still can’t believe i wasted six years on that show and countless hours on nerdy forums and i still get mad when thinking about it today… But that’s not really relevant here. The point is that eventually everything will come to an end. And how to best write the ending for the story here? Sounds a bit over dramatic… it’s not like it’s the end of the blog, but in a way it is the end of a long and exciting journey. But maybe i should save the thoughts on that for a later post and just get to the point.

When trying to read up on these books and things i will sometimes start planning out the basics for a future post in my head even though i haven’t found the actual item yet. I’m starting to get sick of writing that i thought i would never get to make this or that post, so i can imagine that it must be equally boring to read about it… But here it comes it again. And this time it’s true. I had basically come to terms with never getting a hold of this book and that i would forever be stuck with having that one small, but still HUGE, hole in my collection. Without question this is one of the absolutely most rare dust jackets and i figured that with the ongoing exhibition and more and more people finding them interesting that even if one did show up somewhere it would either be ridiculously priced or show up on ebay where there is always that someone who has a little more money than you do. So yeah… all this considered i didn’t really start making plans for this post ahead of time.

I really, REALLY wish there was some spectacular and thrilling story behind all this as it would make for a much better post and endning. But sadly there is nothing like that to be told. There could have been though. The few but avid readers might remember this post from late last year where i wrote about an old article in something called The Flyleaf that i happened to stumble upon and that had a very familiar cover. The magazine/monthly leaflet or whatever was put together by something called Friends of the Fondren Library and through them i was actually able to contact the guy who had written the article. He was now retired and had developed other collecting-interests than Warhol and his dust jackets. If i remember correct he had found about seven or eight of them, and he had done so without any help from the internet so i must admit it’s a pretty impressing achievement. Anyways… for some reason i initially didn’t think about asking him if he would ever consider selling his copy of the book. At the time i was also looking for a number of other jackets than just this one and i thought it was great enough to actually find a guy who had it, and that if i would ever be in the situation where this was the only hole to fill i would start pestering him then. And of couse that time came. And i don’t really know how to define “pester” but i did send him more than a couple of emails. My final offer or whatever was of course money together with my spare copies of The Strange Case of Lucile Cléry and the Corgi edition of The Immortal. Oddly enough i never heard back. I don’t feel i was overly pushy in any way and he seemed genuinely interested in talking about these old books and to someone who now shared one of his old interests and who dug up his old article, so yeah… i don’t really know what happened. And it doesn’t really matter, but it would have been a somewhat better story than what actually went down.

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Another thing that would have made for a better story or ending would have been if my crazy quest to contact hundreds of book sellers would have been successful. The final number ended up being more than eight hundred. And even though a surprisingly high number of these replied none of them responded with anything but no’s, sorry’s and unfortunately’s. The only thing i learned from this is that it was highly demotivating and i don’t intend to ever embark on such an endeavour ever again.

So… let’s get to the actual ending however non exciting it may be. If nothing else it made me feel a little bit like Nostradamus. A little over two months ago i wrote this post before i started with all the emails which ended with “most likely what will happen is that i’ll send out +500 emails and shortly after that the book will just appear in my wish list”. And even though i was way off when it comes to the number of emails this is basically exactly what happened. Sometime at the end of september it was just there… not on Amazon but on ebay of all places. As i’ve also ranted about in the past i was so sick of seeing nothing but my little ponies all over the place but this time there was actually a blue little dot thing next to the saved search for “summer dancers miller”. Before this i had also noticed that copies of Pistols for Two and The Butterfly Tree were also on ebay all of a sudden so even before i checked out this new mystery listing i had a feeling it would in fact be for the book this time. And it was! It may sound dorky but i almost couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t really have anything to compare this feeling to… never before have i tried so hard to find something and to just see it available somewhere was pretty amazing. I have an old friend who for some reason is into bird-watching and once upon a time we were set to watch a fotboll match at a pub somewhere after work and i was sitting there waiting, waiting and waiting… eventually he calls and says that he has to cancel because there had been a sighting of a rare bird of some kind way up north. Way. Up. North. Almost 800km or about 500 milers to be exact, so he decides to call in sick the next day and drive all through the night just to maybe, MAYBE be able to see this bird… This was many years ago now and although i didn’t understand what the hell he was thinking or doing at the time i think i have a better sense of understanding now. But it’s not an easy feeling to explain to someone who hasn’t been there.

