About the Fortsas collection


The Collector

Taken from the library of Anrol Margot Fortsas, great granddaughter of Jean Népomucène Auguste Pichauld, these pages represent a mere glimpse into a tenacious woman’s life’s work gathering lost and forgotten scraps of obscure texts. As a young child in Toledo, Miss Fortsas showed an early interest in texts and objets d’art by stealing every copy of the Stranahan Theater bulletins and pasting them along the baseboards of her parent’s two-story storybook townhome. The fascination grew into profession: After completing her studies in Library Economy at the Granville Female College in 1938, Miss Fortsas absconded with a copy of her grandfather’s rare tome catalog and a guidebook on spooky, remote corners of the world, seeking the most strange, the most flawed, the most florid works of the written word in any language.

When she returned twenty years later, gray-haired and twitchy-eyed, she established her libris on the outskirts of Tonopah, Nevada, in a lavish underground bunker between the mining park and the Mizpah hotel. There she lived for twenty years before her mysterious disappearance in 2012. Regardless of whatever fate she met back on that strange day in September, Miss Fortsas will be remembered as one of the great bibliophiles of the 20th century and a collector with a passion that superseded even her sense of personal safety. Her energy and audacity will be sorely missed. Her memory (what little of it remains) will be forever preserved in the specimens digitally presented here, some single pages, others less-orphaned works with disjointed narratives, all from extinct texts and out-of-print books that have fallen to history, with all its strange infoldings and shadowy crevasses. In a way, the collection represents the unknowable itself.

About the digital curator:

I had the great pleasure of meeting Miss Fortsas in 2002 before her disappearance. While the full scope of her collection could never be represented on the “intarwebs,” as she said, Miss Fortsas appeared eager that electronic documentation of her efforts would possibly help ease her into retirement. As a lifelong admirer of Miss Fortsas’ work, I am honored for the change to act in this capacity, as digital curator; it is a task I accept with the utmost gravitas.

This substantial portion of Miss Fortsas’ collection is available online for public viewing only after six years of meticulous scanning, accessible in the hopes of bringing more of the Fortsas library to a wider audience. Any awkward crops of poor quality digitization issues belong to me and me alone.

As the bulk of my time is spent as a tutor at the local college, I unfortunately can only tend to Miss Fortsas’ bunker library once or twice a month, and even then, it is only between the hours of 6 and 9-o-clock in the morning (specifically, the hours before the scorching sun returns to blight the earth and after the scorpions have gone to sleep). This means that, sadly, I have little time to do the grandeur of Miss Fortsas’ library justice. This feeble digital collection is my attempt to honor her memory, so please forgive me my inadequacies.

I can only hope that you, dear internetter, will see what I have seen in these scraps–worlds beyond measure, glimpses into arcane secrets, tiny crumbling windows set against the bizarre. Enjoy.



576n-text: L. Keach | image: old page 4, 10 August 2009, 09:59:30, thedigitalyardsale->freebies->freebie-6-old-paper-textures, via wikicommons, author unknown.

12a-text: L.Keach, acknowlegements to first year Spanish | image: o1, valleysinthevinyl.com->2011/08/11->super-hi-res-burned-vintage-paper-textures, Dustin Schmieding.

078t-images: Oswald_bastable_and_others_0071, Pseudo-Galen,_Claudius,_131-201_(MS.290)_Wellcome_L0073911, via wikicommons.

aG22-text: L.Keach | image, page torn from 1970 paperback The Devil on Lamas Night, Susan Howatch.

c654i-text: Luis Ruiz Contreras, from Cocina del tiempo, sencilla y económica o Arte de preparar sabrosos y exquisitos platos propios de cada estación, presented with minimal alteration. | image: old page 4, 10 August 2009, 09:59:30, thedigitalyardsale->freebies->freebie-6-old-paper-textures, via wikicommons, author unknown.

Miss Fortsas: wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vintage_studio_portrait_woman_with_wavy_hair.jpg

Bookplate #54 – art L.Keach | book image File:Pseudo-Galen, Claudius, 131-201 (MS.290) Wellcome L0073910.jpg Uploaded: 21 October 2014, wikicommons.