Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Another One That Got Away, One I Gave Away, and One That Headed My Way; or, The Adventures and Misadventures of MoiBibliomaniac

They say the third time's the charm.  But  that axiom doesn't seem to apply to book collecting.  And so far, it's not working in my quest to acquire a copy of the 1918 First Edition of William Strunk's little book, The Elements of Style, for my Elements of Style Collection.

The first one got away almost fifteen years ago.  It was my own fault.  Back then, I used to periodically check the book search engines for early editions of The Elements of Style.  I should have checked them every day!  In September 2003, I saw a listing for a copy of the 1918 edition listed on Abebooks.com for $185!  But I was a day or two too late.  A bookseller bought the book at a book fair in Rochester, New York the weekend before.  It was a proof copy of the 1918 edition!  The bookseller, the late Bob Reidel, sold the proof copy of The Elements of Style in 2004 to none other than "The Dame of Dictionaries," Madeline Kripke, for $3,000!   Madeline has a comprehensive catalog entry of this sale that she has recorded in her database.  Here is just a portion of it:
Bought from Bob Reidel of Print Matters (Dansville, NY), who bought the proofs from a bookseller in Rochester who first bought the proofs from Frank Aydelotte's son William Osgood Aydelotte. 

Printer's page proofs of privately printed true 1st ed.

•Manuscript note, dated 25 September 1918, on Cornell University Department of English stationery, pasted to inside front cover: "Dear Aydelotte / Many greetings and good wishes. I am sending you Strunk's Elements of Style (in page proof). Book to be out this week. It seems to me to give the essentials more compactly than does any book I know. Possible use for S.A.T.C. English and for Engl. comp. in connection with War Aims Course? Retails at 25 cents. Yours always cordially / Martin W. Sampson/ Incidentally Chairman Cornell Com. on War Aims Course"

•"Aydelotte" named in note is Frank Aydelotte, then faculty member at MIT, later president of Swarthmore College, and author of Elizabethan Rogues and Vagabonds.

•43 leaves (complete), printed rectos only, title and last leaf taped in, the remainder bound with eyelets and laid in.

•There are a number of proofreader's corrections in pencil, possibly Strunk's own.

•The earliest known state of the book, Strunk's original manuscript having been lost.

I can blame my heart problems for letting the second copy of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style get away.  After stents eight and nine were inserted in my arteries in February 2006,  my doctors put me on a twenty-pound weight limit, and I couldn't deliver the mail anymore.  So I had to retire from the Post Office.  It seemed to take forever for my retirement disability to be approved.  But thanks to my wife, I had excellent credit.  In the meantime, an instructor, from the University of California, who was teaching Japanese History, bought a stack of books at a yard sale to use in his class. The stack contained books and maps from someone's trip to Japan in the 1960s.  And in this stack of books was this very copy of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.

I was in Hawaii at the time (May 2007), watching some of my grandchildren, while my oldest son was serving a tour in Iraq.  But the USC instructor found me online.  He was looking for information about his find, and came across a Dec. 25, 2006 post to the Ex-Libris Mailing List in which I mentioned my Elements of Style Collection.  I couldn't offer him a dime at the time for his copy, but I periodically gave him advice on its value and its potential sale.  He went on with his life, changed schools, and took his time finding a good home for the book:  In January 2011, he found it: The University of Iowa  (PE1408 .S772 1918 ).   He was impressed with the University's writing program.  Moreover, UNESCO had just designated Iowa City a "City of Literature."  I couldn't have picked a better home myself, especially when I couldn't afford to buy it.

The owner of the third copy of The Elements of Style, a woman from Georgia, read one of my posts about my Elements of Style Collection, and contacted me last month.  She had bought a box of books at an auction several years ago, and in the box was this copy of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.  

My first words to her were, "How much do you want for it?"

Her copy has condition issues; the pages are water-stained throughout; but the book is intact.  I made her an offer, letting her know how much the book is worth to me.  I have yet to hear from her....  Is this the third one that got away?

