Forbidden Childhood – Ruth Slenczynska (Doubleday, 1957)

I might as well start off by stating that this will be a pretty boring post. And the reason for that is that i know absolutely nothing about this dust jacket. It feels like i pretty much always say that so this situation is nothing new of course, but usually it’s possible to read up a little bit and find bits and pieces of information or other stuff that i find interesting enough to include. This is not the case this time. I’ve spent quite some time during the week staring at drawings of pianos and trying to find anything at all but sadly i’ve been stomped this time… And there’s not really an interesting story about how and where i found this sooooo… i guess we’ll see what we end up with here.

Like any random serial killer or criminal i’ll stick to my standard modus operandi and start with some basic facts. The title of the book is Forbidden Childhood and was written by Ruth Slenczynska together with Louis Biancolli, the book was published in 1957 and is yet another example of the relationship between Doubleday and Andy Warhol at this time. It’s basically a book of memoirs and if you want to get technical it also comes with the tagline or whatever is called “The frank account of a girl’s struggle to free herself from the strangle hold of her tyrannical father”. Ouch! That’s a pretty straight forward review of her childhood and her thoughts about her father. And from what i’ve read it seems she has every right to be pissed off. Apparently her father Joseph Slenczynski, a musician and violinist, was hell bent from day one that his daughter would become a famous musician. From what i understand she was pretty much forced to start playing the piano at age three which is pretty remarkable. My daughter is soon to be four and though she enjoys strumming, pulling and occasionally destroying the strings on my guitars she still prefers the colorful glockenspiel thing with ten or so keys… So, it must have taken some serious dedication from the father, i’ll give him that. Anyways, forced to practice relentlessly for hours and hours everyday she apparently started more serious piano studies by the age of four and played her first concert at age six and then a year later at age seven she did her first concert with a full orchestra with critics calling her the greatest child prodigy since Mozart. Seems she was also beaten senseless for mistakes and bad reviews, over which she of course had had no control herself. Speaking of critics i’ve also read that because she played such complicated arrangements the media sometimes speculated that she was a midget. All of this is both impressive, disgusting and disturbing at the same time and you can’t really argue with the use of the words “tyrannical father”…

Anyways, i’m not sure to what extent she wrote the book herself but when it comes to Warhol and his dust jackets she is unique in the sense that i think she is the only still living author who has a book published with a dust jacket by Andy Warhol. There are a couple of other authors like David Alexander, Dick Ashbaugh and Walter Ross that i’m not really sure about and where it’s hard to find any information about them. But if you look at their “Warhol-dust-jacket-books” they all have their picture on the back and though i’m pretty bad at guessing peoples age i would still guess that by now all of them have passed on. I don’t know how much she cherishes the fact that her book has a AW designed dust jacket but yeah, she is unique in more ways than one.

As said this was published by Doubleday and if i’ve done my homework this is the fifth book for which Warhol designed the jacket for them, the previous being Pistols for Two, The Saint in Europe, Who Cooked Mother Goose? and The Runaway Pigeon. Besides this Doubleday edition the book was also published in the UK in 1958 by Peter Davies using the same jacket design. This was a fact i was unaware of before Guy Minnebach informed me about it and also pointed out the small differences. And small differences is right, as said the front cover is identical and on the back there is just a couple of very minor changes in coloring and the addition of some more text on the UK edition. The only “big” difference is one the title page or whatever where the Doubleday edition has the outline of the piano drawing and the Peter Davies edition has a photo of a very young Slenczynska playing the piano. There are some good images of the UK edition in this quite recent listing on ebay.

Anyways, i don’t know which of these editions is most sought after but as with everything else i would assume it’s this “original” one by Doubleday. So unlike what happened with my copy of The Adventures of Maud Noakes where i  didn’t know there were two editions using the same cover design i was lucky this time to score a cheap original. This is also something as rare as a Warhol dust jacket that’s pretty easy to find, ever since i started collecting them i’ve come across a lot of copies. However, considering Slenczynska’s fame and notoriety i think this book also attracts attention from people who are totally uninterested in Andy Warhol but instead want it for it’s “true intention” and it’s place in music history or whatever. So…. there are plenty available at Amazon and other places but a decent copy with the jacket intact will probably start at $150. If i remember correct i ended up paying an almost embarrassing $5 for this copy and this was also something that just appeared in my wish list one day. It’s an old library book with the usual stamps and markings and the description said: “Ex library, taped on jacket protector (with consequent tape residue), call# on jacket (not on book), stamps on top edge and title page, card pocket in rear, taped hinges, broken spine, first 98 page section has separated from spine, needs glue repair, otherwise unmarked an clean”. This of course sounds absolutely terrible but as it turned out this was a pretty conservative grading by the seller. Granted if you open the book it’s anything but good and looks like it’s about to fall apart into a million pieces. But i have no intention of flipping though the pages reading and further destroying this book, and when closed up it’s looks to be in excellent condition so i intend to keep it that way. Personally i am not a fan of these collage-style designs mixing drawings and photographs and this is probably the main reason that i haven’t gotten a copy and decided to wait until i could get one at a bargain price. And that time was now and once again slow and steady wins the race.

