[Ads-l] Saying: A disordered desk was a sign of genius. Tolstoy? (Request help accessing 1947 and 1950 "Typo Graphic")

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 5 15:34:59 UTC 2017

The Quote investigator website now has an entry on the topic in the
subject line. Here is a link.

Many kind people helped.

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great thanks to Missy Helwig and John Knecht who inquired about a
humorous quotation concerning cluttered desks attributed to Albert
Einstein. QI formulated this question and performed this investigation
to serve as the third part of a multipart exploration. Special thanks
to Dennis Lien who obtained photocopies of the crucial 1947 and 1950
citations in "Typo Graphic". Much thanks to Donna Halper who pointed
to precursors about bad handwriting such as the 1850 citation. Many
thanks to researcher Peter Reitan who shared with QI interesting
precursors dated 1926, 1938, and 1940. Also, thanks to the “The
Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” for an entry on this expression and
other related expressions. Additional thanks to Barry Popik for his
research on a related expression.
[End acknowledgement]


On Sun, Sep 24, 2017 at 8:52 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> "The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" (DMP) compiled by Charles Clay
> Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro has an entry for the
> following saying:
> [Begin excerpt]
> A messy (cluttered) desk is a sign of intelligence (brilliance,
> genius, creativity, productivity, a busy person, etc.).
> [End excerpt]
> The first DMP citation is dated 1973. My searches indicate that there
> is probably a 1947 or 1948 citation for the expression in the subject
> line within a periodical called "Typo Graphic" (Pittsburgh,
> Pennsylvania). Also, there is probably a 1950 citation in "Typo
> Graphic". Unfortunately, this periodical is difficult to access, and
> this message is a request for help to obtain pertinent page scans.
> WorldCat lists only five libraries that hold any issues of "Typo
> Graphic". Further, some of these libraries do not hold the pertinent
> issues. For example, the Newberry Library in Chicago does not have any
> issues in 1947 or 1948, and it has an incomplete run in 1950.
> The one facility that seems to hold the target issues is the storage
> facility of University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Alternatively,
> perhaps someone can locate the issues in another library.
> Here is the information for the first citation.
> Year: 1947 or 1948 (year from GB snippets and metadata)
> Periodical: Typo Graphic
> Article: Well Thanks, Brother (guess based on a snippet)
> Publisher: Pittsburgh, Pa.: Edwin H. Stuart (based on catalog metadata)
> Quote Page 36 (page number from GB)
> Database: Google Books Snippet
> https://books.google.com/books?id=8e8oAQAAMAAJ
> [Begin excerpt]
> Or, that you're one of those geniuses who have a piled-up desk and you
> threw the card in the pile and it got lost. Tolstoi said that a
> disordered desk was a sign of genius and we see lots of littered desks
> in our rambles around Pittsburgh.
> [End excerpt]
> Comments: Google Books metadata is sometimes inaccurate and must be
> verified with hardcopy or scans.
> The text of the quotation is not visible in any snippets. Instead,
> Google Books (GB) displays a different section from the page
> containing the target text. (GB refuses to display some snippets. This
> refusal might be due to an anti-piracy strategy to prevent automated
> extraction, or it might be an error in the GB database.)
> One snippet from page 36 (GB) shows part of the phrase "Well Thanks,
> Brother" in a large font. Searching for "Well Thanks, Brother"
> produces a snippet from a table of contents indicating that the phrase
> is an article title.
> Searching for "1947" and "1948" in the GB volume above produces
> snippets that indicate that the volume does contain issues from 1947
> and 1948. There are no matches for "1949" and "1950". There are
> matches for "1946", but none show issue headers.
> Here is the information for the second citation.
> Year: 1950 (year from GB snippets and metadata)
> Periodical: Typo Graphic
> Article: Odds and Ends, Flotsam and Jetsam (guess based on a snippet)
> Publisher: Pittsburgh, Pa.: Edwin H. Stuart (based on catalog metadata)
> Quote Page 207 (page number from GB)
> Database: Google Books Snippet
> http://books.google.com/books?id=j_MoAQAAMAAJ&q=tolstoi#search_anchor
> [Begin excerpt]
> Genius! An artist associated with the design and drafting staff of the
> U.S. Steel group located in the Chamber of Commerce Building, had a
> sign over his desk saying, "Don't clutter up the exhibit."
> And his desk really is an exhibit—everything on it except the kitchen
> sink. Oh well, Tolstoi said, "A disordered desk is a sign of genius."
> [End excerpt]
> The goal is to gather scans showing the quotation and the metadata for
> a complete and accurate citation, e.g., issue date, page number,
> article title, article author (if possible), periodical title, and
> publisher.
> Of course, earlier instances of the adage would be most welcome.
> Thanks for any help you can provide.
> Garson O'Toole
> Quote investigator

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