Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Elegant Extracts and Timely Tidbits About Dreamthorp; A Book of Essays Written in the Country

Dreamthorp; A Book of Essays Written in the Country by Alexander Smith

Before I created my seven book-related blogs, I displayed and discussed my books on websites that I created on WebTV (later called MSN TV) from November 1999 to January 2007.  Here is my listing of Alexander Smith's book, Dreamthorp; A Book of Essays Written in the Country:

It was thanks to A. S. W.  Rosenbach that I came across what A. Edward Newton and Christopher Morley had to say about Dreamthorp.   About twenty years ago, I started collecting the lectures of the Rosenbach Fellows in Bibliography.  In 1930 Rosenbach founded a Fellowship in Bibliography at the University of Pennsylvania, and Newton and Morley were two of the Rosenbach Fellows.  Bibliography and Pseudo-Bibliography was the name of the book that contained Newton's presentations.  Ex Libris Carissimus was the name of the book that contained Morley's presentations.  Newton gave three lectures as the Rosenbach Fellow in Bibliography in 1936, the third of which was titled Essays and Essayists, and which contained his comments on Dreamthorp:
I shall not pretend that this paper was prepared without some care, and as I read over my rough notes it suddenly occurred to me to re-read a volume of essays by Alexander Smith, who is remembered, if he is remembered, by one small volume of essays called Dreamthorp, published before I was born.  I have a first edition of this book, and taking it from its place on my shelves, I opened it and to my amazement read in a paper entitled "On the Writing of Essays" much that I have said about Montaigne; this is not surprising, for everything that can be said about Montaigne has been said–– as about Shakespeare: the only thing that remains is to say it in a new way.  But I also came upon this:  "Jacques in 'As You Like It' has the making of a charming essayist and the essayist is a kind of poet in prose."  I was not consciously pilfering from Alexander Smith when I wrote, a few days before, identically the same thing.  I don't think I have dipped into Dreamthorp for several years; I read As You Like It only a few weeks ago. and I was struck at the time that the romantic Jacques, who is usually lying under a greenwood tree when he delivers his famous soliloquy, would have been a fine essayist if he had not been a finer thing––a fine poet.  Reading further on, I came upon this: "It is not the essayist's duty to inform ... incidentally he may do something in that way just as the poet may, but it is not his duty."  I was just going to labor this point, and I shall not be turned aside from the fact that a better man than I has done it before me.

Morley gave five presentations as the Rosenbach Fellow in Bibliography in 1931. But rather than call them lectures, he called them conversations.  His third conversation, entitled "Three Kinds of Collectors," contained his comments on Dreamthorp.  And in this conversation he mentioned being introduced to Dreamthorp via Thomas B. Mosher's catalogues: 

... it was in one of Mosher's catalogues that I first heard of Dreamthorp, a book which is not widely known, and yet I feel that a casual soliloquy like this would justify itself if it did nothing more than introduce a dozen new zealots to a book like Dreamthorp.  Some of you may be interested in writing essays.  Alexander Smith's sketch in that book, called "On the Writing of Essays," is the wisest and most communicative thing ever said on that subject. His essay on Christmas, Christmas of the year 1862, is one of the loveliest things ever written about Christmas, one of the most poignant, and this is the time of year to re-read it.  It was written not long before his death; perhaps already, in his fine phrase, he had "the candle of death in his hand," that casts a softened light on human scenes....

Both A. Edward Newton and Christopher Morley praised Alexander Smith's essay entitled "On the Writing of Essays."  I  extracted a portion of it to use as the opener for my essay,  A Virtual Tour of My Collection of Essays, that I posted on My Sentimental Library blog in May, 2014:

Christopher Morley thought so much of Dreamthorp that he wrote the seven-page introduction to the Doubleday and Doran publication of the book in 1934.  And  he again mentions that Thomas B. Mosher had something to do with his discovering Dreamthorp. But here Morley recalls that he discovered it by reading about it in Mosher's Bibelot series.  I'll have more on Mosher and Bibelot later.  But here are a few extracts from Morley's introduction from the Dreamthorp book:
When Alexander Smith wanders about Dreamthorp, or when he talks about his library shelves, he turns up surprising nourishment.  He is worth following closely.  His essays are of an older fashion but no one has ever spoken more pleasantly of the essayist's purpose and privilege, or the perplexities of  the life of letters....  A sad book, I found myself saying:  it has the delicious gift of melancholy. In all the years that I have loved this book I have never cared much to identify Dreamthorp itself (very likely it is largely imaginary) nor to rummage out the details of Smith's life....  All the comments on him that I have ever seen say that he "died of overwork."  What, then: this delicious picture of indolence and ease, loafing about the village, gardening, reading, is it all fiction?  The pose as an old gentleman is also fiction, for we know that he was only 34 when this book was published––and died at 36.  I can't help getting a grin when he speaks––in the essay on Death and the Fear of Dying––of the man of thirty as such an aged veteran.... Let none be deceived by his pretended posture of seniority: this is a young man's book; young even in its instinctive return to sombre themes. It is odd that teachers have not made more use of it; it has extraordinary things to say about literature, things almost worthy of Lamb; and he introduces his ironies so quietly that you might think them not ironical but just Scotch. "To be publicly put to death must be a serious matter."  And finally, in Dreamthorp the enthusiast has one of the most selfish refinements of booklovers' delight: it is a book that only the very few have heard of....

Morley's comments on Smith's use of ironies and being publicly put to death refers to Smith's essay on capital punishment entitled, "A Lark's Flight."  Just as two men are about to be executed at the scaffold, a lark suddenly flies up in the air and begins to sing.

