Friday, 3 March 2017

New Addition: Gautier's 'Grotesques'

Théophile Gautier, Les Grotesques. 1861. Second Edition. Michel Lévy Frères: Paris. with ex-libris of Lucien Puteaux.

One of the foundational projects for the nascent avant-garde was historiographic: to identify and delineate a cultural tradition counter to the official histories and canons of French literature espoused by the Academy. In their place, the French Romanticists sought out obscure or villified writers and artists proscribed by the Classicist establishment, often out of print for nearly two centuries, and from them identified and brought together a subversive tradition upon which to build their own sense of collective purpose and their own arsenal of literary, artistic, and intellectual perspectives and techniques. One of the most influential projects on the avant-garde of Romanticism was a series of critical biographies of hitherto forgotten experimental writers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance published in serial by the young co-founder of the Jeunes-France group, Théophile Gautier, who went on to become arguably the most influential figure in the 19th Century avant-garde.

The articles were written and first published in 1834–35, soon after the dissolution of the Jeunes-France/Bouzingo and the formation of the Bohême-Doyenné group, centred in Gautier's own flat. The collection was published in 1843; the title 'Grotesque' is a key term in French Romanticist theory, denoting that in literature which is unique, surprising, exceptional rather than typical, which flaunts convention and accepted norms, combining humour, horror, idealism and cynicism. This mostly-disbound copy of the Second Edition belonged to Lucien Puteaux, a writer of erotic historical fiction under the pseudonym Victor Perceval with close connections to the avant-garde community, including Realist circles and Gautier's friend Alexandre Dumas. The Revenant Archive also contains another book owned by Puteaux, Le Déesse Raison by Gautier's old comrade Alphonse Brot, another Bouzingo-cofounder and first self-declared member of the "avant-garde" (see above).

Friday, 10 February 2017

New Addition: Radical Theology Anthology

The Bible of Nature, and Substance of Virtue: Condensed From the Scriptures of Eminent Cosmians, Pantheists, and Physiphilanthropists, of Various Ages and Climes. 1849. 2nd Revised Ed. G. Vale: New York. Inscribed "Lydia Moon to Henry [M??????]", and Maurice McClue / Angola, Indiana".

This interesting volume, published 15 years before Darwin's research, is assembled around the rejection of creationism and/or a personified deity; the frontispiece, in the style of an alchemical emblem, portrays a King and a Pope threatening the seven-breasted female figure of Nature, while man in a turban (likely representing Philosophy) lays at her feet a scroll with the words, "Revelation of Nature / Reason Humanity Justice." The caption reads:
NATURE nursing in vain her warring children, benighted by the artifices of Priestcraft and Politics; Philosophy consumes their screen in order to display the universality of transmutations:
For the Self and Nature link'd in one great frame,
Shows true Self-love and Nature's as the same.
Eternal matter to one centre brings
Men changed to beasts, and insects changed to kings.
Who dares with force on nature's chain to strike,
On man or insects, jars the chain alike
On Self, which changing never quits the chain
In life or death, transmits or joy or pain.
The book does not propose any particular doctrine, but rather compiles texts from a wide range of theologians, philosophers, pantheists, heretics,  agnostics, theosophists, mystics, prophets, satirists, and proponents of both established and obscure sects. Those quoted include Pythagoras, Cicero, Montaigne, Epictetus, Thomas More, Erasmus, Milton, Locke, Hobbes, Jonathan Swift, Spinoza, Rousseau, Erasmus Darwin (Charles' grandfather, himself the author of a late eighteenth-century version of evolution), Pope, the feminist-anarchist couple Mary Wollstonecraft & William Godwin, their son-in-law Percy Shelley, Thomas Paine, Jefferson, the utopian socialist Robert Owen, Byron, and many others–including even passages from Ecclesiastes and Christ himself. The collection does put particular emphasis on the syncretic ideas of the Hindu-inspired illuminist John Stewart, of whom the editor appears to have been a disciple or admirer.

This particular copy provides evidence of the ways in which the confluence of an array of systems and theories, including those that were quite obscure (for instance, the Physiphilanthropists, mentioned in the book's title, have not left enough evidence to come up once in a google search), affected and intersected with more sweeping cultural movements. Its first owners were probably most interested in the book's theological aspect, while a later owner responded to its theme of nature and mankind in reciprocal relationship.

