JF Ptak Science Books Post 100 [See also my latest post on fat: Fat Redux, 1920's Fat Quack Cures].
In the world of found-book-objects, few I think are as deeply removed and as deeply obscure as the work by Otto F. Fleiss, a butcher and sculptor in fat. And lard. The pamphlet's title is a throw-back to an earlier day of titling, when the title page was pretty much fully overtaken by the title, though as a common practice it say its heyday 300+ years ago. Fleiss' 50-word title: White Art in the Meat Food Business. A Practical Handbook for Butcher, Pork Stores, Restaurants, Hotels and Delicatessens on How to Make Lasting and Transferable White Art Decorations out of Bacon Fat Back for Window Displays, Ornaments on Meat Food Cold Buffets and for Exhibits and Advertising Purposes. Enrich yourself with Personal Knowledge.
If the title of this book could itself be described in terms of food, I think that I'd have to call it a (warm) Slim Jim Egg Frosty with a crust of French fries, baked. Or something like that. If the exhaustive, exhausting title didn't stop you in your tracks, though, the slim pamphlet holds some indelible, indigestible, eyebrow-burning, flat-out remarkable images. Working your way through this pamphlet is as much fun as stringing together dirty diapers: you can enjoy instructions on how to make a vase of roses out of strips of fat, or produce the reverse (?!) portrait of Santa Claus in slabs of fat, or marvel at the photos of Mr. Fleiss' "first prize" (?) 200-pound fat sculpture of a cathedral done entirely in slips and chunks and strips of fat.
And, in the annals of art, I should think that Black Velvet Sparkly Liberace paintings may have moved up a level from the most secret depths of the inferno to make way for Fat Art--or, dare I say it, "FART".
A Note on the Origin of this Pamphlet:
The Fleiss work comes from a singular collection that we purchased of the Library of Congress some years ago. It was called, simply, "The Pamphlet Collection", and included 90,000 or so pamphlets stored in 2,355 blue document boxes. They were all categorized and alphabetized, but not according to any truly discernible methodology. Their greatest common denominator was that the great majority of them simply did not exist.
By "they did not exist" I mean that they were not catalogued in the massive (70 million item) database and librarian's tool WorldCat/FirstSearch which lists books in libraries world wide. And they continually do not show up in the mass bookseller databases, or in Google/Yahoo searches, and so on.
The pamphlets in the collection also weren't added, in large part, to the Library of Congress collection, nor were they ever circulated. They were just kept in their blue boxes, waiting to a-moulder away. But they didn't, and here they are, and will be, making appearances over the next number of years.
There will also be many other images from much more public and published sources that have simply slipped away from us here in our present—unexpected bits of revelatory history wrapped in a simple image that speak volumes from the dim, deep forgotten.
Perhaps the most incredible of the photographs in this unleafy work by Fleiss is of that below, of the Welfare Meat Pork Store. The legend describes "lamb roast ornamented into a duck", meaning that all of the duck-like things hanging there in the window were actually made of lamb roast covered in pork fat. (One doesn't get to write that ever day.) Then we see a "roast with a rose" (and as we saw in the text the roses in the ornamentation were made out of fat), as well as a "rose on a smoked ham and a bouquet of roses". Again, virtually everything in the wind of this store was constructed of fat.
Mr. Fleiss also did Christmas ornamentation.