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.
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 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.
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. 🙁
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.
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!