Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyJust Like Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • Mon, 16 Jun 2014 04:38:43    Permalink
    See item #5 in our new catalog Before we get down to this week's business, here's some late breaking news.After setup and opening night at the Philadelphia Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, participants were informed by the promoter that their exhibit space had been double booked, and that they'd have to be out of there by 10am the next morning. Colleague George Cubanski of Rarities, Etc. wrote a short blog about the screwup. He reported in a subsequent email that "I didn't notice people casting blame; the dominant feeling seemed to be sympathy for Flamingo." The promoters, Flamingo Eventz, posted an apology on their home page, in which it sounded as if they'd been left holding the bag by Sheraton. And, while Dan Miller, a spokesman for Sheraton said, “The decision to cancel was entirely the promoter's, not the hotel's,” Tina Bruno, in a subsequent phone interview, laid out a scenario in which an adjoining space, still under construction, had not been completed in time to accommodate a Saturday wedding party. She said that, when presented with this information, she did in fact opt to cancel, because it would have gotten “very messy” if she had not. She requested that I post the following statement: "The Brunos ran into a logistics problem at the hotel which caused the cancellation of the Sat. portion of the Philly show. They are assuring me they are working to resolve this in an equable fashion." She has filed a request with Sheraton's accounting department concerning prospects for compensation, but at press time she had not heard from them. (Note to self – do blogs have press times? Further note to self – Thank your lucky stars you had a wedding this weekend, boyo. Otherwise you probably would've schlepped down to Philly. Final note to self – Is this sad business symptomatic of the death of the book fair? Have these provincial events become so anemic that venue owners can simply sweep them away if a better offer comes along?... Image of books spread out on blankets and card tables on the sidewalks of NYC.)Or maybe it's the Internet's fault. Everything else is.
    One of the most annoying things about our digitally enhanced lives is the speed with which bad information can be promulgated and take root. This was always a problem in academia, and in those sophisticated backwaters of the book trade where bibliographical information about a book actually meant something. Now any clown with a computer can cut and paste someone else's description, and have it seem to be his own work. I routinely discover descriptions stolen from my catalogs and pasted onto some similar (but NOT identical!) item coming up at auction or on eBay. Then someone copies from them, and someone else from the new copier, and before you know it, that description is all over the Internet. Well, what if there was a mistake in my description? What if it was wrong? Now it's out there, in any number of iterations, where everyone can see it. And if you see it everywhere it must be true, right? Just like Weapons of Mass Destruction.
    Something similar happened a few centuries ago with Captain Kidd – or, more accurately, with Captain Kidd's treasure. Howard Pyle's rendition of Capt Kidd. See item #50 in our new catalogAs pirates go, Kidd was not a huge success, having made only one big grab in his career. His political karma was terrible, however. He got scapegoated for piracy and murder, and was tried and duly hanged. Transcript of Kidd's trial. See item, #2 in our new catalogOne of his partners in the privateering enterprise had papers that would have proved Kidd innocent, but he witheld them to save his own hide. This rat was none other than the Earl of Bellomont, who was also serving at the time as governor of the New York and Massachusetts territories. So it would have been very inconvenient for him to have been implicated in a piracy scheme. When Kidd sailed into New York, Bellomont gave a thorough search and relieved him of more the 14,000 pounds of money and goods – probably as much as Kidd could have been expected to have taken from the vessel he plundered.
    And yet, for whatever reason (mostly because Kidd himself told Bellomont he hadn't gotten it all), the legend of Kidd's buried treasure flourished after his death. By the 19th century every likely island or point of land on the east coast had been dug up. Even places where Kidd never visited, such as the Hudson River Valley or the South China Sea, have been searched by deluded treasure hunters. Kidd and his treasure inspired writers like Irving and Cooper, and of course Stevenson's immortal Treasure Island is built upon the themes Kidd's story drove into our psyches.
    The item below is one of the zaniest results of the Kidd treasure madness. Pirate treasure maps are often found in bottles, at least in novels. But this is the first, and perhaps the only, one to have been found under a rock in central Massachusetts.
    For reasons I've never understood, William Kidd was popularly known as Robert Kidd, so the naming in the pamphlet is attuned to the popular imagination. And of course, the specificity of the location must have been irresistible. I'll bet there were guys with rowboats and shovels in Boston Harbor within weeks of the pamphlet's publication. It's ironic that, between the 1701 trial and the 1850 publication date, a good part of the alleged treasure island had been washed away by strong currents in Boston Harbor.
    How do I know that? I read it on the Internet.Anon. The Life, Trial & Execution of the Famous Pirate Capt. Robert Kidd. Palmer, Mass: Gardner Shaw, 1850. 24 pp. I love this pamphlet. It features "the famous Kidd letter, recently found, enclosed in a bottle in a ledge of rocks in the town of Palmer, Mass., this letter discloses the spot where Kidd buried a large portion of his immense treasures, which has never been discovered." Supposedly Gardner Shaw's son was out hunting rabbits in 1849 when he discovered the letter. It was widely believed to be the real thing, and so Shaw published it in this pamphlet. The treasure, says Kidd, is buried on "Conant's Island, about three miles down the Harbor of Boston." Well, it's Logan Airport now, so you'd have a hard time digging it up. And Robert Kidd buried it, not William. Scarce. Worldcat shows only four libraries holding copies of this pamphlet. Text somewhat foxed. Original printed wrapper laid down and bound in - calf over marbled boards with leather spine label. Wonderful stuff! $2500

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