Whatever my thoughts about the cover i’m very happy to finally be able to put this down in my collection as number 15 out of 17 known dust jackets/book covers. I can’t really wrap my head around how fast all this has moved along. And i realize that in some cases i’ve been extremely lucky seeing as with a lot of the books the only copy i’ve ever seen is the one i got a hold of. There is one more pretty interesting thing about this cover, but i’ll leave that as some kind of a cliffhanger until i know more about it and get to hear what my compadres in the WCCC have to say. And unless something really spectacular comes along this will be my last post for a couple of weeks. We are currently in the process of moving to a new home and all of my Warhol stuff is already stored away at a safe place to keep it away from potentially messy and sloppy movers throwing boxes around without a care in the world…

So… more stuff coming up in july!

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The Runaway Pigeon – Leslie Edgley (Doubleday, 1953)

Exciting times ahead! There’s quite a lot to be told about this book and how i got a hold of it and i don’t really know where to start. But i’ll start with how i first became aware of it. I started my book collection sometime in the early summer of 2013 and based on what little information i could find online i thought there were maybe ten or so dust jackets to be found. I also put up a saved search thing on ebay for “Warhol book cover” or something like that which didn’t result in anything even remotely interesting for the first couple of months. But then finally in the beginning of september i woke up to find this listing for a book that i had never seen or heard of before. This was of course quite intriguing as i thought that the articles i had found on the subject pretty much covered all known dust jackets, but apparently this was not the case.

Somewhere around this time i also got an excellent list from Guy Minnebach with various books that Warhol had either designed the jacket for, published privately, done illustrations for and so on… Of course this book – The Runaway Pigeon – was on this list among with maaaaany more dust jackets that i had no idea about, making the total around twenty. Anyways, as i remember it the auction generated quite a bit of interest and it quickly became obvious that i would not be able to win it and the closing bid was eventuelly around $215. This is the first and only time i’ve ever seen this book anywhere. And trying to find anything about this cover has proved to be almost impossible, no images (except for the ones from that old auction), no mention in any articles, no nothing really… So it almost feels a little bit like i’m breaking new ground or steering through uncharted waters here. Not really though, but kind of…

Anyways, that’s that about how i found out about the books existence and on to what i know about the cover, which besides the obvious isn’t much. It was published in 1953 by Doubleday and as with The Saint in Europe and Pistols For Two this was part of the Crime Club series. I’ve been able to piece together a little bit more about the design. At the National Gallery of Scottland’s website there are a couple of drawings from a series that Warhol did specifically for this book cover, see images here, here and here. Most of these as well as the design used for the actual cover show the same kind of featureless faces and some also with various namnes of cities, note the misspelling of “Chicago” in the first image where it’s spelled “Chiggo” or something like that. The first two drawings look like, at least to me, somewhat finished designs that would be ready to put on a dust jacket. And i quite like the first one. There has also been a supposed original of one of these drawings on ebay for over $20 000 for a long, long time. And it’s still there now. The name “The Runaway Pigeon” was as far as i can tell only used in the US whereas the title “Diamonds Spell Death” was used outside America. I have no further details on the non US edition other than that there’s two listings on Amazon UK. The first one has the publisher as “Barker” and the other one has it as “Arthur Baker”, both published in 1954. I guess one of these might just be a typo and that the publisher is actually the same. I also have no idea what the cover for this other edition looks like, but it would be interesting to find out.

So… where did i find this? Well, i didn’t really. It kind of found me. Sometime last autumn after i got a hold of the booklet to On Record: 11 Artists i was offered a trade by Guy Minnebach. I’m not goind to reveal the details just yet since that will spoil what’s to come but as i remember this book was not part of the initial deal. Anyways, even though i was tempted to accept this initial offer i had just gotten my hands on the booklet and felt that i wanted to play around (read: look at it) with it a bit more. It was also the first thing that i had found that the other members of the WCCC had not seen before, with the exception of Guy of course, so for some reason i kind of liked the feeling of just having it around. Then as time went by i started to get a hold of more and more of the dust jackets. This was of course a lot of fun but at the same time it became obvious that a couple, like this one, would prove extremely difficult to find. And as with the record covers i’m trying to do this thing on as tight a budget as possible. I can’t remember when or exactly how things played out really but a couple of months ago or so i think Guy came back to me with a new and improved offer. I still really liked the booklet and i think it’s a really cool item but this time i just couldn’t turn down what i was being offered. So, this is part one of a really great and exciting trilogy of stuff to come… Well, it’s in fact more like 3½ but let’s say it’s three amazing items and ½ that’s a little less heart raising.

Thanks so much for this amazing trade Guy, and i was very glad to hear you were also more than happy with it at your end!

Finally something about the condition. There’s really not much to say since i think it’s in spectacular shape! Without a doubt one of the best ones in my collection so far. The only thing (and i’m not really sure this even is an issue) is that compared to the images in the old listing on ebay the pink typography on my copy is much brighter. I find it a bit strange that just the text should be faded since the colors on the rest of the jacket are still bright so i don’t really know what to make of it. I did play around a little in Photoshop with my images and it’s an easy thing to brighten the text so maybe that’s what the seller on ebay did to improve the look of his copy. It’s hard to tell since i haven’t seen any other images of this cover online. Whatever the case this is nothing that bothers me at all and i think it’s an amazing looking cover and when it comes to “rareness” i definitely have a new number one in my book collection. Thanks again Guy, love it!

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