Friday, May 13, 2011

Penguin Paperbacks

I love the Penguin paperback. Created by publisher Allan Lane of The Bodley Head after a trip to see Agatha Christie and the discovery of an utter lack of cheap yet decent reading material at the railway station, the first paperbacks with the Penguin imprint appeared in the summer of 1935.

The simple graphics - three horizontal bands, color-coded to indicate the genre - were created in-house, and it wasn't until the 1950s that illustrations other than the Penguin logo were introduced. The orange cover shown here indicated general fiction. This is Penguin 641, published 1948.

Penguin Handbooks, of which the above is the 1948 revised reprint of a 1944 title, began during WWII as part of the effort during the war to get the British public to produce more food for self-consumption. 

Titles under the Pelican imprint were viewed as educational titles. The first, shown here, was a 2-part publication of Shaw's 1928 text, with additional chapters. The Pelican versions retains the dedication to his sister-in-law, "The intelligent woman to whose question this book is the best answer I can make". The imprint was discontinued in 1990.

The 1960 publication of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" shows the change to vertical bands, and the introduction of illustrations and photographs to the covers. Penguin was famously charged with obscenity for publishing this title, a case which Penguin won and which marked a turning point in the censorship laws in Great Britain.

Later covers would make further use of photographs, collage and illustration to indicate in a more specific way the content of the book in question. Above, for example, is the cover of the 1962 Penguin Modern Poets 10, "The Mersey sound: Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, Brian Patten", which uses images from Beatlemania on the cover.

Penguins published in New York differed in design, font and size from those published in the UK. The above title, Penguin 511 by Eric Ambler, is a 1945 edition of a 1942 title. Although retaining the penguin icon, the American covers used illustration from the beginning, and were shorter than their UK counterparts. American Penguins make up the bulk of the Fales Penguin paperback numbers, although not all are signed by the author, as this one is.

The Penguin icon, chosen for being 'dignified but flippant', according to the Penguin Group website, has changed over the years: sometimes it stands alone, sometimes there are dual penguins, but my favorite is the dancing penguin, shown above.

Friday, May 6, 2011

David Wojnarowicz biographer Cynthia Carr has been one of our most faithful researchers, poring over David's incredibly rich collection while working on her book (coming out Spring 2012!). Today, as she wraps up her research, she dropped by to look at David's Magic Box.

David's never-completed film-in-progress A Fire In My Belly has been much in the news over the last few months, and while parts of his Papers such as the journals are among our most heavily requested items at Fales, there are still many parts of his collection and work that remain relatively under-accessed and under-known. Carr says that the friends of David she interviewed were largely unaware of the box and its contents; but for those familiar with his visual alphabet, the toys, skulls, animals, stones, feathers, and religious icons form a certain kind of logic.

To see all of the objects in the Magic Box, just check out Series XIII Subseries B of the finding aid.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Zines, and More

cover, Artaud-Mania
We are always trying to impress on people that the Riot Grrrl Collection at Fales is not simply a "Zine Library." Rather, it is a group of small personal papers and archives that include (but are not limited to) correspondence, artwork, journals and notebooks, audio or video recordings, zines, photographs, clippings, and flyers, as well as any source materials relating to the creation of artworks, writings, zines, bands, performances or events. Of course, zines were very important to the movement, and almost all of the individual collections contain zines. We're very lucky that they also often include the zine "flats", or masters. And sometimes, they include the source materials that either informed or physically went into the zines.

original paste-ups; ticket; zine components

Johanna Fateman's Artaud-Mania is a great example of a zine in our collection that includes all of the above. It also happens to be one of my favorite zines in the collection, and is currently available to read with other zines from Fales by Johanna and by Kathleen Hanna at MoMA's Music 3.0.

original drawing for page 19 of Artaud-Mania
And just as, from our Downtown Collection, Richard Hell was inspired by the French symbolists, and David Wojnarowicz famously paid tribute to Arthur Rimbaud in his "Rimbaud in New York" series, Johanna continued the Francophilia-punk-in-revolt tradition in her appropriation of Antonin Artaud. Make sure you make it to MoMA so you can see her amazing double portrait of Susan Sontag and Richard Hell in situ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fales Lecture in English and American Literature

We are excited about this year's Fales Lecture in English and American Literature, which will feature Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon. His lecture, "The Missives of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop," will take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 6:30, with a reception to follow in our Tracey/Barry Gallery.

Please RSVP to or call 212.992.9018. This event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"N.Y.U. Food Library Joins Big Leagues"

Our Food Studies collection was featured in yesterday's New York Times.  As Fales donor Betty Fussel describes, “Within a very short time, they’ve built up the best food collection in the country.... For those of us who’ve been around a while, it used to be the Schlesinger, which was appropriate for that moment in time. That was essentially a library about women’s roles. Marvin was right in treating New York as a food center unlike any other and thinking the Fales could capture that like no other. It’s a shift in perception.”

And in more food-related news, next Thursday we will be hosting a panel titled "What's the Matter With Mass-Produced Meat?" featuring Fales donor Marion Nestle, Michael Moss, and Daniel Imhoff, and moderated by Paula Crossfield of Civil Eats.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tiny books

While Fales has a lot of oversized items in the collection, we also have some tiny ones. The item below is possibly the smallest - an 1843 "History of the Bible", printed in Cooperstown, NY by H. & E. Phinney.

This book, known as a "Thumb Bible", is 49mm in height, bound in leather, with a cross-stitched spine to hold the boards.

The text, which truncates the Bible story into 192 pages of 12 lines of text, includes woodcuts of  the heads of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, Aaron, Micah, Joshua, Samson, Ahab, Jonah, Daniel, Elijah, Nicodemus, Pontius Pilate, and King David. Also included are woodcuts of various 'action' scenes: Moses 'receiving' the Law, Bears tearing the Children, Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the Lions Den and The Crucifixion.  

Thumb Bibles were primarily designed for children who could not yet read the full Biblical text themselves, and were usually decorated, as this is, with images. The first known example was printed in London in 1601, and they also appeared in France, Holland and Germany as well as England and the United States.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We're excited about the Museum of the Moving Image's current series TV Party: A Panorama of Public Access Television in New York City, which features a large amount of material preserved by Fales from our collections. In the museum's words, "The compilation programs span four decades of must-see fringe television, most of which has never been shown publicly since appearing on cable. Laugh, cry, and scratch your head at natural-born performers, uncensored callers, celebrity cameos, rare musical discoveries, raucous parodies, and unclassifiable acts" Check out a sneak peek here: