Originally published in the first issue of ANTIQUES, January 1922.
Yes, this is ANTIQUES: Volume one, Number one; venturing into a super-modern world, a world self-consciously intent upon newness; purposefully disdainful of tradition, sublimely certain of its own special ability to invent, devise, design in and for the future, in terms of developing future requirement, without recourse to an obviously, indeed confessedly, incompetent past. These are the days when mahogany of time-worn experience is being split into kindling wood, or jammed ruthlessly up attic, or sold, with other heirlooms, to the junkman. For a new golden age is in progress-in morals, in politics, in philosophy of living-an age keenly shining beyond the boilingest inundation to dull its resplendent enamel. Even if, in substance and design, it proves in due course, to be of golden oak: today it glitters,-and it is yellow.
To peck completely through the shell and to totter forth into such an age requires some courage-foolhardiness perhaps. The past is, sorely dispraised; yet there are those who love it; many more who respect it-sometimes pity it-if for no other reason than that it is progenitor of the present.
As for the Past
And among these defenders of the past there are some who realize that, in the field of many, at least, of the arts, things have been done as well as human inventiveness and workmanlike precision can do them; far better indeed than they are likely ever to be done again, now that the enthusiasm of seeking the perfect solution of fresh problems has, perforce, given way to the search for novelty for novelty’s sake.
Of such folk is the tribe of connoisseurs.
Others, of more friendly and homely complexion, find in the industrial arts and crafts of times gone the avenue of humane acquaintance with their fore-fathers. A line of teapots is more them than a line of teapots; it is the fruit of the tree of genealogy. From prehistoric shell-heap to top shelf in attic cupboard, they follow the progress of man’s domestication by the pattern of the shackles of his domestic enslavement-the articles of his household use.
And of such fold is the tribe of collectors.
Seldom is one privileged to meet an exemplar of one of these tribes who is not strongly infected with the characteristics of the other two. The collector-unless his instinct is purely of the squirrel or the magpie order-invariably becomes an amateur, and frequently develops into a connoisseur; while it is manifestly difficult to become amateur or connoisseur without first having suffered the exquisite pangs of the collector.
Collecting, it may further be observed, is not a matter of money; but state of mind. The up-country photographer, cherishing his blue china plates, shifting and trading to achieve satisfactory completion of his set, is soul kin to the autocrat who ransacks Europe for the spoil of emperors. Nor is this kinship dependent upon identity of specific interest: the essential element is that of general attitude.
Failure to recognize this underlying unity among collectors is probably responsible for failure, in America at least, to offer them the common rallying ground which a magazine might be expected to provide. Books a-plenty on various aspects of collecting have been written and eagerly consumed; no week passes without the publication of an article dealing with arts and crafts of the old order in Europe and America, but no magazine devoted exclusively to the needs and interests of the student and collector has as yet been projected in the United States.
There is apparently, all in all, sufficient preaching; but the experience meeting, which is the real place of rapture for all true zealots, has been left out of account. The end and aim of ANTIQUES is to encourage the experience meeting. This magazine will not be the meeting; it could not if it wanted to. But it can offer the place and some kind of leadership to start the discussion, and some kind of tact to persuade Brother Ira that it is time for him to yield the floor to Sister Mehitabel and, in proper sequence Sister Mehitabel that it is curfew hour and time to bring the session to a close.
Some of the leadership-at first anyway-may sound like preaching, the usual kind. Much of it will be; but with this difference: the congregation is cordially invited (as the son of Erin put it) to “jaw back.” Verily, the more of that the better. Have you examples of the things illustrated and discussed which are better than those shown? Can you produce something that would complete a limping set of crockery, pewter, or furniture? Have you ancient letters or documents that throw light on the making or selling of old handicrafts? Do you think that the slip-potter of the Pennsylvania Dutch is more like old Staffordshire than the similar New England were? Have you any profound notions as to whence came the patterns for hooked rugs? Do you disagree with the preacher, or with the brother who has taken issue with his deliverances? If you do, please say so.
And if you have a question to ask, ask it, without confusion and without hesitation. If there is a possible answer, some one among the readers of ANTIQUES will know it. Occasionally, too, in such matters, there may occur gleams of editorial intelligence.
As for Policy
Without being a formal statement of policy, the sentences just preceding should, at any rate, convey a clear impression of the attitude and intent of ANTIQUES. The magazine hopes to be authoritative. That is one reason for inviting criticism-open criticism, to the end of closed conclusions. It hopes to avoid twaddle. The occasional blurb* is perhaps unavoidable; but pervasive blurbosity does not comport with the proprieties of the old order.
ANTIQUES’ concern for illustrations will be to have their size proportioned to reasonable definition of important detail in the object shown, rather than to the decorative exigencies of a well-spotted page.
Things to be Left Undone
There is a variety of topics which ANTIQUES will not concern itself. The field of ancient art and archaeology is already well covered in periodicals, domestic and foreign. The painting and sculpture of the middle ages, of the Renaissance, and of the present era, are similarly cared for. Venerable objects, as purely decorative adjuncts of the home, this magazine will leave, with most other aspects of household architecture and furnishing, to the ably conducted journals being published. The list that remains is sufficiently formidable in its inclusiveness.
