The Poetic Exploration of the Swarming Possibilities in American Life

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Detail from Harry Martin’s cover illustration for Set #1

In the first issue of Set the editor was clear about the lofty aims of the magazine, as he laid out in the poem manifesto in the first issue;

“This magazine is about the poetic exploration of the swarming possibilities (some occult, unused) in American life, urban & local (the rural is no longer available to poetry; to life?) here & especially now.”

What is truly remarkable about Set is not just the fact that it accomplished those goals, but the generous and various way that it accomplishes them, mirroring the generosity of Lansing’s own poetry, which joins the erudite and the accessible with such a light touch that it casts doubt upon any hierarchical distinction between the two.

The best magazines are intersectional rather than exemplary. Plenty of periodicals give the flavor of a like-minded school of poets, but the particular genius of Set was the way in which it sounds a resonance between disparate writers, just as the color red aligns and raises the three letters of the title out from the jostling mass of black lettering on the Harry Martin cover for issue no. 1. Set included poets associated with the Bay Area Renaissance, the Boston Scene, the New York School, and even one Fra Perdurabo – aka Aleister Crowley. The first issue prints three excerpts from The Book of Lies.

Set at Division Leap.

Set #1 and Set #1 are both hosted as pdf’s and available to read for free at the Pennsound website.

The Octopus with the Look of Silk: Pedro Leandro Ipuche, Isidore Ducasse, and Borges

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Woodcut of Maldoror as an Octopus

 

After a long search I recently tracked down a copy of one of the most obscure studies of Isidore Ducasse, this obscure and exuberant booklet by the Uruguayan poet Pedro Leandro Ipuche in 1926. Ipuche was a friend of Borges during his ultraist period, and around this time collaborated with him on the little magazine Proa. Readers of the fictions of Borges may remember a character of the same name cited in the story ‘Funes, el Memorioso’.

 

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Ipuche appearing in the Borges story “Funes, His Memory” [trans. Andrew Hurley]

The present pamphlet is dedicated to the Guillot Muñoz brothers, “y por cuyo libro fui al Libro del Furioso Desolado” – presumable a reference to their work Lautréamont et Laforgue, which had been published the year prior. It was through the brothers that Ipuche became one of the small handful of people (the others being Jules Supervielle and Mendez Gabariños) to examine the daguerrotype of Isidore Ducasse given to the Guillot Muñoz brothers by Mrs. Jean-Julien Ducasse, before it was seized by the Montevideo police during a raid and disappeared. According to the account by Enrique Pichon-Rivière, Ipuche thought that in the photograph Ducasse had the air of a young Montevideano, and it was perhaps out of this inference that the present work was conceived.

It was from this photograph that Gabariños based his two etchings of Ducasse upon. to Pichon-Rivière’s account suggests that those who were familiar with the photograph thought that there was little similarity between the etchings and the portrait, and suggests somehow that some sort of madness visited Gabariños as a result.

The book is illustrated with a single plate bearing a striking full page woodcut entitled” “Poulpe au regarde du soie”, a reference to the passage in Maldoror in which the protagonist turns into an octopus in order to consume God. The woodcut is unattributed, and we can’t determine whether it was made specifically for this work or appropriated from an existing source. If you know, please get in touch.

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Montevideo, 1926

Ipuche, Pedro Leandro. Isidoro Luciano Ducasse (Conde de Lautréamont). Poeta Uruguayo.

Montevideo: Peña Hnos, 1926.12mo, 16 pp, saddle-stapled wraps. Illustrated with a single woodcut. Previous owner’s signature to the title and dedication pages, and elegant annotations throughout in ink.

Rare. OCLC locates only two holdings, and none in North America.  

Purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

The Imprint of the Pilgrimage: John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs

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Earlier this year, thanks to a bookseller in a distant seaport town I tracked down a copy of a book I’d been looking for for many years – one of the 13 original copies of John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs. I’d first heard of the existence of it while I was a student of religion at Reed College in the 1990’s, in professor Michael Foat’s class on the Coptic Language. While doing background reading for that class I came across a copy of the second, expanded edition of the book. The colophon of that copy had a tantalizing note which stated that the original edition was published privately in Jerusalem by the author in an edition of only 13 copies. I’d been looking for it ever since, and had almost given up on ever seeing a copy before this.

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Sometimes discovering a book after such a prolonged search can be anti-climactic, but it wasn’t in this case. What the colophon of the second edition didn’t note was that this first edition is essentially a different work. The second edition is offset printed, and while being a beautiful and historically important work and sought after in its own right, is essentially an academic study. The 1956 edition is a bound collection of 71 original prints made directly from the wooden blocks which the Razzouk family uses as template guides, at least one of which dates back to 1749, and was published in Jerusalem, rather than Beirut.

