A New Anthology: ‘The Best of Archy and Mehitabel’

Alfred A. Knopf today published “The Best of Archy and Mehitabel,” a new anthology of Don Marquis’ popular Archy and Mehitabel poems and sketches.

The new hardback is an abridged version of “the lives and times of archy and mehitabel,” first published in 1940 by Doubleday, Doran, Marquis’ longtime publisher. Doubleday and Knopf are both part of the Random House publishing group.

“The Best of Archy and Mehitabel”sells for $13.50 ($15.95 in Canada) and is part of the Pocket Poets series from Knopf’s Everyman’s Library imprint. The book has 256 pages, measures 4 1/8 by 6 1/4 inches, and includes George Herriman’s beloved cartoon illustrations and E.B. White’s introduction to the 1950 edition of “the lives and times of archy and mehitabel.”

“The best of Archy and Mehitabel” appears 100 years after Marquis’ first book was published. Marquis was a reporter and copy editor at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1911 when the Eagle published a history of the Brooklyn State Militia’s 14th Regiment on the 50th anniversary of its formation at the start of the Civil War. Marquis and a co-worker at the Eagle compiled the volume, which was privately printed and distributed at a reunion of regiment survivors.

Unlike other recent anthologies that contain new works — Michael Sims’ “The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel” in 2006 and Jeff Adams’ “archyology” series, published in 1996 and 1998 — “The Best of Archy and Mehitabel” is an abridgment of the 1950 edition of “the lives and times,” which itself was an abridgment of the three Archy books published during Don Marquis’ lifetime: “archy and mehitabel” (1927), “archys life of mehitabel” (1933) and “archy does his part” (1935).

The new book includes 65 sketches and poems, a third less than “the lives and times.” But even if this new book doesn’t contain every single gem from the original “archy and mehitabel,” fans will be grateful that Don’s publisher finally saw fit to set these classic poems and sketches in new type for the first time in 51 years. It gets painful to pick up a recent, reprinted paperback copy of “archy and mehitabel” and try to read through type that had degraded into inky smudges in the decades since it was last typeset in 1960.

Also notable: This new edition marks the first hardback edition of Archy material from Don’s publisher in more than 30 years.


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