Morley wasn't the only one who mentioned Alexander Smith writing about his library shelves in one of his essays.  I replicated Smith's special shelf in my own library and wrote about it  on my blog, The Displaced Book Collector:

 I wrote this blog post in June 2007 while watching my grandchildren in Hawaii while their father was serving a tour in Iraq with the U. S. Air Force.  I couldn't include a photo of the shelf in the post because the books were still in Florida.   So here's a photo of the entire shelf.  It extends from wall to wall above my library closet.  I intended to align the shelf with book chotskys, but decided to place some of the books from my Poetry Collection there instead.  Located in the far right corner of the shelf are copies of the Poetry books and other books mentioned in Smith's shelf.  

Not shown in the photo below is a copy of the Doubleday, Doran publication of Dreamthorp that I acquired to replace a copy of Dreamthorp that I had given to a friend.  And shown in the photo, but not mentioned in my 2007 post, are three books that I added to the shelf: Tales By Nathaniel Hawthorne, and two Torch Press books, both by William Harvey Miner: Charles Churchill, Vagabond Poet and Savage–The Rake; Chatterton–The Precocious Youth; Two Eighteenth Century Character Sketches.

 Now back to Morley!  Further on in his Introduction to Dreamthorp, Christopher Morley himself places Alexander Smith on a special kind of shelf:

He belongs on a shelf with those very special favorites of the tenderest passion––with Lamb, and Hunt, and Hazlitt and Ryecroft; with Sir Roger and Walden and Santayana.  Or perhaps with that supremely Scottish classic, now too much forgotten, Galt's Annals of the Parish.  If you were to put him not too far away from his idol Montaigne, then (in the words of the younger Scot) "There he lies where he longed to be."  Some day I must look up his biography.  I can't quite believe that a man so wise would allow himself to be killed "of overwork." Let us remember that!

As an aside, there were numerous reports that Alexander Smith died of overwork.  However, his death certificate lists diphtheria/typhoid fever as the cause of death.  Smith contracted diphtheria in November of 1866, which was then compounded by typhoid fever.  He died on January 5, 1867.   Here is a photo of his grave in Warriston Cemetery in Scotland.

It was the Bibelot Vol XIX issued in 1913 issue that Morley later said was how he discovered Dreamthorp.  Thomas Bird Mosher had reprinted an essay about Alexander Smith by James Ashcroft Noble that was published in the Yellow Book in 1895.  The essay was entitled "Mr. Stevenson's Forerunner."  Morley was on a Stevenson kick at the time and said that he hastened to read the piece.  Morley agreed that Noble's article title was justified because he could see interesting  parallels in Stevenson's Lay Morals and Apology for Idlers to Smith's essay, Vagabonds.

Thomas Bird Mosher himself had a few words to say about Dreamthorp in his Foreword to the 1913 Edition of the Bibelot:

For Dreamthorp, –– the book with the beautiful title –– has lived in the world fifty years and from now on, if we mistake not the growing indifference to merely smart-set writing of all sorts ––  is called to a renewed and longer lease of life.  All things considered it belongs in that little collection of precious age-defying books which never disappoint their reader and never grow old.  It has the natural magic of simple, exquisite style:  it is a book we love well enough to mark our favorite passages in, and not feel ashamed of doing so....

Mosher also mentioned in his Foreword  that he previously had a few words to say about Smith in the Foreword to the 1909 edition of the Bibelot.  That issue contained an essay by James Smetham, which was first published in the London Quarterly Review in October 1868 as a review of Smith's posthumous work, Last Leaves; Sketches and Criticisms.  As another aside here,  I was surprised that Smetham made no mention whatsoever of Dreamthorp in his essay – not even mentioning the title!  Yet he discussed all of Smith's other works including The Life Drama and City Poems.  But now, back to what Mosher had to say about Smith and Dreamthorp:

Smith, who died in 1867, "the prey of overwork," came suddenly into his own with the issue of The Life Drama (1853).  He somewhat expanded his poetical outlook in City Poems (1857), and in his one play, Edwin of Deira (1861).  But, whatever may have been the estimate of the pasionate few, we are come to a period of the dispassionate many, and he is only known now as the author of Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country (1863), which is still an ideal book for fireside companionship.  "Poet and Essayist" was the epitaph chosen for him, and as an essayist he will remain as he desired: "To be occasionally quoted is the only fame I care for."

In my June 2007 post, A Shelf In My Bookcase,  I mentioned that one of the books on my shelf was Luther Brewer's Torch Press edition of Smith's essay, A Shelf In My Bookcase.  Here are some of things Luther  Brewer said about Dreamthorp and its author in the Foreward to his edition of the book:

Dreamthorp, a book of essays written in the country, his first venture in prose, appeared in June, 1863, and went through six editions in less than two months.  These essays are delightful reading and have been favorites.  They have the reminiscent flavor of the writings of our own Ik Marvel.  They are full of a quiet charm; they evince sympathy with nature. "Never," said a writer in the London Literary Times, "since the days of Charles Lamb, who is an especial favorite, by the way, of Mr. Smith, has such charming prose been presented to the world. This, indeed, is high praise, but it is warranted fully.

In the belief that the bookish flavor and the breath of outdoor life to be gotten from the reading of the essay which follows will delight, it is republished in this form.  It is a pleasure to remember the work of an author who can write such a clever thing.

Mr. Smith died as the result of overwork, January 5, 1867.

