Tom Bloom Art Gallery - 2 - Catalogs 21-30

by Tom Bloom, edited by Dan Gregory

Tom Bloom Art Gallery - 2 - Catalogs 21-30

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

As with the first album of Tom Bloom catalog cover art, you may prefer to view this artwork on our page on Facebook, where it was originally posted and where more will be posted regularly. Continuing where the first group left off, the next ten covers starts off with one of my favorite Bloomian puns:

Between the Covers
Catalog 21 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom
"It's Snow Library, But It Is an Ice Collection"
From the contents page: "Once again we have failed to prevent Mr. Tom Bloom from drawing on the cover of this catalogue."
This was the first catalog in the style that we used consistently from 1991-1997 -- Tom Bloom's black and white illustration was framed by a colorful border. Often he would also illustrate the back with a smaller vignette and a poem.

Between the Covers
Catalog 22 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"Branching Out"
From the contents page: "Despite the fact we have changed locations, the persistent Mr. Tom Bloom has sought us out and again provided the cover art and graphics for this catalogue."

Among the standouts in this catalog is item 192, a fine set of Shelby Foote's The Civil War trilogy, each volume inscribed. Collectors know this is quite a find because 1) each volume was issued in a separate decade, and finding a set in uniform condition is tough enough; but 2) Shelby Foote, taking a page from his mentor William Faulkner, was anotoriously difficult signer. In fact, there are stories that Foote not only wasn't accessible, but that, like Faulkner, he would usually refuse to sign books when asked.

But the reason I mention this entry is that it is accompanied by a half-page diatribe by Tom C:
"A wonderfully comprehensive history of the war between the states, one exuberant bookseller of my acquaintance, in full flush of sales pitch declared Foote, and not without cause, 'the American Gibbon.' Rich in fascinating anecdote, and conforming to rigorous historical standards, the narrative is nonetheless flawed when Foote, despite a disclaimer to the contrary at the conclusion of the first volume, gives his Southern sympathies full rein as the Confederate military fortunes sour after the first flush of victory. Generous in his praise of the courage and gallantry of individual participants (but especially of those among the Southerners who qualify), he nonetheless dwells longingly, and even lovingly, on relatively minor Confederate successes (it seems as if more pages are employed in the aggregate regaling us with the glorious results of strategically unimportant Confederate cavalry raids on lightly protected supply columns than on any of the major Union battle victories, which are for the most part attributed to either overwhelming odds or good luck). Foote's gentle mockery is in fine feather when he tells of Union General Steele's referring to his ill-fated march on Shreveport, during which, well before he reached his objective, he was sidetracked and besieged by a rival Confederate force at the Louisiana town of Camden, and eventually forced to retreat, as 'The Camden Expedition,' but the irony seems lost on him when, little more than a dozen pages later, he renames the famous Fort Pillow Massacre, in which a Confederate cavalry force of 3000 overwhelmed a garrison of 550 pro-Union militia, a large amount of whom were freed blacks, and who despite surrendering were put to the sword, with 80% of the black soldiers killed, 'the Fort Pillow operation.' Through some admirably nimble verbal gymnastics he declares this is not a massacre at all, and absolves the commander of the Confederate forces, former slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest, of all blame in the incident (curiously, in a book chock full of pertinent detail, he fails to mention in this context that Forrest later founded the Ku Klux Klan). At any rate, a splendid historical panoply, during which the author falls prey to the mystique of the gallant 'Lost Cause,' a mystique which Southerners defined themselves by for the better part of the next century, freeing themselves of it, partially, only in the past 30 years. Look, I just read all 3000 pages of this mother, I'm entitled to whine a little. If you wish to rescue this fine set from the clutches of a damn'd Yankee infidel, it will cost you a mere... $1500.00"

Heidi was terrified that we would never sell a book to a Southern customer again (we have). Maybe she should have been worried about selling to anyone sensitive to run-on sentences.

Want to know what's lost with Internet bookselling? You don't see descriptions like this anymore, do you?

