30 January 2008

Reignited Candelabra

Marcus Mébès’s Pumpernickel Pickle press has announced the availability of a reprint of L. Frank Baum’s By the Candelabra’s Glare. Baum self-published this small book of verse in 1898, setting the type himself.

By then, Baum had made friends among Chicago’s artistic community through editing the trade magazine The Shop Window, so several notable illustrators contributed decorations for the book. Among them was W. W. Denslow, Baum’s collaborator in 1900 on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Characteristically, Baum begins his foreword with some self-deprecating wordplay:

A friend of mine, who has attained eminence as a critic, once found me glancing through a book of verse.

“What are you looking for?” he demanded.

“His excuse,” said I.

“My dear boy,” returned the eminent critic, frowning severely, “there can be no excuse for a book of verse.”
It looks like all the illustrations and decorative pages of the original have been reprinted, and the poems have been reset for easy reading. The collection is broken into sections of “Semisentimental Verse,” “Cycling Verse,” “Children’s Verse,” and two sections of miscellany.

I figure many people are as unfamiliar with the genre of cycling verse as I am, so I’ll quote a short example:
I catch a flash from merry eye--
I see a wave of golden curl;
And then there swiftly passes by
Upon her wheel, a pretty girl!

I know my seat is not secure,
(I’ve only had my wheel a day,)
And yet one glance I must procure
Before the vision speeds away.

Vainglorious fool! Upon my head
I land, nor see the sight I sought;
For down the street my charmer’s fled
And I’ve a header had for nought!
By the Candelabra’s Glare has always been one of the rarest of Baum’s books, especially when we set aside his early work on stamp-collecting and chicken-raising. I believe this is the first reissue ever at an affordable price, made possible through Mébès’s enthusiasm and print-on-demand technology. It’s available in hardcover and digital editions.

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