Addenda, Delenda, Corrigenda
A book to mark the LRB’s 40th anniversary, compiled by Sam Kinchin-Smith, is published today by Faber. More scrapbook than festschrift, it traces an incomplete history of the paper through reproductions of letters, drawings, postcards, fieldnotes, typescripts and covers from the last four decades, introduced and contextualised by writers, editors and designers from the LRB’s past and present. To keep the book under two kilos, we could only include a couple of pages from most of the manuscripts. But there’s no weight limit online, so here are all 29 pages of Oliver Sacks’s typescript for ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’, the 1983 piece that became the 1985 book that made Sacks the most famous neurologist in the world:
Karl Miller and Mary-Kay Wilmers had worked together on the Listener before founding the LRB, and it was in that magazine that Sacks was first published in 1972. He sent them eight versions of his piece; they selected the seventh. His first for the LRB, ‘Wiccy Ticcy Ray’, the story of a patient with Tourette’s, appeared in 1981. In his covering letter he wrote:
Let me get this off to you before I drive you (and myself) mad … I am almost devoid of judgment in regard to what I write – so I will send you the original and the revisions, leaving it entirely to you to pick what you please. I will not trouble you with more addenda, delenda, corrigenda, etc … nor further drafts, nor anything more; but will wait with eagerness and equanimity for some proofs to reach me.
Another letter from Sacks we didn’t have space to include in the book, to Nicholas Spice about contributor copies, is signed three times in fading red, black and green ink, with an explanatory note (in red): ‘All my pens suddenly ran out!’