JACOBS, SAMUEL AIWAZ

JACOBS, SAMUEL AIWAZ (b. Širābād, 12 February 1890; d. Yonkers, N.Y., 16 September 1971; Figure 1), Assyrian intellectual and publisher. His birthplace, the village of Širābād, is located north of Urmia along the Nazlu River (Razmārā, p. 311; Dehḵodā, s.v. [no. 5]). For several styles of his name and patronymic, see below. His parents encouraged him to study to the highest level of education available to anyone in the Iran of his day. He attended the Urmia college, commonly called Qalla (Rumble, 2014a), which was the boys’ school established by American missionaries in 1836. He learned “book English” (McPharlin, p. 2562) and studied in the newly introduced program in technical subjects, which was part of the late 19th-century expansion of the training that had previously prepared students only in the liberal arts, theology, and medicine. Technical training, a precursor to engineering education, allowed Jacobs to learn to operate linotype printing machines (invented in 1884), which was a new technology replacing manual, letter-by-letter typesetting. His fascination from boyhood with the layout and dynamics of different scripts upon book and manuscript pages is prominent in the later sketches of him by the editor Laurence B. Siegfried (p. 2699) and book designer Paul McPharlin (p. 2562), and in 1951 he alludes to his own early impulse toward “creative effort” (Jacobs, p. 32).

Jacobs emigrated with the help of family connections in Europe and the United States (MacPharlin, p. 2562) and settled in the United States in 1906. Finishing his schooling in Worchester, Mass., he practiced printing, including his own poetry (ibid.). He moved to New York City in 1914 (Siegfried, p. 2699) and in 1915 went to work for Rev. Joel E. Werda (1868-1941), editor, linotyping for his new, bilingual (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and English) weekly, the Persian-American Courier (Neo-Aramaic: Izgaddā, publ. ca. 1915-21 [cf. Werda, ed.; Macuch, p. 344]; Rumble, 2014a; Coakley, pp. 251, 254-55). In 1916 Jacobs also linotyped a translation into Neo-Aramaic of the classical Syriac theological work, “Book of the Pearl” (Ktābā d-margānītā) by Mar Audisho [ʿAbdīšō] bar Berikha (d. 1318; on him, see Teule; Figure 2). The translation was by the New York scholar and churchman, Abraham Yohannan (1853-1925), who was Jacobs’ friend and teacher (McPharlin, p. 2562)—perhaps his guide in classical Syriac. Jacobs’ 1916 publication of a pamphlet for Assyrian immigrants, Information to Assyrians Desiring to Become American Citizens (LOC), may likewise have been a collaborative effort. Jacobs himself became a citizen in 1917. During United States participation in World War I and up to early 1920, he worked for Remington Arms Company in Bridgeport, Conn., as an expert machinist (details in McPharlin, p. 2562).

Jacobs’ work on Syriac fonts, for Mergenthaler Linotype Company (with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York City), must have begun early on, during his Courier work. Mergenthaler claimed in 1914 that “a majority of foreign language newspapers in the United States are composed on the Linotype” (LB 11/3, p. 58) and advertised the international use of its machine. With Hebrew already supported (e.g., 7/1, 1911, p. 21), an Arabic keyboard was added in 1911, an Armenian one in 1912 (LB 7/10, p. 81; 8/4, p. 54). When in 1918 the company declared the machine’s capability for a list of 38 languages, the only non-European language it had added since its 1916 list was Syriac (LB 15/1, p. 6; cf. 13/6, p. 85). In February 1920 it displayed its several new fonts for classical Syriac and Neo-Aramaic (16/3, p. 179; Figure 3), which were already in use in late 1919 (LB 16/3, front page facsimile letter, with reference to the linotyped Syriac text in Furlani, 1919). In December 1919, Jacobs filed applications for patents, on “decorative Syriac fonts” and on a “typographical element” for combining letters and diacritics (for description of it, see McPharlin, p. 2563). Upon receiving his font patents in May, 1920, he ‘assigned’ them (i.e., transferred ownership) to Mergenthaler (USPO, 1920, pp. xlix, 142; Figure 4a, Figure 4b, Figure 4c). The patent for the “element” (USPO, 1921, pp. vii, 446) was similarly assigned in June 1921. According to McPharlin (p. 2563), Jacobs’ connection with Mergenthaler lasted until 1927, in its foreign language section; and he participated in preparation of the company’s Manual (Mergenthaler, 1923; see Siegfried, p. 2700).

