Exclusive Interview: Detroit author RJ King discusses his new book ‘8 Track: The First Mobile App’ which details the pivotal role of Ford Motor Company in bringing the 8-Track Tape Player to market

Exclusive Interview: Detroit author RJ King discusses his new book ‘8 Track: The First Mobile App’ which details the pivotal role of Ford Motor Company in bringing the 8-Track Tape Player to market

RJ King 8 Track book

I’ve always loved Boston-Edison. This is a large residential Historic District in the geographic center of Detroit full of stately homes, wide boulevards, and old-fashioned streetlamps. Detroit author and DBusiness magazine editor RJ King moved to a beautiful three-story Colonial Revival here in 1994.

Sitting in RJ’s living room, we can hear the steam gently whooshing through the radiators. Soothing, it reminds of my Marpac Dohm sound machine, whose sonic white noise helps me sleep.

RJ is very welcoming, hospitable, and insightful. In terms of stories and hidden history, he has an eagle eye for tantalizing, overlooked, and underreported gems. A writing talent, RJ has penned over 6,000 articles at DBusiness and over 16 years for The Detroit News. Prolific at home, RJ has written four books. Never one to lollygag or dawdle, he’s also a licensed real estate agent!

We’re here discussing his fabulous new book, “8 Track: The First Mobile App,” published by Folktellers and Written in Detroit.

RJ King, Detroit author of 8 Track the First Mobile App (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

When publicly released in October 1965 by Ford Motor Co., the 8 Track tape player completely revolutionized in-car audio and how music in general was experienced by consumers.

It offered, for the first time, a mobile music experience in an industry dominated by AM Radio and record players.

Since then, the 8 Track, which essentially offered “album” cartridges, served to bootstrap the introduction of cassettes, followed by compact discs, and now downloads. Today, the medium has been largely forgotten as a fun and useful device in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The last major release on 8 Track was in 1988 with Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits.”

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Sure, from 2009-2014 there was an 8 Track museum run by Bucks Burnett in Deep Ellum, Texas.

And Barry Fone runs Barry’s 8 Track Repair Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

And don’t forget “Tracker Bob” Hiemenz. Bob owns the world’s largest 8 Track collection. Over 90,000 tapes and 700+ players are stored at his house in Quincy, Illinois. But for many people, especially those who postdate 8 Track mania, the true story is a quick trip back in life filled with nostalgia.

RJ’s new book is an incredibly detailed and well-researched story of Detroit and Ford Motor Co.’s pivotal role in the development and rollout of the 8 Track tape player.

Part hidden history, part business lesson, this is a story largely untold until now.

 

RJ King on His Book

8 Track book RJ King (photo by: Ryan M. Place

“My older brother Patrick emailed me a speech that my dad, John P. King, had written in 1975 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 8 Track tape player. Until reading that email, I had no idea my dad was intimately involved in the development of 8 Track back when he was a product engineer at Ford.”

“Fascinated, I searched for a period history of 8 Track, and there was nothing. So I started researching my dad’s involvement, assembling a chronology, reading Billboard magazines every week from 1964 to 1980, and doing interviews with my dad and other key people whom he introduced me to.”

“I worked on the book on weekends, typing it up on my iMac, and about a year and a half later had a final product.”

“This book details the leap from stationary music to mobile music. The 8 Track really was the first mobile music app. Prior to its creation, you could only listen to music live, on a record player, or on AM radio. What Ford and Motorola did, using Bill Lear’s design which they modified, is they built a combined AM Radio and 8 Track tape player and it completely revolutionized music and car audio.”

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

“All four of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, math) were used to invent, launch, and sustain 8 Track. It was a big leap from the mono world to the stereo world. The 8 Track was a physical music playback system that allowed you to listen to songs without being present with the band. It was the introduction of ‘music to go.’”

My dad was hired by Ford in January 1965, and the 8 Track was ready to go by October 1965. It was a rush program, to be sure. After Ford came out with 8 Track, Chrysler, and then GM, Volkswagen, and American Motors offered 8 Track. It was successful because it was a group effort.”

Motorola designed the players, Lear made the cartridges, RCA contributed the music, and Ford installed the players into 1966 model year vehicles.”

“Initially, none of the record companies would license their music to 8 Track. But Bill Lear knew David Sarnoff, chairman at RCA Records, and they licensed 175 albums.”

Motown 8-Track (courtesy of Google Archives)

“Then later, Motown Records in Detroit, licensed some of their catalog for it. And all the other record companies came on board, and by 1970 it was a $1 billion industry. Motown even let Lear’s team transfer the initial master record tracks from RCA to magnetic tape. Berry Gordy would sometimes come up and hang out on the third floor of Motown Records (which is a converted house on West Grand Blvd.), and the machine was only available after midnight.”

“What I want the reader to take-away is that forming a talented team and working together is key to the success of any project. You’ll also learn how vital it is to control your intellectual property, and how to launch a major industry from scratch, and take advantage of the good sales years and properly prepare for winding down the business, as 8 Track gave way to cassettes, and so on.”

 

RJ’s dad John P. King fills in the gaps

RJ calls his father on the phone. His dad, John P. King, is 85 years old. He grew up on Chicago’s west side on Jackson Boulevard near Garfield Park, until moving to Michigan in January 1965. He earned a master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and he had magnetic tape background based on his early employment.

John started out as project engineer for the introduction of the 8 Track Tape Player, and wrote all the standards (and made sure everyone adhered to them).

He retired as Regional Manager of Asia Pacific and New Markets for Ford Customer Service Division in 1997, and today is active with FREE (Ford Retired Executive Engineers).

John says:

“The development of 8 Track was fast-tracked so we could make the 1966 model year. We all worked many extra hours to bring it to market in only nine months, which was unheard of.”

“Back then, I had what we called a ‘Sound-Off’ with Earl ‘Mad Man’ Muntz out at the Ford Assembly Plant (28801 South Wixom rd, Wixom, MI). Muntz acquired that nickname in Los Angeles when he had a used car business. He was the guy who invented the 4 Track tape player, and he had a flair for showmanship and self-promotion. He was trying to get all the automakers to go for his 4 Track.”

“The Sound-Off was held at the Ford Wixom Plant, where at that time they were building the Thunderbird and the Lincoln Continental. Well we had an audio test among a small group of Ford people and Muntz, and we pitted his 4 Track against our 8 Track tape player by doing a live demonstration.”

“I showed up with my 1963 Ford Fairlane wagon, but I had swapped out the factory speakers with six-by-nine-inch speakers front and rear, and I had installed a very new production 8 Track tape player. From there, it was obvious that the 8 Track sounded far better. What wasn’t obvious was that I had installed stereo speakers in my car.”

Ford Quadrasonic 8-Track (courtesy of Google Archives)

“One other funny story. Donald Frey, the guy who designed the Ford Mustang, lived near Pete Estes, who was vice president for General Motors. Don was the overall lead on 8 Track at Ford, and he asked if speakers could be mounted in the front grill of his car, and he wanted specially loud Motorola bullhorn speakers. The speakers were wired to Don’s 8 Track tape player in his car. At the time, Ford’s ad slogan was ‘Ford has a better idea.’ So every morning when he drove by Pete’s house, Don would blast that slogan with the music at full volume.”

“Later, in 1967, Don Frey had us do a sound comparison between the 8 Track Tape Player with the latest cassette tape. At that time, the fidelity of the 8 Track was superior. Another factor was you had to manually flip the cassette, where 8 Track was hands free. But eventually cassette won out as Lear, who owned the patents on 8 Track, sold them to Gates Rubber Co., and they failed to renew the patents in 1975. From there, the standards could not be maintained, and the industry started to introduce cheaper products.”

“A plus for cassette tapes was that it was much easier to record your own material. And the cassette was half the size of 8 Track. So we helped usher in cassettes, and then compact discs. When I retired from Ford in 1997, downloads were available, and you could see one day they would be readily available.”

Back to RJ.

 

RJ King Biography

RJ King (courtesy of DBusiness)

“I have 6 sisters, 2 brothers, and I’m in the middle! (laughs) I have 3 sisters and 1 brother older, and also 3 sisters and 1 brother younger.”

“I’m editor of DBusiness magazine. Prior to that I was working at The Detroit News starting in 1990. I was on the business staff until I ran into Gail Fisher (now Gotthelf) while volunteering at a charity event during Super Bowl week in February 2006.”

“Gail worked for Hour Media and said the two owners, John Balardo and Stefan Wanczyk, were looking to start a business magazine. I came onboard and that’s how DBusiness was born.”

DBusiness Magazine

Hour Media is based in Troy, Michigan. As a parent company, they own around 160 magazines, including Hour Detroit, DBusiness, Grand Rapids magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and we have other magazines in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati, Atlanta, all throughout Florida, the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and more.”

“In general, I write one story per day for DBusiness Daily News and write about 7-10 stories per each issue of DBusiness magazine.”

“In terms of local restaurants, some favorites are Roman Village in Dearborn and also London Chop House and the Vertical Wine Bar, both in Detroit.”

 

Upcoming Developments

Detroit Engine of America-RJ King

“We just introduced an audiobook version of my other book, ‘Detroit: Engine of America,’ available on Audible.”

“And I have a fifth book coming out in March 2021 called “Grounds for Freedom.” It’s an unbelievable true story about Andrew Niemczyk, a local inventor who has developed amazing machines and new technologies. Check out his website at Exlterra. ”

 

Buy RJ King’s 8 Track book here

https://www.amazon.com/Track-First-Mobile-Stem-Revolution/dp/B08FP4QJF1

 

Email RJ King

Rjking0090@yahoo.com

 

8 Track (and related audio) Timeline

*Most of this timeline was pieced together from information found in RJ’s book

Rarest 8-Track: SinatraJobim (courtesy of Google Archives)

  • 1928-Motorola founded in Chicago. Bill Lear helped name the company.
  • 1930-the Motorola car radio is invented
  • 1935-RJ’s father John P. King born in Chicago
  • 1948-Columbia Records introduces the LP
  • 1949-RCA invents 45 RPM
  • 1949-sales of the 1949 Ford help save the company’s fortunes
  • 1952-endless loop tape cartridge invented
  • 1954-George Eash invents the Fidelipac tape cartridge
  • September 12, 1955-Chrysler agrees to install Peter Goldmark’s in-car record player (Columbia Records) after the automaker’s team in Highland Park, MI tests the prototype by driving on the nearby Davison Freeway.
  • 1956-58-the Highway Hi-Fi in-car record player is featured in some Chrysler vehicles. It uses special 7-inch records called ‘ultra-microgroove.’ It was a big flop.
  • 1959-closed loop tape players are used at nearly every AM radio station
  • 1960-used car dealer Earl “Madman” Muntz invents the 4 track tape player
  • 1961-Michiganian Larry Spitters founds Memorex in Silicon Valley
  • 1962-the audio cassette is developed by Philips in Hasselt, Belgium
  • 1963-Bill Lear, owner of 110 patents, invents the Lear Jet to be introduced in 1966
  • October 1964-the 8-Track Stereophonic Tape Player is developed by Bill Lear and Richard Kraus at Lear Jet corporate HQ (Wichita, KS). Afterwards, they are built regularly at the Lear Jet Stereo-8 division (13131 Lyndon Ave, Detroit)
  • January 1965-John P. King moves to Dearborn to work for Ford
  • July 1965-Motorola begins production shipments of 8 Track tape players to Ford
  • October 3rd, 1965-8 Track tape players are released to the general public thanks to Lear’s friendship with Henry Ford II (grandson of big Henry). They are released in the form of an AM radio with integrated 8 track tape player installed inside Ford vehicles.
  • 1965-80 = 8 track is popular
  • 1966 = Ford sells over 125,000 8 track players as an option (available on six models)
  • Fall 1966-all Detroit automakers now offer 8-Track factory installation options
  • April 1967-Gates Rubber Co. acquires a controlling interest in Lear Jet
  • May 1967-Earl Muntz has his son Jim Muntz fly to Detroit and open Muntz CARtridge City (15278 Gratiot Ave, Detroit) to sell 4 track players and tapes
  • 1969-Sinatrajobim 8 track tape (3,500 made but quickly recalled; only a handful not recalled). This is currently the rarest 8-Track, selling for upwards of $6,000
  • September 1969-production of 8 Track tapes ceases at Lear’s Detroit plant. They move production down to twin plants in Tucson, AZ and Nogales, Mexico.
  • December 1969-Lear’s company’s name is changed to the Gates Learjet Corp.
  • 1970-RCA releases 40 Quad-8 tapes (Quadrasonic sound)
  • 1971-GM and Chrysler start offering cassette tape player options in cars
  • 1979-Sony and Philips join forces to create Red Book standards for Compact Disc Digital Audio
  • 1979-Sony Walkman invented
  • 1979-Ford introduces all-electronic AM/FM stereo radio with Quadrasonic 8 Track player. Knobs and buttons are replaced by a brand new digital display.
  • October 1982-CD player Sony CDP-101 publicly released in Japan by Sony Philips
  • April 1983-CDs become popular in USA as car manufactures install them
  • October 1984-Terra Haute, IN = first US CD plant opens
  • May 1985-CDs become insanely popular worldwide
  • 1985-Sony Discman invented
  • 1986-the Lincoln Town car has a CD player. This is the first factory-installed application in the domestic auto industry.
  • 1988-CD sales eclipse vinyl
  • November 1988-the last 8 track tape is made = Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits
  • 1991-CD sales eclipse cassettes
  • 1999-Napster file sharing MP3s
  • 2000-CD sales global peak (2.45 billion sold worldwide)
  • 2001-Apple iPod

Ford Quadrasonic 8-Track (courtesy of Google Archives)

Motorola Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

8 Track vintage (courtesy of Google Archives)

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Motorola 8 Track (courtesy of Google Archives)

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Panasonic 8 Track detonator (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ford 1966 advertisement (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ford 1967 advertisement (courtesy of Google Archives)

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Lear Jet Stereo 8 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Tracker Bob Hiemenz (courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Exclusive Interview: Zubal Books in Cleveland has over 3 million books: Touring the family business with co-owner MICHAEL ZUBAL!