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The book has a remarkable auratic quality like no other book I’ve seen. The paper still bears the indentations of the original blocks, which can be felt by running one’s fingers over the verso of each page. Feeling the imprint of these ancient blocks, it is impossible not to imagine the generations of pilgrims whose skin these blocks touched, many of whom have long since passed on from this world. In many ways books become a stand-in or metaphor for the human body, the terms used to describe books often anthropomorphic – the spine, the crown, the foot. In this book, the each page seems to almost become a reverse extension of the skin of the pilgrims, preserving the very imprint of a tradition that, being mostly inscribed on more mortal skin, would otherwise pass from our memory. 

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The second edition is a scarce and coveted work in it’s own right, but this first edition is of near mythological rarity. The first example we’ve seen in ten years of searching. OCLC locates no holdings; KVK locates one holding, at the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority).

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The colophon of the second edition states that this first edition was limited to ten numbered and three lettered copies. This example bears no colophon or imprint information, but the one page forward here matches the brief description of the first edition in Carswell’s foreward to the second edition. It is unknown whether this copy has been rebound without the limitation page, and furthermore, since we’ve been unable to compare this with any other example, we’re unsure whether or not this example is in the original binding or not, though we suspect that this is an early rebind, or perhaps a later binding of sheets from the first printing. We welcome anyone who has seen an example of the first edition to get in touch for comparison.

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J. C. [John Carswell]. Coptic Tattoo Designs.

[Jerusalem]: [John Carswell], [1956]. First edition. 4to, offset printed title page and 1 p. introduction, signed “J.C.”, followed by 71 prints from the original woodblocks on 56 leaves. Bound, possibly at a later date in red leatherette, and titled in gilt at the spine.

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Fado, Saudade, and the Destruction of Borders and Property

Pinto de Carvalho’s Historia Do Fado is the first published book length study of the musical genre, and according to João Silva, “Still a valuable source for fado historiography, especially when addressing the relationship between popular music and national character and how the vernacular is appropriated.” [Silva, p. 166). The book is of particular value in that Carvalho explored the relationship of the music to the culture of the fadista, to the Lisbon underworld of taverns and prostitution which nurtured the music, to fashion, and to the Mouraria district, using the figure of Maria Severa as a key. A striking reproduction of a drawing of her graces the front wrap, beautifully printed in slightly metallic blue ink which seems to float off of the page.

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For those of us without a great grasp of the Portuguese language, the book is also rewarding for the thirteen additional striking illustrations, mostly drawings and photographs of people associated with Fado, including Conde de Vimioso, D. José de Almada e Lencastre, Conde de Anadia, Marquez de Castello Melhor, Manoel Gonçalves Tormenta, Ambrosio Fernandes Maia, Antonio Euzebio O Calafate, O Ribeirinho, João Maria Dos Anjos, José Joaquim Emygdio Maior, and A. Albertina.

 

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Finally, the book is valuable for the many complete fado lyrics included in the book, including an untitled socialist fado on page 262.

 

“Um de Maio, álerta! álerta!

Soldados de liberdade!

Eia ávante, é destruir

Fronteiras e propriedade.”

 

Carvalho describes this as a new genre, and in a tantalizing footnote says that there are many such songs, which, if there are a number of them extant, would make a great anthology. I’d be grateful to anyone who can point me in the direction of others.

 

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Carvalho, Pinto de. Historia do Fado. Lisboa: Livraria Guimaraes, 1903. First edition. 8vo, 270 pp, rebound at a contemporary or early date in marbled paper overboards backed in green buckram titled in gilt at the spine, with the original pictorial wraps bound in. Previous owner’s private, small ex libris bookplate tipped onto ffep. Illustrated with 13 photographs and drawings. Text in Portuguese.

More Books Related to Fado.

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The Book is the Weapon Part II

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Five years ago I wrote an essay about one of my favorite books, Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime,  which in 1968 was designed and published as a weapon for self-defense following the death of Benne Ohnesorg in the ’68 protests. In the years since I’ve not been able to find any more references to books designed as weapons, until a few months ago I opened a package from Berlin and to discover a second book that is a weapon – this one also German.

50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte appears to be an artists’ book by Künstlergruppe AV`88, consisting of a shredded xerox copy of Johan Most’s Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften” (1875) – the famed German anarchists rare instruction manual for the manufacture of bombs. According to the printed title sheet, the shredded book has been censured in advance by the group, which also notes that smoking the material within could be dangerous for health of the state. Presumably, the strips are to be used as tinder, metaphorically or physically.

Most’s work has become largely obscured these days, and I admire the inventive way that it references a work published more than 100 years earlier. I don’t know much about other works by the group, if there are any, and welcome any information.

Neither OCLC nor KVK locate any holdings.

