As the world is struggling with Coronavirus-19, it may be interesting to look at the history of pandemics, long seen as God’s punishment of our sins, and/or as something provoked by the witches. The History of Science Collection in Cornell’s RMC has the first edition of Girolamo Fracastoro’s De contagione et contagiosis morbis (Venice: Giunti, 1546; “On Contagion and Contagious Diseases”).

De contagione et contagiosis morbis

De contagione et contagiosis morbis. First chapter, answering the question “What does contagion mean?”

De contagione et contagiosis morbis

Florentine giglio or lily, printer’s mark of Lucantonio (LA) Giunti, at the end of the small volume. Images courtesy: Cornell Library, Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts

The book claims each disease is caused by a different type of rapidly multiplying “minute bodies” (particulae), which are transferred from the infector to the infected in three ways: 1/ by direct physical contact, including shaking hands ; 2/ by carriers such as soiled clothing and linen; and 3/ through corrupt air or water. Thus, Fracastoro was the first to understand scientifically the true nature of fevers caused by infection, and to recommend basic hygienic measures of prevention, like social distancing and washing our hands with hot water and soap. Fracastoro was a star at the prestigious University of Padua, and a protégé of the powerful Farnese family (see his portrait by Titian, 1528, below).

Image Courtesy: National Gallery (London)

Fracastoro’s theory was widely praised during his time; after his death his influence waned, however, until an experimental version was elaborated later by, e.g., Louis Pasteur (1822-95), the father of microbial methods. Based on his recommendations to avoid contagion through:   quarantine the sick; keep your distances; wash your hands often with soap and hot water; change your wet shirts and bed sheets if you have fever, it is quite clear that we did not make much progress since 1546!



The unison of three greatly provocative and time-changing minds were responsible for the bestseller Candy, which on one hand greatly influenced popular culture of the 1960’s,  and on the other, caused furor for its vulgar take on contemporary culture. The work of writer Terry Southern, poet Mason Hoffenberg and publisher Maurice Girodias, was originally pseudonymously published by the Olympia Press in Paris, in October of 1958 and was officially banned in France in May of 1959.

When the French authorities began to confiscate copies offered for sale, the book had already been reissued with one small change:  the price printed at the bottom of the rear panel, “Francs: 1.200” was overstamped in blue ink with “New Price N.F. 15”.  The Brigade de Répression du Proxénétisme (BRP), a judicial police service of the French National Police, responsible for the surveillance of prostitution and the repression of immoral living, seized all available copies from the Paris bookshops. In an attempt to fool sensors and sell the remaining copies of the work,  publisher Maurice Girodas, changed the title of Candy and reissued it as Lollipop, along with reprinting the first few pages, including the dedication “to Master Boon and Master Badj”,( originally Master Hadj and Master Zoon), and re-attributing an introductory quotation to Rimbaud rather than Voltaire. This worked rather well and many of the copies of this edition survived, leaving the first edition with the original title quite a scarcity, both in the first (not overstamped) issue, and the second issue. Currently, first issue copies in collectible condition are available for sale at around $5,000.














The price hike is not solely attributed to censorship, however. The book gained popularity by taking its part in the Beat Generation literary movement. While living in Paris, the three men responsible for bringing this erotic fantasy to fruition, helped develop the Beat Generation’s reputation as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity. Maurice Girodia, founder of the scandalous “Olympia Press,” and at one time owner of his father’s “Obelisk Press,” was Europe’s most infamous publisher who sought to publish works which were deemed shocking and unpublishable in English. In addition to Candy , he was also the first publisher of  Lolita, Naked Lunch, The Tropic of Cancer, and Marquis de Sade.  Terry Southern, the author with Texan, Irish, and Native American roots, wrote the film dialogue in the landmark films “Dr. Strangelove” and “Easy Rider”. Terry’s mandate was to take things as far out as they could go using his killer ear for dialogue. Last, but not least, Mason Hoffenberg was one of the smartest, hippest, most undisciplined poets extending from the Greenwich Village of New York, to the Left Bank of Paris. He hung out with Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, and Henry Miller, and helped a newcomer named William Burroughs publish his blockbuster: “Naked Lunch.”

