Thursday, April 16, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Whose Hands Were On This Book?

This blog post is an online version of a presentation I gave before the Florida Bibliophile Society on Sunday, March 29th, 2015.  Lee Harrer, a founding member of the Florida Bibliophile Society, and a member of the Caxton Club of Chicago as well, introduced me.

At a meeting of the Florida Bibliophile Society back in 2004, Lee Harrer gave me a copy of the Caxtonian, the journal of the Caxton Club. It contained an essay he knew I would enjoy reading: "Other People's Books: Association copies and another pleasure of collecting."

Its author, Paul T. Ruxin, collected Samuel Johnson and association copies—same as me.  Only the association copies Paul Ruxin collected were books formerly owned by Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and their contemporaries.  Now I don't have any books formerly owned by Samuel Johnson or James Boswell in my own library, but I do have over a hundred books formerly owned by a founding member of the modern-day Johnsonians:  Mary Hyde.  And I have about three hundred books formerly owned by authors, performing artists, noted bibliophiles, and other famous people.  What is an association copy, you might ask?  It can be a copy of a book inscribed by its author to a famous person.  Or it could be a copy of a book formerly owned by a famous person in his or her own right.  I call my collection of association copies "My Sentimental Library," after Harry B. Smith's Sentimental Library.  Why do I collect association copies?  For sentimental reasons, the best of which is depicted in the title of my presentation:  Whose Hands Were On This Book?"  I have to thank Maureen E. Mulvihill for that title.  My original title was something like "The Wonders and Blunders of My Collection of Association Copies."

Whose Hands Were On This Book?

Good question!  The only mark of ownership is a bookstamp the size of a dime stamped on the front free endpaper.   The book itself is an odd volume of Johnson's Poets, published in 1779, and one of thirty odd volumes of Johnson's Poets that I bought in Hey-on-Wye in 1988.

It would take more than a little bit of heraldic research to identify whose bookstamp this was.  The crest contained an estoile of eight points argent out of an heraldic coronet proper. The banner contained a quotation that dated back to 1348.  And on top of the banner was the coronet of a duke.

In 1348, the Countess of Salisbury was dancing with King Edward III when her garter loosened and fell to the dance floor.  Other people on the dance floor snickered.  But King Edward picked up the garter, placed it around his own knee, and said, "Honi soit qui mal y pense,"  which translated means, "Shame on him who thinks evil of it."  King Edward had an idea of using the garter as a means of honoring his knights who fought valiently for him.   He created the Most Noble Order of the Garter, much like King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table.

In 2002,  I acquired a copy of Cyril Davenport's book, English Heraldic Book-Stamps.  And, after additional research, I was able to identify John Frederick Sackville, Third Duke of Dorset (1745-1799) as the owner of the bookstamp and thus the book.

Just to be sure, I wrote to The College of Arms.  But it would cost me $400 to confirm my findings.  I was confident of my findings and declined the assistance of the College.

John Frederick Sackville was elected to the Order of the Garter in 1788, but was never inducted.  He served as the Ambassador to France 1783-1789.  Marie Antoinette thought highly of him.  And John Adams thought him an honest man.  Sackville brought his mistress with him to France, a famous ballerina by the name of La Bacelli.  Horace Walpole mentions her in a letter to Hannah More dated July 4, 1788:
You say you hear no news, yet you quote Mr. Topham; therefore, why should I tell you that the King is going to Cheltenham? or that the Bacelli lately danced at the Opera at Paris with a blue bandeau on her forehead inscribed, Honi soit qui mal y pense!  Now who can doubt but she is as pure as the Countess of Salisbury? Was not it ingenious? and was not the ambassador so to allow it? No doubt he took it as a compliment to his own knee."
John Frederick Sackville returned to England at the start of the French Revolution, and retired to his humble abode at Knole House, a calendar house of 365 rooms.  He was a patron of the arts and had one of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings of Samuel Johnson at his residence, not to mention a nude sculpture of La Bacelli as well.