Exclusive Interview: Zubal Books in Cleveland has over 3 million books: Touring the family business with co-owner MICHAEL ZUBAL!

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

One of the world’s great bookstores sits in the Tremont West neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

Zubal Books has over 3,000,000+ books. It’s a solid operation packed to the brim.

If a standard book is around 300 pages long, that’s 900 million pages on average, thus, almost one billion pages are represented here. That is a fantastically staggering stockpile of the printed word. On a clear day you can read forever.

Zubal’s maze-like hallways are lined with books, containing a supply of brainfood even Methuselah or Henry Bemis would find seemingly inexhaustible.

At the center of this book-tsunami are the Zubals, a bookselling family of Ukrainian heritage.

The patriarch, John Zubal, started selling books in 1961 out of the family’s house in Parma, Ohio. In 1973, they moved to their present location, which is a complex of large buildings.

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

His wife Marilyn and sons Michael and Tom work here, along with his grandchildren. They’re an entrepreneurial family with decades of experience and rare expertise.

This skilled family has been passing down the book trade for generations, helping to enrich the world by supplying books to millions of customers. Yes, they’ve found their niche.

Eldest son, Michael Zubal, is one of the current heads of operations and he’s been kind enough to give me the grand and delightfully disorienting tour where your head is spinning with books by the end, there’s so many.

Aside from being a book hunter with an eagle eye for quality books, one of Michael’s secret weapons is his excellent memory and quick recall for obscure facts and figures and remembering which books are shelved where without having to consult the database.

Zubal’s is a well-oiled machine where everything is shelved by unit number and Michael & family are always on the go, filling up the outbound table with domestic and international orders and zipping around the store.

In 1998, Zubal Books closed to the public. For the past twenty years, they have sold primarily online and by appointment-only.

Touring the Zubal’s Spread with Michael Zubal

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“We were just on the West Coast for a week and bought 3,000 books. Then I went to Geneva, Switzerland to hang out with my son. I was surprised to find that Geneva is far more Parisian than Germanic. Also, our perch tastes sweeter here. Anyway, I think the jet lag and time changes have scrambled the circuits in my brain, I’m still re-adjusting.”

The total square footage of our operation here at Zubal Books is about 360,000-square feet.”

“Our 60,000-square foot four-story main building was built in 1925. It was a Cleveland Public Schools textbook repository, then a Lutheran publishing company for a brief period. There’s a massive freight elevator here and thousands of old wooden pear crates we use as shelving.”

“On top of the main building is a perfectly preserved circa 1954 apartment we call The Penthouse.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The Penthouse has great views of the downtown Cleveland skyline and everything in here is from the 1950’s and in spookily immaculate condition (ie: furniture, appliances, grasscloth wallpaper, 3-sided fireplace, snail patterned tiles, etc.). It’s like stepping back in time. Anthony Bourdain visited us in 2007 and this was his favorite room. It would also make a great movie location. Every Friday after Thanksgiving, we play poker up here.”

“In addition to our main building, we have some attached annex buildings. One is from the 1890’s, it was previously attached to an old greenhouse. One of our recent (1978) additions has steel grating floors so you can see three stories below you. Another building features an old speakeasy with an in-wall pocket picnic table that folds out.”

“Then, a few hundred feet down the street, we have the 300,000-square foot old Hostess Twinkie factory, which has cavernous rooms filled with shrink-wrapped pallets of books that need to be processed (ie: priced, catalogued and databased). Hostess closed the factory in 1989 and we acquired it in 1994. It took us five years to hunt down the property owner. Real estate attorneys did title searches. Turned out it was a corporation in St. Louis that owned it. They accepted our first offer without hesitation.”

Prior to 1973, we had 5,000 books at our home in Parma, Ohio and about 5,000 journals and periodicals in our basement, garage and breezeway. We also had five small storage areas around town in sheds, converted garages, storefronts, etc. We even built a pully lift to transport books to and from the second floor in one warehouse. Finally, in 1973 we consolidated everything into this property and our operations have been here ever since.”

The Focus of Zubal’s

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

On average, we sell around 250,000 books per year. We specialize in academic, scholarly, obscure, out-of-print, first editions, sci-fi and technology.”

“We also deal a lot in physics, mathematics, history, art, philosophy, signed books, chemistry, engineering, occult, collectible bindings (Easton Press, Franklin Press, etc.), anthropology, and theology.”

“Our biggest customer segments are academia, scholars, post doc students, PhD researchers, think tanks, universities, and finnicky collectors.”

Acquisitions librarians working on collection development at universities also contact us.”

“In terms of buying books, we frequently get calls from academics approaching retirement and estates will call us before holding public sales.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“What I personally really enjoy handling and researching are Modern Literature books from 1920’s-1960’s. Prohibition Era to the Hippies.”

“The concentrations I specialize in are math and physics. I’m constantly boning up on bibliographies, histories and genealogies of modern physics. We deal with a lot of physicists and mathematicians.”

“My father is a trained historian. He almost became a PhD, but he didn’t want to be in academia, he wanted to sell books full-time. He instilled pride in us on efficiency and discretion doing deals.”

We also have a store of around 2,500 books inside the main building that people can visit. It’s a random assortment of clean, mostly modern books spanning a range of different topics.”

“For various reasons, I haven’t had a Book Scout for over six years. We had a regular Book Scout for twenty years prior to that. One day we sat down and analyzed the results. We were ultimately disappointed at his pricing scheme. It was not justifying our continued relationship with him. Smart guy though, great eye, he does the rounds.”

Michael on the Book Business

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The book business, like every business, has peaks and valleys. The labor involved is tough. Books are usually on the second floor of houses. The hauling and processing can be very time-consuming. I’ll see a load of books someone inherited, and they just want the books to find a good home. Sometimes there’s so much stuff that no money is exchanged because the values are moderate to low and they just want someone to haul the books away.”

“Right now, we have about 300,000 books listed online. Our main platforms are Amazon, AbeBooks, the Zubal website, then all the other websites we list on. We do hourly updates on all the site so that sold books are removed as quickly as possible.”

“Back in 1998, Dick Weatherford’s company Interloc (which later became Alibris) approached us. We started listing on Interloc, selling 1-2 books per day. Then AbeBooks followed, then shortly thereafter, Amazon.”

“When we became an Amazon lister, I would talk almost daily with Tiffany Linnes at Amazon. She worked directly for Jeff Bezos, that’s how small they were at the time. Since then, Amazon has acquired AbeBooks and owns it.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Prior to 1998, catalogs were our primary source of sales. Once the internet hit, we immediately realized it was a viable medium. We closed our physical store to the public after reviewing our inventory control methods. We found listing by subject matter was irrelevant. We buy and sell internationally, daily, and routing books to their proper location is incredibly time-consuming.”

“How do we choose what to list online? There’s no real method. On occasion, I’ll get a collection on consignment, which jumps to the front. Currently, I’ve been working on Engineering books. We spend a lot of time working with physics, math, engineering books.”

In terms of collectors, we don’t see completists anymore. Most people these days want specific titles versus wanting everything by a particular author.”

“Occasionally, we sell items via Heritage Auctions in Dallas. We sell maybe a dozen high-end items per year through there. We sold a Batman # 1 (1940) comic book through Heritage. It had no rear cover and still went for $8,500.”

Quick Bio of Michael Zubal

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My father’s grandparents were from a farming village near Lvov, Ukraine, which is now in Poland, thanks to Stalin. They were hard workers who came here to work in the steel mills.”

I’ve been working with my dad in the book business for as long as I can remember. At six years old, I was working as a kid on Saturday’s. My older sister and I would haul and stock and shelve books for him. We traveled all over to Chicago, Philly, Washington, New York, etc. My dad would do the deals and I’d come along to help move stuff. Being fully immersed in the book world my whole life is kind of an oddity. Because of this, at a very early age, I found I had a more advanced worldview than my contemporaries.”

I did my first big deal when I was 18 at MOMA in NYC. I was buying books. Then I turned around and sold what I bought to a college. From that moment it was game-on.”

“I was also a state-licensed auctioneer for a little while. The auctions were quite popular, especially in the pre-internet days. We’d have 40-50 bidders in house and the auctions were fun.”

“When I’m not working on books, I’m playing bass in my jazz band, Slap Quartet. My brother Tom is also in the band, he plays guitar. We have another guitarist and a drummer. The name of our band came from dad. He said rock was a short-lived anthropological phenomenon (SLAP). We modified it to Simply Love All People. Been playing since I was 14 years old. We do mainly 50’s-60’s bop. My big influences are Miles, Monk, Coltrane and Mingus. I play a 5-string electric and an acoustic upright bass.”

Most books Zubal’s has ever acquired at once

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The most books we’ve ever acquired at once were 85,000 books from the Museum of the American Indian Library in the Bronx, which was created by Archer Huntington.”

“It was a collection of Anthropology, Americana, Western, and American Ethnography. They sold it to Cornell University, which only kept 1,000 of the rarest volumes. Then Cornell called us. We ordered three semi-trucks and eight of us went down there. The eight of us loaded the trucks in two days.”

“Two months ago, I went to a house in upstate New York and pulled out 2,000 books myself from the second floor. Couple whiskies later that night, I was fine.”

Selling and Renting Bulk Books

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

1,000 books or more is considered bulk. We sell and rent bulk books mostly to movie studios, hotels, interior designers. Sometimes they just want certain color bindings to match the color scheme of a room or they’ll say things like ‘we need twelve-feet of books from the 18th century.’”

“Our books are appearing in the TV show Succession in the upcoming episode where the characters go to Hungary.”

We even help outfit booksellers who are just starting out in their careers with bulk amounts of books.”

“Also, we pulp poor quality books all the time. Fortunately, there’s a pulping facility three blocks from us.”

The Zubal Vault

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

We have an off-site vault of especially rare and favorite books.”

An example of some items from the vault:

– 1st edition Wizard of Oz (1900) $450,000; pristine like-new condition.
Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali (1969) massive folio where each plate is signed by Dali.
Boccaccio’s Decameron on vellum. It’s only one of three copies in existence. The binding and even the pages are vellum. The book was created around 1899 and is a modern work of art.
Common Sense (1776) Thomas Paine. At around $250,000, it’s the most expensive book Zubal’s has listed online.

Final Thoughts for Now

Michael Zubal @ Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“One thing I absolutely love about the book business is the thrill of the hunt. Never fully knowing what sort of treasures you’re going to discover.”

As booksellers, we must have a keen eye, know the material and be discerning. You have to know what you’re handling and the quality.”

“My dad is 80. My parents are gonna keep on going at it here. Will I be here when I’m 80? Hard to say.”

“As for customers and visitors, we do encourage people to email us their Want Lists. We will keep these on file and let you know if your book comes in. Also, I’m happy to give tours. They typically run 1 hour and 30 minutes. You need to email us in advance so we can set a day and time.

“I love the city of Cleveland. We’re currently seeing an explosion of new upscale housing in the city, which for the past 40 years was unheard of. The food scene is surprisingly complex and interesting. The art scene, especially the Cleveland Museum of Art, is fantastic. The people of Cleveland are generally friendly, helpful, laidback and polite.”

My brother and I have been in the book business for 40 years. After doing something for so long, you should get good at it. We were happily born into the trade. It’s a bonus in life to have a job where you handle the printed word daily.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Zubal Books
2969 West 25th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Contact
info@zubal.com

 

Homepage
https://www.zubalbooks.com/index.jsp

Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/sp?seller=A3OI5MNY5V1ONO

AbeBooks
https://www.abebooks.com/zubal-books-cleveland-oh-u.s.a/581/sf

Alibris
https://www.alibris.com/stores/zubalbks

Biblio
https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/zubal-books-cleveland

 

Ryan’s Top 3 Things to Experience in Cleveland after visiting Zubal’s

Slyman’s Deli (3106 St. Clair NE) open Monday-Friday 6am-2pm; 216-621-3760; get the corned beef sandwich on rye with swiss, toasted, with 1000 island, mustard, mayo.

Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

West Side Market (1979 W. 25th Street) open daily 7am-4pm; 30,000-square foot market of food vendors built in 1912 with a 130-foot tall clock tower. If you see them, try the cotton candy grapes.

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery (12316 Euclid Avenue) 285-acre rural garden-style cemetery founded in 1869; John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness are buried here along with U.S. President James A. Garfield. Check out the Garfield Memorial. Open April-November from 9am-4pm, it’s a 180-foot tall 3-story monument. The coffins of Garfield (who was assassinated in 1881) and his wife are in the lower level.