I included an extract from  A Shelf in My Bookcase in my Aug 2013 post, Elegant Extracts About Books, Booklovers, and Libraries:


And finally, a word of caution!  If you agree with A. Edward Newton, Christopher Morley, Thomas Bird Mosher, Luther Brewer, and yours truly, that a copy of Dreamthorp belongs in your bookcase, make sure that you acquire an edition of Dreamthorp that includes all twelve essays.  The Peter Pauper Press edition contains only eight of the essays.  Not included are A Shelf in My Bookcase, A Lark's Flight, Christmas, and William Dunbar.

Monday, February 28, 2022

About William Strunk Jr. and His Other Books

The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr's little book, is the little book that E. B. White made famous.  But that's not the only book of his.  Here are some of his other books.

Macaulay's and Carlyle's Essay on Samuel  Johnson edited by William Strunk, Jr. New York: Henry Holt, 1895.

Macaulay's and Carlyle's Essays on Samuel Johnson edited by William Strunk, Jr. New York: Henry Holt, 1896 (second revised edition).

Juliana edited by William Strunk, Jr. Boston: D. C. Heath 1904

The Importance of the Ghost in Hamlet by William Strunk, Jr. Reprinted from Studies in Language and Literature in Honor of James Morgan Hart. New York: Henry Holt, 1910.

Studies in Language and Literature in Celebration of the Seventieth Birthday of James Morgan Hart edited by Clark Sutherland Northup, Martin Wright Sampson, William Strunk Jr. and Frank Thilly, New York: Henry Holt, 1910.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, edited by William Strunk, Jr. Boston: Riverside Press, 1911.

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, edited for school sue by William Strunk, Jr. Yonkers-on-Hudson: World Book Company, 1913.

The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar by William Shakespeare, edited by Arthur D. Innes, American edition revised by William Strunk, Jr. Boston: D. C. Heath, 1915.

English Metres by William Strunk, Jr. Ithaca: Cornell Co-Operative Society, 1922.

Topics and Questions on Shakespeare by William Strunk Jr. Ithaca: Cornell Co-Operative Society, 1927/

Not listed but headed my way from Saucony Book Shop is a copy of All For Love and the Spanish Fryar by John Dryden edited by William  Strunk Jr. Boston: D. C. Heath, 1911.
Here are some tidbits and anecdotes about Strunk and some of his books.

As a Samuel Johnson collector myself,  I was delighted to discover that William Strunk's first book was Macaulay's and Carlyle's Essays on Samuel Johnson.   I thought so much of the book that I didn't even ask for a refund when the book arrived with the front and rear covers cracked due to poor packing by the eBay seller.

I was even more delighted after reading Strunk's comments in the very first  paragraph of his Introduction concerning the sources of Johnson and Boswell that are mentioned in the essays of Macaulay and Carlyle.

The first great authorities for the lives of the two are Boswell's Life of Johnson and Tour to the Hebrides.  Besides the great literary excellence of these works, their great veracity and accuracy are unquestioned.  The other sources for Johnson's biography, mentioned in the two essays, add little to what Boswell tells, and are of interest chiefly to annotators of the Life.  Mrs. Thrale gives some anecdotes not found elsewhere, it is true, but her book has no serious value; it is merely amusing.  Hawkins is proverbially dull, and has an air of giving information at second hand.  Tyers gives merely a rambling collection of gossip, told in commonplace fashion.  Murphy, a professional man of letters and a personal friend, wrote a life of Johnson as one of his literary commissions, just as he has previously written a life of Fielding; satisfactory performances in their day, but now obsolete.

The great Johnsonian collector, R. B. Adam, thought enough of the book to acquire a copy for his Johnsonian Collection.

Johnsonian collectors at large bought so many copies of the book that its publisher, Henry Holt, published a second edition a year later in 1896.

Another literary critic, Henry Walcott Boynton, thought so highly of Strunk's book that he provided the same notes in his 1896 book, Selections From Carlyle, that Strunk used in his book, often with the same exact words.  Strunk called Boynton out on this plagiarism in a March 1897 letter to the editors of Modern Language Notes (Jstor).  In the letter, Strunk mentioned that the Johnsonian, George Birkbeck Hill, informed him of a mistake in the title of a book by Richard Cumberland cited in one of Strunk's notes.  Strunk corrected the error in the second edition of Strunk's book.  And he chided Boynton for not consulting the second edition  before copying the note.

Strunk's Notes to the 1895 Edition

Strunk's Notes to the 1896 Edition

Boynton's Notes to His Book

Strunk was one of the editors of a festschrift of essays collected and published in honor of  James Morgan Hart 70th birthday in 1910.  Hart was a fellow professor at Cornell who was retiring.   Hart was a professor at the University of Cincinnati when Strunk was attending college there in the late 1880s.  He finished hs academic career as a professor at Cornell.

Strunk contributed his essay, "The Importance of the Ghost in Hamlet," for the book.  He gave a copy of the offprint to Frederick Tupper, an English Language professor at the University of Vermont.  This offprint, inscribed by Strunk himself, is now in my library.

Strunk edited two of Shakespeare's works, the Riverside Press edition of Romeo and Juliet in 1911, and D. C. Heath's Arden Shakespeare Series of Julius Cæsar in 1915.  In 1927, the Cornell Co-Operative Society published his pamphlet Topics and Questions on Shakespeare.  The Cornell Co-Operative Society previously published his pamphlet, English Metres, in 1922.

Strunk's biggest claim to fame during his lifetime was being chosen in 1935 as the literary adviser for the MGM movie production of Romeo and Juliet.    Irving Thalberg had been trying to get his studio to do a film production of Romeo and Juliet for years, and finally, in 1935, the studio gave him the go ahead to do the production. Thalberg wanted the most eminent Shakespeare authority in America to be the literary adviser for the film.  And the Folger Library recommended William Strunk Jr.  Thalberg wanted the film version of Romeo and Juliet to be as close to Shakespeare's version of the play as possible.  He told Strunk, "Your job is to protect Shakespeare from us."

