William Spratling and William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans, published by Pelican Bookshop Press, New Orleans, 1926, first edition, first issue, number 217 of 250, bound in green boards, with label on front cover, interior of back cover with a label printed "Rebound in L'ATELIER Le Loup" and dated in ink "1986". Provenance: From the collection of Stephanie Durant, by descent from the collection of Ray Samuel. A special copy of a rare and fragile book described by The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans as "one of the great literary curiosities in the city's history." The book comprises Spratling's drawings of himself, Faulkner, and 41 of their acquaintances--artists, musicians, academics, preservationists, and socialites, "artful and crafty ones of French Quarter" with some of their uptown friends and patrons. One was novelist Sherwood Anderson, and Faulkner's introduction parodies Anderson's style.
The note above is taken from the catalog description of an extraordinary book that will be sold at auction on April 19. The book has been given by Stephanie Durant of New Orleans to be sold for the benefit of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the sale will be conducted by the New Orleans Auction Galleries, which will donate its commission to the museum as well.
This copy is uniquely valuable because it is signed by 41 of the 43 persons included, in a few cases with personal notes to its original owner. That number of autographs is certainly a record: The only other copy I know with more than a dozen or so is one with 31, and it was stolen from a Charlottesville, Virginia, bookshop some time ago.
The catalog description is accurate as far as it goes, but there is a great deal more to be said about this odd little book, written by two young men who went on to become arguably the greatest American novelist and the greatest Mexican silver designer of the twentieth century. Those depicted include both figures well-known at the time, like writer Grace King and artist Ellsworth Woodward, and some who would become well-known later, like artist Caroline Durieux and writer Hamilton Basso. The title, an obscure joke, refers to a book of caricatures entitled The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans, by Vanity Fair cartoonist Miguel Covarrubias (to whom Famous Creoles is dedicated). The “Pelican Bookshop Press” was a fiction: Spratling and Faulkner paid a local printer to produce 250 copies. Spratling (though, note, not Faulkner) signed and hand-tinted some images in 50, mostly for the friends who were included. There was a second printing of 150 copies, somewhat less valuable on the rare book market. The book was not at all sturdy, and it is not unusual to find copies that have been repaired or, like this one, rebound. Many copies have presumably fallen apart and been discarded. Musician Harold Levy’s hand-tinted copy was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The original owner of this particular copy, Stella Lengsfield Lazard, signed her name in ink on inside front. In 1926 Mrs. Lazard was 43. Her husband, Henry Calme Lazard, was a stockbroker related by blood and marriage to several distinguished mercantile and financial families in New Orleans and elsewhere. The couple had one grown son, and lived with her parents uptown on St. Charles Avenue. (Her father was a successful cotton factor.)
Mrs. Lazard had literary, historical, and musical interests. In 1925 she wrote a series of feature articles for the Times-Picayune on the mayors of New Orleans, and a few years later she served as narrator for a weekly musical program on WDSU radio, “Sweet Mystery of the Air,” featuring a trio of local musicians: harpist, violinist, and tenor. To judge by the inscriptions in her copy of Famous Creoles, she was friends with a number of those included. For instance, one reads, “To Stella, the star, from the stellar Helen Pitkin Schertz”; Flo Field wrote “Love to my old staunch [?] friend”; and William “Cicero” Odiorne, who was in Paris, wrote “When are you coming over?”
Others who did more than simply sign their names include writers Sherwood Anderson and Roark Bradford; artists Conrad Albrizio, Marc Antony, and Virginia Parker Nagel; Tulane cheerleader Marian Draper; and Lillian Friend Marcus, managing editor of the Double Dealer magazine. The presidents of Tulane and of Le Petit Théatre, A. B. Dinwiddie and Mrs. J. O. Nixon, simply added their institutional affiliations. Natalie Scott just signed the page with her picture on it, but a note in Mrs. Lazard’s hand identifies a building shown in the picture as the Court of Two Sisters (which Miss Scott owned). One amusing addition: On an almost blank page Arthur Feitel, a 34-year-old bachelor architect, wrote “Me, too” and signed his name. Feitel, whose picture was not included, was a Tulane graduate who had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts; he would later serve as president of both the Art Association of New Orleans and the board of the Delgado Museum.
Only two “Famous Creoles” did not sign Mrs. Lazard’s book. One is easily explained. By the time the book appeared Ronald Hargrave was pretty much incommunicado; he was painting in Majorca, and he never returned to New Orleans. But the other missing signature is that of William Faulkner. It seems to me that Mrs. Lazard went to a great deal of trouble to track down people to sign her book (William Odiorne signed it, and he was in Paris), so it is almost inconceivable that she didn't ask Faulkner. He must have refused to sign, possibly just out of general cussedness -- he was known for being moody and sometimes difficult, and he didn’t sign the 50 copies that Spratling hand-tinted either. In addition, however, Faulkner didn’t care for "artsy" uptown people he thought were dilettantes (unlike Spratling, who enjoyed their company), and he may have viewed Mrs. Lazard as one of them. Whatever the explanation, in some ways Faulkner’s absence may actually be more interesting than a perfunctory autograph would have been.
