Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


By Rick Marschall.

Endpapers. The term sends shivers down my spine, at first hearing. I hope papers, and paper, never end! I am addicted to the sight and even the aroma of aged cellulose fibers. Not rot or mold, but the perfume-like scent of old paper. When I open, say, my 1889 volume of Puck, it has a slight aroma that excites what must be memory-neurons on my olfactory nerves… because I have an immediate mental picture of the first evening I owned the volume, on my family’s sun porch. My father had driven me to New York’s Book Store Row, below Union Square, to Marc Nadel’s Memory Shop. Marc had been holding the volume until I saved $25 from my paper-route money.

Yes, I am crazy. But it keeps me from going insane.

Well, I have already digressed. The “endpapers” I want to address here are sketches and inscriptions in books. Someone on a comics web thread last week thought an 1897 inscription in a book of cartoons must be the earliest example of a cartoonist’s compliance with a request. In fact, cartoonists, illustrators, and authors frequently autographed their books before then, if my own modest collection is an indication.

I might not seem like a shrinking violet, but I have often been wary of appearing to be a fan-boy and asking cartoonists for sketches. But holding forth a copy of their book always seemed to convey a reason to be confident, at least compared to my black sketchbooks, or the back of envelopes. I can count my lost opportunities and missed treasures. Dinner with Albert Uderzo. Photo “op” with Chuck Jones or Al Hirschfeld…

The number of sketches on inside front covers, or “free front endpapers” is testimony to a percentage of a large library overall, and the gumption I actually did exercise over my crowded life. Plus… inscriptions to others who preceded me; and sometimes those names are as interesting as the artists who drew the sketches.

Carl Anderson
Walter Berndt
Harry Hershfield
Roy Crane
Percy L. Crosby


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