Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
Aside from index made by Jake Marx in 1971, Fuck You, a magazine of the arts has not received the full bibliographic treatment. Most accounts of the magazine focus on how it started or how it ended, anecdotes regarding its publications or the scene around which those publications came to life. But what about detailed analysis of the materiality of the magazine — the paper stock used, the colors of that paper? Do variations of paper stock and color have meaning? Or do they just reflect what was at hand? What are the economics of putting out the magazine? Or of a handbill? Or of the press as a whole? Was this a labor of love or does the press engage in the economics of the counterculture like Peace Eye Bookstore and the Ed Sanders Catalogs?
What about the different mimeograph machines used and how they influence the end product? What about reliable numbers on print runs and reprints? Why are Roosevelt After Inauguration, Bugger, the Pound Cantos, and Platonic Blow always available? Is it merely because they were notorious in their own time so people kept them? Or were more copies run? Or were they sold primarily to collectors? Why are Fuck God in the Ass, Sooey Semen, and A Glorious New Year less common? When are we going to get a solid picture of the bibliography of the handbills?
This is the work that needs to be done. Fuck You, a magazine of the arts deserves this attention if you consider it an artist’s magazine not just a typical little magazine.
Here is Adam Davis speculating on variations in Bugger:
Rose / lavender faded to brown? Paper is limp, but with slightly more visible filaments in it than the yellow cover (but not nearly as many filaments as the rose stock found in copies of Fuck You). Copies of Bugger always seem to utilize different interior paper stocks, but most issues seem to stick to a single pair of colors rather than the mayhem of paper stocks found in issues of Fuck You. I’ve seen yellow cover copies of Bugger which have some occasional internal leaves on rose filament paper, but no other colors (I think this is the most common state of the run). My lavender copy is printed internally on mostly orange paper stock with a couple of lavender leaves, as is another lavender cover copy I’ve sold. I’ve had two lavender cover copies in the past ten years, and five yellow cover copies; I think the lavender cover is the scarcer state.
Does the yellow cover reflect the first run? Is the lavender cover from late in the first run when Sanders maybe ran out of the yellow cover? Is the lavender a separate printing? Was there any rhyme or reason to the order of color within a publication? What are the details and economics behind the use of this paper? Did Sanders have a favorite color paper for symbolic or aesthetic reasons? Color symbolism? Does the yellow paper refer to Symbolist, decadent poetics like The Yellow Book? Does the lavender likewise have a frame of reference from Oscar Wilde to the Lavender Scare?
The less obsessed might laugh at a publication of Fuck You Press generating this level of scrutiny. This type of bibliographic nitpicking is reserved for Gutenberg Bibles and First Folios. But Modernist magazines like Others, Little Review, Blast and Broom garner this attention. It is my contention that the publications of the Mimeo Revolution are just as important as literary artifacts. Today the publications of the Mimeo Revolution remain largely a mystery. This is only because we have not asked them the right questions. Under close examination, I am sure these publications will happily engage us in conversation.