Vita Sackville-West was born at Knole House.  Were her  hands on this book?  Her lover, Virginia Woolf, wrote Orlando while at Knole House.  Were her hands on this book?  I wonder. . . .

Here's a copy of Virginia Woolf's Common Reader.  And Mary Morley Crapo's hands were on this book—the maiden name of Mary Hyde, and even later known as Mary Hyde Eccles, or Lady Eccles.

I have Gabriel Austin to thank for many of the Hyde association copies in my library.

Here are just a few of the Hyde association copies

The last book, Letters of George Birkbeck Hill, was given to Don and Mary Hyde by "EOB" or "EDB" in October 1963.  In a July 2012 message to me, David Buchanan, the author of The Treasure of Auchinleck, identified himself as the donor of the book in 1963.  His full name is Eric David Buchanan.

Whose hands were on this book?

Good question!  and I'm going to need your help with this one.  A rather famous person in his own right, John Dunlap, the printer of the first broadside of The Declaration of Independence, sold this 1770 edition of Johnson's Dictionary.  And Dunlap pasted his bookseller/printer ticket on the front pastedown.

The former owner's name, however, was either worn off or torn off of the top right-hand corner of both the front free endpaper and the Preface page, leaving only the descenders of the first two letters.

But there are several other letters below the signature that you can compare to the letters in the writing samples in the handout I provided for you.

The word his is similar to the letters his in the word this in the bottom right-hand corner.

The in Dictionary is similar to the Ds on the left-hand side.

The minute break between the ti and the on in the word Dictionary is similar to the break in the ti and on in the word Destruction.

The letters i, a, r, and y are similar.

And the letter N is similar.

The letter s in his could be questionable.  But then the hand that wrote it wrote several variations of the letter in the writing samples I accessed.

I ask you:  Was the hand that wrote His Dictionary the same hand that wrote the letters shown in the writing samples?

The writing samples were taken from John Hancock's business letterbook, which is available online at Harvard.

While I believe that it is John Hancock's hand that wrote His Dictionary, I don't believe that the first letter above His Dictionary is a J.  I believe it is the letter G.  In all writing samples I observed, the ascender of John Hancock's J begins in an upward motion.

But if you look at the ascender in the first letter, it begins in a downward motion, very much like Hancock's G.

In May 2013, I devoted a separate blog post to His Dictionary?   And I'm still researching.  But I would love to hear from an expert or two who would either confirm or refute my findings.
Update:  May 26, 2015  A professional autograph dealer quite familiar with John Hancock's handwriting  does not believe the writing on my book was done by Hancock's hand.

Whose hands were on this book?

The hands of the Grand Master of the Masons of New York, who laid the cornerstone of the Statue of Liberty:  William A. Brodie.

Laura E. Richards, a prolific writer herself, was the owner of the book shown below, which was written by another prolific writer, Andrew Lang.

And Laura Richards's mother was a rather famous poet.  When Laura was young, the family would stand around the piano and sing.  And sometimes her mother would make up new words to old songs.

Now this may never have happened; but I can imagine Laura in 1863, twelve or thirteen years old.  She hears soldiers singing as they march past her house in Boston.  She runs to the porch, smiles, and says rather proudly: "My mother wrote that song."

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. . . ."

Whose hands were on this book?
I'll  give you a hint:
A little bitty tear let me down. . . .

Yes.  Burl Ives.  But the book is inscribed to his son Alexander Ives.

The author, John Patric, was a wacadoodle—anti-government, anti-everything.  Patric lived like a hermit in Frying Pan Creek, and wanted Alexander to convince his father to come visit "so the next two decades would be better than the last two."  Patric is referring to Burl Ives being branded as a Communist and testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

I have another book formerly owned by Burl Ives.  And if he were alive today, and if the current House committees got wind of it, he'd be testifying again.

Next book!
"You dirty rat!"

 James Cagney.
 Interference was the first "talkie" produced by Paramount Pictures.

And here's a book formerly owned by the movie star, Anthony Quinn, who lived in Italy in the 1950s.

Paul Lemperly, a founding member of the Rowfant Club, had a unique system of obtaining signed copies of books.  He had E. D. French make a bookplate for him.  Then Lemperly would buy a copy of an author's book, paste the bookplate in it, and  mail the book to the author requesting his or her autograph.  He got more than an autograph from the poet Robert Nichols.  He got a holograph letter.

W. S. B. was William Stanley Braithewaite, the African-American poet and columnist.

Here's a book that J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps presented to James Russell Lowell, who was our minister to England at the time.  I own several books from Halliwell-Phillipps's library as well.

In 2002, I posted to the rec.collecting.books newsgroup about an online find from the Strand bookstore.  It was a copy of To Dr. R, which contained a festschrift of essays in honor of A. S. W. Rosenbach's seventieth birthday.  The Strand listing said this copy of the book was inscribed by Joseph Conrad.  The Strand notified me after I ordered the book that their listing was in error. The book was not inscribed by Joseph Conrad; it was inscribed by a Joseph Carson to one of his own daughters (Good thing, because Conrad died twenty-two years before this book was ever published).  I told the Strand to send me the book anyway.  I didn't care who signed it.  I just wanted the book.  I had dial-up webtv at the time, so  after I initiated the online search of "Joseph Carson" I picked up the book to browse it for a few minutes, and three sheets of folded paper tucked in near the end of the book literally fell in my lap!  It was an obituary of Rosenbach by Joseph Carson.

Here's another blunder!

If you believe the information written on the rear pastedown of the book,  General Andrew Jackson bought this book in a bookstore in Washington D. C. on Dec. 24th, 1828.  But Jackson was miles away on Dec 24th 1828 burying his wife at the Hermitage in Tennessee.

And on the front pastedown, the same hand—not Jackson's—wrote December 28th, 1828, Saturday.  But that date in 1828 was a Sunday.

Here's a book that had Zane Grey's embossed stamp on the front free endpaper.  I acquired  the book from a respectable bookseller.  Only the book was published in 1941 and Zane Grey died in 1939.  Come to find out, Zane Grey's wife was still stamping books she received with her husband's stamp.  And yes, the bookseller made amends.

I have what I thought was a rather unique collection: books about bathrooms and outhouses.  Come to find out it's not so unique.

One of Fritz Liebert's favorites was two copies of Charles Lindbergh's We side-by-side.

Whose hands were on the next book?  Good question.  Someone excised the signature of the owner.  But I love the former owner's humor.

Finally, the issue of the Caxtonian wasn't the only thing from the Caxton Club that Lee Harrer gave me.  In early 2008, he gave me a copy of a lettter from the Caxton Club calling for submissions for a book  to be published about association copies.

I submitted several stories of association copies, and a committee selected  my story, "Hither-unpublished Obiter Dicta," as one of the fifty-two essays for the book.  I had Augustine Birrell's copy of Lord Acton's Lectures on the French Revolution, with marginalia in Birrell's hand.  Birrell was the Irish Secretary leading up to the Easter Rising in 1916.  And I believed his thoughts on the French Revolution would make an interesting story.

On March 18, 2011, I attended the Caxton Club Book Launch Party at the Newberry Library in Chicago.  I sat at a table with Paul Ruxin, Terry Seymour, and the bookbinder Samuel B. Ellenport.

I carried my copies of the book with me from table to table, acquiring signatures of some of the other authors, and providing my own for them.

                           And pinned to my jacket pocket that night, was this name tag:

 I hope you enjoyed this presentation.  I enjoyed presenting it.  I am the author of over one hundred blog posts on the web about my books.  And I think you will enjoy reading some of them: