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Archive for May, 2005

What they call a puppy’s mother

The rivalry between James Boswell’s and Hester Thrale Piozzi’s dueling Johnson biographies was a popular subject for contemporary satirists. Peter Pindar’s Bozzy and Piozzi includes a Hogarth engraving that shows them hurling accusations of impropriety at one another. Boswell asks (rhetorically) “Who, mad’ning with an anecdotic itch / Declar’d that Johnson call’d his mother, b-tch?” Well, I just had to know what that was about. Thanks to Harvard’s access to Eighteenth Century Collctions Online, I didn’t have to search through the whole of Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson to find the answer. It turns out that she quotes Johnson as saying “I did not respect my own mother, though I loved her: and one day when in anger she called me a puppy, I asked her if she knew what they called a puppy’s mother.”

Published in:John Overholt |on May 24th, 2005 |Comments Off on What they call a puppy’s mother

Fore-edge painting

Although they don’t get a lot of respect in special collections circles, I’ve always had a certain fondness for fore-edge paintings. You make a fore-edge painting by fanning the right-hand edge of a book downward and painting an image on the edge of the leaves. When you release the leaves to their normal position, the image disappears. Fore-edge paintings were fashionable in the 19th century, but because of their popularity with collectors, it’s not uncommon for 19th century books to have much later paintings applied, for the sake of the resultant price boost. I’m not enough of an expert to judge the authenticity of this painting, but it’s hard not to wonder how a scene of duck hunters ended up on a poem intended “to teach young women the virtues of a pleasant nature” (DNB).

Published in:John Overholt |on May 23rd, 2005 |Comments Off on Fore-edge painting

Nor a lender be

This edition of the works of Richard Savage has the bookplate of Jack Raffael, showing a portly jester in front of a shelf of books, and bearing the motto “Bookeeping [sic] taught in three words: Never lend them.” Sounds like he learned that the hard way. I haven’t been able to I.D. Raffael positively, but Google turns up some hits in the Internet Broadway Database as an actor in the 1910s and 1920s, and the Harry Ransom Center has a book of his on 18th century London theater, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same guy.

Published in:John Overholt |on May 23rd, 2005 |Comments Off on Nor a lender be