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Honorable Mentions:

Edgewater Beach (7600 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway) free, public beach; there’s also a greenspace, fishing pier and concession’s building; 11am-9pm concessions, 3pm-8pm bar; this area is located next to the Edgewater Yacht Club

Cleveland Arcade (401 Euclid Avenue) Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm; this Rockefeller-built indoor shopping mall from 1890 is a classy 5-story arcade

The Loop (2180 W. 11th Street) 7am-9pm daily; two floors of vinyl records and a café on the ground floor

Hingetown Pizza Mural (2817 Detroit Avenue) Mike Sobeck graffiti art located behind the Schaefer Printing Building

Hoopples Bar (1930 Columbus Road) open 2pm-2:30am; two-story bar with an outdoor patio in The Flats; great burgers and live music

Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Hingetown Pizza Mural in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is a 134-year old Detroit institution.

Founded in 1885, the DIA relocated to its present location in 1927.

Over 65,000 works of art, subdivided into 100 galleries, are spread throughout the 3-story, 658,000-square foot building, which, being made of white Montclair Danby marble streaked with gray veins from Vermont, exudes a very regal vibe.

Attached to the rear of the DIA is a beautiful 1,100-seat theater called the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

I’ve watched dozens of great films here over the years: Breathless, The Killing, Sweet Sweetback, Dolemite, Gimme Danger, etc.

Also behind the DIA, is the best place to park your car, the John R parking lot (5290 John R Street) where you can park all day for only $7.00 per car.

DIA Rodin (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Walking around to the front, you’re greeted by a version of Rodin’s The Thinker, a 12,000-lb. bronze sculpture of a contemplating man lost in rapturous thought, which beautifully sets the tone for your DIA visit.

Once inside, you check in and pay the fee or, thanks to the tri-county millage (property tax), if you live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties, you can enter for free any time you want.

As you pour yourself into the uniquely shaped cup of the DIA with its vaulted ceilings and mesmerizing sweeps of grandeur, you are immediately absorbed into a quasi-alternate dimension of one of the greatest art museums in the United States.

DIA Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being at the DIA is very inspiring. You’re surrounded by gorgeous art and this immersion does something positive to your mood, attitude and thoughts.

Waltzing through grand hallways and great rooms, you encounter Egyptian mummies, Hindu sculptures, ancient Sumerian statues made of diorite, William Randolph Hearst’s collection of suits of armor, Diego Rivera’s entire room of Detroit Industry murals, and thousands upon thousands of paintings.

The paintings include Van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting ever purchased by an American museum, which the DIA smartly acquired at auction in 1922.

Van Gogh-Self Portrait (1887) DIA

 

DIA Research Library & Archives: 191,000 Volumes on Tap

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In the North Wing, on the 3rd floor, the Kirby Street side, lays one of the hidden gems of the museum, the DIA Research Library & Archives.

I myself was unaware of the existence of this incredible resource until a recent BCD tour, thanks to Frank Castronova, DIA functionary and president of The Book Club of Detroit.

The library is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment-only.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

It consists of the lovely Reading Room (open to the public) with its row of skylights and book elevator (aka: 1970’s-era dumbwaiter) & the Mezzanine Stacks (closed to the public), a secret sub-level between floors 2 and 3 where thousands of books are held. People can discover and request materials from the stacks via the online catalog.

I’m here meeting with Maria Ketcham.

She is the Research Library, Archives & Collection Information Director and has graciously agreed to subject herself to a kaleidoscope of questions and give yet another tour.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria explains:

“Here at the DIA Research Library & Archives, we have 191,000 volumes, 100 journal subscriptions, thousands of bound periodicals and auction catalogs, and 7,000 cubic feet of archival materials.”

“In comparison to other libraries worldwide, about 30% of our collection is considered rare or unique to our institution.”

“Some of our archival holdings include thousands of photographs, blueprints, slides, color transparencies, oral histories, recorded lectures dating back to the 1970s, the business papers of former directors & curators, and an amazing collection of reel to reel recordings of our LINES poetry series (1980-1991) and our Jazz at the Institute series (1977-1987).”

“Our most popular requests are for information on the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry murals, the For Modern Living (1949) Exhibition, and Dragged Mass (1971) Michael Heizer.”

“We also have thousands of Artist Files, which are manila file folders containing news articles, ephemera, small exhibition catalogs, anything less than 30 pages long, about a particular artist and are especially useful for research on local artists. These are in our online catalogue as well as in WorldCat, the world’s largest online network of libraries.”

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Archives serves the museum as a repository for anything DIA-related that has enduring historic value. We’ve begun digitizing some of our archival materials and early DIA Bulletins, exhibition catalogues and finding aids, which can also be found in the DIA Research Library online catalog.”

Some university professors bring their classes here on tours and we also represent at conferences and events.”

“On average, we get about 1,200-1,500 requests per year, mostly via phone or email from all over the world. Many researchers find us via WorldCat. And since this is a noncirculating reference collection, depending on the size of their request, we can often help researchers remotely, such as emailing them scans of relevant materials for their reference.”

“We get visitors from all over the world. We even hosted Japanese royalty when Princess Akiko from Japan visited last summer.  We were very honored that she chose to spend some of her time at the DIA with us in the library.”

Our library is in the top 10 largest museum libraries in the USA. The largest is the Getty Research Institute, which is the Getty Museum library. They have over 1 million books and 100 librarians. Some other large ones are The Met, Philadelphia, and Nelson Atkins.”

 

Quick Biography

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a native Detroiter. I grew up on the Northwest side near Joy and Southfield. A product of the Detroit Public School system, I attended Renaissance High School, then graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and later a Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives.”

“Before coming to the DIA, I was an Archivist for Ford Motor Company. I used to live in the Alden Park Towers on the riverfront for several years. The “new Detroit” has changed drastically since I’ve lived here. It’s exhilarating.”

DIA Detroit

I have a library family. My husband is a librarian at a local public library. My two sisters are also librarians. One is a children’s librarian in California. The other is a senior medical informationist at a university medical school.”

I started working at the DIA in 2001 as the reference librarian. In 2003, I was laid off. Came back in 2005 and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I’m the only full-time employee overseeing the Research Library & Archives. James Hanks is our part-time archivist. We have 2-3 interns at a time, usually grad students in the process of earning their Masters of Information Science.”

The DIA Library is a True Community Resource

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being a Librarian and Archivist is all about connecting people with information and being able to manage that information in a way to make it as accessible as possible. We acquire materials, provide access to the public, create indexes and inventories and more. Our mission is preservation for future exploration.”

The DIA has 7 curatorial departments. We support museum staff including curators, conservators, and educators, helping them obtain the research materials they need for their respective research projects.”

“We interface with a lot of people. We get information requests from institutions, artists foundations, big auction houses (Christies and Sotheby’s) about things like exhibition installation photos, fact-checking, etc. We assist where we can with research on artists, exhibition history, and provenance, which is tracing the ownership history of artwork.”

“We frequently get questions from people who have a piece of art they’ve inherited. We might be able to help them with biographical information on the artist and sometimes exhibition history, but we are unable to do valuations. The Appraisers Association of America can direct you to a qualified appraiser near you. There’s also DuMouchelles auction house in Downtown Detroit. These are just a couple of suggestions from the list on our FAQ page

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Not many people know this but the DIA has about 700 puppets, it’s one of the largest puppet collections in the United States and one of our special collections here at the library is the papers and books of legendary local puppeteer, Paul McPharlin.”

“We also have a collection of Albert Kahn’s personal books. Lawrence Tech has the larger part, which is housed in its own dedicated room at their library.”

“In terms of new acquisitions, we acquire roughly 700-1,000 books per year.”

“We purchase books from a restricted fund. On average, I purchase 10-15% of the books, which are usually recommendations from the curators. The others are donated to us by institutions, private owners, galleries, and other museums.”

“Our older books are still catalogued in Dewey. Everything else is Library of Congress style classification. Our interns help update access to these older books in our collection by conversion cataloging to LoC.”

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“As an example of our books, we have Verdute di Roma (Views of Rome) from the Venetian engraver, Piranesi.”

“Published in 1835, this is a beautiful 29-volume set of over-sized folios, featuring etchings produced from his original plates, including his Imaginary Prisons series (La Carceri d’Invenzione). This was gifted to the DIA by the estate of former Michigan senator James McMillan in 1905.”

“And yes, in addition to digital offerings, we also still have the old index card catalogs.”

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria’s Final Thoughts for Now

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I really enjoy working with all the different people, the curators, researchers, general public, giving tours, etc. As much as I think I know as a librarian & archivist, I find there’s always more to learn.”

“The challenges are coming up with creative ways to use what resources we have. There’s also so many hidden parts of the collection. I’d like to make them more well-known and help people discover something new, something they didn’t even know they might be interested in.”

“For about 90 years, the DIA used to have an annual Michigan Artists Exhibition. It stopped in the early 90’s due to financial difficulties. I wish the DIA would bring it back.”

“At some point, we might start a Friends Group for the DIA Research Library & Archives. I would like that very much.”

“This work keeps me busy. I still have about 200 boxes of books to sort through and catalog. This work is thoroughly enjoyable, I love it. Come visit us sometime and explore the collection.”

Detroit Museum of Art, aka: the original DIA Building (image courtesy of DIA Research Library and Archives)

Donate your books

 

The DIA selectively accepts donations of art and art history books & associated materials.

Contact

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

DIA Research Library & Archives

3rd floor

Monday-Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Open by appointment-only

(313) 833-3460

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals @ DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Homepage

https://www.dia.org/art/research-library

 

WorldCat

https://www.worldcat.org/libraries/46836

 

ArchiveGrid

https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/?q=contributor:7141&sort=title_sort+asc&limit=100

 

Map of the DIA

https://www.dia.org/sites/default/files/map-dia.pdf

 

Become a member of DIA

https://www.dia.org/membership

 

When visiting the DIA, what eateries are within walking distance?

 

Kresge Court (inside the DIA)

Located on Level 1, this beautiful eatery is designed like an open-air Italian medieval palace courtyard. They have coffee, wine, beer, liquor, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Try the Woodward Avenue Sandwich.

Hours: Tues-Thurs 9am-3:30pm, Fri 9am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4:30pm

 

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Outside of the DIA are:

 

Wasabi (15 E. Kirby, ste E) This Japanese-Korean spot is one of Maria’s personal favorites. Try the sushi and bibimbab.

Chartreuse (15 E. Kirby, ste D) Try the Cap steak and Madagascar vanilla pudding. Make sure you check the hours before coming.

Shields Pizza (5057 Woodward Ave) Try any of the pizzas and the dry rub wings.

Tony V’s Tavern (5756 Cass Ave) Try the pesto artichoke pizza and Tony V’s club sandwich.

Socratea (71 Garfield St, ste 50) Try the Moroccan mint tea.

Common Pub (5440 Cass Ave) Try the duck fat fries and the fried chicken.

Seva (66 E. Forest Ave) try the yam fries and the sweet potato quesadilla.

 

Bruegel the Elder-The Wedding Dance (1566) DIA Detroit

Copley-Watson and the Shark (1782) DIA Detroit

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

view from 3rd floor, DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection is a fascinating hidden gem.

Housed on the 8th floor of the South Stacks of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, the Papyrology Collection contains 18,000 pieces of papyrus.

Estimated to be worth $100 million dollars, it’s the largest collection of papyri in North America and the 5th largest in the world.

I’m standing in 807 Hatcher with the head archivist, Brendan Haug. Also present is manager, Monica Tsuneishi. Brendan has been archivist since 2013, taking the helm from a position started by Traianos Gagos, who was the first archivist in 1991.

This 8th floor hidden perch offers a spectacular vantage of campus as well. There’s a clear view of the Burton Bell Tower and Hill Auditorium to the north and a stunning panorama to the south, which includes the Big House and the Law Building.

The view from 807 Hatcher (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brendan and I are sitting in a reference library next door to a chilled room full of 3,000+ year old treasures in the form of papyri (pap-eye-ree; the plural of papyrus), that great preserver of everyday writing from the ancient world.

U of M’s papyrus (pronounced pap-uh-russ) is written in Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian: Hieroglyphs, Hieratic (cursive hieroglyphs), Demotic (a still-later stage of Egyptian), Latin, Coptic (Egyptian language written in Greek characters with a few additional symbols), Arabic and Hebrew.

Most of the papyri here range in size of fragments from pinky-nail size to full document size.

Egyptian Book of the Dead (11th cen BC) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrology is the study of everyday writing on papyrus and other surfaces like broken pieces of pottery (ostraca), wooden tablets, and stone.

Thanks to the dry Egyptian climate, these objects were preserved for centuries, giving Michigan plenty to study. The goal of papyrologists is to produce complete transcriptions of ancient papyri, thus, bringing long dormant documents back to life.

The work of papyrology can also be incredibly frustrating, since many of those teasing half-there scraps of papyri are damaged beyond translation.

To give you an example of the manifold difficulties of papyrology, only about 5% of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection has been studied, accurately translated and published academically. The rest sit there, waiting to be explored.

Brendan explains more about the Collection

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrus was used from the fourth millennium BC to around 1000 AD. It lasted 4,000 years, until being phased out by parchment and paper. Papyrology, the study of handwritten texts on papyrus and other writing surfaces, is a specialized sub-discipline within Classical Studies.”

“The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection was founded in 1920 by Francis Willey Kelsey. He was a Latin professor and polymath, interested in everything from music to archaeology. Because Ann Arbor was so far from the Mediterranean, Kelsey wanted to bring back antiquities for students at his Midwestern public university to study.”

