My Sentimental Library post in June was about other people’s ownership signatures in my English language books. My post this month is about the ownership signatures and other marks of provenance in my Samuel Johnson and James Boswell books. Most of the former owners of my English language books were everyday Americans who bought the books because they needed them for school. The former owners of my Samuel Johnson and James Boswell books, on the other hand, bought their books purely for pleasure. I call them aficionados : people who like, know about, and fervently pursue their interests, in this case, in Samuel Johnson and James Boswell.
A few of these aficionados signed their names in their books, while others pasted their bookplates on the front pastedowns. Another one stamped his books with his armorial book stamp. Some of these aficionados had Johnson or Boswell books presented to them from their author friends. A few of the Johnson and Boswell aficionados even presented their books to me.
Yes. I am a Johnson-Boswell aficionado. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was the first author whose books I collected when I graduated from mere reader to ardent book collector some 35 years ago. And if one collects Samuel Johnson, it is extremely hard not to collect James Boswell (1740-1795) as well. I was stationed in England at the time, at RAF Mildenhall to be exact, and serving my last overseas tour before retiring from the U. S. Air Force In my library today, I have 266 books by or about Samuel Johnson and 89 books by or about James Boswell.
The Rambler, the 1776 ninth edition, was the first of Samuel Johnson’s works that I ever bought. I purchased it at a book sale in Long Melford, Suffolk, England in September 1985. James Robertson, D. D. (1714-1795) may have been the original owner of this set. He was a Scottish orientalist from Leith who was the librarian at the University of Edinburgh. He signed his name – twice on the first volume – and pasted his bookplate in each volume.
James Robertson had a lively conversation about books with Samuel Johnson on Monday, August 16, 1773. Boswell records part of that conversation in his book, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson.
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The Rambler was not the first work by Samuel Johnson that I ever had. The first book of Johnson’s that I ever laid eyes on was laying bare without its covers on top of a bookcase in an antique store in a village near RAF Mildenhall in August 1985.
While my wife was busy looking at antique furniture, I could think of nothing better to do than to read this book. It was an odd volume of an 1806 edition of the works of Samuel Johnson; his Idler essays to be exact. And when my wife made some purchases, the store owner told me to keep the book and finish reading it.
There is no ownership signature written in this book. The only provenance information was written seemingly “in code” on the front free endpaper, and I think it points to a library. I could not make heads or tails of the identify of the library, or what kind of library it was.
It seemed to read “Burg. vi Form Library.” I thought the first word might be “Bury” because Bury St. Edmunds was nearby. But the first word is clearly “Burg” and not “Bury.” I’m not sure about the word “Form.” It could also be “Forni” or “Forsi.” My best guess is that the book once belonged to a village library near Bury St. Edmunds.
Fitzherbert Macdonald (1819-1897) the Diocesan of Salisbury, was a former owner of my copy of the 1785 first edition of James Boswell’s The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides With Samuel Johnson. He pasted his armorial bookplate on the front pastedown of his book.
Macdonald actually had the Hebrides trifecta of books: first editions of Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, published in 1775; Donald McNichol’s Remarks on Dr. Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Hebrides, published in 1779; and Boswell’s Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides With Samuel Johnson, published in 1785. Macdonald received all three books for Christmas in 1877 from “L. M.” whom I have yet to identify.
For fifty years, Fitzherbert Macdonald and his wife resided in the Arundells, one of the finest houses in Salisbury. The Arundells is currently in the running to be a property on the game board of the upcoming Salisbury Monopoly Game. I wonder if Fitzherbert Macdonald will be one of the game pieces?
Before I returned to the United States in 1989, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my wife in Hay-on-Wye, Richard Booth’s town of books. My biggest purchase there was to acquire 38 volumes of Johnson’s Poets, which were published in 1779 and 1790.
The former owner of these books did not sign his name or paste a bookplate. Instead, he stamped his armorial book stamp on to the verso of the front free endpaper of the books that were published in 1779. The book stamp is not present in the books that were published in 1790. Eventually, this was to prove essential in determining the title owner of this book stamp. But it would take me over 15 years to do it.
This book stamp is about the size of a penny, and contained a phrase in French that I later learned was the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
My research of the book stamp began with the origin of the motto. It is said that the following incident guided King Edward III to establish the Most Noble Order of the Garter in order to honor his knights, much like the legendary Round Table of King Arthur. In 1348, the Countess of Salisbury was dancing with King Edward III when her garter became loose and fell to the floor, causing some of the other people on the dance floor to snicker. But King Edward picked up the garter, wrapped it around his own knee and said, “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” which translated means “Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”
Fast forward to 2002. I acquired a copy of Cyril Davenport’s English Heraldic Book-Stamps, and narrowed my search down to a member of the Sackville family. Not one but two Sackvilles, John Frederick Sackville (1745-1799) the Third Duke of Dorset, or Charles Sackville-Germaine (1767-1843), the Fifth Duke of Dorset, could have been the owner of the set of Johnson’s Poets. Both of them were elected to the Order of the Garter, John Frederick Sackville in 1788 and Charles Sackville-Germaine in 1843. John Frederick Sackville, however, was never officially inducted into the Order of the Garter. When he was elected, he was still serving as the British Ambassador to France.
It wasn’t until 2006 that I identified which Sackville it was. And I have Horace Walpole (1717-1797) to thank for helping to identify John Frederick Sackville as the title holder of the book stamp and thus the former owner of my volumes of Johnson’s Poets. Actually, I have Her Ladyship Mary Hyde Eccles (1912-2003) to thank as well! It was her set of The Letters of Horace Walpole, which I have in my library, that verified the findings of my research. While researching John Frederick Sackville, I learned that his mistress accompanied him to France, a famous ballerina by the name of La Bacelli. And Walpole, in a letter to his friend Hannah More, dated July 4, 1788, mentions both the ambassador and La Bacelli in his letter:
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.”
Here’s where the unstamped volumes of the 1790 edition play a part. Sackville returned to England at the onset of the French Revolution in 1789. I believe that Sackville had the volumes of the 1779 edition stamped while he was still in France, as a way to acknowledge his election to the Order of the Garter. When he acquired the volumes from the 1790 edition, he never bothered to get them stamped. If, on the other hand, Charles Sackville-Germaine were the owner, I believe he would have had all the volumes of the 1779 and 1790 editions stamped.
When John Frederick Sackville returned to England, it was to his humble abode at Knole House, a 365 room calendar house. Sackville was a patron of the arts, and had one of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ paintings of Samuel Johnson at Knole House – and a nude sculpture of La Bacelli as well! I sometimes wonder if Sackville’s set of Johnson’s Poets was still at Knole House years later when Virginia Woolf lived there with her lover Vita Sackville-West? Did they read them?
This odd volume of the 1794 New York edition of The Works of Peter Pindar was formerly owned by Nathaniel Perley (1763-1824) a lawyer and businessman from Hallowell, Maine. It was then handed down to his son George Dummer Perley (1797-1826), who passed it on to his sister Caroline Augusta Perley (1811-1850).
Peter Pindar was the pseudonym of John Wolcot (1738-1819) an English satirist. James Boswell was one of the people Wolcot ridiculed, and this volume contains two of his attacks on Boswell.
It was said on the kinomin.com website that Nathaniel Perley was noted for his wit and for his anecdotes. He spent more time with his property interests than his lawyerly interests. But there is one trial anecdote about him that I want to share: An important witness from the other side had been on the stand for two or three hours when the court adjourned for dinner. When Nathaniel Perley called the same witness back on the stand after dinner, the judge remarked, “This witness has been examined at great length already; what do you expect to obtain from him?” Mr. Perley immediately replied, “The truth, your honor; I’ve obtained everything else.”
His son George Bummer Perley graduated from Bowdoin College, and studied law with his father. He was witty like his father, but the practice of law just wasn’t for him. He died at the age of 26, only two years after his father died. His sister Caroline was a school teacher in Hallowell for her entire adult life. She is buried with her parents in the Hallowell Village Cemetery.
A. R. (Arthur Roland) Maddison (1843-1912), a British chaplain, was a former owner of my copy of the 1890 book, Footsteps of Dr. Johnson (Scotland). He was the editor of Lincolnshire Wills and Lincolnshire Pedigrees. The latter series was published for the Harleian Society, and documented the Lincolnshire records pertaining to genealogy, armory, and heraldry.
The inscription below by OM “Skip” Brack (1938-2012) is an inscription he purportedly inscribed on 12 August 2011 for an unidentified friend of his. The book, a post-exhibition catalogue of Samuel Johnson, Literary Giant of the Eighteenth Century: An Exhibition at the Huntington Library May 23 -September 21, 2009, was published in 2011. I acquired this copy in May 2012. I want to believe that the inscription was imprinted in every copy of the book because no friend of Skip Brack’s would ever part with an inscribed copy of a book from him!
In my library today, I have 141 books by, about, or formerly owned by Mary Hyde Eccles. Letters of George Birkbeck Hill by Birkbeck’s daughter Lucy Crump, published in 1906, and shown above, is one of them. It was given to Mary Hyde and her first husband Donald Hyde by “EDB” in October 1963.
EDB’s full name is Eric David Buchanan; but he prefers to be called David Buchanan. He is the author of the 1974 book, The Treasure of Auchinleck, and was a dear friend of the Hydes.
The two-volume set of Mrs. Montagu’s letters, published in 1923, and pictured below was given to Mary Hyde by none other than R.W. Chapman.
There were two pages of notes inserted in the first volume, which I thought were Mary Hyde’s notes. Upon further inspection of the handwriting, however, I don’t think it’s Mary Hyde’s handwriting. I believe they might be R. W. Chapman’s notes.
I have Gabriel Austin to thank for many of my Hyde books. When Mary Hyde died, her Samuel Johnson and Boswell books went to Harvard, her Oscar Wilde books went to the British Library, and her Shakespeare books went to Christie’s for auction. Most of the leftovers went to her friend Gabriel Austin, who gave me some of the books, including his set of the Hyde Edition of The Letters of Samuel Johnson, published 1992-94.
My first post to My Sentimental Library blog was in October 2009. It was titled “An Unexpected Find in Umatilla, Florida.” It was about a copy of the 1977 book, Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate, which contained a letter to him from someone with the initials of M. H.
Sidney Ives wrote a list of pages on the front free endpaper which I thought were references for him. Wrong! They were pages which contained misspelled words or grammatical errors!
One thing I learned about Johnson/Boswell collectors is that there appears to be no social barriers. I refer to my friendship with the late Paul Ruxin as an example. Paul Ruxin was a partner in a prestigious law firm, while I was a mailman for the U. S. Postal Service. Granted, Paul collected books formerly owned by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, while I collected books formerly owned by Johnson and Boswell aficionados; but we both shared the same enthusiasm for Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. One of the last books I received from Paul was his pamphlet in 2015 on Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, and the Restoration of Shakespeare.
The first book I ever received from Paul was a copy of Friday Lunch in 2004. This book, published in 2002, contains the talks he gave before the Rowfant Club during lunch on Fridays.
I wrote a tribute, My Friend Paul Ruxin in April 2016. It first appeared in The Florida Bibliophile, the newsletter of the Florida Bibliophile Society, then on my Contemplations of MoiBibliomaniac blog, and finally in the book, Paul Ruxin, The Past as Present: Selected Thoughts and Essays, which was edited by his friends Sam Ellenport and Gordon Pradl, and published by his alma mater Amherst College in 2017.
The Caxton Club book shown above was presented to Gwin J. Kolb on December 8, 2000 in recognition for being the speaker at the first Friday Luncheon Meeting of the Caxton Club in December 1, 1989. One of the topics he spoke about that day was his collection of Johnson’s Rasselas. Paul Ruxin (second signature below) attended the December 8, 2000 meeting.
I have several books written by Kolb, and two more books formerly owned by him. Johnson Before Boswell, published in 1960, and New Light on Dr. Johnson, published in 1959.
I have several books that were formerly owned by Terry Seymour, including the Letters of James Boswell, published in 1924.
I tried my darnedest to get a review copy of Terry’s book, Boswell’s Books: Four Generations of Collecting and Collectors, New Castle: Oak Knoll, 2016, but had to buy my copy. I explain why in “my review” of his book. In fact, I don’t even call it a review! 🙂
The Australian John Byrne was one of Paul Ruxin’s friends. And John and I have been sending books to each other. Here’s something that he sent to me.
Edwin W. Kubach
This circa 1865 New York edition of Rasselas was formerly owned by Edwin W. Kubach (1913-1969) a professor of English, who taught at a variety of schools, the last one of which was Pennsylvania Military College from 1963 to 1968. I say “circa 1865” as the publication date because “1865” is the date of several advertisements that were included in the back of the book. Moreover, Fleeman lists “n.d. [?1865]” as the publication date of this edition in his Bibliography of the Works of Samuel Johnson, which was published in the year 2000.
Kubach wasn’t the only former owner of his book. He was thinking of writing an essay about a previous owner:
Here’s a sample of the squiggly lines marking the passages. But Kubach should not have thrown stones; he wrote marginalia on at least eight pages himself!
Though I have to admit that Kubach’s marginalia was interesting to read :
It has been said that Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas has never been out of print since it was first published in 1759. My Australian friend, John Byrne, wants to prove it. He is striving to collect a copy of Rasselas for every year it has been printed. Unfortunately, John has already acquired every applicable copy available in Australia.
The circa 1865 New York edition of Rasselas written about above is but a temporary boarder in my library. It is one of the five volumes of Rasselas that I have already acquired for John Byrne. I will mail them to him when I can fill a large USPS Priority flat rate box of Rasselas. Here are the other editions John wants:
1834, ’36, ’39, ’41, ’42, ’43, ’45, ’48, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’58, ’59, ’61, ’62, ’63
1866, ’67, ’68, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’77, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’85, ’91, ’93, ’97.
John prefers cloth-backed editions in good to fine condition, particularly those with decorated boards. Please also quote editions of Rasselas from the early 1900s too (moibibliomaniac at gee male dot calm).
That is it for the day. I have not written about all the Johnson/Boswell books in my library that contain ownership signatures. And I have previously written about some of the ones I mentioned today in previous posts. You can view the listings of my books on Library Thing. And you can browse or read my posts on My Blog Browser.