Between the Covers
Catalog 23 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"New Arrivals"
From the contents page: "Catalog cover by Tom Bloom, Age 37"

Tom C has always been an aggressive and prolific book-buyer (how else do you think we ended up with 250,000 books?) -- you'll see many catalogs to come that are simply called "New Arrivals." They just piled up so fast (the books, and the catalogs).

Among the more interesting books in this catalog:
- A 1728 true first edition of The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini in contemporary vellum, formerly from the noted bookseller Phillip C. Duschnes
- William Inge's plays inscribed to Charles Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend
- Uncorrectd galleys, with a proof dustwrapper, of Ring Lardner's 1924 How to Write Short Stories
- Laughter in the Dark inscribed by Vladimir Nabokov

Between the Covers
Catalog 24 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"Winter Wonderlist"

Another catalog that seems to be missing from the archive. Starting with either this catalog, or the next one, Tom Bloom would also create a small vignette on the back cover, usually tied in theme to the art on the front cover, and often accompanied by a little poem.

Between the Covers
Catalog 25 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"First Editions & African-American Literature"
From the contents page: "Cover art by the occasionally repressible Tom Bloom"

Among the highlights and unusual items is a set of galleys of Brett Easton Ellis's book American Psycho from Simon and Schuster. What makes this unusual is that Simon and Schuster didn't publish the book -- scared by some early unfavorable press they dropped it and the book was picked up by Random House, which published it under their Vintage imprint. This set was in its original mailing envelope, post-dated in early 1989, two years before the book was eventually published.

Another nice item was a signed copy of John Reed's The War in Eastern Europe. Reed, whose life was dramatized in the award-winning Warren Beatty film Reds, died in 1920 at age 33, and books signed by him are rare. This catalog also featured a nice run of Evelyn Waugh material, his first book and several inscribed copies.

And finally, as the catalog title indicates, this was our first "official" entry into African-Americana, although many fine items had been offered in previous catalogs. This one had a 1940 high school literary magazine with a story by a young James Baldwin (as well as some material from his classmate, Richard Avedon). It also featured a pristine copy of the first book by Booker T. Washington, Daily Resolves, a small volume of inspirational sayings that was printed in Bavaria.

Between the Covers
Catalog 26 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"New Arrivals"
From the contents page: "Cover art cheerfully provided by Tom Bloom"

Also of note on the contents page was the addition of Gwen to the staff. Gwen was in charge of shipping throughout the 1990s and into 2000s, and still promises to come back, although a passel of small children seem to get in the way.

This catalog had a nice copy of humorist S.J. Perelman's first book, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge, in the original dustwrapper and first issue binding. Perelman wrote for the New Yorker and also co-wrote a lot of material for the Marx Brothers films. Groucho provides a blurb for the book: "From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend to read it." We bought that copy back into our inventory about a decade later and sold it again for five times the price in this catalog.

Catalog 26 also featured a book inscribed by both F. Scott Fitzgerald AND Zelda Fitzgerald to Zelda's psychiatrist. While F. Scott's autograph is scarce and very desirable, books signed by both Fitzgeralds are quite rare. Also unusual in this catalog were two TV-movie scripts, both signed, by Sue Grafton, who later became known for her alphabetic series of Kinsey Milhouse detective novels.

Between the Covers
Catalog 27 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"First Editions and Other Books to Wish Upon"

In reading these early catalogs again I would have to say, in terms of the books offered, Catalog 26 marked a subtle shift upward in the quantity and variety of rare and unusual books offered per catalog (as opposed to serviceable copies of collectible but not particularly rare books). For example, this one had a first American edition of Richard Burton's Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah, a salesman's dummy copy of Willa Cather's O Pioneers!, three separate unpublished F. Scott Fitzgerald letters, an inscribed (in English) Yukio Mishima play, a very good copy of To Kill a Mockingbird for $1500 (!), and a complete set of the true first editions in jacket of Anthony Powell's twelve volume Dance to the Music of Time.