Jacobs was well prepared, by both skill (see example, below) and experience, to exercise his independent spirit and earn his place in the history of American printing. In 1922 he acquired his own linotype machine and established Polytype Press in a basement at 39 West 8th Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. By then, Jacobs was associating with the artistic and intellectual New York circles of his day. His first literary publication was an anthology of New York poets, titled Companions (1922), for which he contributed the title poem; his droll pen name and another instance of name play are discussed below.

Since Jacobs specialized in complex, multilingual linotype composition, he proved invaluable to the poet E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) for the typesetting of the latter’s poems, which use irregular spacing and punctuation and other non-conventional techniques. “Beginning in 1923, Jacobs set all of Cummings’ poetry in type. He was Cummings’ ‘personal typesetter’” (Rumble, 2013, p. 38). The partnership began that year with Cummings’ first book of verse, Tulips and Chimneys, published by Thomas Seltzer (1875-1943). Cummings trusted Jacobs for precision and creativity in designing his books; for instance, Jacobs, with a penchant for lower case in his designs, introduced the lower-case display of the poet’s name (McPharlin, p. 2565). Jacobs also printed some of Cummings’ books and published two of them (see below). For Jacobs’ dexterity, a biographer cites Cummings on the typesetting of 432 pages of the poet’s prose travel narrative (Eimi, for Covici, Friede, Inc., 1933) in 72 hours, with Jacobs “sustaining himself on a diet of coffee” (Sawyer-Lauçanno, p. 366). The long-term association of the two was such that, in 1931, Time Magazine called Jacobs the poet's “Persian pressagent” (Time). (For a proof printing of Cummings’ book VV, title page and page 1, and one page of Jacobs’ letter to the author regarding these, see Schwartzburg; see also Webster.)

By the late 1920s, he was designing for Covici Friede, Inc., for Boni and Livright (Cummings’ poetry publisher), and for Stratford Press, where in 1929 he was working as director of typography (Siegfried, p. 2700). Siegfried illustrates title pages of books for these and other publishers. For Macmillan Company, he designed The Birthday of the Infanta (by Oscar Wilde, printed by Stratford Press, 1929); this slim book (58 pages) with a first (only?) edition of 500 copies, was included in the American Institute of Graphic Arts [AIGA] list of fifty notable books of the prior year (New York Times, 2 February 1930, p. 12).

1929 also saw a work for Covici, Friede titled Circumference: Varieties of Metaphysical Verse, 1456-1928 (edited by the poet Genevieve Taggard [1894-1948], 1,050 copies; see Rumble, n.d.). It included verse by Cummings. The book may have earned Jacobs a reputation or contributed to it; two years later, he was described as “an authority on metaphysical verse” (Time). He also designed for Covici, Friede The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer, Together with a Version in Modern English, with illustrations by the prominent artist Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), (printed by Stratford Press, 2 vols., New York, 1930, 931 copies [Eckhard, p. 9]). The AIGA selected this book (and over time, according to W. Rumble [2013, p. 40], a dozen of Jacobs’ designs) in its annual list of fifty outstanding books (New York Times Book Review, 15 February 1931, p. 2). “Jacobs’ contribution to innovative printing and graphic design helped establish a fresh new American typography” (Rumble, 2013, p. 40; on his typography, see in detail, McPharlin, p. 2564; Siegfried, pp. 2700-2704).

Jacobs’s 1931 letter to Cummings (see “Bardar” and above) has a return address of 3 Milligan Place, still at present a residential building in Greenwich Village; and according to Rumble (2013, p. 38), Jacobs and Cummings and Seltzer “were all neighbors in the Village.” But by 1934, Jacobs moved his business out of Manhattan and established the Golden Eagle Press in an industrial space at 34 North Bond Street in Mount Vernon, east of Yonkers. Mount Vernon was already well known for the books of the noted designer, Bruce Rogers (1870-1957). Moreover, a large Assyrian émigré community, in the aftermath of the genocide of Assyrians and the scattering of their remnants worldwide, had formed in the adjoining city of Yonkers. Jacobs’ first two publications for Golden Eagle were Joseph Kling’s novel, A Full Life (1934), and E. E. Cummings, No Thanks (1935; for the latter, see Rumble, 2013, p. 41). He continued to typeset and print Cummings’ poetry and prose, as well as other works, including another anthology, a parody of journalism, titled The Golden Eagle Press: The Higher Journalism (Fleetwood, Mount Vernon: No Publisher [Jacobs], 1936). (For the late 1930s, see several other examples in Brooks, Tinker.)