Here is Strunk studiously at work taking notes to use in his role as literary adviser for the 1936 Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM)  production of Romeo and Juliet.  


I have two books about the movie: a souvenir program and the motion picture edition published by Random House in 1936.  Strunk wrote the Introduction for the Random House edition, explaining why a mivie production was the best avenue to present SStrunk's play.   The  photo of Stunk displayed above is illustrated on page 256 of the book.

The Grove Book of Hollywood, a book of Hollywood anecdotes edited by Christopher Silvester in 2007,  contains an anecdote concerning Strunk's salary as literary adviser for the film.  Strunk wanted a salary of $400, but Thalberg thought that was too much.  Samuel Marx was headed east on other MGM business, and Thalberg asked him to contact Strunk and see if he could negotiate Strunk's salary.  Strunk wanted the dean of Cornell to ask as his agent since part of Strunk's salary would go toward paying the salary of other professors who would teach his classes while Strunk was in Hollywood.  Marx offered two hundred dollars.  But the dean turned it down saying that many professors are paid four hundred dollars a month!  Marx was shocked because the studio paid salaries by the week; whereas the college paid salaries by the month.  He told the dean he'd have to think it over.  A little while later he notified the dean that Thalberg realized that Strunk would find it difficult to live in Hollywood on $400 a month, so he offered a salary of $600 a month!  Strunk and the dean were completely satisfied.  And soon after Strunk arrived in Hollywood, Thalberg raised Strunk's salary to $800 a month!

For more than the past ten years, I have been corresponding with Jim Myers, whose father, Henry Alonzo Myers, was a professor of English at Cornell, and one of William Strunk's long-time friends.  Jim mentions his father's friendship with Strunk, in an article in the June 1977 issue of The Cornell Alumni News that is titled "A University of the Mind."  His father, while still a graduate student, was the secretary of the Cornell Department of English.  The job consisted of two duties: listening to William Strunk, and writing letters to job applicants informing them that no jobs were available.

By far the best Strunkian anecdote that Jim Myers ever told me was when Strunk was turning his English class over to Myers before departing for Hollywood.  Strunk's desk was covered with books.  And as Strunk was hurrying out the door, Myers asked, "What should I do with the books?"  Strunk yelled back, "Keep them!" 

 Henry Alonzo Myers kept Strunk's books.  And now his son Jim Myers has them.  He also has letters that Strunk wrote to his father on Hollywood Hotel Stationary.  In the letters, Strunk writes about the actors and actresses he met  on the movie set.  

I asked to buy some of Strunk's books from Jim Myers, and even asked for copies of some of the letters. But he has other plans for what he will do with them.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Twenty Years of Collecting and Writing About The Early Editions of William Strunk's Little Book, The Elements of Style

My Copies of the Early Editions of The Elements of Style 
Top Row: 1919 1919 1920 1920 1920 1920 
Bottom Row: 1934 1934 1934 1936 c1940s c1940s

On any given day, there are over a thousand copies of The Elements of Style listed for sale on the web.  Most of these copies are Strunk/White Editions, which were first published in 1959.  Less than twenty of the  thousand copies for sale are copies of pre-1959 Strunk Editions.    

On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, there were seven copies of pre-1959 editions, the early editions of The Elements of Style, listed for sale on AbeBooks alone.  Four of them were copies of the 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company First Trade Edition.  They were priced from $800 to $1,000.  One copy was a copy of the 1934 Revised Edition.  It was priced at $400.  Two were copies of the circa 1940s Thrift Press Edition.  They were priced at $200 and $400 respectively.  These copies of early editions of The Elements of Style are what I have been collecting and writing about for twenty years.  And for twenty years, I have been periodically checking Abebooks, other book search engines, and eBay for copies of these early editions

The Elements of Style is the book by William Strunk, Jr. that E. B. White made famous. He wrote about Strunk and the 1918 Edition of Strunk's little book in an article for The New Yorker in 1957.  Jack Case, an editor for the Macmillan publishing firm, read White's article, and convinced him to update Strunk's book for publication.  Macmillan published the first of several Strunk/White Editions of The Elements of Style in 1959.  Over ten million copies of The Elements of Style have been sold.   I bought my first copy of The Elements of Style in the 1960s while attending high school.  It was a Strunk/White Edition, and it cost me 95 cents.

I bought my first copy of an early edition of The Elements of Style in March 2001, and it cost me $35.

  I was searching eBay for a copy of the 1918 First Edition when I came across an undated Thrift Press Edition.  Wendell Smith, the eBay seller,  had me convinced that I was buying the 1918 Edition of Strunk's little book.  In his listing he wrote:

Preceeds (sic) the 1920 Harcourt Edition. This is the little book that E. B. White revised.  He used this booklet in William Strunk's English class at Cornell University in 1919.  It had been privately printed by Prof. Strunk.  This copy I am listing was assigned to me at Cornell in the early 1940s.  In 1959, Macmillan brought out The Elements of Style with revisions, an introduction, and a chapter on writing by E. B. White, and listed him as co-author.  Strunk's booklet has seven chapters.  Two of them, one on Spelling and one on Exercises, are not included in White's version....

I knew nothing about a 1920 Harcourt Edition.  And I soon learned that I knew even less about the 1918 Edition.  But two months later, on May 12, 2001,  I won an auction for a 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition.  

