Monday, November 30, 2020

Ventures in Book Collecting, Part II

Little did I know when I posted Ventures in Book Collecting last April that we would still be in the midst of this coronavirus epidemic seven months later.  

Me: seven months ago
Me: seven minutes ago

Notice any difference?  I'm still one of those people who are at higher risk during this pandemic.

I'm just a year older! But I'm still hanging in there!  I'm still collecting books!  Lots of them! In this post, I'll display and discuss some, but not all, of the books I've acquired in the last seven months.

Books About Books is, by far, my biggest collection.  And I have added to it.  I now have over 1400 Books About Books.  

One of the best anecdotal books by a bookseller that I have ever read is Infinite Riches: the Adventures of a Rare Book Dealer by David Bickersteth Magee.  Recently, I acquired two humorous works by Magee.  The first book was about the Grabhorn Press, and the second was priceless advice on how to describe the books a bookseller catalogues for sale.

The Revolt of a Tired Typesetter: Two Excerpts and a Threnody 


The Second Course in Correct Cataloguing, or, Further Notes  for the Neophyte.

Years ago, I had a copy of Magee's first book on cataloguing.  I sent it to Gabriel Austin when he was still at Four Oaks Farm in New Jersey.  And he and Mary Hyde shared a few chuckles when he read Magee's cataloguing advice out loud after dinner one night.

The author of this next book share's David Magee's namesake.  But both McKee's may have shared my affection for this snack.

The immortal Anthony Rota was sometimes called the Doyen of the British Book Trade.  Here's a lecture on bibliography that he gave at the Library of Congress on April 24, 1984.

I have three books by Donald C. Dickinson in my library:  his dictionary of American book dealers; his dictionary of American book collectors; and his biography of John Carter.  To add a bibliography of the works of the bookman Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt by Dickinson is icing on the cake.

One of the largest books I recently purchased was The Pioneer Ameericanists: Early Collectors, Dealers, and Bibliographers by J. Kevin Graffagnino and others from the Clements Library.  The book, which I bought from Oak Knoll Books, is a little over 13 inches tall and is shelved with my other oversized books.  It's a little hard to handle, but enjoyable to read.

The smallest book I bought recently was a miniature book formerly owned by the great Kalman L. Levitan, and sold by my friend John Howell.  The title of the book is How the Art of Printing Was Invented: A Bibliofantasy.  In this story, we find out how and why the art of printing was invented.  It was because a monk in a monastery by the name of Dominikus had gotten too tired to write manuscripts anymore, and wanted someone to invent the art of printing....

Somewhere on my library shelves, probably hidden between two big fat books about books, is a really, really thin book by the printer Ward Ritchie,  A Tale of Two Books.  I can't tell you anything about the tale because I have yet to find the book again!

In the 1930s and 1940s, Paul Johnston edited The Book Collector's Packet: A Monthly Review of Fine Books, Bibliography, Typography, & Kindred Literary Matters.  I have three of the early issues.

In the July 1932 issue, Johnston mentions his standing order to buy an old pamphlet with funny type on the cover.

I have yet to read Book Dealer Johnny Jenkins.  I mentioned buying this book when I was on The Rare Book Cafe Show one Saturday afternoon.  Thorne Donnelley, one of the hosts of the show, said it would be an interesting read.

Here's another book about a bookseller.  It's an extensive interview of the Ohio bookseller Bob Hayman by Ron Antonucci.  And I do mean extensive –– thirty-four pages.  On page 32, Antonucci asks, "What have I not asked you that I should have asked you?"  The interview was conducted on August 31, 1996 as part of a project of the Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society (NOBS) to gather oral history from booksellers and book collectors.

The Ampersand Club, located in the twin cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, has a unique way of announcing meetings of the club: by letterpress invitations.  And just this year, the Ampersand Club published a history of the invitations, which I bought from Rulon-Miller Books.

The next book came my way as a token of appreciation from one of my blog post readers, the Bellingham, Washington bookseller, Robert Mueller.  In May 1962, over 100 members of Grolier Club of New York, led by its President, Donald F. Hyde, embarked from Idlewild Airport on a tour of the libraries of Italy.  Later that year, Gabriel Austin edited a book containing reminiscences of the tour, The Grolier Club Iter Italicum.  And Donald Hyde wrote the Preface.  Thank you, Bob!  

