Sunday, August 2, 2009

the old and the odd

The writing in books, though occasionally irritating, I find to be mostly fascinating. Lately I've acquired a 1913 hardback copy of The Amateur Gentleman by Jeffery Farnol. In nice neat script on a front page is written "From Robert L. Underwood. Class 1914," but the book seems to have been more recently appropriated by a young girl named Myrna, as evidenced by the block letters firmly written onto the Table of Contents. Myrna must have been an odd child, as she has torn out the a few interior pages as well as the one with the publishing information. Oddly enough, this page was also missing from the 1913 copy I borrowed from the library so I could find out what was written on the ripped out pages and had been replaced by a typewritten one, which let me know the book was illustrated by Herman Pfeifer. Pfeifer, it seems, was quite a popular illustrator at the time, and had work in many books and well as Scribner's Magazine and The Ladies' Home Journal. But back to Myrna. In addition to murdering a few pages, she has also left her own illustration on the back of one of Pfeifer's images. Let me show it to you.
Lovely, is it not? I am reminded very strongly of this:
It is a dogu, a small statue from the Final Jomon period (1000-400 BCE) of ancient Japan. Some people believe these "earthenware figures" to be evidence of an alien encounter...perhaps Myrna had a similar experience? More commonly dogu are thought to be fertility figures (tut tut, a young girl shouldn't know about such things), but what I like best about them is the theory that their huge "eyes" are actually goggles. Northern Japan is very snowy and eye coverings with just a slit to see through would have helped with the glare of the sun on the blindingly white landscape. Probably not quite the image Pfeifer had in mind.