And for the first time, on rec.collecting.books, an unmoderated UseNet newsgroup dedicated to book collecting, I wrote about collecting copies of The Elements of Style. While researching the web for information about this Harcourt, Brace Edition, I stumbled upon an online copy of the 1918 Edition on the Bartleby website.  The front matter of the book said that it was privately printed in Ithaca, New York in 1918.  But the printer was identified as the Press of W. P. Humphrey, Geneva, New York.  That meant that my Thrift Press Edition was not the 1918 First Edition.  In retrospect, I should have realized that the Thrift Press Edition wasn't the first edition.  On the title page, the author is listed as "William Strunk, Jr. Professor of English, Emeritus, Cornell University." The word Emeritus is the key word. Strunk retired in 1937, so the earliest year this book could have been published was 1937.  On its website, Cornell listed the date of publication as 1958.  But the former owner of my copy said he used it at Cornell in the early 1940s.  I would need to do further research to verify what he said.

In August, 2002, I won an eBay auction for a 1934 Revised Edition of The Elements of Style. 

 Edward A. Tenney, another English instructor at Cornell, was listed as an author of the book as well.  It had been over fifteen years since the publication of the 1918 Edition, and the little book was in need of revision.    This edition is the last edition that we can say with confidence that Strunk revised.  And revise it, Strunk and Tenney did.

On Monday, September 15, 2003,  I performed one of my periodic checks  on the web for early editions of The Elements of Style.  Listed on Abebooks was a 1918 Edition of The Elements of Style.   And the price was $185!  I bid on it in a New York minute.  The seller responded that the book was no longer available.  He sold it at the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair that weekend.  The AbeBooks seller didn't mention it in his listing, but I would soon learn that the book was reportedly a proof copy, with additions and corrections for publication of another edition in 1919.

I knew the bookseller who bought the book at the book fair: Bob Riedel, proprietor of Print Matters! Used and Rare Books, in Dansville, New York.  Bob was a member of an online newsgroup I belonged to,  rec.collecting.books.  Bob queried the group on September 29th, asking for information on recent sales of the 1918 Edition. But no one had any information of recent sales.  In fact,  there were no listings of sales of the 1918 Edition of The Elements of Style in the Cumulative American Book Prices Current up to 2001.  A few weeks later, Bob listed the book online for $5,000!  That was too expensive for me.  He found a buyer in early 2004, Madeline Kripke, the Dame of Dictionaries.   I wrote Madeline and congratulated her on acquiring Strunk's little book.

From November 1999 to January 2007, I displayed and wrote about my book collections on WebTV websites that I had created.  This is what my Elements of Style Collection looked like as of October 2004.

My Elements of Style Collection

Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

I LOVE THIS BOOK! It's the best little book on the use of English. I have three copies of the hardback (first Macmillan printing ) which was published in 1959. The paperback editions are 1967 and 1979; both also published by Macmillan in New York. See the next listings for the earlier editions of Strunk's Elements of Style sans E.B. White. 

Strunk, William Jr. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLENew York, 1920. Harcourt, Brace and Company. As of October, 2004, I have four copies. This edition is what is known as the First Trade Edition, following the private printing by Strunk in 1918 in Ithaca, New York. This edition consists of 52 pages versus the 43 pages of the 1918 Edition. See the next listing for an on line link to the 1918 Edition. 


Ithaca, New York, n.d. (c.1940) The Thrift Press. I bought this little treasure for $35 on eBay in March 2001, believing this book to be the coveted 1918 Edition. I shall copy the words the seller used to describe the book in his ebay listing: "....Preceeds (sic) the Harcourt Edition of 1920. This is the 'little book' that E.B. White revised. He used this booklet in William Strunk's English Class at Cornell University in 1919. It had been privately printed by Prof. Strunk. This copy I am listing was assigned to me at Cornell in the early 1940s. In 1959, Macmillan brought out 'The Elements of Style' with revisions, an introduction, and a chapter on writing by E.B. White, and listed him as co-author. Strunk's booklet has seven chapters. Two of them, one on Spelling and one with Exercises are not included in White's version...Former owner's name on t.p

I discovered that the Thrift Press did not publish the 1918 Edition the very morning I won the bid for the 1920 Edition. I stumbled upon the Bartleby link which shows that the 1918 edition was privately printed by W.P.Humphrey, Geneva, New York.

In retrospect, I should have realized that the Thrift Press did not publish the 1918 edition as soon as I looked at the title page:
The key word is "emeritus", a title given to retired professors. Strunk retired in 1937!
The only other difference in the printing of this edition from the 1920 edition is in the Introduction; the list of books recommended for further reference and study was revised. Both editions consist of 52 pages, including the chapters on Spelling and Exercises.

The 1918 Edition, on the other hand, does not include the two chapters on Spelling and Exercises. In addtion, the rules concerning Syllabication are included in The Elementary Rules of Usage Section, instead of in the section titled, A Few Matters of Form.
More news! There is another Harcourt Edition to procure. In 1934 and 1935 William Strunk co-authored revised editions with Edward A. Tenney, another Cornell University instructor, changing the title of the 1935 edition to The Elements and Practice of Composition. Cornell University has this edition listed online as well as the 1918 and 1920 Editions. Cornell has the undated Thrift Press Edition listed as well, but with a circa date of 1958. Thrift Press was in business from the 1930s on, which supports the ebay seller's statement that he used the book when he attended Cornell in the 1940s. 