Here is the pre-natal statement of it. Like the program of the college minstrel show, it is subject to change, without notice,-and without doubt. Says the advance circular: “It is expected that, in various issues, the following subjects will be treated: Arms, armor, books, bronzes, china, clocks, coins, draperies, etchings, fabrics, furniture, glassware, hardware, jewelry, laces, lamps, medals, paintings, pottery, porcelain, pewter, rugs, samplers, silverware, stamps, tapestries, wall coverings.
The Reader First
ANTIQUES is quite sure that its first obligation is to its readers. If they develop a defending faith in their magazine (“their” is used advisedly) the advertisers will, presently, come yammering for space.
Obligation to readers implies more things than pen can enumerate. But a few of them may be named. In general, there must be news of what is going on in the world where objects of art and handicraft change ownership. ANTIQUES hopes to publish advance notices of all auctions or sales that are of interest or importance, and to record, as well, the outcome of these alluring occurrences. It hopes to maintain, at all times, a brief bibliography of different kinds of collect and to expedite the securing of any of the books noted,-this in addition to current reviews of new books.
Month by month, it will offer a resume of articles in current periodicals, which may prove helpful to the collector. News of interesting additions to the museums, libraries, and historical society collections of the United States will appear in each issue; and the availability of the various collections in these institutions for study and comparison will be indicated as clearly as opportunity permits.
The Museum as First Aid
The American museum has ceased to be a catacomb of things distinguished mainly by being defunct, its corridors to be trodden in swift silence, its custodians to be viewed with trepidation as the ups of Cerberus.
A truly vital spirit has made it, instead, a haven of helpful witnesses to things and peoples past. It has become, increasingly, the normal, as well as the rightful, place of visitation for the collector who is passing or has passed into the stage either of amateur or of connoisseur and who seeks trustworthy bases for critical study and comparison.
Historical Societies Likewise
The new and increasingly affirmative aspect of the art museum is becoming, likewise, characteristic, of those other long-time preservative and conservative institutions, the public library and the historical or antiquarian society.
ANTIQUES desires to give this aspect all possible encouragement. A series of articles on historical societies is already planned. These articles, however, will not be primarily historical, their chief intent being to acquaint the readers of ANTIQUES with the whereabouts of readily available material.
A Criticism Foreseen and Accepted
After such an array of brave words and fair promises, it may yet not be surprising if a brother rises from the rear row and remarks that he is pained to detect in this first number an unduly dominant aroma of codfish-this being his not altogether subtle way of suggesting that early New England concerns occupy a rather disproportionate amount of space in these pages.
Probably the brother is right. But ANTIQUES, merely because it happens to be published in Boston, has no intention of sticking immovably to New England. To get anywhere, however, a start must be made somewhere–. Why not make it from the Hub?
Later on ANTIQUES will so some traveling abroad. Not all foreign objects of art and handicraft come to America through the medium of the exclusive sales rooms in London and Paris. There are pawn shops and back alley book-stalls and obscure junk dealers in every European city-more of them, perhaps, than a well-worn suit of clothes and some fragments of a foreign tongue, will find, at least, interest in hunting out for the examining of their wares. Not infrequently, as Autolycus suggests in his foreign correspondence, their search may be more concretely rewarded.
Those rare and splendid examples of superb design and workmanship that were created for the nobility of royal states are accessible to so few persons as to make them unsuitable for extended specific consideration in a magazine intended for the general collector. Yet fashions were set and styles were devised by those foremost designers and makers who were in the service of the nobility.
Lesser folk modified and adapted them to meet the simpler requirements and more restricted purses of an every-day clientele. The nature of these modifications and adaptations is often extremely interesting.
Before Going to Press
Much material has, for lack of space, been crowded out of this number. Other material, particularly items of current interest, has suffered severe, if not fatal, amputation. As soon as conditions warrant, ANTIQUES will expand in number of pages. Meanwhile its proportioning, as to both substance and typography, will undergo some alteration to meet changing needs.
While these things are in process, the readers of ANTIQUES are invited to make use of all the facilities out of the magazine; to ask questions, to call for help, to suggest the ground that they would like to have covered. Formal contributions, too, will be welcomed; but since the effort of ANTIQUES will increasingly be, in any one discussion, to secure thoroughness within a limited area of research, consultation with the editors should, ordinarily, precede preparation of manuscript.
Finally, ANTIQUES begs the friendly co-operation of collectors, amateurs, connoisseurs, of museum folk, of librarians, of dealers, and of all genial and generous persons who have either a scientific or a gossiping interest in the producers and products of earlier times. No one has yet found a satisfactory means of prolonging life by adding comfortably to its latter end. But there is indefinite prolongation to be had by hooking up the beginning with those clouds of glory that came trailing with us into life and have somewhere been discarded along the way.