Mail Culture and Historical notes
In the late 70s and early 80s a network culture emerged that pre-dated information exchange via BBS/Fidonet/Internet (Arpanet) type networks. This was known as the “Mail Culture”. Using the guerrilla tactics of information networking started by such underground movements as the radical underground of the American 30’s, 50’s and 60’s and the Soviet Block ‘Samisdat” culture, the “Mail Culture” used the postal systems of the world to tie together outposts of radical/fringe thought and art into a loosely affiliated info-network. (All of course paying homage to the “chapbook” and “Pamphlet” cultures that sparked so many revolutions, including the American and French)
It worked like this
In the very early 80’s I became aware of a anarchist art collective in the Madison Wisconsin area known as “Xexoxial Endarchy” which for all intents and purposes functioned as a jumping off point for “Mail Culture” activity. One could write to XE, include a SASE, and receive in return a catalog (Xeroxed of course!) of weird pamphlets, catalogs and audio tapes of “experimental” music/sound collages, from the fringe of society (and beyond in some cases). Also, a list of names, addresses, and requirements (send us one of your things, we’ll send you one of ours, or send a SASE, etc.) which you would then add names of places/individuals that you had collected (as well your own)in the mix, make copies, and distribute in kind. I was putting out a xerox zine at the time called SNARF and used that as my coin to trade with. Over the course of a few years my collection of crackpot literature from this source grew to encompass 3 bookshelves. It is apparent from anyone who has been in contact with this culture that the first iterations of the Inunabula catalog as we know it today came from/was tailored for this underground movement. I put a xeroxed copy of the original color , in circulation in 1990/91 or so and watched several iterations of xerox of xerox of xerox- sans illustrations, plus new illustrations, appear from time to time in fringe science and crackpot literature catalogs, sometimes “for sale.It is still unclear who circulated the original color version and for what purpose.
Later, several compendium books appeared (late eighties, early nineties) that were commercially available such as:
High Weirdness by Mail
Fringeware Review and many others
Thanks so much for this! I’ve compared these to the color edition I have in a safe deposit box, as well as several other iterations I’ve seen and collected over the years and have the following to report:
Document 1. Xerox of a Xerox made from the original color catalog. By comparing a few markings made by scratches on the now ancient (heck, even then it was kinda old!) machine, I can tell that this is a Xerox made from a Xerox of the color brochure which I gave to a friend at Aries Arts in Capitola and which was sold for $2.00 (copy, handling, and postage costs) through a conspiracy mail-order catalog that the owners husband ran in the back.
I have seen several different versions of copies made from that original before, with artwork added, subtracted, etc. The main difference here from the original color is the puzzling absence of the other 13 pages of illustrations that was included with the color version. The cover of this one however is definitely a copy of the original cover. I can also attest to the fact that the text sections are exact replicas of the original color (done on a sandstone vellum bond). Maybe they left out the 13 pages of illustrations for the purpose of saving paper. Who knows?
I plan to make a high quality color PDF copy of my one and only color copy available in a few months to coincide with the release of some other material. All in all, this is still a cool collectors piece and I’ll put the copy you gave me in a polybag and store it with the rest of my “iterations” collection.
Document 2. This is not the original brochure but in fact a Xerox copy of the 1988 Edge Detector article. Note that is says (as I have said time and again in public) PLW’s admonition that he was merley “passing it on”.
A few years ago, I talked to a ranger at the Lebanon State Forest Ranger Station (some kind of tourist welcome center) and a lady who worked there told me that in fact a brochure that fit the description of the one in my possession had been in the racks for a while, but she was unclear where they had come from. This would have been mid-eighties or so by her recollection.
Since then two other people (Parsifal on DP and another lady who claimed to have known the Ashram residents) have repeated a similar story. Again, when I scan the color catalog, I will scan and include the copy of the brochure that I have in my possession.
Originals-1 contains the Edge Detector version of the OH Brochure that is the origin of the “written by PLW” rumor, and on page 16 of the PDF, the illustration has a black and white reproduction of the actual cover of the brochure, bottom left of the page.
This is undoubtedly the version a certain psycho was passing around in the early nineties, with PLW’s name blacked out with a marker. I also remember him saying on the some long gone web-board that the “original” brochure had plans or a schematic inside. This is what he’s talking about, since he was obviously using the ED version. This “schematic” is an artisitic rendering, added by the publisher of Edge Detector and does not exist in the original brochure. Anyone who’s read the catalog and brochure would be able to recognize that this image in no way represents the vehicle described in those documents.