Home » Army Life and Stories » JEAN SHEPHERD—ARMY STORIES (Sneaky Peeks) 4 & (35) ARTSY Artists’ Books intro 2

JEAN SHEPHERD—ARMY STORIES (Sneaky Peeks) 4 & (35) ARTSY Artists’ Books intro 2


“Zinsmeister and the Treacherous Eighter From Decatur”

(From Playboy, 9/1970)

zinsmeister (3)

(Partial Image)

As of this writing, this entire story seems to be found on

Shepherd sets the barracks scene, describing some of his fellow soldiers and their part in the war effort:

…Company K, a hapless band of Signal Corps technicians that formed the very bottom of the immense heap of the Armed Forces.

Shep and Zinsmeister, among others, got passes and took the bus to town with a hoard of other soldiers.

The sidewalks were jammed from curb to doorway with a moiling wild-eyed throng of GIs on pass. They eddied to and fro like a pack of anxious mongrels sniffing for scraps.

They entered an establishment called HOWIE’S HAWIIAAN BAMBOO JUNGLE INN where they were overcharged for a drink apiece. They found a double room at the Chateau Elegante Arms. When they got to their room, they found that it was packed with army bunks and a dozen or more GIs. Eventually they became involved in a game of craps, and, of course, lost everything to a pair of cheaters.

They met up with some of their buddies on the bus back to camp. And lied, saying that they’d had a great time. Their buddies believed them:

Zinsmeister smiled his old, quiet, knowing smile. The buzzing in my head picked up a bit.  I sat very still and tried to smile the way Zinsmeister smiled, like William Powell in The Thin Man, about to name the murderer. A legend had begun.



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(35) ARTISTS’ BOOKS intro Part 2

Other precursors of the modern artists’ book include some of the unusual bits in the early novel that makes fun of the novel form, the 9-volume The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, a wild and witty burlesque of a novel, published in its first two volumes in 1759 by the Yorkshire clergyman Laurence Sterne. Among the self-conscious novel playing-with-form, is a solid black page, chapters that are unusually short, various squiggles representing visual representations of the book’s structure, and a marbled page (each copy of the book had to have that sheet masked-off and marbled separately and inserted into the book.

shandy squiggles

From the book,

squiggles representing

the book’s structure

I’ve very much wanted to have a first edition of the nine volumes, but the cost is anywhere between five thousand and forty thousand (roughly), depending on condition and how much of a first are the first two volumes. I settled for a mixed set of third printings and up, printed in the later 1760s, for a hundred dollars. With some struggles, I learned to read–semi-fluently–the typography, which frequently uses an f-shaped letter “s.” Unfortunately, holding the volumes and turning the pages causes flecks of the paper to disassociate themselves from the pages and flutter to my lap and the pages themselves to crumble loose from the binding, so reading my treasure became a mess of gradual disintegration.

Tristram marbled minejpg

 The marbled page from my copy

Another creator of artists’ books was the English poet, William Blake, who drew by hand a printing plate for each page of his books. As printing plates, they had to be lettered every word backwards so they would print frontwards. After printing the line block, as he’d taught his wife how to color, she colored each copy to his specifications. The melding of words and image makes them artists’ books. Small, simple pages in his Songs of Innocence, contained the poem and its illustrated tiger: “Tiger, tiger, burning bright….” For me, the most elaborate and spectacular is his Jerusalem.  I have facsimiles of several of his books. He was an oddball and mystic–many consider him to have been mentally disturbed. But, as for artists’ books, he was a master.

Blake Jer.titl

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bBlake jer.74 (2)Blake back0001 (2)



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