When I first started collecting books about books in the late 1980s, I was primarily interested in the anecdotal books about books and the instructive books about books.  Bibliomysteries did not yet interest me. Since then, I have read bibliomysteries by Christopher Morley, John Dunning, Charles Lovett, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, to name a few.  One of the best bibliomysteries I've read is by my friend Pradeep Sebastian, The Book Hunters of Katpadi, which I read in November 2017. Here are three bibliomysteries I've recently acquired. 

I bought The Forger's Daughter from the Strand Bookstore in September.  And in October, the Strand send me the author's signed bookplate to paste in the book.  That's what I call going the extra mile!

Speaking of forgeries, this next book was published in 1934, the same year that An Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets was published.  In the latter book, John Carter and Graham Powell questioned the authenticity of pamphlets of numerous nineteenth-century authors including Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning  and Algernon Charles Swinburne.  While Carter and Powell did not specifically accuse Thomas J. Wise of being the forger, all the evidence they provided pointed to Wise as the forger.  Wise  was the owner and creator of the great Ashely Library, the foremost collection of three centuries of English literature.  From 1922 to 1930, Wise published a catalogue of the Ashley Library in ten volumes.  Each volume was introduced by one of the premier bookmen of the day.  And in 1934, the New York bookseller William H. Smith published a book containing the ten introductions, each containing glowing praises of Thomas J. Wise and his Ashley Library.

From its outside appearance, there is nothing out of the ordinary with this next book, Old Book Collector's Miscellany I.   It is the fourth book by Charles Hindley, author of The Catnach Press and Curiosities of Literature that I have added to my library. And it is only volumes one of a two-volume set.

What is unique about this book is that it is only one of six copies printed on this yellow-colored paper.  Now to find Volume II!

Three years ago I bought the final galley proof of A Restless People: Americans in Rebellion 1770-1887.  But it was extremely hard to read.  So I finally bought a hard copy and now I'm a happy camper.

Just this month, I did a video presentation of My Friend Paul Ruxin for the Caxton's Club's memorial library.     As a token of appreciation, Jackie Vossler, President of the Caxton Club sent me a copy of the Club's publication, Memoirs of the Life of John Adlum in the Revolutionary War.  Thank you, Jackie!

We all have "woulda coulda shoulda" moments when we later regret not buying a book when we had the chance.  Even worse, to me, is regretting that we sold or had to sell a book that once belonged to us.
I had to sell a good many of my books in 2006 and 2007 in order to keep me out of the poorhouse when I was waiting for my disability retirement to be approved (bad heart).  And I have replaced some of them.  One of them is The Treasury of American Sacred Song by W. Garrett Horder.  My good friend, the late Frederic Farrar bought this book, and later donated it to the library of his alma mater, Washington and Lee University.  I remembered that I was amazed by how many poets wrote religious poems that Horder included in his book and I wanted a second copy.

Going 180ºs in the opposite direction, is this next book.  Again, you can't tell anything different from its book cover, which simply says, The Tenderest Lover.

But here's the title page:

I wanted this book because it was formerly owned by the poets and songwriter Rod McKuen.  McKuen puts Whitman's poetry from this book to music in the 1973 album, Body Electric.  Here is McKuen's sneaker bookplate pasted on the half-title page of The Tenderest Lover.

I have always wanted a book from the library of A. Edward Newton, and I finally bought one: Newton's copy of the 1809 book, Burlesque Translation of Homer.

Thankfully, one of my collections that I was able to sell en blanc in 2006 when I was waiting for my disability retirement from the Post Office to be approved was My Sentimental Airman Collection.  I wrote about the collection in an October 2004 article in the online version of AB Bookman's Weekly.  In February 2017, I included an Afterword to The Sentimental Airmanand published it on My Sentimental Library blog.  Two years later, I wrote about A Sentimental Airman's Second Aviation Collection.  And today I will write about six more books I've added to My Second Sentimental Airman Collection in the last seven months.

