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Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers
 Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers
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Books and periodicals that include the work of notable illustrators, with a focus on those working in the early 20th Century.

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Gay, Jan, On Going Naked (Deluxe "collectors' edition"), New York, Holborn House, 1932, first edition, 12mo (5.5" x 7.5"), HB, embossed gilt title & illustration of a nude couple on watermark-patterned lt. blue stock over boards; 1/4 white leather with black decorative titles; illustrated endpapers; gilt top-edge, NF / VG. An usually clean copy in the printer's original shipping carton. Glassine covers, though suffering a 1" tear on top front, have in tandem with the box, done a good job of preservation, numbered 215/1000 and signed by the author; privately printed for subscribers by Falstaff Press.

163 pp. Illustrated throughout with 32 full page b/w photographic (78 images of nudist life in Europe and America), decorations by Zhenya Gay at chapter heads, end papers, and front boards; directory of Nudist Clubs in Germany arranged by city.

The enthusiastic, forward-thinking classic on Nacktkultur (nudism), private and public nudist culture, nudist culture in Europe and America, personalities of nudists, nudist organizations and literature, implications of nakedness, and the future of nakedness.

The author was born Helen Reitman (1902-1960). Her mother, May Schwartz, married the eccentric and flamboyant whorehouse doctor, hobo, anarchist agitator, and birth contol advocate Ben Reitman(1879-1942). The short-lived marriage ended in 1908 when Reitman abandoned his family to begin the first in a lifetime of affairs, in this instance as the lover and “road manager” to radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Helen was raised "in the pre-bare-leg period, a member of the household of [her]grandmother. In the strict Protestant environment" of the early twentieth-century American midwest. Later, as young adult, she declared her sexuality by changing her name to “Jan Gay," using a newly popular 1930's codeword for homosexual. She had an eclectic career as a journalist, translator, sexuality researcher, writer (children's books and film documentaries), and passionate promoter of nudism.

From an article mentioning Mecca Reitman Carpenter’s No Regrets: Dr. Ben Reitman and the Women Who Loved Him, a biography of her father by another of Ben’s several children, comes this interesting note about the author:

"How and whether Helen/Jan had been influenced by her father, who had abandoned her and her mother, but whom she later looked up and whose lectures she attended in Chicago, is beyond the scope of this book. But given Ben Reitman's penchant for theatricality (Goldman complained of how he came to a breakfast meeting naked while they were on tour in Oregon), it does seem as if the fruit did not fall that far from the tree. Films of Jan Gay, including excerpts of several productions she participated in of Tom Cushing's classic play Barely Proper are in the possession of and being edited for distribution [by The Naturist Society in Oshkosh, Wisconsin]." From an article, "Coming to Terms with One's Father's Past," by Leonard Lehrman/Helene Williams, published by AUFBAU 65:14, July 9, 1999 p.12.

From The Weekly Nudesletter, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 4, 1999, is an article quoting the author. Borrowing its title from the author's, it has some interesting quotes and details about her:

On Going Naked

"...But sometimes a skilled and enthusiastic writer who can describe his or her own experience in glowing terms will convey enough of the essential idea to nudge people with an open mind and some spirit of adventure to give it a fair try.

"Someone, for instance, like the young woman, Jan Gay, in her book, On Going Naked:

'It is one of the grandest feelings in the world to go around without clothes.'

"Jan didn't discover this later in life. Like many children in our society, she was raised in a strict, religious environment that strongly discouraged nudity. Nevertheless, also like many children, she had early and very positive experiences with nakedness:

'One of the clearest recollections of my childhood is of a summer storm when I ran out naked into the yard to feel the rain pelting on my body. The grass was newly cut. Little pools had formed on the hard turf. I rolled over and over in the puddles. When I was discovered the cut grass clung to my hair and my wet body. I was spanked, but I have never forgotten the pleasure of that afternoon.'

"As a teenager, living in a foster home in the U. S. midwest, life seemed pretty bleak, and (like many other teens) she flirted with thoughts of suicide. Nudity was one of her few pleasures:

'Once during this period, in a spirit of daring, I stole a rowboat, crossed to a sandy island in the Kaw and there took off my clothes to lie in the sand for an afternoon. I was extremely unhappy, with that desperation of adolescence which does not know where to turn for understanding or guidance. I thought of jumping into the muddy river and trying to drown. I went to sleep lying naked in the sun. When I wakened I was more tranquil and found it possible to return and endure my uncongenial surroundings a little longer.'

"She was hooked. As a young adult, though she had not yet discovered 'organized nudism' she still loved to be naked. Not for sexual reasons, but just for the pleasure of it:

'There followed years of greater freedom to go naked when I chose, so that whenever I found myself in any isolated field or forest, or alone and unlikely to be disturbed in a room of comfortable temperature, I took off my clothes.'

"Jan's book has many other stories of nakedness enjoyed in out of the way country places and even in the heart of New York's Central Park. When she finally did discover that there was such as thing as organized nudity, she enthusiastically visited nudist parks, particularly in Germany, France, and Scandinavia.

"Of course, many young people today either have a decided aversion to the idea of nudity, or at 'best,' conceive of it only as a sort of sexual adventure. Perhaps Jan Gay is of an earlier generation - maybe a child of the 60s? An earlier generation, yes - much earlier. In fact, she grew up early in this century, and her book was published in 1932.

"She was one of the pioneering 'nudists' in the U. S. Only a handful of nudist camps existed here at the time, and her book was one of the first published here - or anywhere in English - about nudism. Even in Germany, where it began, organized social nudism was only about 25 years old at the time. The nudist movement here enjoyed a springtime of a few brief years of public curiosity and interest before the iron fist of puritanical moralism came down and nearly stifled it entirely, until a gradual and modest revival in the 50s."

A pristine, almost unread copy of a fascinating book, by an equally interesting author.     [Book ID # 1883]


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