The Captive Boy
Special Collections is currently preparing for an inventory of our holdings produced by Texan printer Carl Hertzog. Hertzog designed and printed a variety of beautiful volumes throughout the twentieth century. Between my personal fondness for miniature books and our recent departmental focus on Hertzog, The Captive Boy seemed a natural choice to share on our blog.
The Captive Boy was published in 1979 by Somesuch Press, a miniature book press founded by retail mogul Stanley Marcus in Dallas. Marcus and Hertzog worked together on a number of projects, but The Captive Boy was the last of these collaborations (Farmer 83-85). (NB: Look for another post soon about the first collaboration between Marcus and Hertzog – Jason)
The Captive Boy is an example of a captivity narrative written in the nineteenth century by Barbara Hofland. Interestingly, the volume was originally published in miniature (Hanna). The book tells the story of a nine year-old named Manuel who is kidnapped by “Camanches,” recounting his time among them as well as his eventual escape (Hofland 44-).
Despite the small size of the book, the text is surprisingly readable. The volume bears simple, unmistakably Hertzog-ian ornamentation that situates the book within its original context as well as Hertzog’s body of work. The red leather binding features neat gold stamping, and the endpapers are adorned with a clean, southwestern motif. Fleurons, identified after the preface as models of an “Indian pictograph” of “birds in flight,” appear on the title page and at the start of each chapter. This simple consistency in Hertzog’s design makes the miniature volume a continuous and compelling visual object.
As for the story itself, the text certainly bears a derogatory attitude toward Native Americans, with much sympathy toward the kidnapped Manuel but little consideration of the Comanches’ possible situation or motives. In prefacing this 1979 edition, Archibald Hanna notes that Barbara Hofland’s story is typically moralistic for her period, but that the story is useful as a historical artifact.
In fact, for such a small volume, The Captive Boy has already sparked interesting discussion amongst Special Collections staff and student workers.
Berger, Sidney E. The Dictionary of the Book: a Glossary for Book Collectors, Booksellers, Librarians, and Others. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors, Edited by Nicolas Barker and Simran Thadani. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2016.
Farmer, David. Stanley Marcus: A Life with Books. Dallas: Still Point Press, 1993.
Hanna, Archibald. Introduction to Little Manuel: the Captive Boy. Dallas: The Somesuch Press, 1979.
Hofland, Barbara. Little Manuel: the Captive Boy. Dallas: The Somesuch Press, 1979.