Redrawing the New York-Comics Relationship

Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project

“Notices of New Books”: Comics in the New York Times, 1855

While I was reading David Kunzle’s Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer, I came across the title of a comics album published in the United States that I had never seen before, The Wonderful and Amusing Doings by Sea and Land of Oscar Shanghai. According to Kunzle, the story “obviously derives from [Töpffer’s album Mr.] Cryptogame.

Reading this, I got curious and went looking for a digital copy. While I have had no luck in that department as yet (tips and links are welcome), I did find a review, or a “notice,” from the New York Times, dated June 30, 1855:

THE WONDERFUL AND AMUSING DOINGS, BY SEA AND LAND, OF OSCAR SHANGHAI. New-York : Garrett & Co.

The French, with no genius for caricature, (which appears nearly indigenous to England,) have a keen perception of the ridiculous, and have invented the table-books in which the adventures of individuals are continuously represented in a series of engraved designs, full of lively humor. In the amusing brochure before us a similar attempt has been successfully made. A New-York merchant, to whom the slang name of Oscar Shanghai, being seized with ennui, determines to go abroad; provides himself with a large number of books of travel; takes passage for Liverpool; gets as sick as HORACE GREELEY himself at sea; falls overboard in a storm; alights on a hen-roost; is fished up by a vessel bound for Constantinople; arrives in Turkey; is elevated to the post of Grand Vizier; has to fly to the country; gets on board a ship for New-York; is headed up in an empty hogshead to escape the Sultan’s wrath; falls overboard and is swallowed by a whale; discovers that it is the self-same fish that swallowed Jonah; is rescued from his perilous position; presents the Captain, his preserver, with Jonah’s jackknife; and returns to New-York. This first portion of his adventures is cleverly depicted. His further experiences of travel, commencing in a flying machine, are not so good. But the whole will serve its purpose-which is to excite half an hour’s amusement. The same publishers announce “The Adventures of Brown, Jones and Robinson,” (by R. DOYLE,  we believe,) and the “Sad Tale of the Courtship of Chevalier Sly-fox Wikoff, showing his heart rending, astounding, and most wonderful Love Adventures with Fanny Elssler and Miss Gambol.” These must be worth looking at.

 

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2 comments on ““Notices of New Books”: Comics in the New York Times, 1855

  1. pmartinlund
    July 7, 2014

    Nicely caught!

    BUT, to nitpick, I write that I hadn’t come across the title when I read Kunzle’s book, which I did before I read the Overstreet piece.

    And I still haven’t found a digital copy of the Doings.

  2. pmartinlund
    July 8, 2014

    You got me pegged there; the interest is purely academic. Much of the stuff I’ve read has been less than inspiring from an aesthetic point of view (with the exception of Obadiah, where I can honestly say that I laughed heartily more than once). But I would still love to get a chance to read it, and any and all others I can get my hands on.

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