1883 Science Fiction/Fantasy Booklet
|Why It's Interesting|
This is page 15 of a booklet entitled Odnawel: a tale for good children only. It was published by Lewando Dyes; Odnawel is Lewando backwards. No references to this story or booklet turn up anywhere.
It tells the story of George Washington Daffodil as he traveled in Greece, by train, on July 4, 2183 BC. The story juxtaposes railroading with centaurs, griffins, muses, “gods of several sizes and styles,” fairies, etc. This would thus seem to be a strange pioneering specimen of science fiction/fantasy, so its total obscurity is strange. There are five full-page illustrations, plus a graphic cover, all in black and white, alas. Two scenes show fighting; in one, the lead figure seems based on Napoleon III.
The back cover of the booklet is a wonderful full-page ad for Mocipac, “an Indian remedy” touted for diphtheria and a dozen other maladies, ranging from lameness to toothache.
I acquired this prize last year for under $10. As the title still elicits no hits on Google, this may be the only surviving copy.
This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life. Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all. Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these. I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.
I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America. The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.
I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful. Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera. I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.
Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors. Please contact me with your impressions of the site.