Frederick Ewing September 13, 1956 New York, Ballantine Books
ISBN #Library of Congress #56-11536
Written by Shep and Theodore Sturgeon, under the pen name Frederick Ewing
Released - September 13, 1956
$2.75 for cloth cover and $0.35 for paperback.
Initial printing 130,000 copies
In 1956, I Libertine made the best seller lists not only before it was written or published, but before anyone other than Shep and a few "Night People" even thought about it's existence.
On August 1, 1956, John Wilcock wrote an article in The Village Voice about the book I Libertine. In the article, Wilcock said, "a disc jockey in Eastern Pennsylvania gave Frederick R. Ewing the "Burbage Award" for "outstanding historical research" and interviewed the mythical author over the radio (Shepherd, who has the tape, says "Ewing" spoke with a slightly irritated British accent)."
In the August 3, 1956 article in The Independent one of the earliest recounts of the hoax is explained. (See below)
[ Courtesy: Joe Mosbrook - - ]
"Caught up in the I Libertine enthusiasm, a friend, Dixon Morrow, and I taped a mythical interview with the "author" for use on the local station. We tried to include all the literary review cliches we could think of. Nobody else at the local station had a clue about what we were doing. After it aired, we sent a tape of the interview to Shepherd. I don't know if he ever played it on his show."
Considering the fact that the recording is almost 50 years old, and despite the fact that it now sounds somewhat immature, I like to think it was one small part of the I Libertine hoax.
Kelly Freas, a well-known science fiction illustrator, book cover artist, and Mad Magazine artist, did the cover art, which includes the word "EXCELSIOR," referring to Shepherd's use of it, and a shop sign with a shepherd's staff and a bony sturgeon, referring to Shepherd and Sturgeon.
The last paragraph of the Afterword gives some insight to the use of the word Excelsior which has been used by Shep and his fans over the years.
" The author urges historically minded sharpshooters to draw their beads on this narrative, and wishes them good hunting. They will find certain licenses in my Libertine - as a small example, the unseasonably warm weather when everyone knows Elizabeth's suit for jactitation took place in February 1769 - and more power to them. When they are done, let them proceed to Aesop and delete everything they find there about talking to animals.
In Short, this is a fable, written by and for the dilettente of the fabulous. It was extraordinarily easy and pleasant to write and it is hoped that it is correspondingly easy and pleasant to read.
Acknowledgement must be made to those without whom the book and the author surely never would have been known at all. First there is Mr. T. H. White, whose Age of Scandal served up Elizabeth Chudleigh, hot and crackling in her transparent gown. Mr. Theodore Sturgeon assisted nobly with the research, Mr. Jean Shepherd pushed and pushed at the author until he was, in the world of books, born; and last mentioned but first of all, the Night People whose battle-cry is Excelsior, and whose humor and forbearance are really responsible for the work."
Some info about the writing of "I, Libertine" from an interview with the (uncredited) co-author.
From: "Lester H Nafzger"
I just did an interview with Betty Ballantine, and she had some very interesting info on the creating and writing of I, LIBERTINE. Among other things,
1) Ian Ballantine knew all along that there was no actual book. He, a longtime fan of Shepherd, initiated discussions re a book with Shep, and arranged for Ted Sturgeon to actually write it.
2) Sturgeon, a notoriously slow and laborious writer, was finally forced to write most of the book in one long marathon session at the Ballantine's house. Tons of coffee. Lots of pushing and prodding. According to Betty, Sturgeon finally fell asleep, exhausted, the manuscript unfinished--one chapter to go.
3) As Ted Sturgeon slept, Betty Ballantine, a fine writer and editor, wrote the last chapter
Shep, of course, had already created the outline of the story, as well as the monstrous publicity, but the book was entirely written by Sturgeon--and Betty Ballantine.
There's much more, but I'm saving it for an article I'm writing about Shep and I, LIBERTINE. However, you certainly can share the above info with others. I would appreciate a credit.