“Although Kelsey died in 1927, there was still a great deal of money available during this period, particularly before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, so we were able to continue acquiring papyri until the 1940’s. Also, because more people were exposed to Greek, Latin, and the Classics in school during this period, and there was rather more popular interest in the recovery of ancient texts on papyri than there is today.  If you’re interested in Michigan’s history of antiquities collection and archaeology, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology here on campus is a great place to visit.”

U of M’s Francis W. Kelsey (photo courtesy of UofM)

“All of Michigan’s papyrus came from Egypt and our Papyrus Collection began with the purchase of 534 papyri, which was curated by Kelsey himself. After that, U of M continued to purchase texts on the Egyptian antiquities market, many from the famed Egyptian antiquities dealer Maurice Nahman.”

“Since dealers never kept accurate records of where they acquired their papyri, we rarely if ever, have good provenance for texts acquired on the antiquities market. Controlling the circumstances of recovery is therefore extremely important.”

“With this in mind, Michigan obtained permission from the Egyptian government to excavate the ancient Graeco-Roman village of Karanis for eleven seasons, from 1924-1935. Located in Middle Egypt on the northeastern margins of the Fayyum, Karanis is known for producing mass quantities of Graeco-Roman antiquities, which offer great insight into everyday life in a country village.”

The Fayyum was at that time already well-known to antiquities dealers and European academic institutions as major source of papyri.  In fact, a major find of papyri from the region’s central capital city had been dispersed to Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in 1887-88.  So, we knew that excavation in the Fayyum was likely to be very fruitful.   And it turned out to be even more productive than we could have imagined.”

“Over 11 seasons, we acquired thousands of papyri and other artifacts, which we split with the Egyptian government. Fortunately, the desert margins of the Fayyum, where Karanis is located, are hyper-arid, so perishable organic material like papyri are well-preserved in an almost laboratory-perfect environment.  If you visit the Kelsey museum, you’ll see that they have everything from wooden artifacts to foodstuffs, perfectly preserved!”

c. late 1920’s University of Michigan in Karanis, the Fayyum, Egypt (photo courtesy of U of M)

“As for the papyri, Karanis gave us many fragments of Greek literature, including pieces of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony. It also gave us thousands of documents of great significance, such as the Karanis Tax Rolls from 171-175 AD, which allow us to reconstruct the population and demographics of the village during these years.”

“We also have a great many papyri from elsewhere in the Fayyum, including about 150 papyri from the Archive of Zenon, which is largest ancient archive to survive. Zenon was a Greek functionary in Egypt during the early Ptolemaic period (3rd century BC) and the papyri provides us with considerable insight into a period during which Greeks were still consolidating their power over Egypt.”

“But we don’t just have texts on papyri. We also have a great many parchment fragments, such as a piece of a codex of Demosthenes, the from 4th century BC Athenian orator, along with a great many ostraca, pottery sherds that people used for quick notes or short texts like receipts.”

“In 1972, Cornell University also donated all of their papyri to U of M, which had better facilities for the continued care and storage of such fragile material. So really, we have just a major collection, maybe 18,000 fragments. Let’s go take a look at some of this stuff.”

The Environmental Room

Environmental Room @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“This room was specially designed in 1993 by Maria Grandinette and since it’s full of organic material, the stability of temperature and humidity is the most important thing, so we keep it at a cool 65 degrees F and about 45% humidity.”

“The majority of the papyri are stored in acid-free archival folders but we do have a few hundred “glazed” papyri, texts that have been put between two archival glass panes.”

“The great thing about this documentation is that it puts you in contact with ancient people. Although ancient people were in many ways very different from us, they are identical to us in the most important and fundamental ways.”

“For instance, we have two letters on papyrus written in Italy by a young man and sent back to his mother in Karanis.  He had joined the Roman military fleet and was very far from home so, of course, he wrote to let his mother know where he was and that he was safe and well.  What could be more relatable? Still, papyri like these can be a tease, revealing tiny, brief glimpses of the past and leaving us wanting more.  But usually we can never know more, as in the case of this mother and her son. These two short letters are all we have.”

Abstracts of Contracts papyrus (c. 40’s AD from Tebtunis, Egypt) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“But despite this shortcoming, we still have all sorts of material here: the tax rolls from Karanis, papyri from the Tebtunis notary office in the south of the Fayyum, a birth certificate for a young Roman-citizen girl from 190’s AD Alexandria, a drawer full of wooden mummy tags in Greek and Egyptian.” 

“We also have fragments of a book-binding where discarded papyrus was used to stiffen the covers, a large fragment of book 18 of the Iliad, almost anything you could imagine. It’s just so rich that you are constantly seeing something that you could spend hours investigating and only just begin to understand fully.”

“Our oldest piece is in fact a fragment from the Egyptian Book of the Dead from the 11th Century BC. It was purchased in 1925 in Egypt. The papyrus came from the tomb of a woman who is referred to as a Chantress of Amun. She was a temple singer and you can see her making an offering to a hawk-headed god named Re-Harakhte (pronounced ray ha-rock-tey) in the illustration on the papyrus.”

“Basically, the text is a collection of magic spells to ensure that the deceased person’s soul survives the underworld. There are hieroglyphs on the right and hieratic on the left. Some of the sentences are, “Thoth has come, fully equipped with magic” and “who gave jackals to those who are in the watery abyss.” It’s a neat piece and, in fact, it’s still not published since the surviving bottom portion of the fragment isn’t here but in Germany.”

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“By far, however, our most popular papyri are the 30 leaves, i.e. 60 pages, of one of the earliest known copies of The Epistles of Saint Paul. Dating anywhere from the late 2nd-early 4th century AD, they’re written in Greek on papyrus.”

“Known as P46 to New Testament scholars, the pages were part of a large collection of early Biblical manuscripts, most of which were purchased by the businessman and antiquities collector, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.”

“Another 56 leaves of this book survived and they are now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Beatty bought them in 1930, U of M bought some in 1932 and two years later, Beatty purchased the rest.”

Epistles of St. Paul papyrus @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

What is Papyrus?

Papyrus growing along the Nile River in Egypt (photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Papyrus, which is a sedge, grows in Egypt and Sicily, however papyrus plants grew predominantly in marshlands along the Nile River, which is why Ancient Egypt had a veritable monopoly on papyrus production.

Papyrus plants can reach 15 feet tall. To make papyrus sheets for writing, you strip the green husk from the stems and then carefully cut the white pithy interior of the stem into thin strips. You then soak the strips in water for a time and afterwards line the strips up side by side vertically to form one layer, then you create another layer on top with strips running horizontally.

You then use either a mallet or, these days, a hand-cranked press, to smash the layers together and expel the water. The sheets are then and dried. In antiquity, these sheets could then be used singly or glued together to form a long roll.  These rolls could be of any length you wanted.

Papyrus in the dirt (photo courtesy of Rossella Lorenzi @ Archaeology Magazine)

Papyrus was an extremely valuable export commodity, especially for the Roman Empire. Papyrus was also used as cartonnage filler for mummy cases, those form-fitting cases which held mummies inside their sarcophagi.

Water and humidity are the enemies of papyri. Modern paper comes from wood pulp from ground up pine trees and has the same enemies.

To write on papyrus, the Egyptians would most commonly use either a rush pen or a Greek reed pen known as a kalamos. The ink was a mix of lampblack (fine charcoal soot from burning oil in lamps), gum from the acacia tree (gum Arabic) and water, somewhat similar to modern India ink.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (photo courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine)

How old are you?

Okay, now subtract your age from 4,500. Odds are, you’re probably somewhere in the 4420-4485 range. The oldest known papyrus, fragile yes but inexplicably resilient and durable enough to survive, is about that old.

Cool! What does that mean? It means that most papyrus pre-dates the Julian (46 BC) and Gregorian (1582 AD) calendars. Zero became a number around 3 BC in Mesopotamia. That’s right, papyrus predates the number zero by about 3,000 years! Mind = Blown. Canite Sapiunt.

Fast-forward to 4,500 years from now. Year 6,500 AD. Space archaeologists and paper-ologists revisit the old planet Earth to do some digging and uncover a 5,500-mile-long paper artifact. Upon closer inspection it turns out to be an insanely long CVS Pharmacy receipt from the year 2020 AD!

This is what they would be doing… if it were written on papyrus. CVS receipts long enough to wrap a mummy in will not be around in 6500 AD. However, papyrus from Ancient Egypt will most likely still be around.

Egyptology

Egypt (photo courtesy of Google)

“In 1798 when Napoleon invaded Egypt, the country was still terra incognita to Europeans. He brought scientists and engineers on his expedition to learn about Ancient Egypt. Through their scientific surveys they created The Description of Egypt (23-36 volumes), which comprises the foundation of Egyptology, the study of Pharaonic Egypt.”

“Thus, Western political conquest of Egypt opened the country to international study. In 1882, the British took over and started the Egypt Exploration Fund. In 1922, Egypt was made “independent” by the Brits but they still controlled the government.”

“That same year, 1922, amateur archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb at a time when Egypt was beginning to be fed up with Western domination. King Tut’s Tomb was of a quality and quantity unseen before.”

“In response to popular pressure, the French scholars in charge of the Antiquities Service did not allow Carter to take any of Tut’s treasures out of Egypt. The discovery captured the world’s imagination. This sort of grand, romantic, Egyptomania gripped the entire world, including the Egyptians themselves. Art Deco design also started incorporating Egyptological elements.”

Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb c. 1922 (photo courtesy of Smithsonian)

“After that, it became harder to get antiquities out of Egypt and other countries. The 1920’s-30’s was the last major era for getting stuff out of the country. This question started being asked heavily: To whom does this belong?

We owe the survival of documents to climate. Alexandria is on the Mediterranean Coast, it’s wet, eroding, and a lot of ancient Alexandria is actually today underwater. Regarding the big Library of Alexandria, we don’t know the size of the collection, how they were stored, etc. We are therefore dealing with the “survival of the least fit,” as the papyrologist Roger Bagnall has said. ”

“That is, we get the overwhelming majority of our papyri from small sites that were on the very edges of Egypt’s cultivated land, right along the margins of the desert. So, the Library of Alexandria was the literary and cultural center of the country and its contents tell us a lot of information about their culture, it would be a time-machine. There are no more ancient libraries to discover, sadly.”

“There’s not as much interchange between Papyrologists and Egyptologists as there could be. The disciplinary divides that exist are linguistic. Knowing all the ancient languages, knowing 8,000 years of history, etc, it’s just not possible, so you inevitably have to divide up the discipline. Languages alone, you must have expertise in Egyptian (hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic, Coptic), Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, etc, it’s too much for any one person to master in a lifetime.”

Biography of Brendan Haug

Wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My academic interests include the environmental history of Graeco-Roman Egypt, the history of Egyptology and Egypt during the European colonial period. I work largely in Greek and Arabic although I have some training in Coptic.”

“I graduated from the University of Washington in 2004 with a B.A. in Classics and the University of California-Berkeley in 2012 with a PhD in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.”

“Berkeley has the other large papyrus collection in the United States, the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri at the Bancroft Library, which is where I did my grad work. Overall, U of M has a more diverse collection than Berkeley, whose papyri largely come from a single site.”

Fragments of a leather hand-carved book where papyrus was used as paperboard (c. 3rd cen) University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“It was by accident really that I became a papyrologist. I was majoring in Classical Studies and doing my undergrad work at Seattle, studying Greek and Latin. One of my history instructors was going to teach a grad seminar on the Hellenistic World and she invited me to join it. She assigned each student a region to research for the semester and I was given Egypt. I ended up sticking with it, pursuing an honors major, and wrote an honors thesis on certain aspects of Ptolemaic Egypt.”

“After that I got into Berkeley (barely) and began to work at their papyrus collection. The director, Prof. Todd Hickey, needed a student assistant and I was hired on and ended up working there for eight years.”

“Over time, I evolved more into an environmental historian, not a pure papyrologist. Specifically, I’m interested in the human-nature interactions in rural Egypt from the Hellenistic to the early Islamic periods.”

“The world’s largest collection of papyri has to be the 500,000 fragments from the Egypt Exploration Society. It’s housed at Oxford University in the Sackler Library.”

“The papyri came from the city of Oxyrhynchus (oxy-rink-us) in Egypt, which has produced the greatest number of surviving papyri of the Roman period.”

Brendan’s Final Thoughts

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“There’s still a small black market for papyrus but it’s far harder to create monetary values for it because antiquities smuggling is easier to track now. Hobby Lobby, for example, was recently caught importing cuneiform tablets, which they labeled ‘roofing tiles.’”

“Every once in a while, something incredible pops up on Sotheby’s or somewhere but it’s fairly rare. Nowadays, you must have a permit to dig in Egypt, nothing is expatriated and anything you find goes to the government.”

The Classical world in general is not as big a part of the mental landscape as it used to be when it was a part of every educated person’s schooling. The thrill of the hunt and musing on what treasures are potentially buried in unexcavated urban centers is still fun though.”

Book 18 of Homer’s Iliad @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The ultimate goal of papyrology is publishing texts in an effort to reconstruct the culture and society of ancient civilizations, slowly refining our assumptions and arguments as more and more evidence accumulates. The difficulty is simply that there are so, so many documents out there, most of which are very fragmentary. Therefore, it might literally take until the year 4,000 AD for us to publish every papyrus in all the world’s major collections, that’s how slow and difficult it is.”