Künstlergruppe AV’88. 50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte. Ein Projekt der Künstlergruppe AV`88. [Frankfurt]: Verlag Edition AV 88, [1988]. Sealed plastic bag filled with xeroxed and shredded strips from Johann Most’s book “Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften”, with printed red title sheet sealed within.

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Telepathy, Power, and Lonko Kilapan in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

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The first and only edition of this obscure and strange work concerning telepathy and the proposed Araucanian heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins. The book plays a significant part in the unfolding of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano, who had been given it as a joke, reads it. In his reading Amalfitano – with reference to Julio Cortazar’s concept of the active reader – begins to suspect that Lonko Kilapan may be a pseudonym for an unnamed Chilean politician, or perhaps even Pinochet. Moreover, Amalfitano decides that telepathy may have been what allowed the Mapuche to resist the Spaniards, and concludes that he himself may be a telepath – a conclusion which reassures him in the face of the voices that have been following him in the previous pages of the novel, and will play an important role in the narrative.

On first reading 2666 we were certain that this book must be fictitious, but it is the second book which plays a pivotal role in the novel which actually does exist – see the previous DL post on Rafael Dieste’s Testamento Geometrico.  To the best of our knowledge, there’s not yet been a study of this strange sort of intertextuality in the novel or Bolaño’s work. Here’s hoping somebody takes up the challenge.

Kilapan, Lonko. O’Higgins es Araucano: 17 Pruebas, Tomadas de la Historia Secreta de la Araucania. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 191978. First edition. 8vo, 61 pp, perfect bound in wraps. Inscribed by the author at the first blank. With the rubberstamp of the Instituto O’Higginiano de Chile at the first blank and index page, and with the business card of Sergio E. Lopez Rubio laid in, with a holograph message at verso.

Please contact us for availability.

Chris Marker’s Petite Planète Series: Germany

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète series, which he founded for Editions Seuil and which he directed for the first 19 books, have received a lot attention lately, with articles and exhibitions drawing attention to them. The attention is well-deserved. It is hard to think of a more profound déternoument of a by-then moribund literary format, the travel guide. With their inventive layout, playful irony, and mixture of found images with original photography – by Marker himself, as well as friends such as Agnes Varda – they rank among the most interesting publications of the 20th century. The anecdotes are well-known – the fictional guide to Mars in the Resnais and Marker documentary Toute le Mémoire du Monde, the influence on William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York – but what is less known is that English translations of some of the volumes exist, published by Vista Books in London in 50’s and early 60’s. The English editions largely preserve the format and layout of the French originals, giving the English readers a chance to enjoy them. In the coming days we’ll be profiling several of these, beginning with one of the best – Joseph Rovan’s Germany, which was originally published by Editions Seuil as the 7th book in the Petite Planète series. Marker also contributes 11 of his own photographs to the book.

 

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This was likely an important volume for Marker in the series, as it was written by his close friend Joseph Rovan, who was Marker’s employer at the Centre national de documentation de la culture populaire, and was also involved with Travail et Culture and Esprit, the magazine in which Marker published his first stories, poems and travelogues.

 

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Rovan spent his youth in Germany, and during the war was imprisoned at Dachua by the Nazi’s for his activities in the Resistance. After the war he spent time in French-occupied Germany engaged in educational activities, part of an effort at postwar reconciliation between the two nations which was a passionate cause for Rovan. Marker sometimes accompanied him on these trips, which he recounted in an essay in Esprit. Rovan’s autobiography, Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand, contains some beautiful reminscences of Marker, playing piano one of these German trips, and also sleeping on the table at the DOC offices in the 50’s when he was young and had no place to sleep. Rovan’s book is an amazing work in its own right, and deserves a translation into English. I am very grateful to Catherine Lupton’s excellent study of Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, which is where I first read of the passages about Marker in Rovan’s book.

 

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Rovan, Joseph [Chris Marker]. Germany. London: Edward Hulton, 1959. First edition thus. 12mo, 192 pp, photographically illustrated wraps. Translated into English by Margaret Crosland.

Books related to Chris Marker available to purchase from Division Leap.

Agnes Varda and la côte d’azur

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Lately I’ve been making a systematic effort to read through the volumes of Chris Marker’s Petite Plànete series, and marveling all over again at what a profound détournement of the by-then moribund travel guide format they are. With the exception of William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You, there seems to have been very little that has been influenced by them, or bears much an affinity with them, at least that I’ve been able to discover. A notable exception is this remarkable travelogue as photobook by Chris Marker’s friend, Agnes Varda.

The inventive layout, sly humor and mixture of Varda’s own photographs with found imagery from advertising and historical ephemera is remarkable. There is even a Giradoux quote in the foreward.

One reason for the obscurity of the title might be the fragility of the binding. Most copies seem to have detached pages. Perhaps someday someone will reissue the book. In the meanwhile, track down a copy to put on that lonely shelf with all of your little planets.