There is a certain charm in giving a book away, especially when you know that you have found the very best home for it.  When I was stationed at RAF Mildenhall with the U. S. Air Force in the late 1980s, I either bought the following book somewhere or someone gave it to me:

Its author, Hannah C. Wheeler, published the book in 1913.  It provides a history of the church building, its leaders and its parishioners from the year it was built in 1718 to the year it was torn down  and a new church built in its place in 1913, using the bell from the original chapel.

I have never seen a copy of this book for sale anywhere.  WorldCat shows only one copy, and that is at Yale.  COPAC shows copies at the British Library and Bishopgate Library.  I kept the book with my other books about England.  And there it remained for the last 29 years.

For some reason or other, I pulled the book off the shelf early this month and started researching the church itself.  When the church was rebuilt, the church leaders renamed the church,  St. Andrew's, Chelsea.  On Sunday March 4th, I contacted the church office and asked it they had a copy of the Reminiscences of Park Chapel, Chelsea...  and if they didn't, would they like to have my copy?  They did not have a copy, but had seen quotes from it in different publications.   They offered to purchase my copy, especially since 2018 was the 300th anniversary of the building of the original church.  I told them to consider the book a gift from someone who enjoyed spending four years in England.  And the book was heading their way a few days later.

Along with the book, I gave them a puzzle to solve.  In the book, on the pages identifying some of the  early church officials and organists,  was a photo of someone's "Aunt Emma."  Was Aunt Emma one of the early parishioners when the church changed names?

As serendipity would have it, while Reminiscences of Park Chapel, Chelsea was heading to England, a book from Canada was heading my way.  And on Monday the 12th of March, the very same day the parishioners of St. Andrew's, Chelsea received their book, I received the book from Canada.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 6th of March, a retired antique dealer from Canada called me from out of the blue.  He had read my January 2017 post, A Virtual Tour of My Austin Dobson Collection, and said that he had a book that belonged in my library.  He offered to send me the book and I could decide how much it was worth to me.  What he told me about the book made my mouth water.  I couldn't wait for the book to arrive.  And on Monday, the 12th of March,  I was in Seventh Heaven!

The book itself was nothing to brag about: an 8th edition of Dobson's Collected Poems, published in 1909.

But Austin Dobson wanted to send a copy of the book to a friend in America.  And he commissioned the notable English bookbinding firm, Riviere Bindery,  to bind it in full vellum:

Austin Dobson pasted his bookplate on the recto of the first front free endpaper––his American friend's favorite Dobson bookplate:

Dobson sent his friend a letter written on heavy card stock, and dated 19, iv, 1911.  In the letter Dobson tells his friend, Joseph Leon Gobeille, that he wrote the last three stanzas of a new poem on a free endpaper of the book.  The title of the poem was "Threescore and Ten," and it would soon be published in The Century, a popular American magazine based in New York City.   Gobeille later inserted a  copy of the poem from The Century into the book.

If you look closely, in the holograph poem, Dobson wrote the third line as

In roomy stall reclined behind

But in The Century publication of the poem, the line appears as :
Reclined in roomy stall behind

I evaluated everything I received.  My estimate was spot on with the estimate of all but one of the friends.  I contacted the retired antique dealer from Canada.  We discussed my estimate, agreed on the price, and I put a check in the mail to him the following morning.

The holograph poem would have been worth considerably more if Dobson had written out the entire poem.  But the difference in the wording of Dobson's third line did add to the value of the holograph poem.

I'll have more on the rewording of that line of the poem shortly.  But first I'll tell you a little bit about Austin Dobson's American friend, Joseph Leon Gobeille (1855-1911).