Anyways, any inital excitment i felt was, as always, quickly turned into anxiety. How the hell was i going to be able to win this auction, and what would it end up costing me… Considering that this was the first and only time i had ever seen this anywhere i decided early on that i would try and get it no matter what. Well, maybe not exactly no matter what but i would at least be prepared to bid more for this single book than what i had basically payed for all the others combined. I’m still not much of a great strategic when it comes to ebay but i think i did fairly good this time. I did however place an early bid but once i got trumped i actually decided to compose myself and wait until the end of the auction and not continue to help drive the price up early on. I remember that the auction ended on a thursday night, and even though it was far from in the middle of the night i remember i still set one or two alarm clocks which was a good thing since i fell asleap early. I ended up going to war with primarily one other guy, and he does not appear to be no Sun Tzu either. He hit the button more than 30 times raising only the minimum bid each time, and for each bid i think my heart rate went up by a couple of beats per minute so needless to say it was quite high at the end… As this was going on i was of course also terrified that the late, sniping rich guy would appear and spoil the day. And he did appear, but for once he didn’t spoil the day! Even though i ended up paying waaaaay more than i have done for any of the other twenty dust jackets, well… that’s excluding The Butterfly Tree of course, i’m still very happy with what i ended up paying and i think i got a fantastic deal in the end! I know i’ve said it hundreds of times but i really have been trying to put this all together on a pretty tight budget but what can you do… i guess the holes in your pockets gets bigger the smaller the same holes gets in your collection, if that makes any sense. Perhaps i was a little bit lucky the seller (who is a great and friendly guy from France) had a couple of other rare jackets listed and ending at the same time thus forcing buyers to chose between all these great books. Or perhaps it’s just me who has to beg and chose… Whatever the case i’m absolutely thrilled about the way this all played out.

Like a selfish douchebag i’ve also tried not to mention this book in any of the previous posts thinking this would increase my chances to keep it under the radar or whatver… I doubt this was called for though, this book is mentioned and shown in at least one of the articles on the dust jackets that i always mention and it should have been obvious which one i was stuck looking for in the end for someone willing to put in a little time and effort. I still haven’t forgotten about the previous little “sabotage attempt” though so maybe it wasn’t stupid to try and keep it on the down low after all. But seeing as it all ended up going down out in the open on ebay it didn’t really matter when push comes to shove.

So… what is this thing that i have been so childishly excited about? Well, if the title of the post didn’t give it all away this is of course the absolutely spectacular dust jacket for the book titled The Summer Dancers written by Clyde Miller and published by Macmillan in 1961. I say spectacular because there is really no other word. This is without question one the best looking jackets and as said it’s also one of the absolute rarest. I love this for more reasons than one but i particularly love how is uses the entire jacket – both front and back. Well, maybe the “entire” jacket is a bit of an exaggeration but even if it’s just by a little bit over the spine and on to the back cover i think it’s such a wonderful little detail. I also love how the remainder of the back cover has been left white and not been cluttered with short little excerpts from reviews or a synopsis kind of thing. The only other dust jacket to feature this kind of a back/front design is Borderline Ballads. One might argue that The Adventures of Maud Noakes also makes good use of the back cover in similar fashion and it does, but at the same time it’s also just the same stamped faces and not really the same kind of “continued” design as these two.

On to Clyde Miller… and as usual this will be short and sweet. Record breaking short to be exact – i’ve not been able to find ANYTHING at all about him. Again, the few but dedicated readers of this blog will have learned that the “Warhol dust jacket authors” were hardly Nobel Prize winning material but it’s still a bit unusual to not be able to find anything whatsoever… The small contribution i can make comes from the inside of the back flap where there is a little bit of a biography kind of thing and some short additional information:

“Clyde Miller was born in 1926 in Louisiana. His short novel The Gentle Season attracted favorable critical attention when it appeared a few years ago. He has taught at the University of Florida, has frequently traveled the lenght of the East Coast, and now lives and writes in New York City”.

Not much of use there. Being born in 1926 i guess he could actually still be alive, but this will NOT mean the beginning of a new stalking endeavour. And at least there is a lead to Florida… And that lead made me find a guy namned Gene Baro who apparently, among many other things i’m sure, organized over 150 art exhibitions, was a consulting curator of prints and drawings at the Brooklyn Museum, senior editor of Art International magazine in Lugano (Switzerland) and a former director of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. To top this all of he was also a member of the graduate faculty in the history of art at Williams College in Williamstown which coincidentally held the Warhol by the Book exhibition from March 7 to August 16. I’ve just copy/pasted all this from this site so who ever might be interested can find more information there. My main interest in this guy though is that apparently he was good friends with Clyde Miller, you can learn that by checking out this site which is another collection of these “Person X papers”. The same kind of thing that i found on Robert E. Bell, run a search for “Miller” and you’ll find quite a bit of correspondence between Clyde Miller and this Gene Baro. Among A TON of other things there are of couple of at least remotely interesting lines. For exampel:

Miller, Clyde. Letters to Gene Baro, 1960 – Neiswander, Rosemary. Typed transcript of a very unfavorable review [of Summer Dancers] Library Journal, December 1, 1960, with ANS “Clyde”.