“Much of what we do these days is online, thanks to emerging digital technology. In 1996, our archivist Traianos Gagos helped create APIS, the Advanced Papyrological Information System, a digital catalog where all images of our photographed papyri are open-access to anyone in the world, it’s a tremendous resource.”

“Beyond that, I recommend that you come up to 807 Hatcher and visit us in-person to see the collection. We’re in the South Stacks, which is a sort of book storage and study space area. I also recommend checking out the 6th floor Special Collections Reading Room while you’re here.”

Epistles of St. Paul @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection

https://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrology-collection

 

Contact

papycollections@umich.edu

 

U-M Papyrology Collection APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System)

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/a/apis

 

Top 20 Most Impressive Ancient Manuscript Collections

https://www.onlinechristiancolleges.com/20-most-impressive-ancient-manuscript-collections/

 

LHPC (directory of over 3,000 known papyrus collections worldwide; around 230 are in the USA)

https://www.trismegistos.org/coll/index.php

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Incomplete Timeline of Papyrus, Papyrology & Allied Interests

Compiled by Place from a variety of sources

Egypt (332 BCE) Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. Koine Greek becomes the official language of Egyptian power.

World (4000 BC) Clay tablets are all the rage.

Abydos, Egypt (3400 BC) The earliest known Egyptian hieroglyphs date back this far.

World (3000 BC-1000 AD) Papyrus is created in Egypt and replaces clay tablets. Papyrus lasts 4000 years until being phased out by parchment paper.

Egypt (3000 BC) Egyptians invent papyrus. Papyrus proves far more portable than heavy clay tablets, which had been the primary writing surface prior to papyrus.

Egypt (2562 BC) The Diary of Merer is the world’s oldest surviving writing on paper. Found by Pierre Tallet in 2013 AD. According to the Diaries, Merer worked for Pharaoh Khufu as head of transportation of the massive blocks of white tura limestone for Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza. Merer was also getting copper at Wadi-el-Jarf. His diary also contains the first known spreadsheet.

Egypt (2500 BC) Carrier pigeons carry messages written on scraps of papyrus.

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (2500 BC) Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets are used for record-keeping. An estimated 500,000 tablets survive today, mostly in broken chunks.

Egypt (1700 BC) Egyptian Book of the Dead spells and occult symbols and writing start popping up in tombs.

Thebes, Egypt (1633- 1552 BC) The sarcophagus of Queen Mentuhotep features some of the earliest known examples of the Book of the Dead.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Egypt (1550 BC) Copies of the Book of the Dead start being written and passed around. The Book of Coming Forth By Day.

Mount Sinai, Egypt (1200 BC) Moses atop Mount Sinai. The Torah is copied by Moses onto a papyrus scroll.

Athens, Greece (399 BC) Socrates says papyrus scrolls are for sale everywhere in the local market, the Agora of Athens, their central public Forum.

Alexandria, Egypt (300 BC-48 BC) Ptolemy I Soter founds the legendary Library of Alexandria, the most important library of the ancient world. The library contains 500,000-1 million scrolls of papyrus. The library’s main mission was to collect a copy of every book in the world. Any works not written in Greek are translated.

Alexandria, Egypt (284 BC) Zenodotus of Ephesus is the first recorded librarian of Alexandria. He developed an organizational system of arranging books by subject matter, then organized alphabetically by the author’s name. Some of his compiled glossaries were found during the excavation of Oxyrhynchus.

Alexandria, Egypt (246 BC-222 BC) Sometime during this timeframe, Ptolemy III builds the Serapeum Library of Alexandria. An offshoot branch of the main library, the Serapeum contained around 50,000 papyrus scrolls.

Alexandria, Egypt (245 BC) Greek scholar Callimachus of Cyrene creates the world’s first library catalog at the Library of Alexandria. The cataloging system of Callimachus was based on alphabetical subject classification and his system was so effective that it was copied throughout the entire Roman Empire. His famous 120-volume Pinakes (Greek for “Tables”) was a master list of information on the books at the Library of Alexandria.

Rome, Italy (240 BC) Livius Andronicus pens the first known literary works written in Latin when he writes his two stage plays.

Pergamum, Turkey (197-159 BC) Eumenes II expands the Library of Pergamum, one of the top libraries of the ancient world. Eumenes also invents parchment paper as a replacement for hard-to-obtain papyrus.

Pergamon, Turkey (150 BC) Crates of Mallus, scholar of the Library of Pergamum, creates the first-ever globe representing Earth.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Greece (146 BC) Roman takeover of Greece.

India (150 BC) Bookbinding originates here in the form of Sanskrit texts bound by sewing palm leaves with twine. Traveling Buddhist monks helped spread the technique.

Rome, Italy (131 BC) the world’s first newspaper, the Acta Diurna, is first chiseled on stone and displayed in the public Forum for the public to read. It is soon copied by slave-scribes onto papyrus and distributed around Rome.

Rome, Italy (87 BC) The Tabularium, official records office of ancient Rome, was housed inside the Roman Forum and consisted of thousands of papyri scrolls.

Athens, Greece (86 BC) Roman General Sulla is Master of Athens and manages to steal the remains of Aristotle’s famous personal library of hundreds of papyri scrolls.

Edfu, Egypt (57 BC) The Temple of Edfu is completed. Inside the temple are two rooms of books comprising a private temple library, called the House of Books of Horus. The Archive of the library is chiseled on the wall and you can still view it to this day!

Alexandria, Egypt (48 BC) Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invades Alexandria, his fire ships attack Egyptian ships. The fire spreads to the shore and the famous Royal Library of Alexandria is torched along with 500,000 papyrus scrolls. The Ptolemies built the Library in 300 BC.

Rome, Italy (46 BC) Julius Caesar implements the Julian Calendar.

Rome, Italy (39 BC) Rome’s first public library is built atop Aventine Hill by Gaius Asinius Pollio inside the Atrium Libertatis. Pollio also organized literary clubs where authors read their works aloud. Virgil would read his Aenied here.

Egypt (30 BC-640 AD) Romans rule Egypt. Thus, most legal documents from that period are written in Latin.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (3 BC) Zero becomes a number.

Rome, Italy (64 AD) The Great Fire of Rome includes the destruction of the Palatine Library inside the Temple of Apollo.

Rome, Italy (77 AD) Pliny the Elder publishes instructions on how to make papyrus paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (79 AD) Mount Vesuvius erupts. It’s path of destruction incudes the Villa of the Papyri, which was the luxury estate of Lucius Calpurnius Piso (Julius Caesar’s father-in-law) and contained a world-class library of 2,000 or so papyrus scrolls. The papyrus scrolls were carbonized in the eruption and discovered mostly intact in 1752. Some of the scrolls included those from philosophers Epicurus and Philodemus and were written in Greek. You can see them on display at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

China (105 AD) Cai Lun invents paper.

World (2nd  Century AD) Parchment begins eclipsing papyrus as the most popular paper of choice.

Rome, Italy (113 AD) Trajan opens the Ulpian Library around his famous column.

World (3rd century AD) The Codex becomes popular. A codex is pages of papyrus or parchment compiled into a book.

Tabennisi, Egypt (320 AD) Saint Pachomius establishes the first monastic lending library in Egypt, consisting of hundreds of scrolls of papyri.

Istanbul, Turkey (350 AD) Sometime hereabouts, the Imperial Library of Constantinople is built by Constantius II. He created a Scriptorium to preserve the ancient Greek classics, where an army of scribes transferred them from papyrus to parchment. The Library at one point contained 100,000 volumes. It was destroyed in 1204 AD during the Fourth Crusade. It was the last of the great libraries of antiquity.

Drawer full of wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rome, Italy (388 AD) Saint Augustine confesses his love of papyrus over parchment.

Europe (4th -15th Centuries AD) Medieval European scribes write on parchment paper, not papyrus.

World (6th century AD) Papyrus rolls gradually vanish and codices become the main medium.

Squillace, Italy (538 AD) Cassiodorus, after succeeding Boethius, establishes the Vivarium Monastery library and scriptorium. Shortly afterwards, he moves to the walled city of Constantinople. Cassiodorus remains a lifelong believer in the supremacy of papyrus.

Seville, Spain (600 AD) the quill pen comes into vogue and its popularity spreads.

Egypt (639 AD) Egypt is conquered by the Arabs.

Talas River Valley, Kyrgyzstan (751 AD) Arabs capture Chinese paper-makers. They’re brought to Samarkand, Uzbekistan and begin teaching others.

Baghdad, Iraq (794 AD) Arab paper mills are built using the Chinese method of paper-making. In less than 300 years, Chinese paper totally eclipses papyrus throughout Arabia.

Vatican, Rome (1083 AD) the last papal bull written on papyrus. They are henceforth written on parchment.

Spain (1100’s AD) The secret art of paper-making finally reaches Europe.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (1200 AD) The Dresden Codex and its fabulous Venus Tables is published. Consisting of 39 sheets (front and back), it is the oldest Mayan manuscript and was written on Mesoamerican bark paper (Amate). You can view it on display at the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany.

Runnymede, Surrey, England (1250 AD) The Magna Carta is written on sheepskin parchment.

Strasbourg, France (1440) Gutenberg invents the moveable type printing press, which quickly revolutionizes the world. His famous Gutenberg Bible is published in 1455 on vellum.

Italy (1490) Leonardo Da Vinci supposedly hunts for “rare” papyrus.

Europe (1582) The Gregorian Calendar is implemented.

England (1623) Shakespeare’s First Folio is published on rag paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (1752) Papyri is discovered in this south Italian city. They had been buried by the eruption of Vesuvius 79 BC.

Vatican, Rome, Italy (1755) Padre Antonio Piaggio, noted Vatican calligrapher, begins deciphering the charred papyri from Herculaneum.

World (1788) Papyrology as a discipline begins when Danish classicist Niels Iversen publishes a papyrus written in Greek, the Charta Borgiana (aka: the Schow Papyrus) from 193 BC detailing daily work in Faiyum, Egypt. The papyrus was a roll with 12 and ½ surviving columns. It was bought in 1778 near Memphis. The Papyrus is donated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. You can view it on display at the Museuo Nazionale Archeologico in Naples, Italy.

Egypt (1798) Napoleon invades Egypt. Egyptology starts in the 1800’s after Napoleon’s information about the fascinations of Egypt spreads around the world.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rosetta, Egypt (1799) The Rosetta Stone (created 196 BC) is discovered at Fort Julien in Rosetta, Egypt. In 1801, the British seize the stone and it’s now on display at the British Museum.

Luxor (1820) The Turin King List papyrus is purchased by Bernardino Drovetti. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.

Thebes, Egypt (1822) Drovetti buys the Turin Papyrus Map of Egypt from 1160 BC, it’s the oldest surviving map of the ancient world. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. Drovetti later dies in an insane asylum in Turin in 1852.

Egypt (1824) The Westcar Papyrus is purchased. Dating from somewhere in the 1800-1650 BC range, it contains five stories about magic at the Royal Court of Cheops and is often called ‘King Cheops & the Magicians’.

Berlin, Germany (1828) Germany establishes the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Halifax, Canada (1838) Newsprint (paper from wood pulp) is invented by Charles Fenerty.

London, England (1842) the Illustrated London News becomes the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine.

Germany (1842) German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius publishes a collection of ancient mortuary texts, which he calls Totenbuch (“The Book of the Dead”).

Karnak, Egypt (1843) Prisse d’Avennes rescues the Karnak Kings List, a list of 60 kings carved on tablets from 4,000 BC and a papyrus scroll from 1800 BC later named the Prisse Papyrus. Widely considered the oldest literary work on paper, it is 18 pages of The Maxims of Pthahhotep by the Grand Vizier Ptahhotep. You can see it on display at the Louve in Paris.

Cairo, Egypt (1851) French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette becomes famous for finding the Serapeum of Memphis. He then founded the Egyptian Department of Antiquities.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nineveh, Iraq (1851) Sir Austen Layard discovers the ancient Royal Library of Ashurbanipal. This was the kings two-room private library inside the Palace of Ashurbanipal, which was built sometime 668-627 BC. It once contained some 30,000 cuneiform clay tablets, including the Epic of Gilgamesh. The library was noted for being the world’s first systematically organized reference collection. You can view several of these tablets at the British Museum.

Turin, Italy (1852) Drovetti dies in an insane asylum.

Cairo, Egypt (1858) Egypt’s Department of Antiquities is established by Frenchman Auguste Mariette. This department still exists today under the name Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Luxor, Egypt (1858) Alexander Henry Rhind purchases a 16-foot-long roll of papyrus, which comes to be known as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Written in Hieratic in 1550 BC, it’s the world’s best-known example of Ancient Egyptian mathematics.

Luxor, Egypt (1862) The Edwin Smith Papyrus is purchased. The contents prove that Egyptians invented medical surgery. You can view it on display at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Boston, Massachusetts (1863) Wood is pulped and turned into paper, creating the Boston Weekly Journal.

Kiman Faris, Faiyum, Egypt (1877) Peasants digging in ancient mounds find thousands of papyri. Called the ‘First Faiyum Find’, most are purchased in Cairo by Austrian dealer-collector, Theodor Graf. He sells them to Archduke Rainer in 1884. Rainer ends up donating the collection to the Austrian National Library.

Alexandria, Egypt (1880) Herbert Greenfield purchases the Greenfield Papyrus, an 121 foot long copy of the Book of the Dead and one of the best surviving examples of a funerary papyrus. Dating from 970 BC it was a funerary papyrus for Princess Neisitanebtashru. His wife Edith donated it to the British Museum, where you can see it on display.