Joseph Leon Gobeille  was an early member of the Rowfant Club, joining the club in 1892, the year it was founded.  Gobeille gave a speech before the Rowfant Club in 1896:  "Necessity for Beauty in Utilitarian Objects."  He was Vice President of the Rowfant Club in 1898, and was on the club's publication committee.  In 1902, Gobeille himself published a limited edition of The Raven, and Bromer Booksellers has a listing of it:

Gobeille was well known in the foundry industry as a pattern maker, ran a company with his brother in the late 1880s, and when the business went down the tubes in 1908, he relocated to Niagara Falls, and opened up a pattern shop (he was originally from New York).  He was injured in an accident shortly after his arrival that left him impaired and unable to run his business.  So he commuted  to Brantford, Ontario where he worked for another company.

Elbert Hubbard mentions Gobeille several times in The Philistine, and in the October 1907 issues calls him "book rogue in Ordinary."

In the February 1909 issue of The Philistine, Hubbard writes about Gobeille's Message to Garcia Collection:

In August 1911, Joseph Leon Gobeille fell on the job and never recovered from his injuries.  He died on Sept 27, 1911.  Gobeille's wife is listed in the 1913 edition of Book Collectors and Their Hobbies :

Speaking of Austin Dobson, if he actually submitted his poem, "Threescore and Ten," to The Century with the line, Reclined in roomy stall behind, and if it wasn't an error on the part of the editor of The Century, then he obviously preferred the line that he wrote to Gobeille:   In roomy stall reclined behind.  That is the way the line appears in the 1913 ninth edition of his Collected Poems.  And that's how it appears in the 1923 edition of The Complete Poetical Poems of Austin Dobson.

Not everyone was aware, however, of the change in the wording of the line from how it appeared in The Century.  In his 1918 book, Along the Friendly Way, James M. Ludlow used Reclined in roomy stall behind:

I agree with Dobson.  I like the line:  In roomy stall reclined behind

And I really, really, really like the axiom:  The third time's the charm....

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On Collecting James Boswell

     The English-speaking race is only just beginning to enter into its huge and glorious inheritance of literature.  The number of persons who have never read Boswell's Life of Johnson , and who yet are capable of enjoying it to the tips of their fingertips, is enormous, and yearly increases.  To get hold of these people, to thrust Boswell into their hands, to obtrude him upon their notice, and thus to capture their intelligence and engage their interest, is the work of the missionary of letters, who does not need to encumber himself with the commentators, but only to do all that he can to circulate the original text in the most convenient and attractive form.  It  is not laziness or indifference which prompts me to say this, but holy zeal and the most absolute conviction.                    
     After all, the book is the thing....
 Augustine Birrell, Introduction to Boswell's Life of Johnson, Archibald Constable, 1904

From an Original sketch by the late George Langton Esq.
Published by John Murray Albermarle Street 1835 
Facing P. 499 Johnsoniana; or Supplement to Boswell, Philadelphia:  Carey and Hart 1842

I didn't start collecting books until I was 38 years old and stationed in England, serving my last overseas tour in the U. S. Air Force before retiring in 1989.  Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was the first author whose books I collected.   And when I discovered that Mary Hyde (1912-2003) collected Samuel Johnson too, I started collecting her as well.   If you collect Samuel Johnson or Mary Hyde, you're bound to acquire some books by or about James Boswell along the way, especially Boswell's Life of Johnson.   But I didn't actively start collecting James Boswell (1740-1795) until I began cataloguing his library on Library Thing in October 2008.

Boswell's Life of Johnson was first published in 1791.  Rare Book Hub's Rare Book Transaction database shows that Potter and Potter Auctions in Chicago sold a first edition already this year for $2640.  Be prepared to spend more than that if the word give on page 135 of the first volume is spelled gve.

I have more than a handful of Boswell's Life of Johnson:

Oxford:  At the Clarendon Press 1887

Westminster: Archibald Constable; Boston:  The Old Corner Book Store 1904

New York:  The Heritage Press 1963

London:  J. M. Dent; New York:  McClure, Phillips & Co. 1901

London:  J. M. Dent & Sons; New York:  E. P. Dutton 1949
Vol 1 and 2 of Everyman's Library Series, first published in 1906

Oxford & New York:  Oxford University Press 2008 (1904)

New York:  The Modern Library 1955

New York:  Macmillan 1913

New York:  Doubleday & Co. (Literary Guild) 1946

I even have a copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson in Danish that I bought in Copenhagen!

