L'Asino: è il popolo, utile, paziente e bastonato [The Donkey: is, [like] the people, useful, patient and beaten], Anno 2, No. 48. New York: Asino Publishing Co., 28 November 1909.

L'Asino
l'asino - 28 November 1909 - back.jpg

Title

L'Asino: è il popolo, utile, paziente e bastonato [The Donkey: is, [like] the people, useful, patient and beaten], Anno 2, No. 48. New York: Asino Publishing Co., 28 November 1909.

Description

This 1909 issue is the only issue of L'Asino in the collection that was actually published in (as opposed to being distributed in) New York.

To see the difference between the two: note "New York" and the date of publication in small type above the masthead on the cover or first page, as well as "Edizione d'America" to the right of that. Note also the periodical states (in both types)  below the masthead in virtually the same language "Entered at the Post Office at New York as Second Class mail matter," but  - unlike the Rome-published issues - gives "subscription rates" in U.S. dollars (as well as the annual subscription rate for Canada). Unlike the Rome-based publication, however, it states "Published weekly by the ASINO PUBLISHING CO. | direzione ed amministrazione | 548 West Broadway . . . New York."

Note that this is the same address as Vanni's book store that had been the U.S. distributor of L'Asino for years, as is evident from a review of the Rome-based issues that make up all but one of the issues in the collection.

As discussed in the general entry on this periodical, started in Rome by Guido Podrecca (who about 25 years later turned to fascism) and Gabriele Galantara (1865–1937, who under the
nom d’artiste, Rata Langa, was the principal cartoonist of the magazine), L’Asino was best known for its virulent anti-clerical expression and colorful political illustrations.

Claiming a circulation of about 100,000, the magazine won international admiration in the early 20th century.

It was widely distributed among Italians in the United States by Vanni, then of 548 West Broadway in Manhattan, and which only in the last few years shut down its West 12th Street operation following the death of the last of the two Ragusa sisters who ran it. 

Not surprisingly, given its popularity, the magazine earned the hatred of the Church, as the observation of one priest visiting an Italian community in Ybor City, Florida in 1905, suggests. He informed his superiors that Italians there were largely indifferent to religion, as “every week about 70 copies of the most infidel, anarchical and lascivious paper published in Italy are distributed among them.” 

In 1908, a papal nuncio in Washington took action that led to denial of entry of L’Asino into the U.S., on the grounds that it contained pornographic material, at the same time that police raided Vanni’s and arrested the owner.

Note that this U.S.-based L'Asino still contains Rata Langa’s vivid cartoons and caricatures in an issue denominated "Anno II", presumably of the new series (note four years earlier, in Rome, L'Asino was up to Anno XIV). This issue came out soon after the papal nuncio of 1908 shut down importation of issues from Rome, and start of a new series in the U.S.

This New York-based L’Asino appears still largely to have been composed in Italy - where I believe it continued to appear - even after printing (and the nominally publishing) of issues destined for the U.S. market shifted to the U.S.  But the advertisers were New York and other U.S. businesses, rather than the Roman businesses of the original publication in Rome.

So, for example, this issue
contains an advertisement for Nicoletti Bros. publishers of New  York, several of whose publications are in the Collection, as well as an English-Italian dictionary (Il Millhouse, which refers to the 1600-page, two-volume New English and Italian Dictionary, a popular Italian-English dictionary compiled by John Millhouse and originally published in New York in 1849 by D. Appleton & Co. See another, later work of Millhouse in the collection, also published by Appleton).

It is somewhat amusing that this issue of L'Asino also contains an ad of A. De Martino at his own “Complete Bookstore,” two years prior to the first imprint of the company he would later be a director of, the Società Libraria Italiana produced on Mulberry Street. Not too many years later,  De Martino showed his pro-Fascist Party leanings - see, e.g., the discussion of the preface of John Hus the Veracious, the rare English-language publication of the Società Libraria Italiana. That political position would have made advertising in the anarchist
L’Asino unthinkable.

It was not until 1925 that publication of L'Asino was permanently closed down, the Fascist Party succeeding then in doing what the Church had been unable to do in 1908.

A final, sad note: Vanni's closed in or about 2015, when the second of the two Ragusa sisters died. A friend and colleague of mine at the Grolier Club who had befriended the two sisters when they were alive attempted to buy the stock of the store. He was aware of the importance of L'Asino, and believed that years of unsold issues of both the New York and Roman editions were gathering dust at the shop. He was unable to get the attention of the estate's executors and suspects that the remaining stock of L'Asino (and other publications) were probably discarded.

Publisher

Asino Publishing Co.

Date

28 November 1909

Language

Italian

Citation

“L'Asino: è il popolo, utile, paziente e bastonato [The Donkey: is, [like] the people, useful, patient and beaten], Anno 2, No. 48. New York: Asino Publishing Co., 28 November 1909.,” Italian-Language American Imprints: The Periconi Collection, accessed January 29, 2023, https://italianamericanimprints.omeka.net/items/show/421.

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