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Posts Tagged ‘collecting

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not”*…

 

From the moment Elvis Presley landed, we wanted every piece of him. This turned his old records into vinyl and shellac gold. While the value of discs by other popular mid-century artists such as Cliff Richard and Frank Sinatra dropped as time passed, Elvis’s didn’t. As an omnipresent figure, the prices of the King’s records rose to astronomical levels.

Unearthing an original “That’s All Right” record became a £4,000 lucky strike; a set of five original Sun singles at one time fetched £25,000. This made them a sort of pension for many collectors. They packed items away, hoping one day to exchange them for a caravan in the Dordogne. However, this has all begun to change…

As the King’s fans die of old age, and their collections hit the second-hand market, vintage Elvis records have never been cheaper: “Can’t help falling in price: why Elvis memorabilia is plummeting in value.”

* Stephen King

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As we feel our age, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that Chuck Berry recorded “Rock & Roll Music” at the Chess Studios in Chicago.  (Some websites report a recording date of either May 6 or May 21, but Steve Sullivan’s Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings affirms May 15 as the date of record.)

The tune reached number 6 on Billboard‘s R&B Singles chart and number 8 on its Hot 100.  But its impact continued to grow: it was covered by dozens of artists including Bill Haley & His Comets, the Beatles, the Beach Boys (who had a top ten hit with the song in 1976), Dickie Rock and the Miami Showband, REO Speedwagon, Mental As Anything, Humble Pie, Manic Street Preachers and Bryan Adams.  In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Berry’s version number 128 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”; and the song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

 

Written by LW

May 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality… it takes shape in the interval between books. It is the phenomena of the library.”*…

 

Engraving from the Dell’Historia Naturale (1599) showing Naples apothecary Ferrante Imperato’s cabinet of curiosities, the first pictorial representation of such a collection.

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of “remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living”…

In an age of data retrieval, when just about anything ever printed can be seen online and is eternally preserved there, and when modern anxiety is fueled by too much information, we would do well to remember that the loss of books and artefacts was catastrophic until very recently in human history. The great library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria was burnt by the Romans in the first century AD, a legendary collection of ancient wisdom whose loss haunted Renaissance scholarship. European savants of the 15th and 16th centuries were, in the midst of their astonishing revival of classical writing, all too aware of what was irrecoverable and even unknown to them.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was such a scholar. His vast expertise in areas as diverse as embryology, anatomy, ornithology, ancient history and literature, etymology, local archaeology, and pharmacy, and his participation in the Baconian programme to rescue learning from the misapprehensions and erasures that had accumulated since the fall of man, made him especially sensitive to such losses. Musaeum Clausum, a small tract both playful and melancholy, seems to coalesce early-modern feelings about the unavailability of precious intellectual treasure.

Musaeum Clausum (the hidden library) is a fake catalogue of a collection that contained books, pictures, and artefacts. Such collections (and their elaborate indices) were a common phenomenon from about 1500 to 1700 and afterGentlemen and the nobility collected as a matter of polite engagement with knowledge and as a way of displaying wealth and learning; savants made arrays of plants, animals, and minerals as museums or ‘thesauruses’ of the natural world to record and organise their findings; imperial and monarchical collections were princely in their glamour, rarity, and sheer expenditure: these might contain natural-historical specimens but also trinkets and souvenirs from far-flung places, curiosities of nature and art, and historically significant items. For example, taxidermically preserved basilisks shared room with a thorn from Christ’s crown and feathered headdresses and weapons belonging to native American tribes. Browne takes these traditions of assemblage and makes a catalogue of marvellous things that have disappeared…

Browne’s is one of many examples of this form, the fake catalogue. Donne wrote one; Rabelais included one in Gargantua and Pantagruel. More typically such works were outright spoofs of learned curiosity, send-ups of random assemblages that John Evelyn judged to be no more than ‘indigested chaos’. But Browne, although he recognises the absurdity of some of his own items and is obviously trying for comic effect with certain ones, is probably more interested in a philosophy of antiquities, of the past and of existing knowledge as resurrected and preserved from the ravages of time and forgetfulness…

Read the full fascinating story at always-illuminating Public Domain Review.

* Michel Foucault

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As we engage encyclopedically, we might pause to send imaginative birthday greetings to Jules Ralph Feiffer; he was born on this date in 1929.  A syndicated cartoonist, author, playwright, and screenwriter, he’s best known for his long-running Village Voice  comic strip, Feiffer, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Feiffer broke into the trade at age 16 as an assistant to the immortal Will Eisner, who was at the time producing the strip The Spirit.  A couple of years later, Eisner countered Feiffer’s request for a raise with the offer of a page in the comic book version of The Spirit, which Feiffer used to create Clifford, his first successful strip.  His Village Voice strip ran for 42 years, and for most that period, was carried in other newspapers around the U.S. Feiffer’s plays include Little Murders (1967), Feiffer’s People (1969), Elliot Loves (1990), The White House Murder Case, and Grown Ups.  And after Mike Nichols adapted Feiffer’s (unproduced) play Carnal Knowledge as a 1971 film, Feiffer scripted Robert Altman’s Popeye, Alain Resnais’s I Want to Go Home, and the film adaptation of Little Murders.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Feiffer was the recipient of a George Polk Award for his cartoons, an Academy Award for his animated short Munro, and the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Awards (for Little Murders and The White House Murder Case).  He was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2004, he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame; that same year he received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award; and in 2006, he received the Creativity Foundation’s Laureate and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America.

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Written by LW

January 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

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