The 1887 Clarendon Press edition, published in six volumes, and edited by George Birkbeck Hill, includes not only Boswell's LOJ, but Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and Samuel Johnson's Diary of a Journey Into North Wales.

My oldest book by James Boswell is a copy of the 1785 first edition of Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides:

This copy was formerly owned by Fitzherbert Macdonald, Diocesan Registrar of Salisbury in the middle to late 1800s.  I also have Macdonald's copies of the 1775 First Edition of A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson, and Remarks on Dr. Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides... by Donald McNicol, London: T. Cadell, 1779.  Both volumes require rebacking.

I  have the Johnsonian Allen T. Hazen's copy of Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides that Charles H.Bennett presented to him in 1936.

And here's two inexpensive editions of Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides:

Much has been written about Colonel Ralph H. Isham and the discovery of the Boswell Papers.  Here are links to my reviews of two books about Boswell's Papers that come highly recommended, the first book by Frederick A. Pottle and the second by David Buchanan.

Pride & Negligence:  The History of the Boswell Papers

The Treasure of Auchinleck:  The Story of the Boswell Papers

Of relevance to The Treasure of Auchinleck... is the email I received from David Buchanan in July 2012.  The late Gabriel Austin had forwarded a copy of my July 2012 post, A Virtual Tour of My Mary Hyde Collection to him.  And Mr. Buchanan provided information on the identity of the donor with the initials of "EOB" or "EDB," who had given Mary Hyde a copy of The Letters of George Birkbeck Hill.  That book is now in my Mary Hyde Collection.

Here is the Dedication Page of The Treasure of Auchinleck:  The Story of the Boswell Papers

In 1966, Gabriel Austin edited Four Oaks Farm and Four Oaks Library, two books about the home of Donald and Mary Hyde and their library.  And yes, they had a number of books by and about James Boswell.

Mary Hyde wrote extensively about James Boswell.  I have her copy of The Impossible Friendship:  Boswell and Mrs. Thrale, published in 1972.

Mary Hyde gave an address on Boswell's Ebony Cabinet in Canberra, Australia at the Third David Nichol Smith Memorial Seminar in 1973, which was subsequently published in 1976 in the following book:

David Nichol Smith himself talked about Johnsonians and Boswellians in his Presidential Address before the Johnson Society in Lichfield in 1949.

In 1970, the Grolier Club published Eighteenth Century Studies in Honor of Donald F. Hyde, which included three essays pertaining to James Boswell.

William Zachs included Mary Hyde's address on Boswell's Ebony Cabinet in the 2002 Grolier Club book,  Mary Hyde Eccles:  A Miscellany of Her Essays and Addresses.   

If you're curious about the Eccles name and about Mary Hyde herself, you should read the address I presented before the Florida Bibliophile Society in February 2006:  Mary Hyde and the Unending Pursuit.

Back in 1995, Mary Hyde teamed up with the Grolier Club for a bicentenary exhibition of books by and about James Boswell from the Hyde and Grolier Club collections.

Recently, Terry Seymour decided to sell some of the duplicates in his Johnson/Boswell Collections.  So I invited Terry to be my guest at "The Great Florida Bibliophile Society Book Swap Meet" held on Sunday, November 19. 2017.  And yes,  I added to my Johnson/Boswell Collections!

The "Boswell Factory" at the Sterling Library, Yale University churned out both research and trade editions about James Boswell.  I have a few of the Yale trade editions, and more!

Boswell's London Journal in Danish!

And Boswell in Holland in Danish!

William Wimsatt Jr. sent a copy of Boswell for the Defense to himself, and even tipped in a newspaper article about the book he wrote!

James Caudle gave me a copy of Boswell:  The Great Biographer, when I visited "The Boswell Factory" on June 7, 2010:

Mark Harris edited a book for McGraw-Hill in 1981, The Heart of Boswell, which provides highlights from six of Boswell's Journals, including Corsica Boswell and Boswell in Search of a Wife.