TLS to Gene Baro. 1961 May 2 [New York] 2 p. Does not know what happened to Baro’s books, which were taken from Cross Creek house to the UF library. Comments about the condition of Baro, who apparently has been injured in an automobile accident. He is moving into Herschel’ apartment. Making final revisions to Summer Dancers [published 1961] He does not think it will be successful, but can do no more.

Miller, Clyde. The Summer Dancers. Uncorrected proofs. 1961.

I guess that last one is perhaps of little interest, but i find it somewhat funny and interesting that he appears to have not been fully satisfied with his work himself. To bad there is no mention of Warhol among all that stuff. Oh… one last thing. He actually did publish a couple of other things. I’m not sure these would be called “books” or whatever but for starters there is the title that is mentioned on the back flap – The Gentle Season. This is part of some kind of collection of novels and can be found cheap on Amazon or Abebooks, sadly it does not come with a previously unknown Warhol jacket. There are also some other published things here, but good luck trying to find images of these…

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OK, so that’s that about Clyde Miller and moving on to the actual cover design.To the best of my knowledge the drawing first appeared in the self published book In the Bottom of My Garden from 1956. I’m actually not sure how many drawings are in this book but if this site shows them all that would mean there are a total of 20 drawings. Now and then i think you’ll also see some of these sold individually at Christie’s and then i believe they are sometimes refered to as “plates”, i don’t really know what this means… But anyways, there was a veeeeeery cool auction for one of these just a couple of days ago that Guy Minnebach told me about featuring a very familar drawing… Sadly i couldn’t convince my better half to cut a couple of thousand dollars out of the house budget. Maybe something like this would better suit my budget, but that thing is of course a lot less cool. But after all, ’tis the season… But my of my, what i wouldn’t give to someday be able to get one of these orignal drawings related to one of the dust jackets. Someday…

I wasn’t sure where to squeeze this next thing in but i guess here is as good a place as any. I’ve also found an alternative cover at The national Galleries of Scotland website, this also features a drawing from the previously mentioned book In the Bottom of My Garden and although it looks great as well i think someone made the right call and went with the design that ended up on the actual jacket.

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Throw some kind of art history test on the desk in front of me and i would most definately hand it in with a terrible score. But i know a little bit about Andy Warhol, and from what i’ve learned these angels, fairies and/or cupids was a common theme early on in his career. When it comes to the dust jackets this is of course obvious on the cover for Three More Novels as well as on the alternative and somewhat finished cover for Borderline Ballads. I don’t know anything about two these other two guys though – Raphael and Marcantonio Raimondi. I had of couse heard the name Raphael but, perhaps embarrassing, i doubt i would be able to single out one of his paintings in a line up. And that other guy i had never heard about at all but apparently he is a key figure in the rise of the reproductive print in the early 1500’s… So why are these guys important here? Well, even though i’ve been unable to find to orignal design by Raphael i’ve found plenty of works that have words like “after” and “follower” attached to them. I don’t know how these things work but what i’m trying to get to is that it’s blatently obvious were Warhol got the inspiration for this drawing from. And that’s from a work titled (i think) “Dance of Cupids” by Marcantonio Raimondi after Raphael. So yeah, to the best of my knowledge this “after” thing means the original was done my Raphael and then reproduced by Marcantonio Raimondi… There are quite a few of these with minor differences and you can get a high resolution image of the most obvious basis for the design here. As mentioned there are also others, like this one, credited to Follower of Marcantonio Raimondi, i guess this means pretty much the same thing…

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Phew, i guess that about sums it up… And to follow standard protocol i always wait until the end to say something about the condition. And in this case i think it’s absolutely fantastic! I would have settled for a copy of this book in any condition whatsoever, torn, taped, barely in one piece… it wouldn’t have mattered. So to be able to get a hold of one in as great shape as this is nothing but fantastic. There are some small tears and tiny smudges, but what the hell. Considering how rare and old these books are i’m surprised some made it through in one piece at all. Oh, this is also one of the books that give credit to Andrew Warhol, the other being Three More Novels if i remember correct. The last couple of days have been exciting times when it comes to these books and ebay with a lot of the rare ones being sold lately. The interest in this collection of mine from my better half has been non-existent but when i showed her what they were selling for and told what i had payed for most of them she all of a sudden became a little more interested and we sat down and looked at them all. And it’s pretty cool that a lot of the most hard to find ones are in really good shape. But i don’t understand that some people (at least one particular woman) need to see dollar signs on a screen before they raise an eyebrow and become interested in even having a look at all these great looking books….