 

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Contact us for availability.

The Strange Geometry of Roberto Bolaño, 2666, and Rafael Dieste

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Reader’s of 2666 will understand

This is the first and only edition of this obscure and beautiful work on geometric theory, written by the Galician poet Rafael Dieste. The book plays a pivotal in Roberto Bolano’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano discovers it in his library in Mexico, despite having no memory of ever purchasing it.

Bolaño takes advantage of this absence of memory as to the book’s origins to include a beautiful reminiscence of bookstores in Barcelona where Amalfitano may have accidentally purchased it – perhaps at Laie, or La Central, Amalfitano thinks, with passing reference to the writers Pere Gimferrer, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, and Jaun Villoro. I like to think this reveals that Bolaño was a haunter of bookstores, and that perhaps this passage is a sort of tribute.

Amalfitano becomes obsessed with the book and it’s appearance, and, in an homage to an obscure Latin American readymade by Marcel Duchamp, hangs the book on a clothesline in his backyard so that the the book can be read by the wind and the strange diagrams within be exposed to the elements.

I suspect that the strange diagrams arranging the names of philosophers, which Amalfitano inscribes into the text of 2666, may have been influenced by the diagrams in Testamento Geometrico.

“And then he looked at Dieste’s book, the Testamento Geometrico, hanging impassively from the line, held there by two clothespins, and he felt the urge to take it down and wipe off the ocher dust that had begun to clung to it here and there, but he didn’t dare. . . “ [p. 196]

This book was not the poet’s only foray into geometry. I’ve also come across a much earlier work published in Buenos Aires in 1956, with the suggstive title ‘Nuevo Tratado de Paralelismo’, pictured below.

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Dieste, Rafael. Testamento Geometrico. La Coruña: Ediciones de Castro, 1975. First edition. 8vo, 145 [1] pp. [index], bound in printed French wraps. Text in Spanish.

A near fine copy, which appears to never have been hung from a clothesline.

Dieste, Rafael. Nuevo Tratado del Paralelismo. Buenos Aires: Atlantida, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 186 pp. + index. Bound in illustrated paper over boards. Text in Spanish. Illustrated with diagrams.

An Early Description of a Professional Tattoo Kit from the German Underworld

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Near the end of the 19th century a pickpocket was arrested in the German town of Mainz. This was in itself an ordinary occurrence, but in his belongings were discovered a notebook full of drawings, many of them categorized by profession, along with vials of red and black ink and wooden needles, all housed in a spectacle case. The drawings in the album were templates for tattoos, and the man claimed to have purchased this kit from a tattoo artist in the mountains, who specialized in the sale of these kits – perhaps named Joseph Ragozet.

 

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The kit so fascinated judge Fritz Eller that he sent along a description of the kit, along with photographs of the drawings, to the sociologist and criminologist Franz Gross, which is how this early and valuable documentation of a portable tattoo kit in the German underworld came to be published in a periodical devoted to criminal anthropology. Like much of the scarce early modern research into tattoos, it comes from a criminological or medical standpoint. Gross was fascinated enough by the case to contribute a foreward to the article, in which he makes the claim that this may be the first description of such a commercial, portable kit. There must have been earlier descriptions – if you know of any, please get in touch.

 

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Eller fortunately goes into some detail on the method of tattooing. The design is first drawn onto the flesh with the drawing as a template and then the long wooden needles, also dipped in ink, puncture the skin. Smaller tattoos could be done in as little time as a quarter of an hour with this method. According to this account, the wooden needles were very painful, and customers often vomited or passed out from the pain, or interrupted the process, often leaving a partial tattoo.

 

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The drawings are strikingly beautiful, direct in line but finely detailed and very expressive. The division according to occupation is especially fascinating from an anthropological standpoint, indicating the sort of workers who might get a tattoo – there are plenty of designs for seamen, of course, but also portrayed are Seiltänzerin (funambulist or tightrope walker), Kufeltänzerin (juggler), Ballspieler (ball player?), zirkusreiterin (circus rider), Räuberhauptmann (Robber chief), Maurer (bricklayer), Bäcker (baker), Barbier (barber), Metzger (butcher), taubenkönigin, Schlosser (locksmith), Kutscher (coachman), etc.  – all the best occupations, though unfortunately we don’t find one for bookseller.

 

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Eller, Fritz. ‘Ein Vorlagebuch für Tätowierungen’ in Archiv für Kriminal-Anthropologie und Kriminalistik 19. Band, 1. u 2. Heft. Leipzig: Verlag von F. C. W. Vogel, 1905. 8vo, 207 pp, rebound at an early date in brown leatherette over marbled boards, titled in gilt at the spine.

Please visit the Tattooing section of our website to view other rare tattoo books at DL.