I, Libertine–Fake book and literary hoax

During a recent staff meeting at McFarlin Library Special Collections and University Archives, the topic of fake books and literary hoaxes came up. The one fake book that grabbed everyone’s attention was “I, Libertine” by Frederick R. Ewing. This book was eventually published in 1956 but the story behind the book started much earlier.

Hardback and paperback 1st editions of I, Libertine.

Hardback and paperback 1st editions of I, Libertine.

In the early 1950s, there was a radio personality named Jean Shepherd who worked covered the midnight to 5:00 AM shift for WOR in New York City. Shepherd believed he had a different type of listener at that time and so decided to be more spontaneous with his programming. This was a new concept at the time as most radio deejays used a scripted format. Shepherd became a fan favorite, even calling his followers the ‘night people’ and developed a way that listeners could identify each other by using the passwords ‘Excelsior’ and ‘Seltzer bottle’. Shepherd felt that his night people were better because they were more creative and paid less attention to rules and restrictions.

The development of the literary hoax behind ‘I, Libertine’ began sometime in April 1955. Shepherd went into a local NYC bookstore and tried to purchase a copy of an old radio script. At the time, bookstores had printed lists of published books and if the book wasn’t in that list then it must not exist. This was the case with the old radio script that Shepherd was looking for. An argument ensued between Shepherd and the clerk, which led to Shepherd’s topic of discussion on his own radio show that night.

While ranting about how a ‘night person’ would not have been restricted to using the printed list of published books, Shepherd made a comment about how his listeners should start going to bookstores and asking for books that didn’t exist as a kind of practical joke. Many listeners called in and soon a title and author who created for this nonexistent book. ‘I, Libertine’ by Frederick R. Ewing was born, supposedly written by an English author who specialized in eighteenth-century erotica. The listeners even added extra information about the author. They said Frederick R. Ewing was a retired Royal Navy Commander and had done a series on BBC about ‘Erotica of the 18th century.’

In the next few weeks, Shepherd’s listeners went to various bookstores and started asking for ‘I, Libertine’. The request of this book even began in other countries due to listeners who tried for their work. Booksellers became confused and started to contact publishers about this book that their customers kept asking for. The demand for the book even pushed the New York Times Book Review to add it to the their list of newly published books.

The literary hoax continued to grow. Some ‘night people’ created card files for the book and placed it in card catalogs in libraries around the East Coast. A Columbia University college student even received a B+ grade on a paper he wrote about Frederick R. Ewing. The Legion of Decency in Boston banned the book and a gossip columnist in New York reported having lunch with Freddy Ewing.

After about a month, the Wall Street Journal reported on the literary hoax and informed readers just how it all started. By this point, the hoax had gone international as well as grabbing the attention of the publishing world. Ian Ballantine from Ballentine Books got in contact with Jean Shepherd and they created a plan to actually write ‘I, Libertine’. With the help of science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, the book was written in 30 days.

130,000 copies of the book were published on September 30, 1956. The picture of Frederick R. Ewing on the back of the hardcover edition is actually Jean Shepherd. Sales of the book were rather slow but it is now considered a collector’s item.

Special Collections acquired two copies of ‘I, Libertine’. One in hardcover and one in paperback form. The dust jacket for the hardcover book actually has a print error in the ‘About the book’ section, listing the main character’s name as Lance Corday. The correct name of the main character is Land Courtenay. This error makes the hardcover even more of a collector’s item.


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Birthdays for October 2: Wallace Stevens and Graham Greene

Today, October 2nd, marks the birthday of two authors who are part of the University of Tulsa’s Special Collections.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) was an American Modernist poet born in Reading, Pennsylvania who

"Wallace Stevens". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wallace_Stevens.jpg#/media/File:Wallace_Stevens.jpg

“Wallace Stevens”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

attended law school and then worked for an insurance company before winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955. Stevens was recognized for his flair for vocabulary and the challenging themes and underlying currents of his poetry, which has been described as almost abstract in nature.

Special Collection has several of his books of poems and essays as translated into a variety of languages, as well as song cycle scores to which his poetry was set.

  • Stevens, Wallace. The necessary angel essays on reality and the imagination. (810.81 S846N 1960)
  • Stevens, Wallace. Opus posthumous. (810.81 S846O 1959)  
  • Persichetti, Vincent. Harmonium song cycle for soprano and piano. / Poems by Wallace Stevens. (M1621.4.P477 H37 1959)
"Graham Greene". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“Graham Greene”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English novelist best known for writing a mixture of what he called “entertainments” and “serious novels”. He worked as a journalist, wrote crime thrillers and screenplays (including 1949’s The Third Man, starring Orson Welles), as well as books with themes related to Catholicism, to which he converted as an adult.

Special Collections owns a large selection of books from Greene’s private library, including foreign translation editions of his own works and works with his penciled marginalia and notations.

  • Greene, Graham. The End of the Affair. ( GRN 000239)
  • Greene, Graham. Our Man in Havana. (GRN 000911)
  • Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. (GRN 000444)

Come visit Special Collections on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library to view works related to these authors.