In a way this is also the end. And it’s a good, happy and in a way sad ending all rolled together into one. Even though there are still a number of books with Warhol’s on the cover, all from the 80’s i believe, that i still need to find this post concludes what has been a two and half year something long journey towards completing what i intend to title my privately published book someday – Andy Warhol: The Dust Jackets, 1951-1963. I plan on doing some kind of summary of this whole thing later on so i’ll leave it at that for now. But it’s a pretty cool feeling to lay them all on the floor and see a complete collection. I also think it’s pretty great that this blog has now become a decent source of information on all these, at least it comes with images of them all. Of course there is also the great book Reading Andy Warhol, but if i remember correct that doesn’t feature The Strange Case of Lucile Cléry, so at least there is some extra spice here… And i of course haven’t given up on finding that previously unknown jacket so i’m sure i will find plenty of things to waste my time on during the coming year. I also plan on rewriting/revisiting some of my previous book posts, many of the early ones are embarrassingly short and really need to be done right. And then there is of course also the AIGA book… And magazines… And record covers… Maybe i should see this as a way to finally get to focus more on those again. Anyways, time to wrap things up for real. Happy, thrilled, excited, exhausted and in a way also a bit sad…

The end.

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Two more pieces of pie…

In a way i use this blog as a way to archive not only my own collection but also various other cool and interesting things. Who knows when a link goes offline or some image just vanishes. Today i was looking at the lots from the A Taste of Spring auction on Christie’s from earlier this year and noticed something that i obviously didn’t see back then. And that something is yet another alternative cover for Love is a Pie by Maude Hutchins. At about the same time i wrote this post about two other of these alternative covers, and like one of those this “new” one is also complete in the sense that it features both the title and the name of the author. There are also some interesting writing on this one, since i haven’t read the book i have no idea if they relate to things from the book in some way. Guess i need to go and see what i can find.

I don’t understand how they calculate the estimate/value of these high-end Warhol’s but my layman’s analysis is this. If some part of the drawing is colored in any capacity, that adds a couple of thousands of dollars. But something i don’t understand i how a great little drawing can be priced at something like $2-3000 and then a polaroid of the pavement or of some dirt and flowers will run you twice as much… Very strange to me. Luckily i don’t have to worry about these things.

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I also came across yet another image on the same theme from Artnet. The link is now dead and sadly i’ve been unable to find a higher resolution image of this one. It might be a stretch to call this an alternative cover, looks and feels more like a playful draft or a doodle kind of thing. I find it interesting that there are so many different cover ideas for this book. It’s also interesting that they are all very different, not only from each other, but also from what ended up being on the actual cover. I’m no artist but i guess it’s standard procedure to play around with different ideas in the beginning of a project, assignment or whatever, and it’s great that all of these were not discarded once the job was done.

EDIT: Thanks to Guy Minnebach for a higher resolution image of the second cover idea.

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Kenny Burrell – Blue Lights Volume 1

Things are slow at work today and i’m also highly unmotivated so i figured why not get this out of the way as well. I’m not really sure what i might have to add though after Guy Minnebach did a short but sweet post on the album a while back. There you can see all the versions and colors as well as the original image. Early on this record and cover was a big mess to be, some were selling for thousands of dollars, some where basically given away and foolishly i couldn’t work it all out. Eventually i got my act together and the professor side of me figured out that it’s all about stereo and mono. And by then i also realized that an original mono issue would most likely never grace my shelf. This is one of the best looking covers so i still wanted some kind of copy, and eventually i somehow got the not so good idea of getting the Andy Warhol’s Jazz Album Covers Vol.2 box set. Clearly, with hindsight, this was a stupid decision as the covers in those boxes are nothing but terrible in every way.

I got the book From Silverpoint To Silver Screen based on Guy’s recommendation and it really is a fantastic book filled with more than a couple of drawings familiar to those interested in the record covers and/or dust jackets. A definate must have! Anywho… as said originals of this record are selling for big money, right now i could only find one, well two if you don’t mind some water stains. And even if prices have gone down a little i guess you would still have to consider yourself pretty lucky to find one of those for under $1000. I don’t want to pay that right now so i’m taking little baby steps up the ladder towards the sky going from something terrible to something that’s at least a little bit better.

What i got is the stereo reissue of Volume 1 that i think was released in 1967, at least that’s what Discogs tells me. It’s far from a rare find on ebay and these days i don’t keep track of prices in the same way that i did before. So i might have gotten a little overexcited and triggerhappy when i saw this a while ago. I think i payed $30-35 or something like that and had i bothered to check Discogs i might have gotten a better deal since there are several available there. At least i wasn’t completely ripped off. And i still need to get Volume 2, so a note to self – check Discogs. Always check Discogs.

