Ferlinghetti’s Handwritten Notes on Bad Reviews of Starting from San Francisco 

Imagine our delight when we opened this first edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 1961 collection Starting from San Francisco (the hardcover edition that also includes a 7-inch record) for the first time, and found two newspaper clippings, yellowed severely with age, inside the front cover. Both were from 1962, and were contemporaneous reviews of the book, one by the poetry editor of The Paris Review and the other published in The Village Voice. They had been laying untouched between the pages for so long, the type from the newsprint clippings had become imprinted upon the endpapers of the book.

But, wait, it gets even better!

Also included in this 60+ year old treasure is a handwritten note from Ferlinghetti himself! In the note he thanks the friend who sent him the two reviews, describing them as—how shall we say it—”lackluster.” Then he adds, in his understated way, “These cats are really upset!”

When you’re in the business we are, it’s not unusual to find ancient newspaper clippings inside highly collectible books. But what you don’t see very often is the original writer’s response to those reviews, and especially in such a colorful language from a guy who wasn’t known for being vulgar, and was in fact rather reticent, and likely wouldn’t say certain words aloud, even if he had a mouthful of them. So it’s a bit refreshing to see Ferlinghetti say how he really felt!

Note: We’re working on exactly how we might frame this rare beauty in a shadowbox like arrangement so we can allow it to tell it’s own story tucked safely behind glass at The Beat Museum. If you have any thoughts as to how we might best do that, we’re open to them.