Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ephemeral Things

I've had to reference Marney's book a couple of times in the past few weeks. It felt strange using it as a reference book: it's become more valuable as an artifact of Breyer History than as a Breyer History.

There's still value in it as a history: Marney knew what she was talking about. She had unprecedented access to the factory and to everyone in the know. It contains unique and otherwise unpublished photographs. The sections on early Breyer history provide data and insights you can't get anywhere else. There's just one problem, and it's a big one.

She couldn't write.

I'm not talking about style or flow, I'm talking about simple coherence. She couldn't organize her thoughts on the page. She'd stop and just start rambling, or ranting. Unrelated captions and marginalia are embedded within paragraphs. Some concepts are left completely unexplained, and others are expounded upon, again and again.

Dates and data changes from page to page. She contradicts herself, frequently. On one page she spends an entire paragraph describing the horse and rider packaging, stating that she couldn't reprint them out of respect for Breyer's copyright: on the next page is a Breyer promotional picture showing the boxes she just described!

It's an almost textbook case against the concept of self-publishing. Some people need editors, and some books shouldn't be published. This shouldn't have been published, at least in the condition that it's in.

I know she had significant health problems, which probably affected her writing, and prevented the necessary editing from occurring. Whenever I find myself skimming through it, frustrated, I tell myself: It's probably just a first draft. There wasn't time to fix it.

But even if there had time, who would have volunteered to edit? I know I was too intimidated to even ask. We were all too intimidated to ask: she was our guru, our buddha, the queen of all Breyer History. Who were we to question her in the completion of her sacred task? She knew it better than any of us could have; it would have seemed presumptuous of any of us to have asked if she needed help.

If any good came out of it, it made me realize that I had to get somewhat serious about collecting and preserving Breyer History. This blog, and the history in it, might not exist because of it.

I often wonder what happened to Marney's stuff. Not the horses, but the paper: the research notes, the ad slicks, stock photos, correspondence: everything that did (and didn't) make it into the book. Part of the reason is because I'd like to see it preserved, as part of our greater hobby history. But part of me hopes that by looking at this otherwise unknown source material, some Breyer mysteries will finally be revealed, or at least be better explained. We have a better framework now to interpret whatever data it might contain, things she might not have noticed, or thought unimportant at the time ...

I know it was not all thrown out, or destroyed. I actually have some inkling of where and to whom some of it went; it was through one of those folks that I managed to secure one of Marney's photo albums. I'd love to have more of Marney's stuff – or access to it – but there are rather delicate issues involved, most of which are probably not prudent for me to discuss, except in this most general of terms.

1 comment:

Latter-Day Flapper said...

I'm a Breyer collector who also works in an historical-archive setting, and situations like this drive me batty. I'd love to see her source material, too. It would have been wonderful if somebody else could have gone through it and written a better-organized history.