This record is also one of the few of these old ones that has a Wikipedia article. It doesn’t say much but it at least it mentions Andy Warhol. Apparently the album has also been released on CD, both as seperate discs and as two disc set. I mentioned that i think this issue was released in 1967 but i don’t know… I know i said this was less of a mess to me now but to be honest i’m not so sure. I mean, look at this from Discogs. There are apparently three reissues as BST81596 released in 1967, 1973 and 1975…. I have no idea which one i have and i doubt it matters much. Maybe i should go and have another look at the actual cover. There are also several and more recent reissues, primarily from Japan. For anyone interested in those there are always A LOT of them on ebay.

blue-lights-versionsSo yeah… for now stereo will have to do. And when it comes to the condition there is not much to say and it’s also another thing that’s of little importance, at least when it comes to these reissues. But anyways, it’s partially still in shrink, has some tiny stickers and a cut corner but that’s about it. If nothing else i can put my previous copy back in it’s jazz box and never look at it again. And it does look a lot better in blueish/greenish than the pale almost grey version that i guess was meant to serve as a sorry excuse for pink. And who knows, now that the book collection is nearing completion maybe i can get back to putting more focus on the record covers again. And as time moves on maybe my brain will start convincing itself that $1000 is cheap for getting rid of the word “Stereo” and the Blue Note logo or whatever. Hmmm, now that i think about it the cover would look better without them…

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Books, books and more books on ebay

For more than two years i’ve not seen more than a handful of Warhol’s dust jackets on ebay. But for a couple of months now things have been the direct opposite and now you see them left, right, up and down and all over the place. Pretty much every rare title has been listed lately and currently you’ll find nice looking copies of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole, Three More Novels, Love is a Pie, The Madhouse in Washington Square, According to the Evidence, Borderline Ballads, Who Cooked Mother Goose?, The Runaway Pigeon and finally The Saint in Europe. They are all sold by the same guy and i can’t say that i know him but we’ve emailed a little bit and apparently he is the guy who discovered the most recent Warhol record cover Melodic Magic. I believe he also had one of those up for sale not that long ago but surprisingly it didn’t sell.

Personally i would never list all these at the same time and also having them end at the same time, but to each his own, i suppose. Let’s say this had happened about a year ago then i would have been torn between excitement and frustration when seeing all these great books on there and having to choose which one, or at the very best, two copies i might be able to get. At this moment there is one guy who has placed bids on most of them, and he has also gotten at least one other book in the past. I don’t have an opinion on the bids and prices but i’ll at least say that i’m a little bit surprised to see The Madhouse in Washington Square and The Saint in Europe getting bids right away. Granted everyone might not have the same amount of patience that i do but i would imagine that at least The Saint in Europe would be possible to find at a bargain price. And considering i payed 40 cents for one of my copies of The Madhouse in Washington Square it’s pretty fun to see it sell for at least $300…

I’m more than pleased with the condition of all my books but if i had to upgrade any of them i guess Borderline Ballads would be first in line as mine has a little tear and a piece missing. It doesn’t really affect the drawing though so i’m not in a panic to do so. And even though the copy on ebay looks pretty good i won’t be going to war over that one. Anwyays, it’s great to see the books are starting to show their faces and that they are also generating some interest and bidding, even if it just from one guy so far. Most of the books not listed lately and that would be needed to complete a collection should be possible to find without it taking forever and ever. So personally i would have loved to see these sold as an entire/complete collection. But i guess i have to work that out myself one day…

The Butterfly Tree – Robert E. Bell (Lippincott, 1959)

Time is slowly working it’s way towards the end of the year and i really need to get a move on if i want to cover all the years finds before it’s time for the usual yearly summary kind of thing. But my oh my… How and where to start with this? I actually went old school yesterday and sat down with a good old pen and paper trying to piece together the timeline or whatever going from the knowledge of it’s existence to the successful acquisition. I’m not sure it made me any wiser though, there have been so many twists and turns and crazy attempts and endeavors involved in trying to get a hold of this book that it’s hard to remember them all. But i’ll do my best…

I’ve probably mentioned this a couple of times already but when i started my collection of dust jackets what i had in front of me was basically a blank piece of paper. But luckily a couple of people had already done the legwork so i didn’t have to go and completely invent the wheel from scratch. I also think i’ve already mentioned these sources more than once but they are certainly worthy of yet another mention and in the beginning my bibles were the two acticles in Rare Books Digest and Polari Magazine. Even though these are an excellent starting point none of them (not even when combined) are complete and for example the book of interest here is not mentioned in either of the articles. So how did i learn this book existed? Well, i’m pretty sure this is another thing i’ve already mentioned before but (as usual) i owe a great deal of thanks to Guy Minnebach and his extensive lists of books and magazines. So i guess that completed phase one – i knew the book existed. But i still didn’t know what the cover looked like as searches for anything relating to the title, publisher or author didn’t bring up anything useful at all. Luckily Guy sent me some images later on, not that this brought me any closer to finding it but then i at least knew what to look for, both in words and image so to speak…

Had i been a less patient and/or wealthier man this whole thing could have been over in a lot less time than two-something-years. Early on i found the book on Amazon for $500 or something like that and i’m pretty sure but not entirely sure that the same copy is still on there now. The few but avid readers of this blog will have learned by now that prices like that are generally of little interest to me even though i’ve been forced to change my ways a little bit as time have moved on. At the time i didn’t pay much attention to this listing though, if it is in fact the same one as back then i did manage to get the price down by $50 or so but it was still nothing nothing that was ever going to happen. So as with a lot of other books i was forced to play the extremely boring and tedious waiting game.However, there was this one thing that surfaced in connection with this book that actually called for action instead of just waiting, and that thing was a book titled Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree written by Mary Lois Timbes Adshead. As i was going along with my daily and obsessive image searching this book kept popping up and eventually i also noticed that Robert E. Bell was actually noted as the (co-)author on this book as well. Once i finally got that fact in my thick head i put two and two together and figured that Mary Lois obviously must have known Robert E. Bell in one way or another. Luckily she had a couple of blogs and i was able to get a hold of her email adress and sent out a shot in the dark email with questions and whatnot, of course i was hoping that she would have a whole box of old and prestine butterflies lying around and that i would be able to pick up a cheap copy. Unfortunately she didn’t. But what followed was a fantastic and nowadays very rarely seen commitment and effort on her part in trying to help me in this quest. She has really gone out of her way with this thing, asking friends, and friends of friends, checking used book stores and asking the owners to keep an eye out and if i remember correct even trying to contact Bell’s brother… Quite remarkable to put in such an effort for someone you don’t know in any other way than as a name in an email. Even though she was unable to track the book down for me i am forever grateful for these efforts, thank you so much!

It was also by advice from Mary Lois that i found the newspaper The Fairhope Courier. The word “Fairhope” comes up a lot when it comes to this book and maybe i should have gone into it a little bit more earlier but it’s really not THAT important. Anyways, at first i had no idea what is was. Was it a place or just some… thing? I’ve now learned that it is in fact a city in Alabama and to keep the biography thing short and sweet this is where Robert E. Bell spent his summers as a child and as far as i know also where he lived for a time later on in life. Most importantly it’s also the city on which the fictual town of Moss Bayou in his book is based upon. For some reason i got the idea that the book would have been sold primarily in Alabama and the surrounding states. I’m not really sure why i got this idea but i figured that since it was far from a bestseller it would have generated the most buzz and most interest among local people, thus making local book stores a good bet for finding a used copy. Turns out this wasn’t the case, i got a few replies from people saying they had it but all of these were for the reprint published by University Alabama Press.

Anyways, back to the Fairhope Courier… I had already played around with the idea of placing an ad in some local newspaper based on the assumption that the book is quite old and most people who in 2015 read newspapers made of actual paper are also… well, old people. I never did anything with this idea though, seemed like to much hassle to place and pay for an ad from halfway around the world. But then this site/magazine came along and all of a sudden the whole thing seemed much easier. After a couple of emails back and forth i ended up with an ad placed on the site,  this was sometime back in January/February and i also posted about this endeavour in this old post. I can’t say i expected much from this but as always i figured it couldn’t hurt. What i didn’t count on though was to immediately get sabotaged from beyond the grave. In a matter of days after my post Andy Warhol himself made a comment on the ad post asking “Is that the copy that has a dust jacket drawn by Andy Warhol and is extremely rare?”.

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Maybe i’ve been incredibly lucky but everyone i’ve ever come in contact with since i started my collections have been nothing but helpful, friendly and very forthcoming. So i guess this thing and this guy is the exception that confirms the rule… This is the kind of douchebag who before class in 7th grade would go and tell the teacher i just spent resess copying some other guys math homework. No personal benefit to be gained, just something done to sabotage another person. I can’t say i lost much sleep over this though. But i must assume this guy will be reading this post as well. So to whoever you are i just want to say that i hope you never find the book. Never. Ever. Ever… Ever.

Moving on… to sum up all the crazy adventures i guess i have to mention this attempt at contacting some journalist who interviewed a guy who mentioned the book. Crazy and fruitless indeed…There has also been a similar thing with some guy who mentioned the book in some blog post, needless to say this didn’t amount to anything either. Phew… i think that pretty much covers all the failed attempts so it’s time to get to the good stuff and the happy ending. Subconsciously i’m still working on my post about trying to “rare rank” the dust jackets and i’ll get around to it sooner or later and without a doubt this will be in the top five, at least. Besides the one, or perhaps two, copies that i’ve seen on Amazon this has been a rare sight. Almost rare enough to start coming to terms with the idea of never finding it. But i’ve come to learn that things have a funny way of working out, eventually… As said i placed my ad and contacted all the book stores in late january or early February. I can’t remember the exact dates and things when it comes to what happened after that, but luckily most sites store your message history. And what happened next took place on Etsy. I’ve refreshed my memory with the help of said message history and on March 10 i sent my first message about a newly listed item… I can’t find the first listing now and i might be mistaken but i think it was originally priced at $400 or thereabouts. And what followed was a number of attempts of haggling but seeing as the book was just put on the site the seller, understandably, wanted to wait and see what happened and not just jump on the first idiot who offered just short of half the asking price.