One highlight in particular is the "Autograph Edition" (set #2 of 32 sets) of the twenty volume Author's Digest of 1908. What makes this edition interesting is that it contains a Mark Twain story decorated, hand-illuminated, and signed by Twain. Curiously, this rarity is not listed in the Bibliography of American Literature, or BAL.

Finally, this catalog had Asa Carter's biography George & Lurleen Wallace. Carter was a Klansman and journalist who reportedly also wrote the Alabama Governor's famous "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" inauguration speech. In the early 1970s Carter re-invented himself as Forrest Carter, a novelist of supposedly Native American descent. In this identity he became famous for The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales (made into a good Clint Eastwood film) and The Education of Little Tree. When it was realized that Asa and Forrest were the same person, Carter denied it and Wallace even denied ever having met Carter. The confusion continued for several decades, in part because Carter died after a fistfight (allegedly with his son) in 1979.

Between the Covers
Catalog 28 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

Unfortunately this is another catalog missing from our archive. Years ago I Xeroxed the "Master" copy (the copy used to keep track of what is ordered, especially important in the years before everything was on computer), but that's gone missing as well.

Between the Covers
Catalog 29 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom

"First Editions and African-American Literature & History"
From the contents page: "Cover art warily secured from Tom Bloom"

One of the more curious items in this catalog was a file dealing with the New York YMCA's basketball team from 1940-1942, including correspondence related to the team's invitation to Winston Churchill to be an honorary member of the team. The catalog entry describes the signed response from Churchill's secretary: "'While Mr. Churchill is grateful to you for your kindness in wishing to make him a member of your club, he regrets that he must ask you to excuse him from accepting.' (One wonders what kept Churchill so preoccupied in November, 1941 that he couldn't spare the time to shoot a few hoops with the kids... fertile ground for the aspiring historian). Also accompanying the file are photostats of letters from Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary and Fiarello LaGuardia accepting membership (doubtless they made a formidable backcourt). At any rate, we have seldom encountered Churchill related basketball material on the market and can with some confidence assert that it is uncommon."

Another bit of vintage Tom C can be found in his description of a signed copy of Robert B. Parker's 1985 Spenser novel A Catskill Eagle: "The novel where Parker, Spenser, and Hawk finally go over the edge, killing and maiming everyone that looks at them funny, and the book that finally convinced me... Susan Silverman must die! Rarely has a more annoying character appeared in contemporary fiction. After this one it's been all downhill for the series, if one were to ask my humble opinion. Well, now you don't have to."

This catalog also had a copy of the first English language edition of Ivan Turgenev's masterpiece Fathers and Sons; an 1810 Enquiry Concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties, and Literature, of Negroes with early biographies of Phillis Wheatley and Gustavus Vassa; and a nice copy of the science-fiction novel Slaves of Sleep signed by the author, L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard wrote several science-fiction works and then his self-help book, Dianetics, the foundation of what became Scientology.

Between the Covers
Catalog 30 ~ Cover by Tom Bloom
"Being a Farrago of Modern First Editions & Other Finery"

Although not intended as a "First Books" catalog, this one had an unusually high proportion of them, either signed or in exceptional condition, including those by James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain), Paul Laurence Dunbar (Oak and Ivy), James Merrill (Jim's Book), Arthur Miller (Situation Normal), Theodore Roethke (Open House), and Anne Tyler (If Morning Ever Comes). It also had some unusual inscribed material, including Havilah Babcock's The Education of Pretty Boy, Forrest Carter's Watch for Me on the Mountain, and Pat Frank's Alas, Bablyon.

There was a copy of Graham Greene's first limited edition (1935's The Bear Fell Free, one of 285 signed copies) and one of only 29 copies of Evelyn Waugh's 1959 publication Ronald Knox, inscribed by Waugh to a noted London bookseller. And finally, there were the printer's dies for the W.P. Kinsella book Shoeless Joe, which was the basis for the film Field of Dreams. These were used to imprint the cloth boards of the first edition. As Tom C notes, "For the Kinsella collector who thought he (or she) had everything."