Strunk, William Jr., and Tenney, Edward A. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

New York, c.1934. Harcourt, Brace and Company. Revised Edition. No date on title page but copyright 1934(1920). I don't believe this publisher would put the date on the title page because it is a "revised edition". Revise it they did, changing the format and titles of each Chapter: Chapter I. The Three Prerequisites of Writing. 1.Spelling 2.Grammar 3. Punctuation. Chapter II. Essay Writing. 1.How to Write a Short Essay. 2. Miscellaneous Conventions to be Observed. III. The Three Elements of Style. 1.Principles Governing the Paragraph. 2. Effective Sentences 3. Diction. IV. Two Devices to Promote Effective Writing. 1. The Precis†2. The Paraphrase. V. The Business Letter.
And finally, in an unnumbered section, A Short List of Reference Books.

It is interesting that in 1959, E.B. White reverted to the original format of chapter headings from the 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition, except for replacing the chapter on Spelling. 

The copyright information in the 1959 edition is confusing:

The Elements of Style, Revised Edition, by William Strunk, Jr. and Edward A. Tenney, Copyright 1935 by Oliver Strunk.

To the best of my knowledge, the title of the 1935 edition was changed to The Elements and Practice of Composition. Both the Library of Congress and Cornell University list the changed title. The LOC listing adds that the 1935 edition is an enlargement of Strunk's Elements of Style and includes 48 practice leaves at the end (which are not included in the 1934 edition). 


The most I paid for an early edition of The Elements of Style from 2001 to 2004 was $50.  But after Bob Riedel sold his copy of the 1918 edition, prices for all of the early  editions went through the roof.  For the next few years early editions of The Elements of Style were listed from $75 to $350.   I bought a second copy of the 1934 edition on eBay for $75 in 2005, and that was it.

In October 2006, a 1919 edition of The Elements of Style was listed on eBay for less than $200.  But I couldn't bid on it. I started having heart problems in 2004, and had three stents inserted in my arteries.  By 2006, I had nine stents in my arteries.   My cardiologist put me on a twenty-pound lifting limit. A tray of mail weighs more than twenty pounds.  That meant I could no longer perform my duties as a rural carrier for the Post Office.  A Man of Letters I could no longer be!  I applied for disability retirement.  But it wasn't approved until 2007.  We survived the year because we had excellent credit, and because I sold more than a few of my books. Needless to say, I didn't buy any early editions of The Elements of Style for a while. 

On May 22, 2007,  I was contacted by a person who, for identification purposes, shall be known as the "Professor of History." He had read a December 2006 post of mine about my Elements of Style Collection on the Exlibris listserv and thought I could help him.  He bought a stack of books and maps from someone's trip to Japan at a yard sale.  Included in the stack of books was a copy of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.   He wanted to know what his copy of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style was worth.   

I told him about the sale of the Riedel copy and about the current listings of other early editions of The Elements of Style. I thought the prices of copies of the early editions were gradually receding.  In February 2007, a Thrift Press edition sold on eBay for $18.50.   And a 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition listed on eBay in April for $75 did not sell.  I informed him that I was in no position to purchase the book myself, but would help him find a buyer when the time was right, and if he was ready to sell. 

On May 19, 2009, I decided to display My Elements of Style Collection on my Biblio Researching blog. In the post,  I discussed some of the revisions for each edition.  I revised the post the very next week to include a new addition to the collection.  I revised it again the next month to include yet another addition.  I continued to revise the post every time I added a new addition to the collection.  Finally, in December, 2012, I made my last revision to the post.  But I continued collecting....

My finances were in better shape in the Spring of 2009, and I was back to adding to my Elements of Style collection.  On the 27th of May, I purchased a 1936 Edition of The Elements and Practice of Composition on Amazon for $4.95.  This is the only copy of this edition that I have seen in twenty years of collecting. 

 In 1934, Tenney  provided practice leaves that students were required to purchase in addition to acquiring a copy of the 1934 Edition.  The practice leaves were included in the 1935 and 1936 editions, and the title of the book was changed to The Elements and Practice of Composition.  Interestingly, the copyright for the practice leaves was in Tenney's name only.  Both Strunk and Tenney held the copyright for the 1934, 1935, and 1936 Editions.   Strunk and Tenney were listed as the authors for the 1935 and 1936 Editions, but Strunk was in Hollywood as the technical advisor for George Cukor's production of Romeo and Juliet from July 1935 to June 1936.  The copyright date of the 1935 Edition was 17 September, 1935.  That's why I believe that Tenney was responsible for most or all of the revisions.   And revise it, he did.  Even though Strunk may not have been involved in the revisions, his name is listed as one of the authors, and these editions have to be considered as early editions of The Elements of Style.

On the 23rd of June, 2009,  I won an eBay auction for a 1919 Edition of The Elements of Style.  I don't have a record of sale anymore, but I may have bid as high as $125 for the pamphlet. 

 When I first opened the book, I made a bibliographical discovery!  The Press of W. F. Humphrey Geneva, N. Y. was listed as the printer of the 1919 Edition.  I thought it had to be a typo because the records at the Library of Congress and everywhere else identify the Press of W. P. Humphrey, Geneva, N. Y. as the printer of the 1918 and 1919 editions.  It wasn't a typo.  It was a broken typeface that was used in the 1918 Edition, and everyone, including E B. White, believed the printer of the 1918 edition to be W. P. Humphrey.

I spent the summer researching the printing firms of W. P. Humphrey and W. F. Humphrey.  There was no record of the Press of W. P. Humphrey operating in Geneva, New York.  I even had the archivist of the Geneva Historical Society verify that the Press of W. P. Humphrey did not exist in Geneva, New York.  I contacted the librarians at the Kroch Library, Cornell University, reported my findings, and asked them to examine their copies of the 1918 and 1919 Editions of The Elements of Style.  Patrick J. Stevens, Curator of the Fiske Collections at the library, examined the printing statements of both editions.  I reported our findings in a paper that I submitted to the Library of Congress on September 21, 2009.  and I posted the paper,  A Correction to the Copyright and Bibliographic Records of The Element of Style on my Biblio Researching blog.  The Library of Congress corrected its records on September 28, 2009.

