Saturday 9 May 2009

i have been reacquainting myself with the old Davy Crockett Almanacks, by way of this 1986 book published by Jim Crutchfield of Franklin, Tennessee, a copy of which i have just tracked down. His title has another one of those unwelcome apostrophes, not present on the original publications of the 1840s, and the cover leads one to expect the first nine issues when in fact we only get the first seven, up to and including 1841. That makes sense as these seven form a stylistically united group, usually identified as 'the Nashville' series, distinct from the later issues published by Taylor and Fisher. In fact there were apparently 55 issues in all from as many as five different publishers, published between 1835 and 1856. You can see a great display of twenty-one different covers described here and illustrated here that comprised a set offered at auction a couple of years ago. "Collection of 21 Crockett almanacs, all in original pictorial wraps and profusely illustrated with humorous wood-engraved illustrations (many full-page). 21 vols., 8vo, each approximately 20.3 x 13 cm.,"
The stories are excellent antecedents of the modern comic book, with their wildly exaggerated heroics.

Even the wimmen are impossibly tough in these tall tales, told in rough backwoods-speak, as in this brief excerpt from 1847:
"One day when Oak Wing's sister was going to a baptizing, and had her feed in a bag under her arm, she seed a big bear that had come out from a holler tree, and he looked first at her, and then the feed, as if he didn't know which to eat fust. He kinder poked out his nose and smelt the dinner which war sassengers maid of bear's meat and crocodile's liver.

Academia has decided that the earlier Nashville issues are superior, in part because the naive design of their woodcuts appeals to modernist artistic taste (the snake drawing above is a good example), and in part because unpleasant racist elements creep into the later offerings. But i would enjoy the chance to look at the subject more closely under my own cognizance. Here's a later cover, from the 1850 Fisher issue, which is not far from the exaggerated perspective and dynamics of comic books.

(more thoughts to come)



Blogger Unknown said...

I have only ever seen a couple of these. The Nashville series cost about $5000 each so I am guessing that I will never do more than see them for sale.

10 May 2009 at 03:39:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Rachel Erstwhilely said...

i like the comment about modernist artistic taste determining what is available to us from history. i hope someday to formulate a working definition of a concept i think may exist, that of 'hipstory'. it's hard cause i myself don't actually have any knowledge. but thanks for sharing these cool pictures and reflections. i love your books and this blog is pretty sweet reading, too.

12 May 2009 at 20:12:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

'hipstory'----- arf!

13 May 2009 at 03:07:00 GMT-5  

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