At this point i was missing more than a couple of the books, had this been the only hole to fill i most definately would have jumped on the opportunity even with it’s original price tag. But as it happened i decided to wait, i kept checking the site now and then up until the start of the summer and the book was always still available. Then sometime in June i went to have a look and to my surprise it wasn’t there. After the initial depression had worn off i sent more than a couple of messages to the seller asking if it was still available or if it had been sold. In the couple of months since i first noticed it i had picked up some of the other books i needed to find so at this point i was only missing one or two and i was just about to contact the seller and make a resonable offer. Unfortunately this was right in the middle of us selling our apartment and getting everything in order with the new house and for some reason i was incredibly stressed out by all this and figured i would wait until everything had settled down. So naturally i was terrified and kicking myself over potentially blowing what in my head was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Turns out the world hadn’t come to end though. Apparently you need to renew your listings on Etsy after a certain amount of time, something the seller had forgotten to do so the book was still available and to cut to the chase we settled on a price of $275 which i was very pleased with, and as i recall the price was suggested by the seller so i must assume she was pleased with the deal as well. All said and done and the book went back online, and i even got a special listing reserved just for me…

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It took a while before i got my hands on it though. The seller was kind enough to order protective mylar which took a while to get sorted out and then i also shipped it to Frank Edwards where it stayed and got some rest before finally ending up with me. So… there it is. That’s the (short but still way to long) full story about how a lot of failures eventually turned into something with a very happy ending. Regardless of how frustrating and annoying the chase for some of these things can be it’s journeys like these that are the most rewarding and most fun to look back on once you get to the finish line. I’ve had a lot of fun chasing this book and together with the Giant Size $1,57 cassette and booklet  it’s really one of the highlights of my entire “collecting career”. One of the reasons this post has been somewhat delayed is that i had a million questions for the seller that i was hoping to get the answers to. Well, maybe not a million questions but i was very curious about when and where she found it and also what it was that attracted her to the book. Did she notice Warhol’s credit on the cover or did she just like the cover design and by chance happen to pick it up for a couple of dollars and see the credit later on? I’ve asked her repeatedly but so far i haven’t heard back. Things and information like this are perhaps mainly of interest to me personally but i still enjoy to know and to be able to add stuff like that to a post. If i ever get an answer i’ll get back with an update. One funny thing she did tell me though was that i wasn’t the only one who contacted her when the book went AWOL, apparently there were more than a few people who did so who all (like me) had been waiting for the price to be lowered. I guess that sometimes it pays off to be the annoying stalker sending messages left and right and all of the time…

The last couple of months have been exciting times on ebay when it comes to Warhol’s dust jackets, but i’ll get to the details of that in a later post. Anyways, this book made it’s first appearance on ebay (at least that i know of) about two months ago and ended up selling for $230. I have no intention to pat myself on the back to much but i think my copy is in better condition than this one so i’m still very happy with what i ended up paying. And i couldn’t have bought this one anyways since there was something else ending at about the same time that i just had to get. But again, more on that later… Hopefully one of those who missed out on my copy was able to get this copy instead. For those still on the prowl who also have deep pockets i can recommend this listing for a signed and very nice looking copy, the price tag isn’t as nice though.

This post has gone on for way to long already, but there are still a couple of things i want to get to so bear with me. Unlike some of the other authors who’s biggest claim to fame ended up being that they had a book published that had a dust jacket designed by Andy Warhol and where it’s basically impossible to find any information about them things are are a little bit different with Robert E. Bell. That said he’s still no Dickens or Hemingway but there are more than a couple of sites with good information and biographies. I’ve also learned a little bit from my emails with Mary Lois. I don’t intend to go on copy/paste spree, anyone interested can go read up on any of the sites at The University of South Alabama, The Alabama Literary Map or at the Encyclopedia of Alabama, all of these are great resources. I think it’s safe to say that he had a passion for writing, reading and books in general since he, from what i understand, spent the better part of his life holding various positions within the “literary society” or whatever one might call it. He held various positions at different libraries, was the director of The Book Club of California and opened book stores in both New Orleans and San Francisco. And in the midst of all this he still found time to write and publish a number of books where the most noted one just happens to be The Butterfly Tree. I can’t say i’m confident enough to claim i know exactly how many books he published, but after a couple of laps around Amazon i keep ending up with the same number of titles and besides the two already mentioned my guesstimate would be there are (at least) four more books. The first book he published was in 1956 and was titled A Bibliography of Mobile, Alabama. It seemed he also developt a love for classical mythology and apparently he published three award-winning reference books on the subject titled A Dictionary of Classical Mythology: Symbols, Attributes, and Associations, Place-Names in Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary and Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary. Finally, and this might be considered overkill, but amazingly his dissertation from Berkeley titled History of the Grabhorn Press is also available on Amazon. Images of some of these titles are available online and i’ve also seen the others and i can say that none of them have covers by the hand of Warhol. Not that i was expecting that…

