Collecting: Photographs and autographs

I am not an autograph hound; apart from writing to a few pop stars or their agents in my adolescence in hopes of getting their signatures, I have never solicited them by standing at stage doors or frequenting conventions, let alone accosting ‘celebrities’ in public places. I respect the privacy of writers and performers, and take what they give us as what we should be expected to get (a performance, not access to a private world). Nor do I let my enthusiasm get the better of me by turning an object into some sort of inspirited reliquary.

There is no method to my collecting autographs; some of them I discovered when opening a second-hand book in a shop, in which case it was the book I was after, not the signature. And yet, when I spot that signature of a writer or a performer in a book or on a photograph, I certainly appreciate that item as having been touched by the subject. It does not transmogrify the object thus modified, but it changes my attitude toward it nonetheless; it roots it more thoroughly in history, and it reminds me that mass-produced objects are also unique: either by being physically altered, deliberately or otherwise, by passing hands, or by being invested by us with our own stories and desires.

Photographs and autographs

Norman Corwin

Inscription by journalist and poet Norman Corwin to Jo Ranson, radio editor for the Brooklyn Eagle, in my copy of Corwin’s radio play They Fly Through the Air (1939)

Claudette Colbert

For autographs of US American radio personalities of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, see

“Wireless Connections: Danny Fortune” in (Im)memorabilia: Radio Ties/Wireless Networks

For other items from my Claudette Colbert memorabilia collection, see

Claudette Colbert: The 1930s

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