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TU Special Collections owns an impressive assortment of Playbill theater programs gathered from several donor gifts and acquisitions, related to productions that ran in theater houses from across the U.S. Currently we are organizing and taking inventory of the individual volumes. This magazine is comprised of ads, interviews, short stories, advice, etc., and of course the particular show credits. Some of the more famous show programs include The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Hello Dolly, and Brigadoon, just to name a few.



So far the oldest program in the collection dates to 1938. The ads in the 1930s Playbills are a step back in time. And interestingly, lingerie seems to have been a common type of ad in the older publications. And of course the tobacco and liquor ads were much more prevalent. The fashion and car ads have been popular throughout the publication’s history and transformations. Here are some style tips for the modern 1930’s man…

Playbill was first published in 1884 and has continually produced programs for Broadway and off- Broadway theaters, though at times under different titles and owners. The publication has gone through many stylistic changes and has moved with the fashions and ideals of the eras. In 2009, the magazine celebrated its 125th anniversary. In that same year it was estimated that Playbill would print around 3.9 million theater programs for the various theaters across the U.S. (Viagas, 2009).
Viagas, Robert. “Playbill Magazine Celebrates 125 Years in the Biz Sept. 21.” Playbill. September 21, 2009. Accessed September 24, 2015. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/playbill-magazine-celebrates-125-years-in-the-biz-sept.-21-329619.

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Art of 3D images mastered

It is common to think that three-dimensional images were an invention of the very recent past. However, the art of producing 3D images seem had been mastered decades back. The first patented stereoscope was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. Other early 3D image dates back to the mid-19th century with David Brewster’s improvised version of the Stereoscope in 1844. The stereoscope could take 3D photographic images.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives proudly houses stereoscopic libraries of World War I, World War II, and Tour of the world: A trip around the world through the telebinocular, and the Stereoscopic studies of anatomy prepared under the University of Edinburgh. The images are enhanced in their three dimensional quality by providing the eyes of the viewer with two different images, representing two perspectives of the same object, with a minor deviation equal or nearby equal to the perspectives that both eyes naturally receive in binocular.

The collections 1000.094 and 1000.095 consists a total of 700 images documenting the events of World Wars.


Trenches of the Allies

This stereocard showcases the deep trenches of the Allies among the Dunes and brambles on the coast of Flanders. It captures the furious efforts during the first desperate battles of the winter 1914-15.


IMG_20150916_105312005 copy

Our Boys in France Learning to Correctly Use Gas Masks

This stereocard captures the thorough drill of learning to correctly use the gas masks that the soldiers underwent under the instruction of their squad officer in France.

The Department also has other collections of stereocards, Mollie Colwell collection of handmade stereocards [2008.033] is worthy of mention here. The Department of Special Collections also added a collection stereocards on the life of Native Americans recently over this summer.

The stereocard collection at the Department of Special Collections and University Archives is open to TU researchers and the public. The newest exhibit at the Department also houses selected stereocards as a part of the History of Photography exhibit on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library.


IMG_20150916_105746582 copy

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New Acquisition

Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.3

Three unidentified men on horseback. Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.3

Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056

Between 24 and 27 September 1918 the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma hosted a Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, and other affiliated organizations. This reunion was an important milestone for the city, with the city boosters led by Tate Brady of the Brady Hotel, and the city welcomed the veterans with open arms. Most homes hosted some of the 35,000 veterans, and a number of businesses in town took out large ads in the newspapers welcoming the veterans, and many special events took place, including visits to the oil fields, and a boxing match. The actual reunion took place at the Convention Hall, now the Brady Theater.

This reunion had a special purpose, more so than most of the other reunion the Civil War veterans had held, and would hold over the years, and that was to support the war effort of the nation in the World War. The position reported in the newspapers of the time that the North and South stood by the President in this war, and the veterans took a loyalty oath to that effect during the reunion.

The opening speeches were given by Tate Brady, as the Committee Chairman, the head of the Chamber of Commerce Robert M. McFarlin, Albert Hunt of the Stand Waite Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Tulsa, and Mrs. Louis Cohen president of the Tulsa Branch of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.2

Veterans marching on Main Street with a woman carrying the Battle flag. Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.2

On the last day of the Reunion, a parade of the units first by State and then by Brigade was held, from the Convention Center, down Boulder Avenue to 3rd Street, east to Main Street, south on Main to 8th, where the old soldiers performed a counter-column and back north up Main to 4th, east to Cincinnati, back to 3rd and Main, and up Main to Brady before passing in review at the Convention Center.

An unknown photographer was positioned on the east side of Main between 6th and 7th and he caught 16 images on two rolls of 127 film, probably with a Vest Pocket Kodak.

Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.16

Parade with an unidentified African American Confederate veteran. He has “Rome, GA” blazoned on his chest, and is holding what appear to be two chickens. Confederate Veterans Encampment Photographs, 2015.056.16

An interesting facet of this Reunion was the presence of African American veterans of the Civil War who had enlisted in the Southern Army at the request of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, according to an interview in the 24 September 1918 Tulsa Star. These photographs include three of these veterans, including one who may be “Old Steve” from Rome, Georgia who was described in the 24 September 1918 Tulsa Democrat.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives just acquired these photographs from Lee Roy Chapman, a local dealer.

