May 02, 2005

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939)

Published The Radical Review from 1877 to 1878, and the anarchist magazine Liberty from 1881 to 1908. The journal’s banner read “Liberty – Not the daughter but the mother of order,” signaling Tucker’s stance as a philosophical or individualist anarchist. His magazine was the first to publish George Bernard Shaw in the U.S., and to translate Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Tucker also published other works considered radical at the time, such as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, and Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol.

A curious contradiction perhaps was Tucker’s deep commitment to the fine points of typesetting for all his publications. For his eightieth birthday in 1934, friends reprinted his 1892 text Why I Am An Anarchist (Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Oriole Press 1934) in a limited edition of 100 copies with “Initial and embellishments . . . by Frederic W. Goudy," the modern master American book and type designer with a consciously archaic style.

Born to an old Massachusetts family, Tucker attended M.I.T. and lived in France before working for the Boston Globe. He moved to New York in 1892, and later opened the Unique Bookshop, which specialized in the works of anarchists, atheists and freethinkers. The bookstore burned beyond recovery in 1908, and Tucker and his lover Pearl Johnson, with their 6-week old infant daughter, moved first to France, before relocating permanently to Monaco.