Another factor contributing to Candy’s popularity is film adaptation.  In 1964, Candy, was published in North America by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, in hardcover. Four years later, the story was made into an all-star film by Christian Marquand, starring Ewa Aulin, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, Charles Aznavour, John Astin, John Huston, Anita Pallenberg and Enrico Maria Salerno. It quickly became a cult film, despite a disappointing introduction in the US, but with a great run throughout Europe. The DVD is also quite scarce.

Later on came favorable criticism. In 2006, Playboy Magazine listed Candy among the “25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written,” and described the story as a “young heroine’s picaresque travels, a kind of sexual pinball machine that lights up academia, gardeners, the medical profession, mystics and bohemians.” Neil Southern, in his 2004 book, The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy, tells the story of the book, the men behind it, and the furor that it caused. Terry’s son got the idea for his book after reading a letter to his father from a British barrister advising how, (even in 1968),  the only way Candy could appear in England would be to undergo a “pornectomy” – eliminating about eight instances of what was considered “indecency.”

Looking onward, the collectability of Candy is bound to grow. The book has been recognized as the most popular “dirty” book in Europe, during the time when the Supreme Court in the USA was struggling with the definition of sex. Paris was the only place you could print “dirty” books in English at that time, and to actually be censored in France, is quite an achievement! As psychologist Carl Jung first contended:  “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”



The First Ethnic Cook Books of America

February 8, 2020
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Up until twenty years after the political upheaval of the American Revolution in 1776, the Thirteen Colonies had been using British cookbooks reprinted in America. The first such cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, by William Parks in 1742, titled “The Compleat Housewife.” The book was in fact, a London bestseller, published fifteen years earlier in […]

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Women author scarcity

November 12, 2019
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The women’s liberation movement during the 1960’s propelled feminist intellectualism which brought us wonderful modern women writers, such as J.K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.  The boys’ club definitely was broken, and is even more apparent when looking back!  Critic Sarah Weinman, argues in an essay published by the Library […]

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Jean-Michel Basquiat is “PYRO” hot

September 30, 2019
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Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which will take place in London on the 3rd of October 2019, will offer a Jean-Michel Basquiat acrylic, silkscreen ink and oil stick on canvas titled “PYRO”, signed and dated 1984 on the reverse. This is the highlight of the event and is estimated to sell for …….., “Estimate upon […]

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Photographing Paris

September 4, 2019
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Two rare photography books portray two separate images of the beautiful city of Paris.  The books represent the improbable encounter of two Parisian worlds: the surrealistic vision of Brassaï, and the documentary view of Atget. Eugene Atget (1857-1927), documented much of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization. Most of […]

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Where American History and Christian Religion Crossed

July 18, 2019
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In the month of August 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and with a crowd of over a quarter of a million people, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” In that same month, King’s first printing of a collection of his sermons titled, “Strength […]

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Extreme Femininity

May 1, 2019
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Times have changed and so have women, but not their innate ability to charm. Women possess the power to please or attract with their personality or beauty. Imagine living in another time, and, if it were to be the twentieth century, you would perhaps choose the hay-day of the 1920’s. It was a time for women […]

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The Jewels of Passover

April 17, 2019
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At the start of this year’s Holy Week a terrible blaze engulfed Notre-Dame. As I watched the spire of the cathedral fall, I wondered how destructive smoke and flames have often been to books throughout history. Vulnerable older editions from the 16th, 15th and even 13th centuries must have survived the misfortunes brought about by […]

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February 27, 2019

Issued in the aftermath of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the Index of Forbidden Books maintained by the Inquisition became an obstacle to the circulation of books and ideas in Europe and its colonies well into the 20th century – it is only in 1966 that the Catholic Church formally abolished it. Among the famous […]

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