Lot 344 of 701:
Classic 1939 Black Jazz ‘Dictionary’ and quiz book  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$1,200
$600 - $900

Cab Calloway's famous 1939 Jazz 'Jive Dictionary'

Calloway, Cab

New York




Cab Calloway, “The New Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue / a Hepster’s Dictionary  (Revised Edition, NY, 1939) Original pictorial wrappers. Approx. 2.75 x 4.5”, 14pp.; and Mickey Goldsen, editor. Prof. Cab Calloway’s Swingformation Bureau, (NY, c.1939) Original pictorial wrappers, with some drawings in the text. Approx. 2.75 x 4.5”, 14pp.. Both rare imprints. WorldCat locates only one copy of the first imprint, and no holding of the second in any American institution.

(See other Calloway item’s offered in this sale, including California tributes to him in later life)

Written by (or at least attributed to) one of the best-known Black entertainers of the 1930s, orchestra leader at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, the “Cat-ologue” is a legendary imprint which has called “the first dictionary published by a Black person”, though it is more accurately the first short lexicon of Black Jazz jargon, 100+ “quaint expressions” which would work their way into the general American vernacular, including  Boogie-Woogie (a new dance), corny (old fashioned, stale), freeby (no charge, gratis), gravy (profits), jitter bug (a swing fan), kopasetic (absolutely okay, the tops), mellow (all right, fine), ofay (white person), pad (bed), reefer (marijuana cigarette) skin (drums), yeah man (an exclamation of assent). This is the second of three printings (the last appeared in 1944 as the “language of jive”), all of which are highly collectible and increasingly difficult to find.


The accompanying “Swingformation” booklet is equally scarce, opening with Calloway’s tribute to the “jive” talk which had already been “absorbed” by “everyday” American language. The text is essentially a quiz, with questions testing the reader’s knowledge about “hep tags”, instruments, etiquette and “events in the world of jive”. There are also lists of American foreign Jazz magazines and the names of the musicians in Calloways own band, and a “Final Examination” (“Who originated ‘scat’ singing?”, “Give you definition of swing music in not more than 25 words’, etc.)


Lot Amendments

Very good.

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