In the News

Six Folio Society Books Selected as Finalists for the British Book Design & Production Awards 2017

The Folio Society is delighted to announce that six of their titles have been... read more

AntiquarianAuctions.com Auction #61 Highlights, August 24-31

AntiquarianAuctions.com is an online auction site dedicated to the sale of rare and out-of... read more

Rare Documents, Books, and Relics Are Up for Bid in University Archives’ Online-Only Sale

WESTPORT, Conn. - A fantastic selection of autographed documents, manuscripts, books and relics are... read more

Trove of Polaroids Taken of Madonna in 1983 Offered for Sale

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. - A complete set of 66 original Polaroid photos of... read more

Yeats: The Family Collection at Sotheby's in September

18 August 2017—The collection of one of Ireland’s most important families of the last... read more

Ukrainian Anti-Nazi Propaganda Postcards in the Spotlight at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair

“Two bears, two bears, thrashed the peas, Two roosters, two roosters took it to... read more

Spirited Bidding in Americana, Travel & Exploration, History & Cartography at PBA Galleries

PBA Galleries saw strong prices realized in their August 10th sale of Americana -... read more

Graham Nash Collection of Underground Art Tops $6.3-Million Comics Event at Heritage Auctions

DALLAS, Texas (Aug. 15, 2017) - Singer/songwriter Graham Nash’s collection of Underground Comix art... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Special Report
sponsored by
Old World Auctions

The Book Farm

Charles F. Heartman’s Utopia for Intellectuals By Peggy PricePeggy Price is the Curator of Special Collections at the University of Southern Mississippi’s McCain Library & Archives and a PhD student at the Center for Writers. She has written pieces for Mississippi Libraries on hurricane preparedness, opportunities for continuing education in rare book studies, and collecting the twentieth century, along with works of short fiction appearing in Smokelong Quarterly, elimae, and others.

Barbecue at the Book Farm, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Visitors lounge in the sun by the pond. Courtesy of McCain Library & Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.

When book dealer Charles Heartman dreamed up an idea for a colony of writers, artists, and intellectuals to live together in pastoral leisure, he left the bustle of more bookish urban centers and relocated to the Piney Woods of the deep South where he published bibliographies, auction catalogues, and historical reprints under the curious name, The Book Farm, in the little known town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

An undated photograph of Charles F. Heartman. Courtesy of McCain Library & Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.
The cover of Americana: Printed and in Manuscript, (c.a. 1947). Heartman’s Catalog 120 revealed his pioneering interest in African Americana. Courtesy of McCain Library & Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.
Letter describing life on the farm, written December 2, ca. 1936, from Mrs. Heartman to her daughter Madison. Courtesy of McCain Library & Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.

A German émigré, Heartman (1883-1953) began collecting books at an early age, and, as an adult, became a renowned book dealer, editor, and publisher. He owned bookstores in New York and Vermont and later moved to Metuchen, New Jersey, where he hosted notable book auctions at his home. Heartman edited the magazines The American Collector and The American Book Collector, published well-regarded and carefully detailed bibliographies and reprints as part of his Heartman Historical Series, and produced catalogues for his auctions and mail-order business. He developed an interest in African Americana and built an important collection of documents, pamphlets, and other materials, parts of which are now preserved in academic libraries at Xavier University and Texas Southern University. While shops, auctions, bibliographies, and editorial work were natural business endeavors and logical intellectual pursuits of the book-minded collector, Heartman was restless. He sought not only warmer climes for his health, but had grander visions of a surprising new way of life.

In 1935, Heartman moved to New Orleans with his wife, Martha, and daughter Dolley Madison (known as Madison). It was during this time that Heartman decided to act on an idea that had been on his mind for many years. He hoped to establish a Utopian colony comprised of writers, artists, and intellectuals. This group of thinkers and creative sorts would build their own homes, grow food, wander, type, and paint. A bookman’s utopia. His was not a venture based on radical socialist ideals or gestures toward the communal spirit evident in other Utopian efforts (such as the similarly named Brook Farm that George Ripley had founded nearly one hundred years earlier). He probably would not even have considered himself part of the mid-century “back to the land” movement. But Charles Heartman was a complicated man. Known for expressing his opinions sharply in his magazines and elsewhere—“difficult” is the diplomatic adjective assigned to his sometimes railing, harsh, cruel personality—one does not immediately associate this rather tyrannical husband and father with slow walks near streams or pensive moments in an orchard of pecan trees. His motivations were based largely on economic realities and an attempt to escape the “worry of the complexities of present day political and economic life and the viciousness of having to give a greater part of the result of one’s labour either in direct or indirect taxes or to a non-productive middleman.” Perhaps he was a little radical.

Heartman’s first move was to invite participation in the colony through an advertisement in The Saturday Review of Literature. Curious readers responded with questions about the particulars and with details about their own lives and their potential contributions to such an enterprise. A young student at Yale University studying theater and chemistry thought he might be a good fit; two teachers aged 32 and 40 mentioned that they could type and drive and, though they knew how to teach, would rather not. An eagle scout from Tennessee with an interest in “people, social organizations and economics” thought his swimming and first aid skills might be useful to the group. A chiropractor from the Bronx with “an interest in natural living” wrote several times.

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | Next
comments powered by Disqus