This summer, while preparing for my comprehensive exams, I was offered the great honor of managing the (re)construction of Roving Eye Press, a peer-reviewed, scholarly press dedicated to re-issuing the works of Bob Brown (1886-1959) and production of the first series of re-issues: The Readies, Words, and GEMS: A Censored Anthology. Although our books are all printed as limited editions, a selected number are available from major retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, and in the spirit of Bob Brown, nearly half of each title is sent to friends, scholars, artists, students, designers, printers, publishers, libraries, book collectors, journalists, historians, futurists, chefs, and others who are interested in the life and work of Bob Brown.
Perhaps an easier question is who wasn’t Bob Brown? Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was an American author, journalist, publisher, and collector. Born in Chicago. Brown wrote pulp fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, avant-garde publications, and experimented with a book of visual poetry; he also contributed pieces to various magazines and newspapers in New York City and established journals in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and London.
In 1929, he and his wife temporarily settled in France where they became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris. While there, he established Roving Eye Press to promote a reading machine that he invented. His literary works include What Happened to Mary (1913), My Marjonary (1916), The Readies (1930), Globe-Gliding (1930), Words (1931), Gems (1931), Demonics (1931), and Readies for Bob Brown’s Machine (1931). He also wrote or co-wrote a number of best-selling cookbooks, including The European Cookbook (1936), 10,000 Snacks (1937), The Wine Cook Book (1941), and The Complete Book of Cheese (1955).
Roving Eye Press, initially founded in the late 1920’s by Bob Brown and co-managed by his wife Rose, was part of a larger literary and artistic movement of small presses that served the modernist avant-garde. Those presses included Hogarth Press, Ovid Press, Shakespeare & Company, Black Sun Press, Hours Press, and Contact Press, among others. Roving Eye boasted an impressive circle of readers that included Kay Boyle, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, and Langston Hughes. The press was mobile in both geography (moving with Brown from the spa town Bad-Ems, Germany, to Cagnes-sur-mer, France, and much later, in the 1950’s, to New York City) and scope (publishing art, poetry, political pamphlets and even cookbooks).
In 2014, a small group of some of Bob Brown’s (Robert Carlton Brown II) great-grandchildren together with a group of scholars re-launched Roving Eye Press. The group has, in turn, commissioned editor-scholars, artist-designers, printers, and production supervisors to start republishing the most important books from Roving Eye Press. The Readies, Words, and Gems are the first titles of this new limited-run series—and there will be more. For each of these books, we have commissioned peer-reviewed editorial introductions by Craig Saper, who is now seeking to publish the first biography of Robert Carlton Brown. Saper, my dissertation advisor, had previously edited and published in first two titles with Rice University Press.
Our goal is to restart Roving Eye Press and revitalize Bob Brown’s reputation and importance for both twentieth century studies and our contemporary cultural scene.
For more information, please visit the Roving Eye Press website, which will go live at the end of the week!