The Strange and Unusual from Garrett Scott
More of the unusual from Garrett Soctt
By Michael Stillman
Garrett Scott, Bookseller, seems to specialize in the odd and unusual. That's not to say every book in his 17th catalogue, Spring Miscellany, is strange. It is just that there are many quite odd works to be found here. Strange science, unusual theology, medical advice you would not want to follow, and the like can be found, along with some sensible treatises thrown in to bring us back to the path of reason. Scott's catalogues are always entertaining and if you would like to own some of these amazing works, the good news is there is little here that will break the bank. Here are some of the books you will find inside.
This is a most odd book from one of America's more respected observers and writers. The title is Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life... by George Catlin. This is an 1870 fourth edition of a work originally published under the title "The Breath of Life." Catlin was obsessed with the importance of breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth. Certainly, there are benefits in terms of filtering germs to this habit, but he does get a bit carried away. Catlin had undertaken much observation of the American Indians while they were still relatively untouched by western civilization, and concluded that such maladies of civilization as hunch-backs, paupers, and idiocy could be attributed to breathing through the mouth. "And if I were to endeavor to bequeath to posterity the most important Motto which human language can convey," Catlin concludes, "it should be in three words -- Shut-your-mouth." This bequest has been forgotten, but Catlin is remembered for leaving us his "North American Indian Portfolio," a collection of Indian drawings that would cost you more than everything in this catalogue combined. Item 21, $100.
Item 108 is a spirited defense of the drinking of alcohol in the army by none other than the Secretary of War. Secretary Peter Porter's defense is contained in Spirituous Liquors to the Army. Letter from the Secretary of War in Reply to a Resolution of the House of Representatives Inquiring What Beneficial Effects, if any, Have Arisen, or Are Likely to Arise, from the Daily Use of Spirituous Liquors by the Army... Seems that in 1829 a prudish House of Representatives was questioning the Army practice of distributing liquor to its soldiers. Porter responds that the use of liquor is so widespread in the country "that there is not, it is believed, one man in four, among the laboring classes, who does not drink, daily, more than one gill; and it is from these classes that our Army is recruited." He goes on to say that depriving these people of the drink to which they are accustomed would impair their health and lead them to consume amounts beyond the modest quantities distributed by the government. I wonder when this entirely rational practice was discontinued? $50.
The Strange and Unusual from Garrett Scott
Theora Hix was the downfall of poor Professor Snook.
Item 25 is the last work of Mark Twain, written some seven years after his death. The title is Jap Herron: A Novel Written from a Ouija Board. This is one of those "as told to" novels, Twain supposedly dictating through the Ouija Board to Emily Hutchings. It is a story reflecting a similar background to many of Twain's tales, which either attests to its authenticity or the fact that Mrs. Hutchings, like Twain, was a native of Hannibal, Missouri. However, it was apparently not Twain's best effort. A New York Times book review of September 9, 1917, said, "If this is the best that "Mark Twain" can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary." Twain's daughter sued, and the book was withdrawn, but as we now know, some copies survived. $225.
Here is another book you didn't know Twain wrote: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. At least that is the theory of Henry and Dorothy Partridge. Item 26 is their book Remarkable Echo in the World. In it they theorize that Twain was actually Lewis Carroll and others. Well, we know that Samuel Clemens was really Twain, but it seems unlikely that he was anyone else besides himself. This one reminds us of all the claims that Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare. $50.
Here is a most interesting title from George Pierce: My Soundspeed Discovery, Expanding into a Constructive Medley of Wit and Song. Being a Four Years After-Inflorescence of the Life-Romance of an Algebraist. If you want to better understand it, you'll have to buy the book, as I have no idea what any of that means. Evidently Pierce was a lawyer, mathematician and poet. Probably was crazy as a loon too. Item 104. $125.
It was one of the most sensational trials of lust and murder ever seen, certainly in 1920s Columbus, Ohio. It began as a simple affair between Ohio State Professor of Veterinary Medicine James Snook and student Theora Hix. Apparently, Hix's sexual needs became more unusual and demanding as time went on, and mild-mannered Professor Snook struggled to please her. Finally, it ended up in violence after a tryst in the backseat of Snook's car one night in 1929. As the professor told it (and he was the only one who lived to tell), Miss Hix's demands became severe, and when he tried to bring the evening to a conclusion, she threatened him with violence. Fearing for his life, he grabbed his handy hammer and beat her brains out. He also used his veterinary skills to slice her throat, but could not remember this part. Anyway, despite sensational testimony at his trial, and protestations that he was the victim of an aggressive, wanton woman, the jury wasn't buying. Snook was sent to his final reward in 1930, courtesy of the Ohio electric chair. The local newspapers would not print the detailed testimony of the sexual activity between these two, it being a bit too graphic for the day. Fortunately, the court reporter captured it all, and it was made available to inquiring minds in the book The Murder of Theora Hix. The Uncensored Testimony of Dr. Snook. Now you, too, can read his testimony, strictly for historical and educational purposes, of course. Item 126. $75.
Garrett Scott, Bookseller, may be found at www.GSBbooks.com, phone number 734-741-8605.