The highlight of our annual luncheon, held at the fabled Milleridge Inn in Jericho, Long Island, was collector Joe Rainone‘s condensed history of the American Comic and Comic Book. Together we traveled back in time to the origins of beloved super characters and cartoon personalities. Mr. Rainone traced their origin all the way back to the paintings of the Lascaux caves in France fifteen thousand years ago , the earliest Egyptian narrative paintings from 3,000 B.C., and the 1066 Bayeux Tapestry ‘s sequential imagery of the story of the Norman Conquest.
A woodcut on paper of The Burning of Mr. John Rogers accompanying a poem written by the minister of the gospel in London for his nine children in 1554 was cited by Mr. Rainone as exemplary of an early cartoon-like drawing. It was written a few days before he was burnt to death, becoming the first martyr of Queen Mary’s reign. Segueing from William Hogarth’s engraved designs in the 1700s to Ben Franklin’s prominent American paper, The Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1800) to the Peter Porcupine Gazette, to the appearance of Washington Irving’s Salmagundi Papers (1807-1808) followed by his Comic History of New York (1809) starring the fictitious Diedrich Knickerbocker, and bestowing on the city the name “Gotham”.
Eager to show us the trajectory of America’s love affair with the comic form, Mr. Rainone cited The Idiot (1818), hand set in an early periodical, Elton & Elms Comic Almanacs (1831), and the first original comic book published in New York City in 1842 and The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck as progenitors of such cherished favorites as The Harvard Lampoon (1879), The Yellow Kid (1860-1900 published in Truth magazine), The Katzenjammer Kids (1897 debut in the American Humorist, the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal), and Gasoline Alley comic monthly (1869).
As Mr. Rainone says, “the periodical has always been the cheapest form of popular American fiction available to American buyers.” It follows then that our national appreciation for such comic heroes as Tarzan, Popeye, Dick Tracey, Little Abner, Terry and the Pirates, Spiderman, and DC comics’ The Flash and Green Lantern , have led us from pulp magazines and 10 cent comics to the graphic novels of today.
Cookbooks provided the impetus for our January get-together. The mere presence of the recipe laden books and drink mixing manuals seemed to send each of us back into a specific personal past. One by one we revealed the stories behind the books. A small shirt-pocket size Professional Mixing Guide (1947-1950) published by the Angostura Wuppermann Corporation gave way to memories of home entertaining. Uncle John’s Original Bread Book by John Rahn Braue (1961) was heavily stained with a college student’s enthusiasm and Margaret Wood’s A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe continues to allow its owner to share in the day-to-day life of Ghost Ranch.
A 1954 edition of The Settlement House Cookbook that had its origins in Milwaukee’s Settlement House, conceived of in 1901 to help vast migrations of Eastern Europeans familiarize themselves with the customs of America. The book served to introduce new foods that could perhaps take the place of ingredients used in Europe that were unavailable in U.S. markets. It provided instruction to women on sewing, cooking, nutrition, and economizing in their new home. For its owner, this particular book is a keepsake of her mother’s. Among the favorites passed around our table were The Flavor of Jerusalem (1975) by Joan Nathan and Judy Stacy Goldman with a forward by Teddy Kollek , The Automat Cookbook Published by The Museum of the City of New York that brought forth reminiscences of eating at Horn & Hardart from all; Cooking with Flowers Wherein an Age-Old Art is Renewed, whose owner is a proponent of Yucca flower omelettes, soups, and batters, The Wolf in Chef’s Clothing—a pictorial guide to the kitchen for bachelors ; Candy Bits by Zazou Pitts, The Cartoonist’s Cookbook: Cartoonists & Their Favorite Recipes, Rolls Royce Owner’s Cookbook (a picture of the owners car illustrates each recipe); NASCAR Cooks featuring Tabasco sauce in every dish and finally a copy of the 1901 New Edition of Mrs. Beaton’s Book of Household Management (1st edition 1861).
A beautifully printed and bound copy of La Familia Ceraulo: A Portrait of 10 Families (1880s-1890s) compiled by Laura Rainone Christian lent dignity to our informal gathering. This elegant genealogy containing family lore, family history, and family recipes was designed, written and published by the young graphic designer and beloved sister of Joe Rainone. It has become her legacy.
In March Mike Marell presented his collection of books by Robert Louis Stevenson; sharing sixty different illustrated copies of A Child’s Garden of Verses, the first book read to him by his mother. It has remained in print since 1885. Familiar to many readers for Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson, born in 1850 in Edinburgh, was also a poet, essayist, and travel writer. A sickly child, who made up stories that he dictated to his nurse and mother, even before he had learned to read, Stevenson’s verse and prose was well-loved by both children and adults. Toward the end of the 20th century his work fell out of favor and only recently has it reappeared in literary anthologies. Joe Rainone showed a copy of Jekyll l and Hyde in wraps, probably the first American pirated edition of which no other copies are known to exist.
Herewith the poem Stevenson wrote for his epitaph:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
In May, collector Bill Tetreault presented a lecture on William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and their Clapham Circle, a group of friends who in their dedication to Christ worked as abolitionists to end slavery in Britain in 1771. In 1798, an American edition of Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity served as a blueprint for those in the colonies seeking an enlightened interpretation of Christianity. In 1787, Wilberforce wrote in his diary “G-d Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”His writings along with those of Hannah More inspired abolitionists in America. The first private black college in the United States (founded 1856), Wilberforce University, and the town in which it still thrives in Ohio bear his name. Mr. Tetreault’s books include many early American editions of inspirational works including Wilberforce’s 1836 Memoir, a volume of letters to his children, and an 1856 edition of Private Devotion: A Series of Prayer Chiefly from the Writings of Hannah More. Mr. Tetreault has curated exhibits on William Wilberforce in Danbury, CT, Durham, NC, New York City, and Falls Church, VA.
LIBC meets on the campus of LIU Post in Old Brookville, Long Island on the second Sunday of each month from September through May. We welcome all booklovers. Find us at longislandbookcollectors.com