The press continued in the 1940s. For some of his limited editions of classic English poetry in this period, see McPharlin (pp. 2566, 2568). Golden Eagle—which experienced distribution problems (ibid., p. 2565)—no doubt regularly participated in exhibits of book designers’ art, such as one sponsored by AIGA, “including books, covers, specimen pages and jackets” (New York Times, 15 February 1946, p. 34). The Press is well represented in the 1951 exhibit publication, Books for our Time (Lee, ed.); of 152 books illustrated, 24 are designs of Jacobs, ranging from 1925 to 1949; nine are Golden Eagle publications. In 1954, the Press is referred to in the past tense (Breit), although Jacobs is said to have continued working actively (Obit.).

Jacobs, living absorbed in letters from his youth (see above), may have had a strong interest in ʿelm al-ḥoruf, that is, the science of interpreting letters and their numerical values, whether or not he also studied the practice, derived from it, of magic “based on the occult properties of the letters of the alphabet and of the divine and angelic names which they form” (Fahd, p. 595; see also Krotkoff). In 1918 he wrote from Bridgeport to the New York magazine The International, solving a numerological question propounded by its editor and regular contributor, the qabalist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), for whom it was a matter of pressing importance (Crowley, 1930-2004, pp. 242-43; Kaczynski, p. 325). The letter writer’s middle name, “Aiwaz,” seemed to point to Crowley’s own claimed revelator, an ‘Intelligence’ called Aiwass (a name whose numeric value Crowley calculated from a Greek spelling). Upon their mutual correspondence, Crowley learned from Jacobs that the numeric value of a spelling ʿywz “Aiwaz” was 93 (70+10+6+7). Crowley cites the name in Hebrew letters, but the value is the same in Syriac or Arabic. This number was a sign for him of authenticity, since it matched his own calculations for the key terms, Greek thelēma “will” and agapē “love” (2004, p. 238; 1979, p. 834). With further thought, he found a way to reconcile the Greek and the Hebrew spellings as representing one and the same entity (1979, p. 834).

Jacobs’ spelling ʿywz was phonemic, ending in letter zāy, and would be the natural Neo-Aramaic form; the transliteration matches his actual Neo-Aramaic signature (see below). The historically attested form of the name in Arabic script is ʿywż, ending in letter ḍād (see “Note,” below), which is lacking in Neo-Aramaic script. The numeric value of the Persian/Turkish form in Arabic script totals 886 (70+10+6+800).

Jacobs apparently never met Crowley, and the extent of correspondence with Crowley and his associates (see examples, Churton, pp. 220-22) is unknown, but Jacobs clearly was interested in Crowley’s writings. In a short 1951 essay, Jacobs’ message—an emphatic urging to artistic independence—is in harmony with Crowley teachings as well as with his own life. His assertion of a “law of freedom” (Jacobs, p. 33) and the primacy of “feeling” (p. 32) seems reminiscent of a Crowley reference to a “law of liberty and of love” and Crowley’s discussion of the “Law of Thelema” that the other phrase was characterizing (essays in Crowley, 1998, pp. 177, 173-74). Jacobs also paraphrases a sentence from Crowley’s gnostic liturgy (“Liber XV,” sec. IV, in Crowley, 1919, p. 256; Jacobs, p. 33; repr. in Crowley, 1998, p. 212, with editors’ note on this point).

Although Crowley (1930-2004, p. 243) knew Jacobs as an “Assyrian,” Crowley’s invoking of Hebrew, as well as Greek, numerology may have contributed to mistaken identification of Jacobs as a “Jewish Persian” (e.g., see Schwartzburg).

In the 1922 Companions (see above), Jacobs signed the title poem as Bar-Dar Syrus Urmensi [sic, for Latin Urmensis] “Bar-Dar the Syrian [i.e., Assyrian], the Urmian” (Rumble, 2012). The whimsical name occurs again in this period (1920 to 1925), spelled as “Bardar.” Jacobs is one of the early 1920s signatories on the famous door of Frank Shay’s (1888-1954) Bookshop, which is now preserved in the collection at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (see Schwartzburg, with full illustration). Jacobs’ signature (see “Bardar”) is one of 242 on the door, in the company of such luminaries of early 20th-century American literature as John Dos Passos (1896-1970) and Upton Sinclair (1878-1968). It is the only signature in non-Latin letters; it is written in a continuous line:

reading:BardarŠmūʾēl bar ʿAiwaz d-bēt YaʿqubBardarBardar
script:LatinNeo-AramaicNeo-AramaicArabic

The door shows a formal, Neo-Aramaic form of his name, “Samuel, son of Aiwaz, of the House of Jacob.” He also wrote this formula transcribed; Crowley cites it from the first letter from Jacobs (“besides his Americanized signature”) as “Shmuel Bar Aiwaz bie [sic, for bit/bēt] Yackou de Sherabad” (Crowley, 1930-2004, p. 242; 1979, p. 834). On the title page of the 1916 book (Yohannan), Jacobs called his press in Neo-Aramaic “House of Jacob Press” (Maṭbāʿtā d-bēt Yaʿqub; Figure 1).

