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Of late, the drip feed of entries here has slacked off considerably; looking like one or two posts per month. I could beg off and say I’m working on other things (which is true) but that means little in terms of ongoing interest in the Project.
And so I had lunch late last week with Mr Rutter and the conversation turned toward the potential for another Agincourt exhibit. I’d already had in mind something connected with the Community Collection—gathering dust in my basement. But how can I pass an invitation like this. So stay tuned….
Industry during 19th century America wasn’t necessarily concentrated in large urban centers. A good deal of it was towns of middling size but with aspirations of grandeur. One of the several small pre-Civil War enterprises in Agincourt shared the Syndicate Mill with other entrepreneurial efforts. They made bobbins for both commercial and hand weaving. I wonder if they were founded by an ancestor of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)? Should we ask him?
Two parts in one volume, 2° (455 x 322mm). Pp., xv, 128, 102. Half-title and part-titles. Title printed in red and black with vignette. Recto of dedication leaf in heliogravure. 25 heliogravure plates (9 double-page and 5 double-page and folding), including the plate ‘A World Centre’ at the beginning of part I not called for in the list of illustrations, 123 heliogravure text-illustrations (9 full-page) including that of Athena, Apollo and Herakles on p. iii not called for in the list of illustrations, 2 lithographic plans with manuscript coloured lines depicting public transport systems and central city heating, engraved vignette to pt II, p.30, woodcut head- and tailpieces to pt II. (First 4 preliminary leaves very lightly creased, occasional light soiling and spotting, plate I dampstained, plate XVII with light marginal creasing and soiling.) Contemporary marbled-paper covered boards, recently rebacked with red crushed morocco spine, top edge gilt, others uncut (extremities lightly rubbed, corners very slightly bumped).
FIRST FRENCH EDITION OF ANDERSEN’S VISION OF A UTOPIAN WORLD CITY. Andersen was born in Bergen, Norway, and emigrated as an infant with his family to Newport, Rhode Island. As a young artist, he mingled among Newport’s wealthy elite, and spent some time as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s art teacher. At the age of 21, Andersen travelled to Europe, eventually settling in Rome. There he pursued his artistic interest in monumental classically inspired pieces, believing that they stimulated in the viewer a desire for self-improvement. He devoted much of his time designing a perfect ‘World City,’ filled with art, which would motivate humanity to achieve a near Utopian state. The present work is the culmination of his theories, and may be seen as a precursor to later modernist visions, such as Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine, 1922.
The book is in two parts. The first deals with the history of the city and monumental architecture, and seeks inspiration in classical and contemporary notions of city planning – Paris and Washington DC feature prominently. The second part details Andersen’s imaginary urban landscape, complete with works of art, for the ‘World City’. Olympic stadia, galleries for the arts and sciences, as well as government buildings are all outlined, and placed upon a defined grid plan with an emphasis on a grand central avenue acting as the axis of the city. ONE OF ONLY 75 COPIES ON JAPAN PAPER, the present work numbered XXVII.
[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]
RUZICKA-LAUTENSCHLÄGER, Hans [1862–1933]
Cityscape / Tightrope Walker / Seiltänzer
oil on canvas / 5 inches by 7 inches / signed
Austrian artist Hans Růžička-Lauten
“Tightrope Walker” may be a study for an intended larger work; it was likely painted at the scene. Despite the speed of execution, however — capturing the energy of the moment — there is little doubt of the wonder experienced by the spectators.
¹ An inquiry has been made to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.
I am archipelagic, not continental…
Archilochus is one of several Greek philosophers known solely by fragmentary writings that have survived the vicissitudes of archaic libraries: we’re lucky to have anything. Heraclitus is also in that category and my insophistication has habitually confused the two. [Spell correction, by the way, doesn’t like that word—insophistication—but I do.]
Archie [is that too familiar?] came to my attention in an essay by Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox“: “Πόλλ᾽ οἶδ᾽ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἕν μέγα.” “The fox knows many things,” Archilochus tells us, but “the hedgehog [knows] one big thing”. Berlin used the observation as a tool for understanding great literature, while I applied it to a eulogy for my friend James Tiernan O’Rourke.
Berlin uses the Archilochus quote to understand the differences, say, between two great Russian authors, Dostoyevsky and Pushkin. Hedgehogs, in Berlin’s view, see the world through the lens of a single defining idea, while foxes have a built-in multi-faceted approach; for them, the world defies such simplistic thinking. At James’s memorial service, it seemed to me that Mr O’Rourke had operated most of his life as a hedgehog and I interpreted him that way.
Ultimately, though, it seems to me to be the difference between people who like cats and those of us who love dogs.
Many areas of interest will have passed through Agincourt as fads, phases, or outright tomfoolery. Medicine is surely one of them.
What’s accepted as medical treatment these days has been a contentious topic throughout history. The 19th century certainly saw more than its share of largely unregulated medical quality as well as quackery. Quite aside from the craze for patent medicines throughout the years leading to WWI, There were a dozen or more alternative medical treatments derided by the AMA and its predecessors. Bet you’ve never consulted a Naprapath. I seriously doubt you could find one in a metropolitan area under 100,000 population. The same may be true for Homeopathy. Chiropractic, on the other hand, is more likely found in your phonebook. [BTW, do phonebooks still exist? Asking for a friend.]
There are moments, coming more and more often, when I think it may be time to step back and let the good people of Agincourt — and the not-so-good — live (and live out) their lives without interference from me. The frequency of posts here has slacked from fifteen or more a month down to one or two. Oh, don’t mistake this for indifference or, heaven forbid, boredom. I’ve grown to know these people and even like a few of them. But I’m going to let the citizens of Agincourt go about their business — still observed at a distance — with leave to call upon me should the need arise.
“…what man is capable of the insane self-conceit of believing that an eternity of himself would be tolerable even to himself? Those who try to believe it postulate that they shall be made perfect first. But if you make me perfect I shall no longer be myself, nor will it be possible for me to conceive my present imperfections (and what I cannot conceive I cannot remember); so that you may just as well give me a new name and face the fact that I am a new person and that the old Bernard Shaw is as dead as mutton. Thus, oddly enough, the conventional belief in the matter comes to this: that if you wish to live for ever you must be wicked enough to be irretrievably damned, since the saved are no longer what they were, and in hell alone do people retain their sinful nature: that is to say, their individuality. And this sort of hell, however convenient as a means of intimidating persons who have practically no honor and no conscience, is not a fact.”