Thursday, June 20, 2013

Untermeyer's Food and Drink for thought

Food and Drink, a book of poems by Louis Untermeyer, was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1932.

This copy of the book has an inscription from a previous owner that claims Untermeyer was in Huntsville, Texas reading from a manuscript copy before the book was actually published. On the blank page following the front endpapers is the original owner's name, Emma something, and Emma recorded the place and date of purchase--Huntsville, Texas, March 3, 1932.

A taped newspaper clipping of a poem by Gerald Raftery has created, over the decades, a mirrored browning (acid) on the title page it was closed against, but the inscription beneath is still readable. The handwriting looks different from Emma's script. It could be that whomever inherited the book wanted to record a bit of history about Untermeyer and these poems. It is written under the publisher's acknowledgements about certain poems in this volume:
Several of these poems were read in Huntsville by Louis Untermeyer from manuscript early in 1932--before this book was published.

Untermeyer was an author, poet, anthologist, editor, and the fourteenth U.S. Poet Laureate, serving 1961-1963. I was familiar with him because of his friendship and correspondence with Robert Frost. Frost's influence on Untermeyer's writing is indicated on the publication acknowledgement page, referenced above:
One verse of "Last Words Before Winter" was suggested--although unconsciously at the time of writing--by Robert Frost's "Good-bye and Keep Cold."
Complementing, or perhaps surpassing, the artistic merit of the writing are the illustrations. The book contains some nice examples of art deco period drawings by George Plank, well-known for his magazine cover illustrations.

Additionally, the book was designed by one of the great 20th century book designers, Robert S. Josephy. And it made the list of 50 best designed books in 1933, as judged by the AIGA. An Untermeyer-Josephy combination would make the list again in 1936 and Untermeyer would grace the list another three times with designers Milton Glazer, Helen Barrow, and Bruce Rogers.

But Untermeyer's AIGA associations began with a little Food and Drink in 1932. 

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