However, and this is a big HOWEVER. There are at least four alternative covers for this book that the world has yet see, and in all probability they will remain a mystery forever and ever. As i recall this was first noted by Guy Minnebach and to get to the how and where we need to once again return to the “sister book” Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree. I now have a copy of this book, not only is it a great read but it also uses the same tree design done by Warhol as the original book so if you’re not interested in the book for the sake of reading it i would still get it for that little cover design detail alone. Anywhooo… as said Guy was a little more creative and a lot smarter than me since he used the “Look inside” feature on Amazon and in Bell’s first letter to Mary Lois he mentions that he has five original drawings made for the cover, pretty freaking cool! Naturally this started another quest but nothing of value has surfaced so far… But i would looooove to see these one day, but yeah… i doubt they will ever see the light of day.

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Where they might be? Well, of course i have no idea but had i been able to i know where the first place i would look would be. Robert Bell passed away in 1999 and if i remember correct it was Mary Lois who first told me that after his death, or perhaps even after the death of his partner Mark Hanrahan in 2009, most/all of his work was donated to The University of South Alabama and that it’s now archived there and the details of this can be found here. I’ve come across similar things like this before, for example the New Directions archives or whatever, and interestingly there are also mentions of Warhol in these “Robert Bell Papers”. More specifically there are entrys/postings/whatever like “Correspondence re: Warhol Collection, 1989 – 92, 1996”, Retrospective: Andy Warhol by Heiner Bastian and Andy Warhol Stamps, Ebay Info”. The one in the middle is this book and apparently Bell was also an avid stamp collector and there is an image of the commemorative Warhol stamps among other Bell related items from an old exhibition here. So that just leaves us with the first one… i guess this could also be something relating to a book or something? Whatever the case i doubt the drawings are hidden in that material, but who knows. Lately i’ve not had the energy or time to embark on some new looney adventure but i’m sure this will change soon enough and then stuff like this and the New Directions archives thingy are all highly possible projects. I would assume The University of South Alabama got the bulk of Bell’s work but it seems parts of it also ended up at the Fort Worth Public Library in Texas. The details of the material kept there are less extensive and the only things that are mentioned are “a scrapbook, a novel, and some biographical information”.

Time to wrap things up… and why not begin to end with a funny little thing. I haven’t read more than a couple of pages of the book but someone who did read the whole thing and who also seemed to have enjoyed every word of it was Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently The Morgan Library in NYC (i think) at one point displayed a collection on things relating to Harper Lee and among these were some letters from her sent to Robert Bell, images of these can be found here. There are some funny lines in there, especially the way she starts the letter and her anger towards Lippincott (who was also the publisher of her book) is also pretty funny. There is also another, less angry, letter found among one of the images here which yet again praises Bell’s book, maybe i should actually get around to reading this one. And while on the topic of Lippincott… this is the second book by that publisher with a Warhol jacket, the other one being The Madhouse in Washington Square which was published the year before in 1958. Both also follow the same concept with a drawing on the front and a photograph of the author on the back. I’ve of course googled this photograper, Squire Haskins, as well. Besides learning that his real/full name was Lewis Benjamin Haskins, Jr and that the company he once founded is still up and running today i didn’t find anything usefull or interesting. I do however love the fact and little detail that Bell is holding a cigarette in the photograph, i’ve always enjoyed how people smoked ALL THE TIME and EVERYWHERE in the 50’s and 60’s. Must have been good times…

Oh yeah, what about the book itself. Even though i didn’t get the information i had hoped for from the seller i can still use my eyes and tell that it’s an old library book. And taking that into consideration i must say it’s in absolute spectacular condition. It’s definately one of the best looking ones in my collection, which is quite nice since it’s also one of my favourite jackets. As said it was also one that i was starting to doub’t i would ever get to put on the shelf. And that would probably also have been the case had i not been willing to up my budget a little bit, it’s funny how you somehow and magically get more money to spend as the holes in ones collection gets fewer and fewer… Oh, i’ve also tried to contact Lippincott (which is now Wolters Kluwer as far as i understand) to try and find out how of many of these books that were printed, but as usual i’ve not heard anything back. I just noticed that apparently Wolters Kluwer also owns Swedish publisher Liber, maybe i could try taking a detour via them… Whatever the number of printed books may be i’m still extremely happy that i managed to find one of them and it’s great to finally get to write the post i thought would never be.

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