Egypt (1881) Russian Egyptologist Golenischcheff purchases the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. It’s a papyrus dating from 2000-1710 BC and is possibly the oldest fantasy text ever written. You can see it on display at the Imperial Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Egypt (1882) British military occupation of Egypt. The Egypt Exploration Fund is created to fund excavations in the Nile Delta area.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Hawara, Egypt (1888) British Egyptologist, Sir William Flinders Petrie, excavates the area and discovers a fabulous rolls of papyrus containing most of Homer’s The Iliad. Dated to 150 AD, this document is now called ‘The Hawara Homer‘ and is currently kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.

Luxor, Egypt (1888) Wallis Budge swipes the Papyrus of Ani. Dating from 1250 BC, the 78-foot-long papyrus is from Theban royal scribe Ani, who was also governor of a large granary at Abydos and inventory tracker of temple property at Thebes. It is the world’s most complete surviving version of the Book of the Dead. You can view it on display at the British Museum in London.

Gurob, Faiyum, Egypt (1889-90) Whilst digging in the ancient Ptolemaic cemetery, Sir Flinders Petrie finds papyri written in Greek inside Ptolemaic tombs from 250 BC. The papyri includes Plato’s Phaedo and Homer’s Iliad. He finds mummies covered in cartonnage of demotic and Greek papyri.

World (1891) The “miracle year” for papyrologists in terms of papyri being translated and published. Poems of Herodas and Aristotle’s ‘Constitution of the Athenians’ are published from papyrus at the British Museum.

Thebes, Egypt (1892) Russian Egyptologist Golenischev purchases the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus from 1850 BC, Egypt’s oldest math text. You can view it on display at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia.

Abu Gorab, Egypt (1893) The Abusir Papyrus is purchased. Dating from 2500 BC, it is the largest and most important papyrus on Ancient Egyptian administration from the Old Kingdom.

Egypt (1890’s) Egyptomaniac Wallis ‘Budgie’ Budge acquires 47,000 artifacts from Egypt for the British Museum. “In doing so, he committed almost every crime of cultural thievery in the book,” says John Gaudet, “Budge left a record. He and possibly Napoleon had taken the largest number of items ever removed from Egypt.”

Oxyrhynchus, Egypt (1896) Two Brits, Grenfell (Egyptologist) and Hunt (papyrologist) find papyri, then Jan 13, 1897 they hit the mother lode while digging in rubbish mounds. They find a codex leaf, the Logia Iesu, containing the “sayings of Jesus” from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. The Egypt Exploration Fund sells it to the Bodelein Library. “The flow of papyri soon became a torrent,” said Grenfell. They dig until 1907. These excavations are the source of the world’s largest collection of papyri, including fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, Euclid’s Elements, plays of Menander, writings of Pindar, Sappho, Sophocles, the Apocalypse of Baruch, etc.

Egypt (1896) Wallis Budge acquires a 15ft long papyrus containing 20 poetic Odes of Bacchylides.

University Chicago (1898) Papyrology in the USA begins with Greek papyri from Egypt via Edgar J. Goodspeed who sells them to Chicago Egyptologist James H. Breasted. You can view them on display at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.

Tebtunis, Faiyum, Egypt (1899-1900) The Tebtunis Papyri are found by Grenfell and Hunt in an expedition financed by Phoebe Apperson Hearst at the University of California-Berkeley. They find papyri from mummies and also crocodile mummies, including Sobek the ancient Egyptian crocodile god, also known as Soknebtunis (Lord of Tebtunis). You can view these at UCal-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

World (1900) Papyrology finally becomes an accepted and respected discipline.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Susa, Iran (1901) The Code of Hammurabi is found. Dating from 1754 BC, it’s an ancient Babylonian code of law carved into a stone slab. You can view it on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Germany (1902-14) Germany creates the Deutsches Papyruskartell to purchase papyri from dealers in Egypt and sell to German institutions.

England (1908) Grenfell and Hunt produce the first volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri where they gave every papyrus a name and number.

Armann, Egypt (1912) The famous Nefertiti Bust is found by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt inside the ancient workshop of sculptor Thutmose who created it in 1345 BC. It is now housed at the Neues Museum in Berlin. Borchardt also found the Timotheos Papyrus in a wooden sarcophagus at Abusir.

Faiyum, Egypt (1914) Archives of Zenon discovered. Some 2,000 papyri from 258 BC, detailing life in early Ptolemaic Egypt.

Egypt (1920) Oxford papyrologist Bernard Grenfell and University of Michigan scholar Francis Kelsey visit several archeological sites across Egypt.

Egypt (1922) Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb.

Karanis, Egypt (1924-35) Francis Kelsey, University of Michigan Latin professor and philologist, starts excavating Karanis, Egypt. Kelsey dies in 1927 and the digging continues. Finds are sent back to U of M to Elinor Husselman, the curator of manuscripts and papyri.

Michigan (1927) The University of Michigan Department of Manuscripts and Papyrology is founded.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brussels (1930) Papyrologists first assemble internationally for the first time.

Tebtunis, Egypt (1931 and 1934) Enormous amounts of papyri found during Italian excavations.

Saqqara, Egypt (1935) Walter Emert finds two blank yet fully intact rolls of papyrus in the Tomb of Hemaka. At 5,000 years old, they are verified as the most ancient paper ever found.

California (1938) the UC-Berkeley papyri collection starts.

Nag Hammadi, Egypt (1945) The Nag Hammadi codices on papyrus are found, 13 total, bound in leather.

Khirbet Qumran, Israel (1946-56) The Dead Sea Scrolls are found in 11 caves. 930 documents total: 800 written on parchment 130 written on papyrus. 590 documents alone are found in Cave Four. The stash was thought to be from the Essenes.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nahal Hever, Judean Desert (1960-61) Archaeologist Yigael Yadin finds cave of letters in Judean desert from the survivors of the Bar Kockhba revolt, who hid here in 132 BC. The papyri are written in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic.

Derveni, Macedonia, Greece (1962) the only papyrus found in Greece is the Derveni Papyrus, which consists of 266 fragments of an ancient Macedonian papyrus from 340 BC and widely considered to be Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript.

Vatican, Rome (2006) The Bodmer Papyrus Codex (renamed the Hanna Papyrus) containing the Gospels of Luke and John (c. 175 AD) is donated to the Vatican by Frank Hanna. The papyrus was originally found in Dishna, Egypt and sold to Martin Bodmer Foundation, library of the famous collector, who had 150,000 works in Geneva, Switzerland in his private collection.

London (2011) Two heretofore unknown poems of the female Greek lyric poet Sappho are discovered on papyrus written in ancient Greek. Her poetry was once collected into 9 volumes at the Library of Alexandria but was lost to history.

Egypt (2013) Digging since 2011, Pierre Tallet finds 30 caves hidden in a limestone hill. It was a boat storage area 4,600 years ago. In 2013, he finds papyrus written in hieroglyphics and hieratic (ancient Egyptian cursive script). Turns out to be the world’s oldest known papyrus. Written by two Egyptians who helped build the Great Pyramid (Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb) at Giza. He found 30 papyri at the Red Sea port of Wadi-al-Jarf. The Diary of Merer (4500yrs old) are logbook-diaries, telling of his transporting limestone to Giza. They are now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Egypt (2019) The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities operates 72 antiquities warehouses in Egypt. Egypt recently announces they are imposing life imprisonment and millions in fines for antiquities smuggling.

Exclusive Interview: The Comic Book Wizard of Ypsilanti, GEORGE HAGENAUER, Reflects on 50 Years of Collecting Thousands of Comics, Artwork and Books!

Exclusive Interview: The Comic Book Wizard of Ypsilanti, GEORGE HAGENAUER, Reflects on 50 Years of Collecting Thousands of Comics, Artwork and Books!

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer is a funny guy. He is the man of a million, brilliant, chattering tangents, weaving in and out of multiple stories simultaneously like a Benzedrine-crazed Grand Theft Auto driver, yet he never loses the threads. His stories and thoughts are engrossing, they envelop your curiosity.

George is also a walking encyclopedia of comic books, comic art, illustrations, books, pulps, and obscure knowledge.

He owns about 2,500 pieces of original comic art and illustrations. He currently has 1,500 pieces online at Comic Art Fans. In addition to this, he owns the art for two complete 1915 animated cartoons, which he has started restoring, and he owns 5,000+ books and probably tens of thousands of comic books.

We frequently hang out at my favorite drinking establishment in Michigan, The Corner Brewery in Ypsi, where you can find me holding court at least once a month. George, wearing a Hulk t-shirt & bike helmet, will bike up to The Corner on his dad’s old 1936 bicycle from his house a few blocks away and we’ll drink dark beer and talk comics and books for hours.

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Right now, we’re at George’s house in his basement. I’m sitting in a comfortable old rocking chair. George has famous Chicago author (who was born in Detroit) Nelson Algren’s stained-glass lamp hanging over his favorite reading chair. Beyond that are bookcases overflowing with brainfood, mounds of treasures, stacks of rare papers, long boxes of comics, framed original art, heavy-duty locked fireproof filing cabinets, etc, everywhere.

George notices me admiring a piece of art at the foot of his stairs.

Dick Sprang, the Batman artist, an old friend, did that. He was a great guy and quite talented. Recently, I did a statistical analysis of my art collection and came to the conclusion that I have 10 different collections of artwork. The core of my personal favorites are: Chicago history, the history of mystery, paper giveaway premiums, pre-code comic book covers, pulp art, etc.”

George Hagenauer holding original art for Phillip K. Dick’s ‘Gannymeade Takeover’ (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My wife Mary Ellen and I moved to Ypsilanti in 2017 to be closer to our daughter Megan and our granddaughters. Freelance work helps supplement my Social Security. I’ll be doing a ‘History of Mystery’ exhibit this October at the Kenosha Public Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin and to prepare for it, I’ve been reading a mystery novel every other night.”

“Current interests for me are wide-ranging, depending on mood. For instance, right now I’m really into French crime novels of the early 20th century. Also, silent films and 1930’s cinema. In terms of comics, I’m digging on some European stuff like Corto Maltese (1967, Hugo Pratt), Modesty Blaise, and Garth (the British comic strip from Frank Bellamy). I’m from Chicago and Chicago fandom in the 50’s and 60’s wasn’t superhero, it was heavily skewed toward EC, horror, crime, sci-fi, which is also what I like.”

BIOGRAPHY: The Guy Behind The Guy, Behind The Guy

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Born in 1950, George grew up on the South Side of Chicago. George lived in Roseland (South Side Chicago), then as an adult, Ravenswood (North Side Chicago).

From 1968-1972, he attended Northwestern University, graduating with a degree in journalism and political science. While at Northwestern, he set up an Ivan Illich Learning Exchange, one of the first in the USA. This was a program geared toward school reform, deschooling, and non-institutionalized independent learning. It came about because George’s friend knew Ilitch personally. He was considered the bridge between South American leftwing radicalism and the USA school reform movement.

That was followed by 10 years starting and running a city-wide adult literacy program in Chicago and then 25 years with 4-C, a nonprofit program which provides support for early childhood education programs in many counties near Madison, Wisconsin.

Daredevil Battles Hitler #1 (1941) image courtesy of HA.com archives

George has always been a comic fan and collector and in 1976 he was part of the team that started the Chicago Comicon until it was bought by Wizard World.

In 1990, he moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin, where he lived before moving to Ypsi. During this time, he wrote over 200 columns on original art for the Comic Buyer’s Guide.

“Also in the early-to-mid 90’s, I wrote some non-sport trading cards, including the infamous Eclipse True Crime cards, the set of Serial Killers and Gangsters. I collaborated with Max Allan Collins on it. Max is a MWA Grand Master mystery writer. He did ‘The Road to Perdition’, which later became a movie starring Tom Hanks that they filmed in Chicago and Grand Haven, Michigan. I did research for Max’s historical novels and he asked me if I could help with the trading cards, I said sure. So, I did the Gangster cards and the ladies did the Serial Killer cards. We also co-wrote a book on ‘The History of Mystery’ and a book on ‘Men’s Adventure Magazines’. Both were nominated for best mystery non-fiction with the Men’s Adventure book winning!”

George Hagenauer holding original Kelly Freas drawing ‘Dukes of Desire’ from 1967 (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a member of the Comic and Fantasy Art Collectors Amateur Press Association (the CFA-APA), which while having the amusing title of “amateur”, actually over 40% of the current membership are professionally published nationwide.”

“In addition to being a comic & pulp reader, I’ve been a heavy reader of books in general my whole life. Books are tools. I buy books because they’re useful for building knowledge.”

“As for my heritage, my Mom was 3rd generation American of Swedish descent. My Dad was 4th generation American of German, Austrian, Irish, Bohemian and Scotch descent.”

George Hagenauer III: The Early Years

I’ve been collecting books and comics since I was 10. I was into adult sci-fi before I was reading Superboy!”

In the mid-1950’s, my parents didn’t want me reading super-hero comic books, so my dad would bring me Boys Adventure Series books featuring Tom Swift inventing the motorcycle and things like that. Books he read as a kid. They were available in used bookstores for a quarter as opposed to the new versions which were a dollar or more. That got me into a host of used bookstores at a very young age.”

 

“My first actual experience with comics was my dad reading me at age 4 or 5 ‘Uncle Scrooge McDuck’ by the great Carl Barks for Dell Comics. It was written for kids but had many subtle adult undercurrents. You could find them at dime stores or glorious Skid Row book stores for a nickel each.”

