Monday, 1 September 2008

On the author, Verrill, and the editor, Frizzle

On the author and the editor

This book is the seventh in a series of books that I have created to make the work of A. Hyatt Verrill available.

My introduction to Hyatt Verrill contains a series of wonderful and curious moments. ‘Buy and Sell Press’ was a weekly newspaper that contained only advertisements. I used to read about one issue a month. Back in 1971, one of the ads under Books, read “Plant Wonders and Wonder Plants, $10, 1-902-555-1234”. For me that title grabbed my curiosity. The phone number was in Truro, about an hour away and a long distance phone call. I was in university with no phone, no money and no car. The libraries had no such book and there was no web to research on!

In typical fashion, I ignored the ad for months but it reappeared each time that I took the time to read the paper. Spring came and with the better weather I decided to borrow my mother’s car and visit the book seller. I do not remember the phone call to the woman as being inspiring but the spring sunshine on the drive to Truro was invigorating. When I arrived at the home that had been converted to rooms, I easily located her apartment, it was two rooms, a bedroom and a main room – kitchen, dining and living room. Her apartment was tiny – I don’t think that she had a bathroom in the apartment. She was in her 70s, a pleasant and tiny woman. I am not a great social mixer so we just proceeded to get the book, I gave it a quick browse and agreed to pay the full price.

As I drove back to Halifax, I was happy for my gain. Once I began to read the book, I was thrilled with the contents – I was tied to the author and the woman that I had bought the book from, in some mysterious way. Marshall McLuhen described book reading as a ‘hot’ process – unlike ‘cool’ watching television. The temperature terms refers to the brain engagement process. We have the opportunity to digest books.

Wonder Plants and Plant Wonders is a terrific read for anyone that is interested in gardening. It inspired the reader to go on to research more curious things in life. One result is that after 35 intervening years that included the birth of the Web, I have been given the privilege to be the first to present the autobiography of Hyatt Verrill.

Do imagine him in poor health nearing the end of his life, dictating the autobiography to his dear wife who typed the pages up. Imagine that the nonfiction books that he wrote are still inspiring researches today. Imagine that his fiction is still being published. His story deserves to be digested…

The web is a marvelous tool for finding things. In 2004, I retired, I had lots of time on my hands and was looking for reading material when the weather was not so good. I like projects, I like the past, so I connected with the author Verrill.

I purchased, one by one, a few of the books that AHV written. I liked them a lot, they were written so enthusiastically and the author seemed so comfortable in his subject matter. He connected us, readers, with the material.

Verrill is not currently a popular author. He died in 1954, and as a result, all of his published works have entered the ‘public domain’. He did publish a lot of books – how he did so, was a mystery of the work ethic.

When we look up A. Hyatt Verrill on the WWW, we get over 31,100 references. Looking up his bibliography did not result in constructive results. Most of the citations are books for sale. The second reason for so many references are that his scientific and sociologic works are still authoritative today.

My research did result in the creation of the first Wikipedia article on Verrill. This was primarily related to searches on ‘Abebooks’ and ‘Alibris’ for Verrill books. These I compiled into my first ‘bibliography’.

Once that initial work was done, from time to time, I updated my own personal records with updates on his publications and with digital copies of the published works where available.

From time to time I have been criticized for not being thorough enough in the ‘bibliography’. In particular the science fiction enthusiasts did not think I did a good job. To make up for that problem – (I was not a big SF fan) – I started to research the ‘articles’ that AHV wrote over time. Now that list stands at over 95 ‘articles’ that were published in periodicals from ‘Scientific American’ to ‘St. Nicholas’ magazines, from 1897 to 1945. Again, all of these are ‘public domain’ since they are published more than 50 years ago.

Since I chased down every reference to Hyatt Verrill, I did come across a reference to AHV’s autobiography. It was located in the Rare Book Archives of University of British Columbia (UBC). Why there I have no idea, supposedly deposited by a ‘Mr. Harris’.

My records indicate that I received my first purchased instalment of the AHV autobiography on 26 July 2006. Now these libraries are very familiar with the copyright laws. This is an unpublished work of a deceased author. It is subject to 75 years, before becoming ‘public domain’, that is 1951 plus 75 = 2026.

On receipt of the first chapter, I fell in love with the work. It is a period piece, starting before power, before communication, before the automobile.

I know of no works that relate to this period in such a manner. I have read the works of a number of authors – maybe I missed a lot of the details. Anyhow I loved this work. I felt it shows a great enthusiasm for Life. An enthusiasm with various and diverse projects shone through, something that should still be here for all of us, but is not so evident today – though the reasons are still there.

anyhow, I had the interest and continued to order chapters from the University. Our first book, Never a Dull Moment, is Verrill’s autobiography. The principle edits made were to the chapters which were refined in their chronological sequence. I did very little with the grammer and the spelling, since I was discovering the evolution of English in the writings. Similarly, some will find that Verrill’s writings appear prejudiced. I retained that feel, not to offend but to demonstrate the remarkable and just transformations of our civilization. I know Verrill was a very respectful person, one only has to read carefully to understand this.

Research on Hyatt Verrill has been ongoing for over four years. I have left tracks in the form of email and web links in as many locations as possible. About a year ago I finally was contacted by a direct descendent of Verrill. This person, and some other relations have been supportive of this project. I appreciate there support and will continue to welcome their assistance.

The autobiography being published, I felt that I had to present some of the work of Verrill that was out of circulation. There are many people interested in Vintage Science Fiction. Thus the five volumes of Amazing Stories – the Scientifiction, numbers 1 through 5, presents all the stories that were currently out of print.

This volume, Write from the Jungle, presents a sampling of the diverse works published in other periodicals and books. These works are again, not easily found or generally available.

There are a number of writings that I am still in search of: Bimshaw, the Pirate, Coconuts and Cannibals, Red Peter and other Sea Stories, The Flying Head and others from Strange Stories. Our web pages describe these and more wanted works.

Finally, just to complete, we hope you enjoy this and the other works of Verrill. I believe that his enthusiasm shows through.


Doug Frizzle

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.