It was first owned by Lydia Moon, whose family became one of the very first British converts to Mormonism. Born in Lancashire, England in 1811, she emigrated with her family to America in 1840 to join Joseph Smith and married in Indiana. (Since her father, husband, and the presiding priest all share the surname Moon, her groom was presumably a cousin at some remove.) The year after this book was published, she moved to Salt Lake City with her husband Henry Moon, who also inscribed this copy and later became a member of Brigham Young's inner circle, was named a Bishop in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and married two additional wives.
It appears that the Moons passed the book along to a friend (whose name is illegible in the faded pencil) when they moved to Utah, and it eventually ended up in the hands of the early environmentalist Maurice McClue (1878-1957). A lawyer by trade, McClue devoted much of his life to exploring, recording and studying the local ecosystem around Steuben County, Indiana, and was an early proponent of conservation in the region. Both his newspaper articles and large amounts of his unpublished research, memoirs, and other writings have recently begun being edited and published to shed light on local history and culture, as well as ecology. His own local pride is evident in his inscription, "Maurice McClue / Angola, Indiana."

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

New Addition: 'Frontiers of Poetry' 1927 French Avant-Garde anthology

La Frontières de la poésie. Chroniques No. 3, 1927. ed. Jacques Maritan. Le Roseau d'or Ouvres et Chroniques, Plon: Paris. Softcover Octavo, 378 pp.

This anthology offers a glimpse into a period of great flux within the avant-garde, as Surrealism was rapidly growing in influence and affiliation, but had not yet completed their near-hegemony over the French avant-garde. This volume includes many of the prominent underground writers not yet associated with Surrealism, including a number of ex-Dadas and Cubists. The editor, Maritan, contributed a sizeable text examining the avant-garde in light of Christian theology and mysticism, which is enough alone to explain the absence of anybody associated with Surrealism. Nonetheless it contains work by many avant-garde writers including Jacques Rivière (the famous correspondent with Artaud), Pierre Reverdy, Cocteau, T.S. Eliot (in translation), Max Jacob, Georges Hugnet, Jacques Reynaud, and others.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

New Addition: Letter by Romanticist organiser, editor & writer Casimir Cordellier-Delanoue

Casimir Cordellier-Delanoue, Letter to unidentified theatre director. Undated, c. 1840s.

Cordellier-Delanoue played a central role in the self-conscious radicalization of Romanticist youth subculture into the foundation of the avant-garde. Heavily involved in the campaign of community organising and propaganda that led up to the 'Battle of Hernani,' he recognised the necessity of continuing the communal velocity created by that event, using it as a catalyst to press the Romanticist revolution to new extremes and continued cultural struggle.
To do so, he scraped together contributions from among the "Romanticist Army" attending every performance and launched a little magazine called Le Tribune romantique, or Romanticist Platform. In it, he and his collaborators, including Gérard de Nerval, Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Fuinet, Victor Pavie, Paul Foucher, and Félix Roselly articulated and promoted an aggressively militant Romanticism, linked to progressive politics, in the form of manifestos, critical articles on Romanticist writers and actors, Romanticist theory and historiography, literary, theatrical and musical reviews (including one of Nodier's wildly experimental novel Histoire du Roi de Bohème, held by this archive), translations of German and English Romanticism, and announcements of forthcoming publications. Although the journal was short-lived and circulated among a small, intimate readership (no full set survives, and it is not even certain how many issues were published), it catalyzed and focused the communal energy unleashed by the ongoing Battle of Hernani, and thus played a foundational role in the development of the avant-garde. It helped to establish a rich tradition of avant-garde journals and zines with tiny runs but decisive long-term effects, including Les Guêpes, Pêre Ubu's Almanac, Le Revue Blanc, Maintenant, Cabaret Voltaire, Potlatch, Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, Semina, SMILE, and The Lost and Found Times. He was involved in several other journals before and after, in addition to maintaining an output of plays, historical novels, literary and music criticism.

In this curt, undated note, the clearly agitated Cordellier Delanoue complains to a theatre director about the delay in staging a reading of one of his plays, the final step in the process of deciding whether to mount a production. The cavalier treatment of writers by the management of the theatre industry (in many ways parallel to today's Hollywood studios) is attested to in many 19th Century memoirs, including those of Arsène Houssaye, Théophile Gautier, and Alexandre Dumas.
His insistence paid off; at the bottom, in another hand (presumably that of the recipient) the incomplete date is scrawled: "reading monday 11 8". Neither the play in question nor the date has been determined. Cordellier-Delanoue had nine plays produced at various Parisian theatres between 1831 and 1855; he is known to have lived at this address at least between 1841 and 1847, but it is unknown how long before and after.

The following transcription & translation are tentative; I am attempting to decipher nearly 200-year old cursive in a language I am still learning, so I appreciate all corrections and better transcriptions!