“Uncle Scrooge is this amazing satire on American Capitalism, published under the Disney imprint by Dell Comics via Whitman Publishing out of Racine, Wisconsin. Barks worked in manual labor jobs before being a cartoonist, so his work often features characters with great, real-world perspectives.”

Dell Comics oddly tend to be ignored by most collectors. I collect them heavily. In the 1940’s-50’s they were extremely subversive. Dell was doing stories like Donald Duck selling furnaces for Uncle Scrooge to Cambodians, Little Lulu early proto-feminist comics (Now Girls Allowed) and even Tarzan’s promoting positive race relations (Brothers of the Spear).”

Mad Magazine’s Free Fall Ferris circa 1956 (image courtesy of online archives)

“Then, I discovered Mad Magazine. Free Fall Ferris by Wally Wood, one of the cartoons therein, was brilliant. So, as a youngster, I was periodically exposed to Uncle Scrooge and Mad Magazine, which is an odd combination and probably explains a lot about who I am. Tales Calculated to Make you Mad”.

Chicago’s 3 Skid Rows in the 1960’s

Skid Row Chicago (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

“One thing that frequently brings back a lot of memories is remembering seeing books on North Clark Street when I was a kid. At age 10, my dad would give me a $1.00 and send me to Skid Row for books. ‘Here’s a dollar, go to Skid Row,’ he’d say.”

“Books were 15 cents to 20 cents on Skid Row. Early wacky Roy Rockwood steampunk stuff from 1905 and Carl H. Claudy, got me into sci-fi. Then, I started going to the library, reading Heinlein, Asimov, Dick, etc. Back then librarians were worried about what you were reading. Now, they’re just worried if you’re reading or not! On Skid Row, I was finding used copies of John Campbell’s Astounding sci-fi magazine for pennies.”

Chicago had three Skid Rows at that time: North, South and West. The North Skid Row area was loaded with bookstores all run by incredibly eccentric human beings.”

You’d be stepping over rummies in doorways to go buy your comics. Pimps, hookers, drug dealers, junkies and a 10-year old George Hagenauer. $3.00 would buy me 60 comics on Skid Row! You just couldn’t beat the prices, it was worth dodging the shady characters and obsessively watching your back. I was buying early Marvel Comics off the stand for cover prices. Some of those comics in high grade are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more nowadays. Unfortunately, mine all went when they hit $10 because they paid for my first quarter in college in the late 60’s!”

Chicago Skid Row: Acme Books and ABC (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

South Skid Row was along South State Street and had the YMCA Hotel where Chicago’s monthly comic convention was held starting in the late 1960’s. I always wanted a Gustave Dore’ 1883 folio edition of ‘The Raven’. When I was 9 years old, I saw they had a stack of 10 in this used bookstore in the Loop on the south side of the river. At the time they were $8 each!  Way more money than I could afford. Today, I think they are still way more money than I can afford. West Skid Row ran along West Madison Street. Today it is the site of Oprah Winfrey’s studio – back then it was where mass murderer Richard Speck was caught in 1966.”

“I spent most of my time on North Skid Row. It ran along Clark Street had four used book stores run by possibly the most eccentric group of book dealers ever known. This was part of the old “Hobo Bohemia” neighborhood where hobos slept after jumping off in the Downtown Chicago Trainyards. The neighborhood ran from Clark Street to Bughouse Square.  Across from a residential hotel (i.e. partial brothel) inhabited by a host of seedy characters, you had Acme Books (414 N. Clark Street). with ABC Magazines next door. On the same block you also had Gallery Books.”

“My favorite store was ABC Books and Magazine Service. ABC sold a lot of racing forms as well as almost any other magazine published since the 1800’s. The building dated back to right after the Chicago Fire and was heated by a potbelly stove. Whatever was unsaleable went into the stove for heat! If you went after books on the top shelf (10 feet up) you had to brush off the soot.”

Acme Books had a Superman #1 in their window for $100. And Green Lantern #1 and Batman #1. Acme was run by Noel Roy, a man who looked like popular Marvel supervillain, the Red Skull. After his wife died he was assisted by Sam La Chappelle, a redhead girl with a bouffant hairdo who attracted and maintained the attention of a lot of predominately young male collectors.”

Acme Books (Skid Row, Chicago) featuring Sam La Chapelle (left) and Noel Roy (right). “They sold comics, books and had a heavy-duty safe full of rare books. Those comics up front, which were considered ‘secondary’ at the time, would be worth a lot today!”-Hagenauer (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

Gallery Books was the most legitimate looking of the three, with first editions by Hemingway and the rest lining the walls. When Weird Tales left Chicago for NYC, Tony the owner of Gallery Books, bought their files and had multiple mint copies of every issue for sale. Tony had an apartment in the back of the store. Most of the bookdealers sold pornography either under the table or more openly. In the case of Tony, he traded porn to various pickers for 1st edition Hemingway’s and real treasures.”

“In the early 1960’s, I’m at Gallery buying nickel comics and while I didn’t know it at the time, the boxes were atop a low flat file filled with original Brundage pastels. Margaret Brundage was a cover artist for Weird Tales (1931-39). She and her husband met at the Dill Pickle Club, a radical Bohemian club created in a stable during Prohibition just off Bughouse Square.  Bughouse Square was a free speech center. Anyone could pull up a soapbox or stand on a park bench and speak or rant about any issue. The Dill Pickle brought that atmosphere inside with Hobos hanging out with major Chicago writers.”

Weird Tales (1934) featuring Conan. Art by Margaret Brundage. (Image courtesy of Hagenauer’s archives)

“Margaret’s husband was a Wobbly (IWW union) organizer and the first cover image ever of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is a portrait of her husband, the Wobbly organizer! He was active in the Sixties Counterculture, the Hobo College Movement and the Anarchist Press in Rogers Park. She played a key role in developing the South Side Community Arts Center in Chicago African American Bronzeville neighborhood. The center is still there serving the community.”

“Out of all the characters though, there’s one guy who particularly stands out. On a scale of 10 for eccentric bookdealers, Bill Ostfeld of William Ostfeld Rare Books, sometimes located on North Clark Street skid row (depending on if he was keeping up on his rent) would be a 12 . He was notorious. The photo of him here is from an article in Genesis where he claims to have given Hugh Hefner the idea for Playboy and that Hefner owed him for an umbrella he borrowed!

Wiiliam Ostfeld, notorious Chicago book dealer. (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives via Genesis)

“At one point he had a Superman # 1 from 1939 hanging in the front window of his shop for only a cool $25.00. Bill liked to play the game of ‘how much can I get out of the store before its padlocked?’ Bill could be a difficult guy. He even threw a book at my head once. Once comics became collectible, he was known to sell the same collection to multiple mail order dealers in other states often right before he changed locations. Ozzie dealt porn openly.”

“Beyond Skid Row, I always loved going to the Harding Museum as a kid. It was this cool Gothic stone castle on Lake Avenue in Hyde Park, a glorious medieval fantasy mansion full of suits of armor and weird trinkets. Unfortunately, the place closed in 1982 and everything was ultimately transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Detroit Triple Fan Fair (1964-77)

image courtesy of DTFF archives

Detroit has an enduring legacy of great shows. For example, September 4th-7th, 1959 the 17th World Science Fiction Convention was held at the Fort Shelby Hotel in Downtown Detroit. The toastmaster was Isaac Asimov with the assistance of Robert Bloch!

But what really put Detroit on the convention map was Detroit Triple Fan Fair.

Started in 1964, the Detroit Triple Fan Fair was the first regularly held comic book convention in the United States.

Jerry Bails, the Father of Comic Book Fandom, moved to Detroit in 1960 to teach at Wayne State University. Jerry lived on Brooklyn Street at the intersection of Plum Street. Plum Street was Detroit’s psychedelic Haight-Ashbury-esque neighborhood in the Sixties.

Jerry Bails and wife in Detroit (photo courtesy of Inter-Fan)

Jerry Bails also got a young George Hagenauer into collecting original art. In the pre-internet days, nobody knew the full extent of what existed.  Jerry decided to create a database of all the comics in existence with credits, when possible, for artists and writers. In 1967 he did this through his fanzine and offered prizes for the most data entries on comics not in the Bails collection. George entered the contest and won a piece of free art. The Bails database ultimately morphed into the Grand Comic Database currently maintained by MSU.

In 1964, the Detroit Triple Fan Fair (DTFF) Convention was started by Robert “Bob” Brosch (of Allen Park) and Dave Szurek (of Detroit’s Cass Corridor; a monster magazine enthusiast). The DTFF featured 3 fandom realms: comic books, science-fiction and film.

In 1965, Jerry Bails took over DTFF with the help of native Detroiter, Sheldon ‘Shel’ Dorf who came onboard and helped expand it. He had studied briefly at SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and moved back to town. The Fair swelled to massive attendance.

In 1970, Shel moved to San Diego and immediately started the San Diego Comic Con. Still running to this day, the SDCC attracts 160,000 attendees.

The Detroit Triple Fan Fair lasted until 1977.

Genesis of the Chicago ComiCon

Chicago ComiCon

“In 1972, Nancy Warner, this Chicago antiques dealer, started a show called the Nostalgia Con. After a couple years, she grew weary of it and in 1975 sold the show to Joe Sarno. In 1970, Joe had bought one of Ostfeld’s closed bookstores, then he opened his own shop in 1973, the Nostalgia Shop on Lawrence Avenue.”

Joe Sarno’s Nostalgia Shop in Chicago (image courtesy of Sarno Fanpage)

Joe Sarno was the nexus point for everything relating to comics in the city of Chicago. He had started a comic club in his basement on the North Side (Pulaski and Lawrence Avenues) and had 30-50 people there. A guy named Dave Denwood later let them use the community room at Northwest Federal Savings & Loan Bank on West Irving Park Road, so they moved the get-togethers there and they grew tremendously. Joe was a dual-fandom guy, he loved sci-fi and comic books. Everybody liked him, no one ever had a problem with him.”

Stan Lee (left) and Joe Sarno (right) at the first Chicago Comicon (image courtesy of Sarno Fanpage)

“So, Joe took over the con from Nancy. Joe then called Ross Kight, Larry Charet, Mike Gold, myself and some others. From 1972-2002, Larry Charet ran Larry’s Comics (1219 W. Devon Ave, Chicago). Anyways, Ross later bailed, the rest of us hung on and we held the first Chicago Comicon on August 6th-8th, 1976 at the Playboy Towers Hotel. Admission was only $2.50! We had about 2,000 attendees and Stan Lee and Jeanette Kahn as guests. The Chicago Comicon ended up becoming the second largest convention in the USA, behind the San Diego Comic Con.”

“In 1997, Wizard World came in. They bought the Chicago Comicon, rebranded it toward their magazine and turned it more into a media con.”

Hagenauer: Collector Stories

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In addition to his basement of treasures, George has a packed off-site storage unit (essentially an adjunct library) tucked behind a green steel roller shutter door, full to the brim of comics, books, ephemera, etc, all stored on shelves he put together of scrap wood and discarded pallets.

My rule of thumb is only very rarely have more than one copy of anything. The few extra ones I have, must go. Also, anything that I lose interest in has to go. This is especially true as I age, given there is no one in the family who wants most of this stuff. The new house is a lot smaller, so the storage locker is designed as a reference library for the books I use in historical research but no longer have space for in the house.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“One of the sad things I have had to do is help several widows of friends of mine figure out how to dispose of their late husbands’ collections. If you want to maximize value, that is not an easy thing to do as often it means dividing the collection up and selling it in different venues. Most auction houses do well with some material but not great with others. A lot of dealers I know buy material at auction for resale. So, figuring out what the best strategy is to dispose of a collection, can be an interesting puzzle.”

“Helping my friends’ widows caused me to think about an exit strategy. I mean, one friend’s rather large and complex collection took something like 12 years for the family to sell. So, right now, I’m working on an exit strategy, which is why I’m restoring the cartoons and doing the museum exhibit among other things.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I’m a reader. I also collect artwork. Everyone is a temporary custodian of their possessions. You really don’t truly “own” anything, you’re just a temporary steward until you die. Art is another way to connect to the stories, authors and books that you enjoy as you can see the art daily on your walls. I display artwork at libraries and museums. I’m curating the upcoming ‘The History of Mystery’ exhibit at Kenosha Public Museum using mystery and detective related art to tell the story of the development of the mystery genre in America in all its different media. I want to turn it into a low-cost touring exhibit. To do that I need a sponsor to cover the costs of the framing material.”

In 1968, I went to college, got rid of stuff, then immediately re-accumulated 1969-72. When you get into collecting, when you’re active and knowledgeable, you start running across lots and collections.”

Detective Comics #2 (1937) image courtesy of HA.com archives

“One tragic example is Richard Martin Fletcher. He was a comic artist from 1936-64. He died and his family wanted to sell his house and studio, which was inside of a shed on the property. They told the workers to tear down the studio and trash whatever was inside. They found $1 million worth of comics congealed in barrels of water where the roof had leaked. So, yes, he had amassed a fortune but it cruelly, ironically, paradoxically, was utterly ruined in the end.”

