Are Important First Amendment Rights Books Valuable?












(A quick note to our loyal viewers from outside this country: When the Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1787, it became immediately clear that it failed to address certain key issues, and work was started on a group of amendments. The first ten of these (which we call our "Bill of Rights") was ratified by the states in 1791. The First Amendment stated roughly: Congress shall make no law infringing on freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press or freedom of individual speech. This might seem straightforward, but we have been grappling with the concept ever since.)

The reason that obscenity laws eventually began failing in the 1950's and 60's was the concept that, while thousands of men had gladly taken it upon themselves to tell others what was "obscene," no man wanted someone else to make that determination for him. Unfortunately, the courts do not make their decisions based on concepts, but only on points of law. If "obscenity" was an "individual" notion that could not be defined in legal terms to include ALL people, then that definition could not stand under the First Amendment. It took decades and several court cases to bear this out.

I include the first scan (a hardcover book) only because it is the most famous court case. My volume lists copyright dates only for the introduction by Mark Schorer (a literary art critic) and a letter from Archibald MacLeish (author, poet and head of the Library of Congress). MacLeish noted that the only reason for printing this "unexpurgated edition" was to test its artistic merits in a U.S. court of law. He further said that they fully expected the books to be seized, and that in his opinion, the novel passed the test as literary "art." Schorer's introduction said the same. This was rather a stroke of genius. In court, a book is treated like a person, so this volume was at least able to testify in its own behalf.

The Judge drew heavily from previous cases: Roth & Ulysses. His decision preceded Memoirs.

For this book, at least, relatively inexpensive copies are available. But, of course, the novel had been around since 1928. (Click HERE if you think the U.S. was the only country struggling with these concepts.)


Now, paperbacks are different. The paperback originals shown here are all first printings ... okay, in most cases, they're the ONLY printings. For these books, there were very rarely follow-on editions. On top of that, paperbacks meant for "adults only" were often read and disposed of, unlike their mainstream hardcover counterparts. So, now rarity enters into the equation.

These first two books, Shame Agent and Lust Pool, were the basis for the landmark Supreme Court case, Redrup v. New York, in which the concept of "obscenity" was finally brought to its knees. It led to President Lyndon Johnson, in 1970, ordering a President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, which recommended no restrictions for adults buying books. (As you can read, the U.S. Congress disagreed, but they could "make no law restricting ....")

 At the bottom of that last article, you will read the names William Hamling and Earl Kemp, who published those books under two of Hamling's Greenleaf Publishing labels. Kemp talks about the case briefly in his online fanzine (the middle of that page). (The image of Lust Pool on this page is from Earl's website.)

Are these two books valuable because they are important 1st Amendment books? I don't know. At the time of this writing, I can't find any copies for sale. This copy of Shame Agent is from my own collection. I don't remember what I paid for it, but I know it had not been advertised as a book connected to an important court case.

The last scans shown at left: Decisive Years, WAS reprinted, at least once. This is Fabian Z100, which was reprinted as Fabian ZR1 with an almost identical cover. Sex Life of a Cop (Saber SA-11) was looked on very harshly by California legal officials. And there's Joy Killer (Vega V-4).  These were the three books "on trial" for obscenity during People v. Aday, heard in 1964 by the California Appellate Court. The trial was influential in later cases. After Publisher Sanford Aday eventually won his case, he published a "Special Edition" of Saber SA-11, touting his victory (scan courtesy of CultMags).

Once again, these books ARE available to the buying public ... but few of the sellers are marketing them as important 1st Amendment books (and undoubtedly don't know that they are).

Cases following "Redrup" mostly had to do with magazines and the pictures or comments they contained.


Many thanks to Frank Motler, who provided scans and links.