They may be seen in greater detail at Our Digital Collections Page

United Confederate Veterans Pennant. 2012.073

Felt pennant from the UCV Encampment reunion, 24-28 September 1918. United Confederate Veterans Pennant. 2012.073

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New Exhibit at Special Collections

History of Photography: Culture and Interpretation

Poster for History of Photography: Culture and Interpretation exhibit

The University of Tulsa and McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives is proud to announce it’s latest exhibit titled “History of Photography: Culture and Interpretation.” Beginning on September 10th and extending through December 21st, 2015, the exhibit examines the history of photography technology and its use in recording and interpreting culture, specifically Native American culture.

Photography has been part of world culture ever since the earliest images made in the late 1820s. Ranging from personal image making to trade craft of the professional photographer, ‘taking pictures’ has sparked a nearly two century technological development of processes and equipment, from Nicéphore Niépce’s first successful image in 1927, to telephone images to modern social media, and the transformation is not slowing down.

Since its inception has been a medium for interpretive depictions of reality. Although the photographer’s role of “invisible artist” is important, the photographer is often left out of the interpretation of the work.

These images, taken predominantly from the immense collections of The Department of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa, present both the development of the technology, and how mainstream culture and that of native peoples have interpreted native people though photographic expression.

Some of these images are not specifically of native peoples, but come from the collections in order to give a hint of how non-natives people in those periods are being presented in the technology of the time.

The remainder of the images are of natives taken by the dominant culture, for reasons that include commercial distribution; as well as some images made by natives for natives. While viewing each image, please remember that the photographer has made this image for a reason, and we ought to wonder what the photographer is trying to say.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives cordially invites the TU community to visit this exciting exhibit, curated by Librarian of Special Collections I. Marc Carlson. The department is located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library and its hours of operation are Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM..

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Processing Dr. Marva Dawn’s Papers

The Welch Family Special Collection of Reformed and Renewal Theology was established in 2001 by Bill and Peggy Welch to gather together notable works of Christian Reformed and Renewal Theology as a gift to the community of Tulsa and to enhance the University’s historically rich and continuing relationship with the Presbyterian Church USA.

Part of the Welch Collection are Dr. Marva Dawn’s papers and research, which she generously bestowed to the collection. Dawn is a renowned theologian, musician, and teacher in the field of Reformed Theology. She is a scholar with four masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Christian ethics and the Scriptures from the University of Notre Dame. Dawn has spoken at clergy and worship conferences and at seminaries throughout North America and Europe. She has written over a dozen books, including Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, A “Royal” Waste of Time, and How Shall We Worship?.

Example of Dawn materials from the Welch Collection

Example of Dawn materials from the Welch Collection

The University of Tulsa Special Collections is currently processing Dawn’s papers and research. These include a vast array of handwritten research notes, book manuscripts, article galleys, work from her doctoral program, letters of thanks and encouragement from conference attendees, as well as copies of newspaper clippings, handouts and schedules from the multitude of conferences, camps, and churches that Dawn spoke at throughout the years. Her work spans several decades and her dedication can be seen throughout her collection. We look forward to finishing processing Dawn’s papers so that the university and community can access Dawn’s prolific work with ease.

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New acquisition: Orson Welles and the unproduced Heart of Darkness film

Special Collections recently acquired the story outline for a film version of Heart of Darkness that was written by Orson Welles in the late 1930s—originally intended to be his first major picture. He wrote a full screenplay, but executives at RKO Studios thought it would be too expensive to produce and the story’s themes of lust and power too challenging. After RKO president George Schaefer rejected the project, Welles went on to write and direct the blockbuster award-winning film Citizen Kane, which solidified him as a major creative talent in Hollywood.

Orson Welles' personal copy of a story outline for the unproduced film version of Joseph Conrad's novel.

Orson Welles’ personal copy of a story outline for the unproduced film version of Joseph Conrad’s novel.

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Closed Labor Day

The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives would like to announce that we will be closed next Monday, September 7th, in observance of Labor Day.

We will reopen at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, September 8th.

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New Acquisition

One of our most recent acquisitions is the Barbara Santee archive of Oklahoma woman’s reproductive rights and ancillary materials. Briefly stated, this is a record of over forty years of the politics of women’s reproductive rights in Oklahoma. As yet unprocessed, the 80 linear feet of documents, books and recordings should be an important addition to our Women’s Studies materials and our Oklahoma History holdings.
Barbara Santee, Ph.D., a native Tulsan, has been a life-long political activist for women’s rights and human rights. She helped establish Oklahoma’s first pro-choice group three years before abortion became legal in the US. She holds a doctorate in socio-medical sciences from Columbia University and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan. Former Executive Director, Oklahoma Chapter of (NARAL), National Abortion Rights Action League.

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