“It’s pretty fun amassing too, though. One particularly memorable haul I had was when I used my relatively inexpensive clarinet and saxophone as collateral for a stack of Golden Age comics. This was at Kings Three Antiques in South Evanston, Illinois, which was a rathole antique store that had uncharacteristically incredible finds like hand-carved Polynesian deflowering tools in the main display case, pieces of Samurai Armor, and amazing early Japanese carvings.”

Military Comics #9 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

As a collector, you also come to enjoy the various shops and their owners. For instance, all the used book dealers in Cleveland would close mid-day and play poker and drink. The game floated between their stores. It would be at hosted by John Zubal at Zubal Books one day, then by Mark Stueve at Old Erie Street Books the next. Zubals is still there but Erie is no more. Old Erie Street Books (2128 E. 9th St, Cleveland) 1976-2018 R.I.P.”

“Another great place was Renaissance Books in Milwaukee. They used to have a 5-story warehouse, built in the 1880’s, it was a quarter of a block of unpriced books 5-stories tall. The books were unpriced, they’d price them at the counter. Incredible selection of stuff. Renaissance is still around, but only inside the Milwaukee Airport and Southridge Mall. The main store closed in 2011.”

Hagenauer on the Art & Business of Collecting

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I have always tended to collect more to read than to have an amazingly nice condition copy of something. Also, working my whole life in community-based non-profits, I have never had a lot of money to spend. So, if I can accumulate all this stuff, anyone who puts the time in and learns a lot about the areas that interest them can do it as well.”

“And because of the internet, this is probably the best time to collect books and other material related to them. Though frankly you often will do better buying at shows. I once did an article for the Comic Buyer’s Guide on one visit to a big comic con. I didn’t have to pay admission because I was doing a panel discussion so there was minimal overhead. I had saved up about $200 and bought a lot of material at the con. With a few exceptions (about 20-25 dime novels circa 1900 I got for a dollar each) all of it could be found online for about the same price. But buying online in most cases meant shipping costs. When I compared the buys at the show to buying online, the show was 40% cheaper. I also like the social aspects of shows talking to dealers and other collectors.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Still it helps to consider all costs when looking at buying something. When looking at realized prices at auction it also helps to take into account seller, grading and buyer’s fees.  That $100 item at a major auction house may have netted $65 to the seller, $80 on eBay etc. If you decide you want to later auction it, you need to take that into account. I saw a highly successful businessman, the type of who makes money daily in big deals, very savvy in that world, buy a high-end piece of comic art and lose $8,000 on it due to first selling it too quickly at auction and not taking into account the various rules that can help you or hurt you at auction. In any area there is a lot of knowledge that needs to be developed, you can’t just hop in at the high-end and expect to make a killing.”

“Dealers will sometimes take into account the costs involved in selling online when pricing for shows, resulting in cheaper prices at shows”

“A key aspect of the internet is that is has made a large amount of material not scarce. I like to collect Yellow Kid buttons, which are pinbacks from the 1890’s of the first successful comic strip character in the USA. It used to be you would see one or two a year at $15-25 each. If I had the cash, I would pick one up. Now any week you can find a dozen or more on eBay going for under $30. If I had the cash or the inclination, I could double the number of buttons I now own. To the average person these are scarce. To those of us who collect them they are now oddly common. When I wear the buttons to shows, most people have no idea who the Yellow Kid is.”

George Hagenauer displaying his Yellow Kid buttons (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“In some areas, prices have dropped even lower with the rise of the internet. Dime novels are usually 100+ years old and quite scarce. They usually go for a lot less than pulps or comics. I periodically pick up issues at shows or online for $5 or less.  No one knows the characters, the text is small, and now if you want to just read them, digital copies are online for free or on discs with hundreds of issues on one disc for less than $10.”

Yellow Kid Button (image courtesy of online archives)

“In contrast, there are plentiful copies of first appearances of popular comic book characters that have appeared in the last 25 years that are going for far more money than a really scarce surviving dime novel. People know the comic book character but don’t know the dime novels. Scarcity often takes a back seat to demand.”

“As digitization and copies proliferate online, prices shift around on older books, often with dust jacket-less copies dropping in value. That makes it a really neat time to start collecting as a wide range of books become far more affordable. I have a friend and his wife who are into mysteries. Retired and with limited space they only buy paperback versions but look for the earliest editions possible. He tends towards hardboiled, she towards more conventional mysteries. They are having a great time collecting and reading on tight budget. Whatever area of paper that interests you, there is probably a way to start collecting it today.”

George Hagenauer’s copy of The Challenger, a rare 1946 comic book about backing socialist coups in Greece (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The other interesting aspect of this is often the cheapest prices are at specialty shows. The dealers have less overhead than a store, but the key thing is the amount of material available. I bought a lot of mystery books, all early vintage paperbacks from the 1940’s & 1950’s, at last year’s Windy City Pulpcon for $1 each. They were solid reading copies. Some specific books I needed and didn’t get there, I bought online or at DreamHaven Books. Online was usually the most expensive option due to shipping, though some titles still came in at only $2-3 a book with free shipping.”

What kills areas of collecting is lack of new blood, an inability to attract younger members/collectors, which is why many collectibles flatline over time. For the new collector or the uninitiated, it is often hard to figure out value. A lot of people steer clear of collecting comic art because of perceived high prices. What gets covered and promoted in the press are the top dollar prices for the high end or high-grade collectible material. Comic art is a good example. You’ll hear about the Steve Ditko Dr. Strange page that went for $66,000. If you are into Dr. Strange or Spider-Man, you don’t hear about the fact you can pick up published pages from more recent issues for $75 or get drawings done by some current artists for far less than that. As a result, new collectors feel they cannot even start. And yes, if you want some specific artists and characters, you can’t start unless you are rich. But if you want a nice piece for your wall they are out there for sale or trade. This weekend, for example, I got two original published cartoons by a major Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for $20 each, which is about equivalent to the cost of a current graphic novel, for each one.  And that was at a major online auction house who has had record prices on comic art. ”

Black Cat Mystery #50 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

“I have a portrait from The Life of Pancho Villa by the great illustrator Wallace Smith from 1918-ish, I bought it online, it’s a fascinating piece.  The artist is relatively unknown, an associate of the Brundage’s at the Dill Pickle Club and it’s an historic piece. Interests like this in more off-trail areas, you can find stuff cheaper, undervalued or misidentified. Your collection is an extension of who you are, it becomes a part of your identity.”

“And that is true about almost any area of book of paper collecting. The shows, the online auctions or sales platforms like www.ABEbooks.com are out there to browse. There are tons of neat material to find and be interested in. You just need to spend a little time hunting for it and that is part of the fun. That and for me the social aspects getting to know other collectors, is the best part.”

George Hagenauer holding original art Life of Pancho Villa from 1918 by Wallace Smith (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“In Ypsilanti, there is a group of comic book fans that are meeting in a microbrewery once a month to socialize about comics, network and do a little trading. Ann Arbor has a group forming. I am surprised more of that is not happening in other areas like mysteries, militaria, romance novels, children’s books etc. Being social is not just posting online, being social is getting together with others with similar interests. That is why I love shows like the Detroit Festival of Books and the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention. Lots of interactions and lots of learning from other people.”

“And the learning, the intellectual activity is what I really enjoy. Collect what you really truly find interesting and find other people who are interested in the same stuff. Link up with like-minded people. Don’t buy purely for investment. Buy for enjoyment for yourself and others. The ultimate goal of all collecting is that so other people can enjoy your collection.”

One fun aside: BILL HELMER IS FAT FREDDY

Bill Helmer (photo courtesy of Adam Gorightly)

“Decades ago I made contact with a guy named Bill Helmer in my neighborhood in South Evanston, Illinois who wanted to sell or trade a pile of Golden Age comics.”

“Bill had moved to Chicago in 1969. He was a key editor at Playboy Magazine at the time. This was back when Hef lived at the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago. I periodically helped Playboy with graphics research for years.”

Bill Helmer’s card (image courtesy of Adam Gorightly)

“Helmer had a pile of EC Comics and other obscure Golden Age Comics at his house, a Thompson sub-machine gun and a Japanese helmet with a skull on a shelf. His knowledge of Prohibition-era history is unparalleled. Among other things Helmer founded the ‘John Dillinger Died for Your Sins Society’. He has been the major influence on most research done on the Capone and Depression era bandit gangs. So, I bought some comics and got to know him.”

“During and after college Bill shared an apartment with Gilbert Shelton who did the Furry Freak Brothers, whom he knew from Texas, when Gilbert was doing Wonder Warthog, in 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin.”

Fat Freddy (based on Bill Helmer) from the Fabulous Furry Freak Bros.

Bill, Gilbert and this other guy moved to NYC, these 3 guys were roommates and they became the inspiration for the Furry Freak Bros.  In the comic, Bill became Fat Freddy. Gilbert painted amazingly good cover recreations of EC Comics on the ceiling of this apartment. Bill had photos of the ceilings with the Jack Davis style rotting corpses and Graham Ingels’ ghouls. It was pretty wild.”

Comic Miscellanea

Obadiah Oldbuck (printed in Germany, circa 1837, the world’s first comic book)

“Some of the oldest comic books are from Germany and Switzerland.

One of the oldest comic books, I believe, is Obadiah Oldbuck, printed in Germany in 1837 and later reprinted in America.”

George Hagenauer’s This Magazine is Haunted #13 (1953)

“A cool comic you should take a look at is ‘This Magazine is Haunted’ (1951-53) from Fawcett Comics in NYC. Great supernatural comic from Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Moldoff. I have some original artwork and comics from Shelly. The original Fawcett archives were divided up between 3 dealers. I knew all 3 of them. The warehouse was sold off in the 1980’s. Moldoff designed the original concept but lots of artists worked on the comic. I own a small painting of the host, Doctor Death, done by Shelly years later.”

George Hagenauer’s painting of Doctor Death (from ‘This Magazine is Haunted’) done by Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Moldoff

George on Living in Ypsilanti

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ypsi is such a cool city! The social aspects here are incredible, the people you talk to are amazing.”

Washtenaw Community College is an amazing resource especially for seniors like me, who can attend classes free if they are not filled. I took a photoshop class so I could work on graphics. This knowledge is helping me do restoration work on two animated films from 1915. It’s amazing to see figures move on the screen after being lost for over 100 years.”

Ypsilanti is one of the most intellectually stimulating communities I’ve ever been in. I love all the fun, random conversations. You run into people and start talking and it becomes something magical and interesting.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Plus, many cool spots are here like The Corner Brewery, Hedger Breed’s White Raven Books, Cross Street Books, Sidetracks, Dolores Mexican Restaurant, Cultivate Taphouse, etc. It’s an incredible concentration of cool shops and places. One of the last bastions for viable antique stores.”

“Also, fun fact, Perry Preschool in Ypsi is historical in terms of early childhood education. They did a historic study here from 1962-67, which showed how important early education is for human growth and development.”

“My barber, Alex Fuller, has a literacy program inside his barbershop! That’s investing in your community. And there are barbers across the city especially in the black community who are doing the same thing. I don’t worry about waiting when I go to the barber because there are so many neat books to read.”

“Ypsi, there’s some incredibly good stuff happening here.”

The Ypsilanti Comic Roundtable

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The Ypsi Comic Roundtable is a group of people including myself, Ryan Place, James Arnoldi and about 12 others who meet the first Thursday of every month from 6:30pm-10pm at the Ypsilanti Alehouse and…you’re invited to join us!”

James Arnoldi started it in November 2018 and it’s an interesting example of what people should be doing more of.”

“The YCR is just people interested in comics, getting together in-person to talk comics and trade/sell comics over beer. This would be a good model for book collecting groups as well. Start small, very focused, with discussion groups. Much like tidepools by the ocean, it’s where life starts.”

Contact George

*If you’re interested in buying/selling anything, especially comic and illustration art, comic books, pulp art, rare movies from the silent era and 1930’s, etc. or for information about the Ypsi Comic Roundtable*

George Hagenauer

yellowkd@tds.net

 

Hagenauer profile on Comic Art Fans

https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerydetail.asp?gcat=4536

 

The Host Shelly

https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?Piece=1528704&GSub=82174

 

Hagenauer Ebay

https://www.ebay.com/usr/georgehagenauer

 

Comic Link

http://www.comiclink.com/

 

Ypsilanti Comic Roundtable

https://www.facebook.com/groups/770177856658436/

 

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “Charles Biro invented true crime comic books in 1912.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer’s Prohibition-era flask (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer, “These are railroad spikes from where Frank Nitti committed suicide. Also we have a Maxwell Bodenheim from Chicago Literary Times.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is ‘Space Pirates’ by Kelly Freas. It’s painted on burlap!” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is another Kelly Freas piece. It was done in 1969 and used in Wolfling by Gordon Dickinson.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is a rare bound volume of Black Mask.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ryan Place writing notes (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ryan Place writing notes (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

All Star Comics #38 (1948) image courtesy of HA.com archives

National Comics #33 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

The Thing #16 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Baseball Heroes (1952) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Suspense Comics #11 (1946) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Superman #45 (1947) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Cat-Man #9 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Crime SuspenStories #22 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Crack Comics #1 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Silver Streak #6 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Detective Comics #2 (1937) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Great Comics #3 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Batman #3 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Mask #2 (1945) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Cookie #17 (1949) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Green Lantern #1 (1960) image courtesy of HA.com archives

All Star Comics #8 (1941) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #1 (1958) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Dennis the Menace #1 (1961) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Mystic Comics #2 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Batman #73 (1952) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Jerry Lewis #78 (1963) image courtesy of HA.com archives