The year 2009 was the fiftieth anniversary of the 1959  Strunk and White Edition of The Elements  of Style.   To celebrate the anniversary, in October, 2009, Simon and Schuster published Mark Garvey's book, Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.    I was disappointed in the book.  I expected  the author, Mark Garvey, to provide more information about the early editions of The Elements of Style.  One  edition, the Thrift Press Edition, wasn't even mentioned in the book.  For months I stewed and stewed about writing my review of the book.  Finally, on April 9, 2010, I posted my review on my Biblio Researching blog.  I titled it, Stylized and the Forgotten Edition of Strunk's Elements of Style.  In retrospect,  Garvey was on the money in devoting his book to the Strunk/White editions.   Those are the editions that most of the ten million buyers of the book bought, and what they wanted to read about.  Not the early editions.

On December 18, 2009, I purchased a copy of the 1934 Revised Edition of The Elements of Style from an AbeBooks Dealer in Cambridge, Ma. for $75. I now had three copies of this revised edition.

Price listings of the early editions of The Elements of Style were beginning to rise again in 2010.  There was also an edition of The Elements of Style that I didn't even know about.  I'll have more on that shortly.  In November, 2010, I contacted the Professor of History, and suggested that it might be time for him to sell his copy of The Elements of Style.   Earlier in the year an eBay seller listed a copy of the Harcourt, Brace and Company edition for $1500.  Better World Books listed a copy of the 1920 Harcourt, Brace, and Howe Edition on Biblio for $1,140.  Royal Books listed a copy of the  Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition for $2,250.  The firm later included this edition in a sale listing also containing the 1919, 1920, and circa 1945 Editions.  The price?  $6,250!   Kevin Johnson, proprietor of Royal Books, recalls selling the books straightaway.

Courtesy of Royal Books

Courtesy of Royal Books

The Professor of History, received several offers from booksellers; but $1,500 was the highest offer he received.  He couldn't understand why his 1918 edition wasn't worth more than the 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Howe Edition.  I pointed out that the Harcourt, Brace and Howe Edition was just as rare as the 1918 Edition.   As a side note, I wasn't aware that there was a Harcourt, Brace, and Howe Edition until I viewed the edition in the Royal Books listing.  And that compelled me to research the firm.  Harcourt, Brace and Howe received its copyright of the 1920 edition of The Elements of Style on September 18, 1920.  Will D. Howe left the firm less than six months later,  some time between January and March of 1921.  By the 10th of March,  the firm had  a new name for its company, and a different colophon to print on its publications.

In January 2011, the Professor of History decided to sell his copy of the 1918 Edition to the University of Iowa.  And for a bit more than $1,500.  He realized he could have gotten even more from several other universities that showed interest, but he was impressed with the university's writing programs, and that Iowa City was recently designated as a "City of Literature" by UNESCO.  To update and close out my reporting of his copy, I contacted him on January 7, 2022. I asked him how much he received for his copy of the 1918 edition, and how he would like to be identified in my post.  He responded that he received $2,000 for his copy of the 1918 edition, and that I could identify him by his current position, Professor of History, Austin Peay State University.  

Sometimes, eBay auctions fall through the cracks, and hardly anyone bids on the items up for sale. On April 23, 2012, I was the only bidder on an eBay auction for a Thrift Press Edition. I snagged it for ninety-nine cents!   

But usually, the prices of the early editions continued to remain high.  In November 2014,  Honey & Wax sold a 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition for $1275. 

On November 24, 2014, I published my post, The Early Editions of The Elements of Style.  I began the post with Toni Morrison's quotation, "If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it yourself."  I thought the early editions of The Elements of Style had some of the worst bibliographical records.  I planned to write the definitive book on The Elements of Style in 1918, the one hundredth anniversary of Strunk's little book.  But first I had to nail down the actual publication date of the Thrift Press Edition.  I was able to verify that Wendell Smith indeed used his Thrift Press Edition while attending classes at Cornell University in the 1940s.  And I included it in this post about the early editions.  But I couldn't identify when the Thrift Press Edition was first published.  To find that out, I needed to go to Ithaca to find and research the archives of the Thrift Press.  

Around the middle of July in 2015,  I noticed a a significant uptick in the number of pageviews of my blog posts about my  Elements of Style Collection.  I found the source!  In an article in The Daily Beast on July 12, 2015, Mark Dery cited me as "a devout Strunkian who collects editions of Elements...."

On August 29, 2018, I won an eBay auction for my second copy of a 1919 Edition.  The paper covers were barely attached, but I expected to pay more than the $100 I paid for the pamphlet.   Copies of the 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Company First Trade Edition were still going for around $1,000, and the 1919 edition should have been worth more.

On December 20, 2018,  I created a new blog,  A Bibliographic Handlist of the Early Editions of The Elements of Style.   Why?  Because I never made it to Ithaca,  never wrote my book, and thought I needed to publish something about the early editions!

In February 2018, a woman from Georgia contacted me.  She had bought a box of old books at an auction in Pembroke, Georgia.  One of the books in the box was a copy of the 1918 Edition of The Elements of Style. 