Mrs. Lazard’s copy was eventually acquired by Stephanie Durant’s father, J. Raymond Samuel, a well-known historian, collector and (in his retirement years) dealer in books and art. On his death the book passed to Mrs. Durant, who has now generously given it to benefit the Ogden Museum.
--John Shelton Reed, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Author of Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s
Inquiries about the auction should be directed to : Jelena James New Orleans Auction Galleries <email@example.com> 801 Magazine Street 800-501-0277 New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 504-566-1849
“Famous Creoles” (with ages in 1926)
Signed Lazard copy Conrad Albrizio, 27 New York-born, serious artist, Spratling’s neighbor, Arts and Crafts Club stalwart Sherwood Anderson, 50 “Lion of the Latin Quarter,” eminence gris, generous to respectful younger writers Marc Antony and Lucille Godchaux Antony, both 28 Love-match between heiress and lower-middle-class boy, local artists Hamilton “Ham” Basso, 22 Star-struck recent Tulane grad, aspiring writer, good dancer Charles “Uncle Charlie” Bein, 35 Director of Arts and Crafts Club’s art school; lived with mother, sister, and aunt Frans Blom, 33 Danish archeologist of Maya, Tulane professor, colorful resident of Quarter Roark Bradford, 30 Newspaperman, jokester, hit pay dirt with Negro dialect stories Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, 45 Tulane architecture professor, preservationist, recorded old buildings Albert Bledsoe Dinwiddie, 55 President of Tulane, Presbyterian Marian Draper, 20 Ziegfeld Follies alum, Tulane cheerleader, prize-winning architecture student Caroline “Carrie” Wogan Durieux, 30 Genuine Creole, talented artist living in Cuba and Mexico, painted by Rivera Flo Field, 50 French Quarter guide, ex-journalist, sometime playwright, single mother Louis Andrews Fischer, 25 Gender-bending Mardi Gras designer, named for her father Meigs O. Frost, 44 Reporter’s reporter; lived in Quarter; covered crime, revolutions, and arts Samuel Louis “Sam” Gilmore, 27 Greenery-yallery poet and playwright, from prominent family Moise Goldstein, 44 Versatile and successful architect, preservationist, active in Arts and Crafts Club Weeks Hall, 32 Master of and slave to Shadows-on-the-Teche plantation, painter, deeply strange R. Emmet Kennedy, 49 Working-class Irish boy, collected and performed Negro songs and stories Grace King, 74 Grande dame of local color literature and no-fault history, salonnière Alberta Kinsey, 51 Quaker spinster, Quarter pioneer, indefatigable painter of courtyards Richard R. Kirk, 49 Tulane English professor and poet, loyal Michigan Wolverine alumnus Oliver La Farge, 25 New England Brahmin, Tulane anthropologist and fiction-writer, liked a party Harold Levy, 32 Musician who ran family’s box factory, knew everybody, turned up everywhere Lillian Friend Marcus, 35 Young widow from wealthy family, angel and manager of Double Dealer John “Jack” McClure, 33 Poet, newspaper columnist and reviewer, Double Dealer editor, bookshop owner Virginia Parker Nagle, 29 Promising artist, governor’s niece, Arts and Crafts Club teacher Louise Jonas “Mother” Nixon, 70 A founder of Le Petit Theatre and its president-for-life, well- connected widow William C. “Cicero” Odiorne, 45 Louche photographer, Famous Creoles’ Paris contact Frederick “Freddie” Oechsner, 24 Recent Tulane graduate, ambitious cub reporter, amateur actor Genevieve “Jenny” Pitot, 25 Old-family Creole, classical pianist living in New York, party girl Lyle Saxon, 35 Journalist, raconteur, bon vivant, host, preservationist, bachelor Helen Pitkin Schertz, 56 Clubwoman, civic activist, French Quarter guide, writer, harpist Natalie Scott, 36 Journalist, equestrian, real-estate investor, Junior Leaguer, social organizer William “Bill” Spratling, 25 Famous Creoles illustrator, Tulane teacher, lynchpin of Quarter social life Keith Temple, 27 Australian editorial cartoonist, artist, sometimes pretended to be a bishop Fanny Craig Ventadour, 29 Painter, Arts and Crafts Club regular, lately married and living in France Elizebeth Werlein, 39 Suffragette with colorful past, crusading preservationist, businessman’s widow Joseph Woodson "Pops" Whitesell, 50 Photographic jack-of-all-trades, French Quarter eccentric, inventor Daniel “Dan” Whitney, 32 Arts and Crafts Club teacher, married (two) students, beauty pageant judge Ellsworth Woodward, 65 Artistic elder statesman, old-fashioned founder of Newcomb art department
Did not sign Lazard copy William “Bill” Faulkner, 29 Needs no introduction, but wrote the one to Famous Creoles Ronald Hargrave, 44 Painter from Illinois formerly active in Quarter art scene, relocated to Majorca