Big Table no. 1, Spring 1959

Rosenthal, Irving (ed.)


Chicago: Big Table, Inc., 1959. First Edition. Softcover. 152 pp., 5.5 x 8 inches

Good. Some water staining to front cover, which affects the top and bottom page block, but does not affect the interior pages. Typical age toning throughout and extremely light edge wear, with definite creasing to the spine. Binding has become loose, leaving glue residue on the first page, but is still very much intact. All said, a sound copy of an important publication with a better previous ownership hardly imaginable.

Excellent previous ownership copy belonging to Frank O'Hara, signed by O'Hara to the first page in black ink and dated "New York, 1959". Additionally signed by O'Hara in pencil to the cover.

The inaugural issue of Big Table offers "the complete contents of the suppressed winter 1959 Chicago Review. After the administration at University of Chicago Press would not allow contributions by William S. Burroughs or Jack Kerouac in the Chicago Review, editor Irving Rosenthal resigned and launched Big Table.

Features the first ten episodes from Burroughs landscape altering Naked Lunch, thus, its first printing in any form. 400 copies of the magazine, mailed to subscribers, were seized and impounded by the Chicago Post Office, deemed obscene and filthy it has no redeeming value. Editor Rosenthal sued the Post Office in the District Court of Chicago, where Judge Julius Hoffman ruled it not obscene. Printed in an unusually large run of 10 000 copies, Big Table served as a proving ground for Burroughs and others. Maurice Girodias of the Olympia Press took notice and gambled that if Burroughs, Kerouac, et al could be printed in an edition of that size, it was worth attempting a publication of 5 000 copies of Naked Lunch, which he would do promptly the same year.

A more intriguing copy can hardly be imagined, as poet O'Hara had a taut, at best, relationship with Kerouac. A notorious 1959 poetry reading at the Living Theatre in New York saw Kerouac drunkenly heckle O'Hara with the line "you are ruining American poetry, O Hara", while O'Hara clapped back "that's more than you ever did for it". Big Table issue number one stands as a landmark publication and snapshot of a literary world turning on its axis as the 50's faded into the 60's.