Salem, Mass. [William Cook], January, 1860. First edition. 8vo, original pictorial wrappers, stitched, -16 pages as issued. Two plates (included in the pagination) of views of Broad Street in Salem, and of the District Schoolhouse in South Danvers, Mass. Small closed tear to the fore-edge of the first leaf; a trifle toned and worn; a nearly fine copy. Item #18072
Another lively and striking example of the self-published and self-printed verses and woodcut illustrations of one of the great outsider poet-artists of New England, William Cook of Salem, Mass. (1807-1876): “Between 1852 and 1876 Cook produced about forty different titles, writing the text, engraving the numerous wood-cut illustrations and, after laboriously printing the result, proceeded to peddle his pamphlets about the streets in true chapman fashion” (Lawrence W. Jenkins, “William Cook of Salem, Mass.: Preacher, Poet, Artist and Publisher,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, New Series, Vol. 34. April 9, 1924-October 15, 1924). Cook was by all accounts tolerated and even beloved as an eccentric on the streets Salem, affected perhaps by an early bout of typhus and disappointed in a religious career, he was somewhat given over to enthusiasms (both religious and aesthetic) and eked out a meagre living tutoring in mathematics, Greek and Latin, as well as by giving tours of his own “Gallery of Art,” and in selling his pamphlets. When Jenkins notes that Cook’s pamphlets required “laborious printing,” it should be understood that laborious is perhaps something of an understatement—as Jenkins writes, “Cook could not afford to pay for his fame in the printed page, so he built a small hand-lever press, bought a few pounds of battered type from a local newspaper office and began work on a small book. . . . The press on which these books were printed in general appearance resembled an old-fashioned high-back hand organ. . . . Cook possessed only type enough to set one page at a time. The many inserted plates were printed from wood-blocks of birch or maple, which he engraved with an ordinary jack-knife, and usually each impression was touched up with a lead pencil. No one but a man of tenacious purpose and great patience could have produced finished results with such a handicap.” The pamphlet here includes a brief abstract of his remarks on education to a local Baptist church (such addresses being another of his oft exercised talents), with two of his poems included to illustrate his points; the woodblock illustrations are indeed touched up with pencil, as was Cook’s usual practice. We have handled examples of this title in the past, though those copies were without the heavy-stock pictorial wrappers. Jenkins 17: ““Part X of the ‘Eucleia’ is composed of the three parts of The Ploughboy’s Harrow.”.