Little did I know when I posted Ventures in Book Collecting During This Coronavirus Pandemic last April that we would still be in the midst of this coronavirus epidemic seven months later.
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.
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 shares David Magee’s namesake. But both Magees may have shared my affection for this snack.
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!
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 volume 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.
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.
I wanted this book because it was formerly owned by the poet 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.
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 City 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 Derek Mason’s 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 down to earth like no other author of aviation that I have read. So now I have to see if Mike Slicker has the other four books in his stock that Captain Macmillan signed for Captain Mason.
Here are the other three aviation books I 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 tracks 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: a copy of the memorial service held for Mary Viscountess Eccles 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 Himalayan 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. But you will enjoy reading that one too!
Louis Auchincloss sent Donald Hyde a copy of his book, The Rector of Justin, in appreciation for being Donald Hyde’s guest at a meeting of the Grolier Club.
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 later 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. Curtis 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! 🙂