[Austin]: The Book Club of Texas [printed at the press of W. Thomas Taylor], 1989. Van Vliet, Claire. First and Limited Edition. Wraps. First edition with woodcut illustrations by Claire Van Vliet, one of 500 copies, unnumbered, octavo size, 244 pp. Near fine. Item #19100204
Edna Gertrude Beasley (1892-1955) was born into the most difficult of circumstances; per the December 19, 2018 New York Times obituary (part of their "Overlooked" series), her life from conception to death was nothing but hardship, physical suffering, and despair. The meanness of her circumstances would bring tears to the eyes of anyone, and her memoir, when first printed in 1925 by Contact Editions (Paris), due to personal revelations of political figures was perceived by many in power to be so dangerous that, according to the Times, "more than half of the copies...were seized and destroyed by the government."
This 1989 printing by The Book Club of Texas was sparked by the interest of Larry McMurtry in her story; at the time this was printed, no one knew what had become of Gertrude Beasley - she had seemed to vanish just as most copies of the first edition of her autobiography had vanished. He tried to trace Beasley, and the search was taken up by a librarian. They eventually traced her to having been committed to a mental institution in 1927, from which she never left, dying in 1955.
She is now acknowledged to "belong in the first rank of Texas writers...the forgotten woman of Texas literature" (quote by Don Graham, professor at the University of Texas, as cited in the Times obit).
This is a gritty story, one which is made more approachable by the stark woodcuts done by artist and printer Claire Van Vliet (b. 1933). Van Vliet's work with the Janus Press (established in 1955) has been highly regarded for decades, and during those years she has garnered many prestigious awards including a MacArthur Prize Fellowship (1989), at least two honorary Doctorates of Fine Arts, and the Frederic W. Goudy Award (RIT), among others.
___DESCRIPTION: Stitched signatures encased within pale blue mottled paper wraps, grey paper spine label with black lettering and decorations, running decorative border at the bottom of the text, different decorative borders throughout to mark pauses in the text, fourteen monochrome woodcuts by Van Vliet throughout, each set above text and covering the top half of the pages (five are single-page and nine double-page spreads); type Monotype Century Schoolbook printed letterpress, book design by Claire Van Vliet, woodcuts by Van Vliet printed from the original blocks, octavo size (9 5/8" by 6.25"), pagination: [i-ii, title page, blank] -241, [242, colophon]; loosely laid in is a one-page notice "How to Open This Book" printed on light grey paper (matching the spine label).
___CONDITION: Near fine, the wraps mostly clean with minimal overall light edgewear, the sewn binding strong, the interior is clean and bright, and entirely free of prior owner markings; a few very light spots of white on the rear wrap, and the aforementioned light edgewear, else fine. The notice is fine, clean and without wear.
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