books & manuscripts
Letter from Bemelmans to Viking Publisher
1947 - 1962
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A bizarre and notable letter from Ludwig Bemelmans in the late 1940s, when for a time his relationship with Viking was on uncertain terms, and with a remarkable self-caricature on New Yorker letterhead.
“here comes some weird nightmusic again — I withdraw ‘Holdiady in Europe’ for a very logic reason and one that will relieve your production department. S&S are equipped for that kind of a Rainbowproduction, they have a subsidiary color outfit called Sandpeper Press and they are going to do it, first printing 150 000, they asked for additional illustrations beside the ones in Holiday, will be able to manufacture the book for about 60 cents, and have offered me a plan, simple and foolproof, whereby I can keep some money (Capital Gains setup). I am greedy enough to like all that very much. … I am telling you this, so that you know, I am thinking of you. On Dirty Eddy’s part, I will not venture my suggestions for advertising, there is a dark rumor going around, to the effect that a publisher has offered me fifteen thousand advance on an unpublished book and a guarantee of 10 000 in advertising, don’t believe that when you hear it, the truth is 25 000 advance, and 15 000 for advertising, But I love you all, and if Dirty Eddie sells 100 000 copies or over, I’ll stay. I’m working … on a new novel, called ‘The One I Loved the Best.’”
Holiday magazine had commissioned several illustrated travel pieces from Bemelmans around this time, and “Holiday in Europe” almost certainly refers to The Best of Times, An Account of Europe Revisited, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1948. Yet Marshall Best and Bemelmans must have resolved their differences, for Dirty Eddie was published in 1947 and Viking continued to publish Bemelmans for years to come. Best was an editor at Covici-Friede and then at Viking, and during a career that stretched into the 1970s, he edited Steinbeck and Bemelmans, Nadine Gordimer, the Viking Portable Library, as well as many other notable authors.
With three additional letters, dated early 1962:
1) Autograph note, signed, 11 January 1962, concerning a Bemelmans picture “not very happily framed” with suggestions for reframing it with a velvet Marie Louise or mat
2) Typed note, signed, 27 February 1962, concerning the proofs for Noah's Ark [On Board Noah’s Ark], “I think this will be a real good sail, all the stars are in their good places for us …”
3) Autograph note, signed, March 1962, “I think it’s all right to leave that Picture in that Bar and grill frames with its phony wormholes for the summer.”
Old cellotape repair on verso.
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