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Lot 173

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Jack London, Dentist! The Cruise of the Snark Annotated Manuscript and Signed Check

Jack London, Dentist! The Cruise of the Snark Annotated Manuscript and Signed Check

Lot consists of 3pp 1st revision typed manuscript of The Cruise of the Snark with 30+ handwritten edits/words in Jack London's hand; along with a signed check dating from the era of the Snark's construction. Both the manuscript and the check relate to dentistry. The galley proofs describe London's amateur teeth-pulling abroad, and the check signed by London was issued to the author's Oakland, California dentist!

In the spring of 1907, Jack London (1876-1916), accompanied by his wife Charmian (1871-1955) and a small crew, set out for a modern maritime adventure aboard the Snark, their 45' long custom built sailboat. Over the next 2 years, the Londons would sail west and south across the Pacific Ocean, exploring Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tahiti, Australia, and other tropical locales. London later recounted his travel experiences in a non-fiction illustrated account called The Cruise of the Snark, published by The Macmillan Company in New York in 1911.

These typed manuscript galleys correspond to pages 308-314 of London's final 1st edition of The Cruise of the Snark. This excerpt is from Chapter XVII: "The Amateur M.D." In this portion, London writes comically about his triumphant foray into folk dentistry. London's typical patients while plying his trade in the tropics were local natives and missionaries.

The galley proofs are oversized, measuring 9.25" x 12" on average overall, and have generously sized margins to accommodate handwritten author's edits. The pages are in very good to near fine condition with expected wear including paper folds, isolated light soiling, chipped edges, and a few minor closed tears. The manuscripts dates circa spring 1911.

London's edits throughout the manuscript are in pencil and blue pen. On the first page, London has replaced the phrase "in the that capacity" with "for that purpose," and has swapped out a question mark for a period. London corrected the misspelling of "loose" to "lose" on the following page. On the last page, London has substituted "the captain of the Snark" and "the captain" for "Warren" for in the second paragraph, as well as changed "season" to "reason" in the following one. In the lower right margin, London has scrawled an apparent message to the printer: "another relus (?) in here do run make up until you get it."

London also hand-inscribed a black and white photograph that would become Illustration 111: "Pulling my first tooth." Another photograph, which would become Illustration 112: "Careening the Snark," has been annotated, possibly in Charmian London's hand: "This picture goes in chapter 17 - at place indicated on gallery $ -". Jack London drew arrows pointing to text blocks where he wished corresponding illustrations to appear. Other possibly publisher's edits in red are found throughout.

The manuscript pages correspond to the following published text found in The Cruise of the Snark. Areas affected by London's edits are in bold.

"--empty, mixed a dose from No. 1 and No. 2, or, when No. 7 was all gone, dosed his crew with 4 and 3 till 3 gave out, when he used 5 and 2.

So far, with the exception of corrosive sublimate (which was recommended as an antiseptic in surgical operations, and which I have not yet used for that purpose), my medicine-chest has been useless. It has been worse than useless, for it has occupied much space which I could have used to advantage.

With my surgical instruments it is different. While I have not yet had serious use for them, I do not regret the space they occupy. The thought of them makes me feel good. They are so much life insurance, only, fairer than that last grim game, one is not supposed to die in order to win. Of course, I don’t know how to use them, and what I don’t know about surgery would set up a dozen quacks in prosperous practice. But needs must when the devil drives, and we of the Snark have no warning when the devil may take it into his head to drive, ay, even a thousand miles from land and twenty days from the nearest port.

I did not know anything about dentistry, but a friend fitted me out with forceps and similar weapons, and in Honolulu I picked up a book upon teeth. Also, in that sub-tropical city I managed to get hold of a skull, from which I extracted the teeth swiftly and painlessly. Thus equipped, I was ready, though not exactly eager, to tackle any tooth that get in my way. It was in Nuku-hiva, in the Marquesas, that my first case presented itself in the shape of a little, old Chinese. The first thing I did was to get the buck fever, and I leave it to any fair-minded person if buck fever, with its attendant heart-palpitations and arm-tremblings, is the right condition for a man to be in who is endeavouring to pose as an old hand at the business. I did not fool the aged Chinaman. He was as frightened as I and a bit more shaky. I almost forgot to be frightened in the fear that he would bolt. I swear, if he had tried to, that I would have tripped him up and sat on him until calmness and reason returned.

I wanted that tooth. Also, Martin wanted a snap-shot of me getting it. Likewise Charmian got her camera. Then the procession started. We were stopping at what had been the club-house when Stevenson was in the Marquesas on the Casco. On the veranda, where he had passed so many pleasant hours, the light was not good—for snapshots, I mean. I led on into the garden, a chair in one hand, the other hand filled with forceps of various sorts, my knees knocking together disgracefully. The poor old Chinaman came second, and he was shaking, too. Charmian and Martin brought up the rear, armed with kodaks. We dived under the avocado trees, threaded our way through the coconut palms, and came on a spot that satisfied Martin’s photographic eye.