Bardar has no meaning in Aramaic and has been thought to imperfectly render Persian barādar “brother” (Rumble, 2012). But the hyphenated form in print seems, rather, or additionally, to suggest Persian bar dar “upon [the] door.” If Jacobs invented the name previous to publication of Companions and upon the occasion of signing the ‘famous door,’ he may have meant to suggest both the word and the phrase, barādar and bar dar (but cf. also bar dār “crucified”); the hyphen in print might have been intended to clarify the word play.

The only other name on the door that has a Middle Eastern origin is that of Achmed Abdullah (1881-1945), author of pulp fiction (e.g., The Thief of Baghdad, 1924, which inspired the film that year) and screenplays (e.g., The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935).

In 1931, apparently when being interviewed for Time Magazine’s notice of Cummings and his work, Jacobs seems playful. Although he was alleged by the Time writer to be “loth to give his full name in Persian, [he] admits that part of it is Samuel Yakob Airwaz [sic] Sheraaobode Azerbajode Muradkhan” (i.e., Širābādi, ‘Āẕerbajodi’ [cf. the surname Āẕerbodi/Āẕerbādi, Per. Āẕerbāyjāni], Morād Khan) (Time). In 1929, it appears that he teased Siegfried, telling him that his patronymic name “Aiwaz” was “the Persian equivalent of Satan” (Siegfried, p. 2699)—a notion that must reflect Crowley’s equating of (the spirit) Aiwaz = Lucifer = Satan (Crowley, 1930-2004, p. 172, n. 1); Siegfried seems to regard it seriously. (On this name, see the appended “Note.”) 

Jacobs’ papers, from the 1950s only, are catalogued in the Philip Kaplan Collection of S.A. Jacobs (1950-1958) at the Southern Illinois University, Special Collections Research Center, where also may be found the E. E. Cummings archives. These display his interest in the development of a universal alphabet and show him to have been an early pioneer in the direction of the principles now embodied in Unicode (for which, see “About the Unicode Standard”). A man of creative breadth, his interests may have extended to other universalist commonality tendencies—for instance, his archive contains “Folder 29: A pattern for future society, by Shoghi Effendi” (“Kaplan Collection”).

Jacobs and his wife Hilda had one son, Sam[uel], Jr., who survived him. According to his obituary, Jacobs retired ca. 1966 (“about five years ago”). At the time of his death in 1971, he was residing in a Yonkers nursing home (Obit.).

NOTE ON THE NAME “AIVAZ” (EIr)

The Turkish word that is written in the Latin alphabet of modern Turkish as ayvaz occurs widely as a given name, a surname (or a component of one), and a component of place names. Most of the variant forms are (or were formerly) written with the Arabic letter żād; and Turkish dictionaries derive the word from one and the same Arabic common noun. Exceptions, including a form in Arabic script that agrees with S. A. Jacobs’ Neo-Aramaic spelling in using letter zāy, are noted below (in [3]). The three Turkish forms whose spellings incorporate ʿ - w - ż of the Arabic root are as follows.

(1) Turkish /ivaz/. The Ottoman words written ʿivaż and plural aʿvāż (Redhouse, p. 1328) exactly reproduce the spellings and meaning of Arabic ʿiważ , pl. aʿwāż, basically “substitute” (Lane, p. 2197) and extending to “something in exchange or as compensation” (Barthélemy, II, p. 562; Kieffer and Bianchi, II, p. 296; for its use as a technical term in Islamic law, see Linant de Bellefonds). The corresponding name is attested historically—e.g., the soldier Hacı İvaz Paşa (d. 1429; Özcan); a 17th-century Safavid governor, ʿIvaz Beg (Matthee, p. 61); and a Turkmen Ivaz Beg, father of the khan of Khiva, İltüzer (r. 1804-6; Saray). The name is also familiar in Turkish literature. Hacı İvaz (= Hacivat; perhaps inspired by the historical Hacı İvaz) is a protagonist, with Karagöz, in the Turkish shadow puppet plays (see, e.g., Arvas). Not surprisingly, Ivaz also occurs in place of Ayvaz (see [2], below) in the Köroǧlu epic, which is found across the entire range of Turkish dialects: P. Naili (p. 40) distinguished three main lines of the literary tradition: Anatolian, Azeri (in Azerbaijan), and Turkmen (in Khorasan).