She had read one of my posts online, and wanted to know what the current value of her copy of the book was.   I responded that the book was worth how much a buyer was willing to pay for it.  And how much a seller was willing to sell it for.  I told her how much the book was worth to me, and how much I was willing to pay for it.  But she was still enjoying having the book herself, and wasn't ready to sell.  As of January 2022, she still is enjoying having the book herself. :-(

I mentioned the Georgia woman's copy of the book in a March 20, 2018 post to My Sentimental Library blog, Another One That Got Away, One I Gave Away, and One That Headed My Way; Or, The Adventures and Misadventures of MoiBibliomaniac. I also gave a rundown of the other two copies of The Elements of Style that I wasn't able to buy, The Riedel Copy that Madeline Kripke acquired, and the copy belonging to the Professor of History.  I had been periodically corresponding with Madeline Kripke since 2004, and in 2018  I finally learned the true facts about her purchase of the 1918 Edition.  I thought she paid five grand for it.  She paid three grand.  I thought the book was a proof copy with corrections for publication in a 1919 Edition.  It was the proofs of the original 1918 edition.  Strunk's original manuscript was lost, so this proof copy was the earliest known state of the book.  And in this same post, I announced that the Professor of History sold his copy of the 1918 Edition to the University of Iowa.

On April 30, 2020,  I read an obituary in The New York Times that left me reeling.  On April 25, 2020, the coronavirus claimed the life of my friend Madeline Kripke!  I posted a tribute to her on the 5th of May, Defining Madeline Kripke: A Remembrance.  This post contains a week's worth of correspondence with Madeline in March, 2018, mostly about her copy of The Elements of Style. 

On a good note, in October, 2021, The Lilly Library acquired the Madeline Kripke Collection of 20,000 books, including her  proof copy of The Elements of Style.

The prices of early editions of The Elements of Style have remained high, particularly for copies of the Harcourt, Brace and Company edition.  And my days of buying copies of this edition for $50 or less are long gone.  Earlier in this post, I mentioned that on January 19, 2022 four copies of the Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition were listed on Abebooks  with prices ranging from $800 to $1,000.  Burnside Rare Books of Portland, Oregon listed two copies, one for $850 and the other for $1,000.  Bearly Read Books of Sudbury, Ma. listed a copy for $800.  Singing Saw Books listed its copy for $950, but appears to identify it as a Harcourt, Brace and Howe Edition.  However, the colophon displayed in its photo of the book is clearly the colophon of a Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition.   There was a copy of the 1934 Revised Edition listed For $450 on AbeBooks on January 19th by The Bookplate of Chesterton, Maryland.  And there was a copy of the Thrift Press Edition listed on AbeBooks for $400 by Grendel Books of Springfield, Massachusetts.

I need to stay something about the bibliographical records of the First Trade Edition of The Elements of Style.  And I write records instead of record because the publisher's name on the title page and the colophon on the front cover of the Harcourt, Brace and Howe Edition differs from what appears on the Harcourt, Brace and Company Edition.  The differences, however, are not enough for a new edition to published.  What we have here are two issues of the First Trade Edition.

Before I end this post, I want to mention two purchases of facsimile editions of early editions of The Elements of Style.

In May 2019,  I purchased a facsimile edition of the 1918 Edition.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform has been printing it since 2015.  On May 28, 2019, I posted about the book in a piece titled,  The Grammarian in the Bedroom; Or, A Whole New Dimension to The Elements of Style

On January 6, 2022, I purchased a facsimile edition of the First Trade Edition.  Suzeteo Enterprises has been publishing this facsimile edition since 2018 under  ISBN: 978-1-947844-32-2.  Buyers on eBay, and on the book search engines as well, should beware of the wording in the listing, "The Original 1920  Edition."  It is a facsimile of the original edition.  And the wording has caused confusion!

Here's an eBay auction that ended on November 30, 2021.  The listing has the same exact words as the listing of the facsimile editon, "The Original 1920 Edition." 

 But this was, in fact, an original copy of the First Trade Edition!  And some observant eBay buyer (not me) purchased it for $7.96!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

C. W. Sherborn: Number Ten of the Twelve Blog Posts for Christmas


   M E R R Y   S!

Ten years ago, I began a custom that bookmen of days gone by have enjoyed doing, among them Luther A. Brewer and A. Edward Newton.  Each Christmas, they published a keepsake and sent it to their friends.  I decided to post my Christmas keepsakes on My Sentimental Library blog, and to share them with other bibliophiles online.  I already had the resource to supply the material for the next twelve years: twelve essays from Contributions to Biblionotes, the newsletter of the "Bibliomites," the unofficial name of the Society of Antiquarian Booksellers' Employees.  The Bibliomites was more of a social club than a union. Walter Harris was the editor of its newsletter, which means that he was the author of most, if not all, of the contributions to Biblionotes from 1953 to 1958.

I posted Walter Harris's first nine essays to Biblionotes as my first nine Christmas blog posts:  Ex-Libris, Chapbooks, Grangerisers, Miniature Books, Peter Motteux, The Bewicks and Their Bookplates,  The Rochester Press, The Book-Plates of Samuel Pepys, and The Beldornie Reprints. This year I am posting his essay about C. W. Sherborn.

If you want to know more about Bibliomites, Biblionotes, and Walter Harris, I recommend that you  read my Dec 2013 Biblio Researching blog post:
About Bibliomites, Biblionotes, and Walter "Wally" Harris.

Here are the first nine essays of the Twelve Blog Posts for Christmas:

Christmas 2012:  Ex-Libris
Christmas 2013:  Chapbooks
Christmas 2014:  Grangerisers
Christmas 2015: Miniature Books
Christmas 2016:  Peter Motteux
Christmas 2017:  The Bewicks and Their Bookplates
Christmas 2018:  The Rochester Press
Christmas 2020:  The Beldornie Reprints

C.  W.  Sherborn