I looked at the tooth, and then discovered that I could not remember anything about the teeth I had pulled from the skull five months previously. Did it have one prong? two prongs? or three prongs? What was left of the part that showed appeared very crumbly, and I knew that I should have to take hold of the tooth deep down in the gum. It was very necessary that I should know how many prongs that tooth had. Back to the house I went for the book on teeth. The poor old victim looked like photographs I had seen of fellow-countrymen of his, criminals, on their knees, waiting the stroke of the beheading sword.

“Don’t let him get away,” I cautioned to Martin. “I want that tooth.”

“I sure won’t,” he replied with enthusiasm, from behind his camera. “I want that photograph.”

For the first time I felt sorry for the Chinaman. Though the book did not tell me anything about pulling teeth, it was all right, for on one page I found drawings of all the teeth, including their prongs and how they were set in the jaw. Then came the pursuit of the forceps. I had seven pairs, but was in doubt as to which pair I should use. I did not want any mistake. As I turned the hardware over with rattle and clang, the poor victim began to lose his grip and to turn a greenish yellow around the gills. He complained about the sun, but that was necessary for the photograph, and he had to stand it. I fitted the forceps around the tooth, and the patient shivered and began to wilt.

“Ready?” I called to Martin.

“All ready,” he answered.

I gave a pull. Ye gods! The tooth was loose! Out it came on the instant. I was jubilant as I held it aloft in the forceps.

“Put it back, please, oh, put it back,” Martin pleaded. “You were too quick for me.”

And the poor old Chinaman sat there while I put the tooth back and pulled over. Martin snapped the camera. The deed was done. Elation? Pride? No hunter was ever prouder of his first pronged buck than I was of that tree-pronged tooth. I did it! I did it! With my own hands and a pair of forceps I did it, to say nothing of the forgotten memories of the dead man’s skull.

My next case was a Tahitian sailor. He was a small man, in a state of collapse from long days and nights of jumping toothache. I lanced the gums first. I didn’t know how to lance them, but I lanced them just the same. It was a long pull and a strong pull. The man was a hero. He groaned and moaned, and I thought he was going to faint. But he kept his mouth open and let me pull. And then it came.

After that I was ready to meet all comers—just the proper state of mind for a Waterloo. And it came. Its name was Tomi. He was a strapping giant of a heathen with a bad reputation. He was addicted to deeds of violence. Among other things he had beaten two of his wives to death with his fists. His father and mother had been naked cannibals. When he sat down and I put the forceps into his mouth, he was nearly as tall as I was standing up. Big men, prone to violence, very often have a streak of fat in their make-up, so I was doubtful of him. Charmian grabbed one arm and Warren grabbed the other. Then the tug of war began. The instant the forceps closed down on the tooth, his jaws closed down on the forceps. Also, both his hands flew up and gripped my pulling hand. I held on, and he held on. Charmian and Warren held on. We wrestled all about the shop.

It was three against one, and my hold on an aching tooth was certainly a foul one; but in spite of the handicap he got away with us. The forceps slipped off, banging and grinding along against his upper teeth with a nerve-scraping sound. Out of his mouth flew the forceps, and he rose up in the air with a blood-curdling yell. The three of us fell back. We expected to be massacred. But that howling savage of sanguinary reputation sank back in the chair. He held his head in both his hands, and groaned and groaned and groaned. Nor would he listen to reason. I was a quack. My painless tooth-extraction was a delusion and a snare and a low advertising dodge. I was so anxious to get that tooth that I was almost ready to bribe him. But that went against my professional pride and I let him depart with the tooth still intact, the only case on record up to date of failure on my part when once I had got a grip. Since then I have never let a tooth go by me. Only the other day I volunteered to beat up three days to windward to pull a woman missionary’s tooth. I expect, before the voyage of the Snark is finished, to be doing bridge work and putting on gold crowns.

I don’t know whether they are yaws or not—a physician in Fiji told me they were, and a missionary in the Solomons told me they were not; but at any rate I can vouch for the fact that they are most uncomfortable. It was my luck to ship in Tahiti a French-sailor, who, when we got to sea, proved to be afflicted--"

In addition to the hand-corrected manuscript is an unnumbered check inscribed overall and signed “Jack London” on the payee line. Issued from the Central Bank of Oakland, California on June 29, 1905 in the amount of $3.00 payable to "G.E. Shuey.” The plain cream check is stamped in blue and maroon recto and verso, and bears a y-shaped cancellation mark at right center. Countersigned verso. In near fine condition, with expected folds and wrinkles. Check measures 6.5" x 2.875".

Jack London issued this check to dentist G.E. Schuey in the spring of 1905. Dr. Shuey, an 1887 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley Dental School, was a licensed California dentist practicing in East Oakland. Period records indicate that Dr. Shuey was very involved in his professional community, demonstrating seamless crown procedures at annual conferences, and even lecturing about turn-of-the-century dentistry practices in Japan!

Jack London grew up in Oakland, California. He attended elementary school through high school there, and studied at a local waterfront bar named Heinold's First and Last Saloon; the proprietor later lent him tuition money to Berkeley.

Jack London wrote dozens of poems, short stories, essays, and novels over a prolific career curtailed by chronic ill-health. With income generated from adventure classics like Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), London was able to purchase a ranch and outfit the Snark.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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