(2) Turkish /ayvaz/. The Ottoman Turkish term ayvaz (ʿayważ) was a title applied to non-Muslim (also to Kurdish) household servants and functionaries (Lewis, based on Siyavuşgil). Š. Aksoy (p. 60) found a dialect version of the term noted in (1), above, as /ayvaz/ in southern Turkey bordering Syria. As a name, the word also is seen latinized as Eyvaz, Eywaz, Eyvez. A well-known example in Turkish literature is the handsome youth Ayvaz, companion of the bandit poet Köroğlu (see, e.g., Sand, tr., p. 9 and ff.). “One of the most common motifs of the Köroğlu epic is the story of Ayvaz (Ivaz Han, Ivaz)” (Naili, p. 44). In other occurrences, a Persian family name ʿEyvaż-zāda is commonly anglicized as Eyvazzadeh; the Armenian family name is Aivazian (see, e.g., in the Ottoman period, Wharton, p. 91). Kurdish Eyvaz in Cyrillic is: Эйваз. Place names include present-day Ayvazlar in northwest Turkey and ʿEyvażlu, north of Ardabil, in Iran.

(3) Turkish /ayvāz/. A dictionary form of the noun marks initial a- explicitly, with the diacritic fatḥa (Sāmi, p. 958). In Arabic script, the Azeri name ʿEyvāż (e.g., the contemporary Republic of Azerbaijan poet, Yetim Eyvaz) likewise is written in literary form as ʿaywāż, as well as in phonemic form, ʾywʾz (for which see also the Köroǧlu character in Alizade, ed., pp. 41 ff.). A. Barthelemy (p. 562) cites an Arabic version of the abovementioned literary character Hacı İvaz in a dialect form /ēwāz/, here spelled with letter (ʿywẓ). For the lengthening of -a- in the name, EIr suggests possible analogical influence of names such as (in Turkish) ʿİyāż and İyās.

Bibliography (online resources accessed 20 September 2016):

Article sources.

“About the Unicode Standard,” The Unicode Consortium, at http://www.unicode.org/standard/standard.html.

“Bardar,” at http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/bookshopdoor/signature.cfm?item=104#1 (see Schwartzburg).

Harvey Breit, “In and Out of Books,” New York Times Book Review, 14 November 1954, p. 8.

Philip Brooks, “Notes on Rare Books,” New York Times, 11 July 1937, p. 94 (announcement of plans for publication of a new Golden Eagle series, with E. E. Cummings’ 1923 work, Tulips and Chimneys [148 signed copies, 500 other] and The Lyfe of Thomas Moore, Knighte by William Roper [184 copies: cf. Tinker]).

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[LB] Mergenthaler Linotype Company, The Linotype Bulletin, New York, 1902-1926.

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Idem, “Reviving a Famous Ancient Language. New Linotype Faces that Go Back to the Great Assyrian Empire,” The Linotype Bulletin 16/3, February 1920, p. 179.

Idem, The Manual of Linotype Typography, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1923; available at https://archive.org/details/manualoflinotype00merg.

Paul McPharlin, “The Golden Eagle Press: its Flight along Uncharted Ways,” Publishers Weekly 152, 6 December 1947, pp. 2562-66; photograph, p. 2563.

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Idem, “A Dozen Stones, Heretofore Unturned,” at PRINTERS. Shopfloors, Little Magazines, and Small Presses, https://rumble101.wordpress.com/tag/golden-eagle-press/, n.d., s.v. “Genevieve Taggard, Circumference, Varieties of Metaphysical Verse 1456-1928.”

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P. K. Thomajan, “Golden Eagle Press Is Shrine of Fine Printing and Exotic Editions,” Inland Printer 132/1, 1953, p. 46 (not seen; see Rumble, 2013; Churton, p. 221).

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[USPO] Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Washington, D.C., vol. 274, May 1920; vol. 287, June 1921.

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“Note” sources.

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(Eden Naby)

Cite this article:

Eden Naby, “JACOBS, SAMUEL AIWAZ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/jacobs-samuel (accessed on 21 November 2016).