The three books above were all formerly owned by the British bomber pilot Derek Mason.  I acquired them in September when my wife and I visited MIke Slicker's Lighthouse Books in Dade Cirty  It was my only trip to a real live bookstore during this coronavirus pandemic, and we had the whole bookstore to ourselves. I now have thirteen books from his Aviation Collection, all of which I acquired from Lighthouse Books. One of the books above, An Hour of Aviation, contains a letter from its author, Captain Norman Macmillan stating that he signed all five books that were heading Derek Mason's way.  I should add that I have read An Hour of Aviation, and the author writes descriptively and won to earth like on other author of aviation that I have read.  So now I have to see if Mike Slicker has the other four books Captain Macmillan signed for Captain Mason in his stock at Lighthouse Books.

Here are the other three aviation books I've bought, two of which were reportedly were formerly owned by the Aviation collector, Arthur Ronnie, but only one of which contains his bookplate, and that is Air Taxi.

I have added to my Mary Hyde Collection as well!  Again, the cover of this next book gives nothing away. It doesn't even reveal the identity of the book's title!

It is a 1922 edition of the play, Abraham written by Roswitha, the nun of Gandersheim, who was born about the year 935.  The play is about divine forgiveness.  An orphan named Mary is persuaded by her Uncle Abraham to lead a life a chastity.  But Mary succumbs to temptation, loses her virginity, runs away, and becomes a prostitute.  Her uncle traces her down and convinces her to return to a life of holiness.  Mind you, this was written by a nun!  I am reminded of what Mary Hyde herself wrote when she was asked by her college drama teacher Hallie Flanagan to write a rendition of the life of the character, Valya, that she was portraying in the play, Fear:

Getting back to Roswitha's book,  David, Viscount Eccles gave this book to his wife Mary, Viscountess Eccles.

My Australian friend John Byrne sent me a prized addition for my Mary Hyde Collection: acopy of the memorial service held for Mary Viscountess Eccles held at St. Dunstan-in-the-West in London on December 2, 2003.  Thank you, John!

The author Philip Hofer sent Mary Hyde a copy of Himalyan Reverie in January 1959 to read while she was recovering from a foot operation –– at least that's what the accompanying letter said.

I liked the way Hofer wrote and ordered a copy of his book, Mishaps of a Compulsive Collector.  I won't spoil it for you.  You will enjoy reading that one too!

Louis Auchincloss sent Donald Hyde a copy of his book in appreciation for being Donald Hyde's guest at a meeting of the Grolier Club.

I have added to my Samuel Johnson Collection as well. Here's Vol II of Catlaogus Bibliothecæ Harleianæ in locus communes distributus cum indice auctorum.  Johnson helped catalogue Thomas Osorne's Harleian Library with William Oldys from 1743 to 1745.

I bought another book by A. Edward Newton in the last seven months.  In 1930, John Henry Nash printed Newton's play, Mr. Strahan's Dinner Party for the Book Club of California; a fictitious play in which Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Franklin meet.  But I don't have that edition!  In 1930, A. Edward Newton was the President of the Johnson Society, and for his Presidential Address in Litchfield, England on September 18, 1930, he read his play about Strahan's dinner party.  The play is included in the 221st Birthday Celebration of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  As a note for the curious,  Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Franklin actually met on May1st, 1760.

I came across the next book, Encounters: Some Incidents of Literary History, while browsing eBay one day.  It was by Lois Rather and contained a chapter on Joaquin Miller and Elbert Hubbard, which is why I wanted it, for the Joaquin Miller portion.  Eureka Books in Eureka, California was the seller.  And just for the hell of it, I went to their website.  And lo and behold, Encounters was listed at a lower price than the eBay price. I actually bought two other books from Eureka Books as well: David Magee's Second Course in Cataloguing and Rod McKuen's copy of Walt Whitman's The Tenderest Lover.  Both books were less expensive on the Eureka Books website.  I actually solved a puzzle concerning the Encounters book.  It was inscribed "With Love Dad," and contained a gift ditty from "Clif" whose birthday was October 19th.  I queried Eureka Books about "Clif," but Katie didn't know who he was.  She said they acquired the book from the remaining inventory of Peter Howard's Serendipity Books, but they didn't know from whom Peter Howard acquired the book.

I did a litte detective work and learned that Encounters was printed, bound, and published by Clif and Lois Rather.  Clif's birthday was October 19th, so the book was given by him to one of their children!

