Grand Rapids, MI: 1947-1948. Three original typescripts, all containing extensive manuscript additions and corrections, with printed front matter. Plus one shorter holographic manuscript. Two of the typescripts are fastened together with string in the upper left corner, the remaining typescript and manuscript are bound with tape along the top edge, all consisting of more or less roughly 11" x 8" leaves. BIBOLUTION contains numerous original illustrations (selections, left). Some general wear, toning and soiling, with one of the extensive folding additions detached from the original leaf but present, overall in very good condition. Included: 1. INDIAN HISTORICAL LEGENDS (1942), fastened with string to printed card stock upper wrapper, printed title page, preliminary autograph index, and 56 type pages (rectos only) on onionskin, with manuscript additions, pasted-down interpolations and cancels in typescript and autograph. 2. THE GREAT SPIRIT RELEASE AND INDIAN HISTORICAL LEGEND (1943), fastened with string to a printed and pencil-decorated card stock upper wrapper, with four prelims. (including printed title page, and leaf of printer instructions in autograph), plus 60 pages in typescript and autograph (rectos only) with extensive pasted-on “riders” folding out from the lower edge of pages (some going several pages), and extensive revisions. 3. OUR UNIVERSE, bound along top edge, ten pages autograph ink; perhaps a fragment. 4. THE THEORY OF BIBOLUTION (1948), tape-bound along top edge, with two prelims, 143 pages (rectos only), largely typescript but interleaved with 43 lively original illustrations, either on Simmons’ own or Michigan Trust Company letterhead, with numerous manuscript corrections. Very good. Item #21650
Wonderfully eccentric assemblage, that while clearly intended for eventual publication remains an impressive and elaborate creation of an engaging outsider artist. V. L. R. Simmons was a self-professed Native American: “I am an Indian by choice and applied study, not by birth or adoption. Part of my story comes from theory and inspiration” (Preface, GREAT SPIRIT). But he was also an anthropo-religio-philoso-scholar, and (in this cataloguer's biased opinion) an unheralded folk artist. Simmons and his wife Nellie appear to have held curious theories about the role of light and color in evolution—or, as they would have it, Bibolution or “the Simmons theory of life”: life was formed when light creates life force; light as souls transmigrate or leave the body; adultery changes your spirit color, etc. The couple also seems to have developed idiosyncratic anthropological views tending toward an Old Testament lineage for the American Indians (possibly influenced by Mormonism). There is much in these manuscripts suggesting deep and fruitful study of the subjects (Simmons provides an extensive American Indian sign vocabulary, for example), though also much in the way of untutored but entertaining religious and scientific speculation deeply in the American grain. At least as much as the particulars of the content, however, are the particulars of the execution. The typescript of GREAT SPIRIT exhibits a kind of overflowing exuberance, with fold-out charts and maps (including one of the migration of Nimrod's descendants), tipped in holograph additions, and even an extraordinary five-foot-long lineage of Adam. But it is BIBOLUTION's illustrations that capture a true folk artist at work. While these pen and ink drawings of animals and other creatures (with mounted typed captions) are meant to illustrate the Simmons’ theories of evolution, taken in total they reveal a distinctive outsider voice. Crude on first examination, they soon coalesce around a bold confidence and singular vision — powerful and compelling. They show the influence of Native American cave paintings and other primitive arts, but filtered through Simmons' auto-didactic and peculiar point-of-view. OCLC notes three locations for a 1950 published version of BIBOLUTION, and NUC locates a 1939 work entitled A LEXICON OF NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS and an expanded 1945 edition that evidently incorporating material from GREAT SPIRIT (held at the Library of Congress). Weird and quintessentially American, worthy of further study and exhibition.