Je n’ai pas [rXXXXXX[1]] à la Lecture pour laquelle je suis inscrit depuis si longtemps, et que plusieurs fois, sur mon sollicitations, vous avez bien voulu me promettre comme très prochaine. Soyez, je vous prie, assez bon, Monsieur, pour designer enfin le jour de cette Lecture, dont le [tour], (déja fixé [s???] M. [Vé??l?],) tarde bien à venir; - et veuillez [??r??er] l’assurance de ma [considération][2] ta [plus] [distinguée].
                Cordellier Delanoue
    [N’s’agis j’me p??n?]
        en 3 actes.
                    31 rue de chabral.
            Un Septembre

lecture lundi 11 8[he] {in another hand}

[1] I am tempted to read this contextually as a conjugation of “reçevoir,” but no such conjugation would explain the diacritical mark.
[2] This fits contextually; however, the word seems to me to terminate in a z, not an n; I have not a found a word that matches…


I did not renew? the Reading for which I signed up so long ago, and which several times, upon my request, you were willing to promise me very soon. Be, I beg you, good enough, Sir, to designate at long last the date of this Reading, of which the [tower/journey?], (already fixed XXXX? Mr. [Vé????],) cannot very well be slow to come;- and expect to [????] the assurance of my most distinguished [esteem] for you.
                    Cordellier Delanoue
    [Mustn’t I ????? myself?]
        in 3 acts.
                    31 rue de chabral.
            One September

reading monday 11 [8th?] {in another hand}

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

New Addition: 1834 Lammenais book of leftist theology

Félicité La Mennais [Lamennais], Paroles d'un croyant. Fourth Edition, 1834. Renduel: Paris. 239 pp. Paperback Octavo. w/illegible stamps and pencil marginalia by previous owner/s.

Lamennais was not only the most influential Romanticist theologian, but one of the most influential Leftist thinkers and activists of his generation. He built his career as an Ultramontane arch-conservative, but joined the exodus of monarchist intellectuals, including the Romanticists of the Muse group with whom he was in touch, toward the Left in the late 1820s. By 1830, he was the leader of a progressive Christian democratic movement advocating freedom of speech, press, and education, and faced increasing opposition from Papal authorities; sources disagree as to whether he was ever officially excommunicated.

Lamennais was closely associated with Romanticist salons, publishers and journals, and exercised a major influence on the community. In fact, Saint-Beuve of the Cénacle group was one of his disciples during his gentler Liberal period, and served as Lamennais' agent for the publication of this book (apparently without thoroughly reading it) by Renduel, the most prominent Romanticist publisher, and one of the most extreme. (Gautier, in his roman-à--clef on The Jeunes-France, has an avant-gardist call a Romanticist Orgy, "as necessary to the manly life as a book published by Eugène Renduel.") This was during the time when the rift between the radical republicans of the Left and the Liberal Monarchists was ripping apart the Romanticist community.
In Paroles, Lamennais unleashed a new radicalism, condemned the Catholic Church on the basis of its complicity with monarchism, renounced his priesthood, and began to assemble a theory of Christian Socialism. The book was banned by the Vatican, and he would later spend several spells in prison. Saint-Beuve and many other moderate Liberals broke with the ex-priest, as a part of their campaign by Liberal Romantics to suppress the more radical elements of the movement by shutting them out of journals, publishing houses, and salons while ignoring or lambasting their work in critical reviews, and publishing anonymous satires against avant-garde communities and lifestyles.

The latter, in return, welcomed Lamennais' work and thought; Bouzingo co-founder Philothée O'Neddy, for instance, even owned a catalog of Lamennais' personal library. Lamennais exercised a great influence until he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the wake of the 1848 revolution, only to be made persona non grata three years later by the dictatorship of Napoleon III after the coup d'etat. He died in poverty, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Exciting New Additions: Surrealist Journal BIEF

The archive has been gradually accumulating a small but growing collection of holdings from some of the more obscure groupings of the 'high modernist' avant-garde of the early 20th Century, and of late Surrealism. Here are a few more additions to the the latter:

Bief ("Connector") was published by the Paris Surrealist group from 1958–1960. Both its title and subtitle ("Surrealist Junction") underscore its primary role of serving as a conduit between the Paris group and the widely-scattered international Surrealist community, which had grown to include dozens of local groups in North and South America, Africa, and Europe; indeed, by the 1950s it could be argued that Paris was no longer the centre of Surrealist activity, which flourished in the Caribbean and Latin America. As a result, these issues display a constant concern with anti-colonial struggle and contain many contributions from Surrealists working in the French colonies and former colonies, including Joyce Monsour and Robert Benayoun.
 The Revenant Archive currently holds four issues, one third of the magazine's run.