An amusing read is R. M. Freeman's 1923 book, The New Boswell, in which Boswell records Samuel Johnson's conversations in the afterlife about earthly matters, together with Johnson's encounters with Socrates, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Lord Macaulay.

Lord Macaulay did a number on John Wilson Croker's 1831 edition of The Life of Samuel Johnson, calling the edition, "ill compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed."  And although he acknowledges Boswell to be "the first of biographers," he besmirches his character, calling him "the laughing-stock of the whole of that brilliant society which has owed him the greater part of its fame." Thomas Carlyle defended Croker and Boswell.  And William Strunk, of later Elements of Style fame, edited a book in 1895 containing both Macaulay's and Carlyle's essays––well worth reading, as too is Strunk's Introduction.  Strunk's book was reprinted in 1896.  I have both editions.

Twenty-five years after denouncing Croker's Life of Samuel Johnson, Lord Macaulay himself wrote a short essay on the Life of Samuel Johnson.  To this day, his essay on Croker's Life of Samuel Johnson  has more readers than his own essay on  the LOJ.  I have a 1903 edition of Macaulay's Life of Johnson.

As for Croker, I have an 1842 Philadelphia edition of Johnsoniana; or, Supplement to Boswell, which was first published in London in 1836.  The last section contains a brief memoir of Boswell by Edmond Malone.  This book, btw, was well-received in the book world.

Here are a few more books about Boswell in my library.  And I present them in no uncertain order:


Mary Hyde isn't the only Johnson/Boswell  Collector in my library.  A. Edward Newton (1864-1940) had a collection that included 28 James Boswell items, ranging from autograph letters to presentation copies of Boswell's books, including one to his son, James Boswell Jr.

And then there's my friend, the late Paul Ruxin.  Paul was one of our Auchinleck Advisers when I helped catalogue the Boswell Library on Library Thing.  And Paul permitted us to catalogue the eleven books in his library that were formerly in the Boswell Library at Auchinleck.

In 2017, Sam Ellenport and Gordon Pradl compiled and edited the subscriber's edition, The Past as Present:  Selected Thought and Essays Paul Ruxin.   There are three essays pertaining to the Boswells in this book.  Also in the book is my tribute to Paul, My Friend Paul Ruxin.

Finally, there is the book that is the veritable bible about the Boswell Library:  Boswell's Books:  Four Generations of Collecting and Collectors by my friend Terry Seymour.

Terry has bestowed the greatest of honors on me, by including me in the section of the book titled, Significant People in Boswell Book History.  I am gloriously and alphabetically sandwiched between Edmond Malone and A. Edward Newton!

I can't top that....

And that my friends, are the books I've acquired while collecting James Boswell.


In the last ten years, I've written about Mary Hyde, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and their libraries.  Here are links to most of the posts:

Mary Hyde and the Unending Pursuit in Nov 2008,
An Unexpected Find in Umatilla, Florida in Oct 2009,
A Virtual Tour of My Mary Hyde Collection in July 2012,
A Splendid History of Ownership in Oct 2013

My Many Lives of Samuel Johnson in May 2011,
My Samuel Johnson Collection in Feb 2012,
About Samuel Johnson's Undergraduate Library in March 2015.
(I now have 255 books in my Samuel Johnson Collection; the post needs updating).

Cataloguing Dead People's Books:  Namely the Libraries of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Charles Lamb in Mar 2009,
Corrections to the 1810 Catalogue of Greek & Latin Classics in the Auchinleck Library in Jul 2011,
A Statius Check in Jul 2011,
The Boswell Copy of Piozzi's Anecdotes of Doctor Johnson? in Feb 2013,
Cataloguing and Recataloguing the Boswell Library in June 2013,
Other People's Books, Dead People's Books, and Boswell's Books in Sep 2016,
Boswell's Books: Four Generations of Collectors and Collections in Oct 2016.