Thursday, July 2, 2009

Humorous Bits (or, Not The Comics Collection, Again)

Happy Fourth of July (almost) to all, from Librarianne in Special Collections. Independence Day makes me think of patriotism, and patriotism, for some reason, makes me think of Mark Twain. Special Collections will soon receive an outstanding small collection of rare Twain items from a generous donor, but until then, we turn to Twainish items already in the collections...

A noted rival of Mark Twain's, Bill Nye was a lecturer, essayist, and humorist from Wyoming, who wrote satire and humor pieces for the newspaper The Boomerang. Though his works are of course not as well known now as Twain's, they still provide a wonderful glimpse into popular topics of American humor and the comic style of the times. Baled Hay: A Drier Book Than Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is a compilation of Nye's comic vignettes, stories, jokes, and poems, meant at least in its title to mimic Whitman. Piece titles include "Genius and Whiskey," "Let Bald-Headed Men Rejoice," "Regarding the Nose," and the intriguingly named "The Maroon Sausage." The copy of Baled Hay located in Special Collections is extra-special, because it bears its original 1884 (!) dustjacket, an exceptionally early one. Usually, when dustjackets of this time survive at all, they are seen without illustration and with only the title and name of the author printed briefly on the front. This one, as you can seen, is a very lively example of an emerging art. Stop by Special Collections to check it out!

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