Bief: Jonction Surrealiste. ed. Gérard Legrand. No. 4, Feb. 15, 1959. Le Terrain Vague: Paris. Softcover Quarto, 12 pp.


Highlights include: a statement by Benjamin Péret about the Church, the Military, and Colonialism; an André Breton essay, 'En Vrac' (In Shambles); three poems by Martiniquan poetess Joyce Mansour; an attack on Abstract Expressionism by Jean Schuster, and a study by Elie-Charles Flamand 'Sur un cryptogramme Nervalien' (On a Nervalian Cryptogram).

Bief: Jonction Surrealiste. ed. Gérard Legrand. No. 5, March 15, 1959. Le Terrain Vague: Paris. Softcover Quarto, 12 pp.

Highlights include: An essay on the I-Ching by Moroccan Surrealist Robert Benayoun, poems by Egyptian Surrealist Joyce Mansour, several open letters from various Surrealist groups, and an essay by Gérard Legrand:  "Is God a Positivist?"


Bief: Jonction Surrealiste. ed. Gérard Legrand. No. 8, July 15, 1959. Le Terrain Vague: Paris. Softcover Quarto, 12 pp.

Highlights include: A feminist text by Joyce Mansour, a statement supporting Algeria's rebellion against French occupation, a text on Surrealism's relationship to Zen Buddhism by Guy Cabanel, a visual poem-essay by the Croatian Surrealist Radovan Ivsic, an essay on Nabokov's Lolita by Robert Benayoun, an attack on the Cubist poets for selling out, and another against Chagall, and an essay by Gérard Legrand on the intersection of avant-garde linguistics, mysticism, and psychoanalysis,


Bief: Jonction Surrealiste. ed. Gérard Legrand. No. 12, April 15, 1960. Le Terrain Vague: Paris. Softcover Quarto, 12 pp.

This is the final issue of the journal. Highlights include: an index of all texts published during the journal's run, an essay by Breton on Marxist theory, with a reproduced letter to him from Trotsky, a drawing by Matta, an announcement of an exhibition by Belgian Surrealist Toyen, a contentious essay regarding censorship of an upcoming edition of Artaud and the psychiactric measures applied to him during his incarceration at Rodez, and an international collection of definitions (in French) of Surrealism by Joyce Mansour (Egypt), Robert Benayoun (Morocco/France), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Nora Mitrani (Bulgaria), and the Franco-English Surrealist Jacques Brunius, who had broadcast them in English in a BBC broadcast on the movement that February.

Monday, 12 December 2016

New Addition: Issue of "Présence Africain"

Présence Africaine: Africa's Own Literary Review. ed. Alioune Diop. No. 51, English Edition, Vol. 23 (Winter 1964). Presence Africain: Paris. Softcover Octavo, 189 pp.


Presence Africain is one of the leading international journals associated with Négritude and other pan-African socialist intellectual movements. Through its association with Négritude, it published both black and white Surrealists committed to anti-colonial activism, including Aimé Césaire, Leopold Sédar Senghor, and Michel Leiris, alongside Franz Fanon, Richard Wright, and several of the existentialists. In keeping with its pan-African mission, an English-language edition was published for some time. Wikipedia wrongly states that the English-language version ran only during 1961, but this issue proves that it was published at least intermittently into 1964. The journal is still published today

In addition to the lead articles listed in the cover image, this issue contains 'Problems of African Sociology' by L.V. Thomas, 'The Problem of African Languages' by P.F. Lacroix, 'Long Live Belisaire! (A Short Story)', by Guy Tirolien, 'On "Atheism" ' by J. Nfoulou, ' "La Tragedie du Roi Christophe" or African Independence Seen Through Haitian Eyes' by Lyliane Lagneau-Kesteloot, 'Dinah Sifou: King Oh the Nalus' by Baba Ibrahima Kaké, and 'The Batetala Rising in the 19th Century' by A.Z. Zousmanovitch, in addition to numerous small comments on recent events, book reviews, and poems.

This inscribed copy belonged Jimmy Garrett, a leading African-American activist, playwright, and political writer in San Francisco and, a few years later, in Washington, D.C. where he co-founded the Drum and Spear Bookstore. The shop was a hub of civil rights activism, hosting readings and workshops with activists from around the world. Among many other activities, Garrett went on to co-organise the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Tanzania in 1974.

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