Two Fairy Tales: The Black Swans of Grettamoor [and] A Fairy Tale
n.p. Self-published, 1939. Later printing. Hardcover. Twelvemo size, 79 pp., with accompanying MS note from Sonya. Fine. Item #CNWB16
An utterly charming volume of two fairy tales: one written by Fritz Joachim Weyl and the other by his wife, "Sonya" (Martha Weyl), who (it is highly likely) also did the calligraphy and bound the volume.
Dr. Fritz Joachim Weyl (1915-1977) was a renowned mathematician, (interestingly) the son of another highly-regarded mathematician, Hermann Weyl. Dr. Joachim Weyl earned his PhD at Princeton with his dissertation being on "Analytic Curves"; he would go on to teach at a number of universities during his career, was employed as a research analyst for the U.S. Government at one point, served as the Dean of Science and Mathematics at Hunter College for a short time, and also served as the President of SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics), 1960-61.
But there was a romantic side to the mathematician - and we see that in the first fairy tale in this volume, "The Black Swans of Grettamoor". To the best of our knowledge this was the only children's book Dr. Weyl wrote, although he published several books and essays on mathematics. Searches in OCLC reveal no books with this title, and a short MS note tucked within the book by Sonya states it is "dear Joe's [Joachim] Fairy Tale he wrote before we were married..." - thus, we believe it is a story Dr. Weyl himself wrote, not gleaned from other sources. As with all true fairy tales, it contains notes of both joy and sadness, longing and love both found and lost. The second tale in the book, "A Fairy Tale" by Sonya, is equally as creative and magical, albeit shorter and simpler.
The wonder of this book springs from the creativity of the authors: it was simply made, consisting of "a zeroxed copy of a little manuscript" (per Sonya's note), bound between boards - and per a 1989 New York Times article when Sonya re-married, she (at that time) was, according to the article, "a former librarian and bookbinder".
Per Sonya's note, this volume was sent to the " Dear Langmuirs" - while we cannot be certain, it is highly likely this refers to the family of Dr. Irving Langmuir (1881-1957), a Noble Prize-winning chemist. There are too many points of contact for there to be much doubt: Dr. Langmuir studied in Germany, as did Hermann Weyl; Dr. Langmuir consistently used mathematics in proving his theories, with much of his life and work being on the East coast, as was that of the Weyls. It is more than possible that the two families knew each other, with this book being sent by Sonya to the children, or grandchildren, of Dr. Langmuir.
___DESCRIPTION: Marbled paper over boards with a blue cloth shelfback, marbled paper spine label with blue lettering, blue endpapers, while the title page has a 1939 date (likely when it was first written) the text pages do appear to be xeroxed replications consistent with the 1980s, text itself was apparently hand-drawn (Sonya wrote: "I am not at all proud of the calligraphy..."), the title page of the first tale with the vignette of a flying black swan, the title page for the second tale with a circular design composed of the words "For Achim" surrounding the title; twelvemo size (7 3/8" by 5 3/8"), the two tales separately paginated: [i-iv] 1-60, [4 blanks], [i-iv] 1-11 (note that all versos blank and not included in the pagination for the second tale). Loosely laid into the book is a small oblong (4" by 4 3/8") note consisting of two leaves folded once, the outer leaf serving as a "wrap" with a highly styled celtic design (in appearance perhaps cut from a sheet of wrapping paper?) and the second, inner leaf containing the note from Sonya over one and a half pages, dated "Dec. '84".
___CONDITION: Volume fine, with clean boards, straight corners with perhaps a hint of rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, and entirely free of prior owner markings; a few marks on a few pages from the xerox process used at the time, else fine. The accompanying note near fine, clean, with a few creases on the top right corner and a pinhole at the top left corner (as though it had been tacked to a wall).
___CITATIONS: Information from the Wiki pages on Fritz Joachim Weyl, his father Hermann Weyl, the Hunter College Libraries, a digital copy of Hermann Weyl's "Mind and Nature, Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics", the New York Times article "Martha B. Weyl, Librarian, Weds E.W. Kenworthy" dated January 1, 1989, and the online American National Biography.
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