I should tell you about another book I bought in the last seven months and that's it.  Esto Perpetua: The Club of Dr. Johnson and His Friends 1764-1784.  This book contains talks given by Lewis P. Curtris and Herman W. Liebert at the Grolier Club in 1959. I bought the book from June Samaras, proprietor of Kalamos Books.

I will end this post with a display of the political books I've bought in the last seven months.  But I will  refrain from discussing them here.  I don't want to wear out my welcome!  :-) 

Stay Safe!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

About The Early American Editions of Samuel Johnson's Rasselas


In my library, I have the stated First American Edition and the stated Second American Edition of Samuel Johnson's Rasselas.  The publishers printed that information directly on the title pages.  We now know that the first and second American editions of Rasselas were published before 1803, but how were these two publishers to know that?  The first bibliography of the works of Samuel Johnson wasn't published until 1915.

William Prideaux Courtney prepared this bibliography but died before it was printed.  David Nichol Smith made a few revisions and sent the bibliography thru the press in 1915.  The bibliographical information for the first listing of an American Edition of Rasselas, however, was noticeably scant.  And we would find out later that it was misdated.

Unlike the other listings in the bibliography, Courtney and Smith did not identify a publisher or place published, or even provide a complete title for that matter.  The listing reads, "[Rasselas.  An American edition.]  1771"
Underneath the listing they added a note citing "Boswell, ii, 207," which refers to George Birkbeck Hill's 1887 edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson.  If you go to that reference,  you will read that when White visited England in 1771, he told Johnson that an American edition of Rasselas had been published, and that he'd send him a copy.

Curiously, the next American edition listed in Courtney/Smith bibliography was the 1803 Hartford edition.  Two other American editions that were published before 1803 were not listed.   And neither was the 1809 Bridgeport edition.

To add to the misinformation, an article about Johnson first editions in the July 7, 1915 edition of The Bibliographer, edited by George Henry Sargent, cites the 1803 Hartford edition as the First American Edition of Rasselas.

In a Jan. 1, 1953 article in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America titled "The First American 'Rasselas' and Its Imprint," the Johnsonian Robert Metzdorf credits Chauncey Brewster Tinker with identifying the 1768 edition published by Robert Bell in Philadelphia as the First American Edition of Rasselas.  Tinker wrote about the discovery in 1924 in the Yale Review, and in a book the following year that was titled Rasselas In the New World.  At the time, he thought the 1768 edition was quite unknown to Johnsonian collectors.

According to Tinker, Robert Bell was an eccentric publisher.  Instead of listing "Philadelphia," Bell listed "America" as the place of publication, and added, "Printed for Every Purchaser."   Bell's most famous publication was Thomas Paine's Common Sense.

For the longest time, the 1984 Oak Knoll Books edition of Courtney & Smith's bibliography was my bible on Samuel Johnson's works.  It included a 1963 supplement by R. W. Chapman and Allen T. Hazen.  They referred to Tinker's 1925 book in their listing of the First American Edition of Rasselas  and corrected the misdated date of publication from 1771 to 1768.

Today, we are blessed with A Bibliography of the Works of Samuel Johnson compiled by J. D. Fleeman, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.

Fleeman spent over thirty years compiling his bibliography.  And he, too, died before it was published.  The only problem with the Fleeman bibliography is its cost.  You would be lucky to find a set for less than $500.  I was very lucky.  About fifteen years ago, a friend of mine found a set for me at a greatly reduced price because it was lacking its dust jackets.   Um.... It was not issued with dust jackets!

Here is Fleeman's listing of the First American Edition of Rasselas:

Here is Fleeman's listing of the Second American Edition, which was published in Philadelphia in 1791:

And here is his listing of the 1803 edition.  He includes the words "First American Edition" because he is posting what is stated on the title page:

Finally, in the age of the internet today we have far greater research capabilities than that of Chauncey Brewster Tinker in 1924, or that of Robert Metzdorf in 1953. Today, for bibliographical listings of the 1768 First Edition of Rasselas, I can cite Hildeburn 1886 and Evans 10939.  Both works were published before 1924.  The Hildeburn volume was published in 1886, and the Evans volume was published in 1907.