Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Gathering
Other People's Collected Letters

In my library, there is a library table in the design of a book.  And on this library table are two rows —and counting—of books of other people's collected letters:  from Charles Lamb's letters on the far left, to Michelangelo's letters on the far right.

And in the middle of my library table are the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Queen Victoria, John Steinback,  Louisa May Alcott, Alexander Woolcott, Charles Darwin,  Joyce Kilmer, Robert Southey, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, just to name a few.

And on my library shelves, in my Mary Hyde collection, are still more volumes of other people's collected letters—books which once stood tall on the bookshelves of the Four Oaks Library:

To me,  reading other people's letters is like being a fly on the wall who peers over the shoulders of authors as they share their thoughts on paper with friends and acquaintances.

Here is a gathering of ten other people's letters that you may enjoy reading:

Frate Jacopo—As I have to have certain things painted here, or rather to paint them, I have occasion to inform you of the fact, as I need a certain amount of fine quality azure, and if you have some you could provide me with immediately, it would be a great convenience to me.  So arrange to send to your brethren here as much of the fine quality as you have available and I promise to take it at the just price.  And before I collect the azure I'll have the money paid to you, either there or in Florence, whichever you prefer.
    On the thirteenth day of May [1508].
                                           YOUR MICHELANGELO SCULPTOR IN ROME

Sir Thomas Bodley's letter detailing the building of what is now known as Duke Humfrey's Library:


Sir, Mr Principal Hawley, hath sent me some part, of your Cambridge collections :  which were worthy the copieng, for their age and antiquitie :  though they giue but little light, for any point that was in doubt, about the builders and building of our third erected Librarie.  Howbeit it should appeere, by Mr Principals letter, that yow have better stuffe behind, to cleere many doubts, that may concerne that whole foundation.  This makes me long for your returne, though I would not yow should hasten, to leaue any thing vnobserued, that is there to be had of any worthe, ether touching our foundations, or the order, and statutes, and regiment of their Libraries:  which also I hope, they will impart without any scruple.
   Within this fortnight, I trust,  I shall haue ended with my carpenters, ioiners, caruers, glasiers, and all that idle rabble : and then I goe in hand, with making vp my barres, lockes, haspes, grates, cheines, and other gimmoes of iron, belonging to the fastning and riuetting of the bookes : which I thinke  I shall haue finished, within two or three monethes.  But of this and other maters, we shall heereafter conferre, at very good leasure.  In the meane while, I can not but enjoine yow, to be carefull of your health, and not to be more lauishe, then yow must of mere necessitie, in wearing out your eies, with the transcriptes of those dustie, and rustie parchment manuscriptes.
                                                                 your trewe affected frind
From Aino [Aynho] Dec 24. [1599]                    Tho. Bodley.

Yow must by no means omitte, to take good notice of their orders, in placing and disposing their librarie books : whether they doe it, by the Alphabet, or according to the Faculties.

I haue a brother dwelling at Bluntsham, within 10. miles of Cambridge : to whome I would intreat yow to conuey the inclosed by such meanes, as yow may ether finde out by the Cambridge London cariar, or by some other where yow are.


Sir                                                                       Lichfield, May 18th, 1735
   I hope You will not imagine from my Silence, that I neglected the kind offer which You[r] Brother was pleased to make, that You would take care about my Books; I had wrote much sooner, but that I did not know till to day wither to direct.
  The Books, (of which I have written a Catalogue on the other side) were left with Mr. Taylor from whom I had reason to expect a high regard to my Affairs.  There were in the same box, which I left lock'd, some papers of a very private Nature, which I hope fell into good hands.  The Books are now, I hear, with Mr. spicer of Christ Church.  I beg you, Dear sir, that you will be pleased to collect them with what care you can, and transmit them directed to me at the Castle in Birmingham Warwickshire, to which a Carrier goes weekly from Oxford.  I will very thankfully repay the expenses of the Boxes, Porters, and Letters to your Brother, or whoever else You shall think fit to receive 'em.  I am sorry to give You this trouble which I hope You'll excuse from a former Schoolfellow.  Be pleased to answer this by the next post, for I long to know in what condition my affairs stand.  If Mr. Congreve be in college pray pay my compliments to him, and let him know I should think his correspondence a pleasure and would gladly write to him, if I was inform'd what college he is of.  I have many other Acquaintance in the University whom I remember with Pleasure, but shall not  trouble You with messages, for I shall esteem You sufficiently kind if you manage this Affair for, Dear Sir, Your humble Servant,
                                                                                      Sam. Johnson
My humble Service to Mr. Spicer.
NOTE: "Johnson's Undergraduate Library," as these books became known as, is my tentative topic for next month's blog post.

                                                                                         September 27, 1796
  My dearest friend,—White or some of my friends or the public papers by this time may have informed you of the terrible calamities that have fallen on our family.  I will only give you the outlines.  My poor dear dearest sister in a fit of insanity has been the death of her own mother.  I was at hand only time enough to snatch the knife out of her grasp.  She is at present in a madhouse, from whence she must be moved to an hospital.
  God has preserved to me my senses,—I eat and drink and sleep, and have my judgment I believe very sound.  My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take care of him and my aunt.  Mr. Norris of the bluecoat school has been very kind to us, and we have no other friend; but thank God, I am very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do.  Write,—as religious a letter as possible but no mention of what is gone and done with.—With me 'the former things are passed away,' and I have something more to do than feel.
  God Almighty have us all in His keeping!
                                                                                    C. Lamb
Mention nothing of poetry.  I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind.  do as you please, but if you publish, publish mine (I give free leave) without name or initial, and never send me a book I charge you.
   Your own judgment will convince you not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife.  You look after your family; I have my reason and strength to take care of mine.  I charge you, don't think of coming to see me.  Write.  I will not see you if you come.  God Almighty love you and all of us!

To Walter Savage Landor, Esq.
          Kesdwick, Jan 23, 1811
. . . Your abhorrence of Spencer is a strange heresy.  I admit that he is inferior to Chaucer (who for variety of power has no competitor except Shakespeare), but he is the great master of English versification, incomparably the greatest master in our language.  Without being insensible to the defects of the Fairy Queen, I am never weary of reading it.  Surely Chaucer is as much a  poet as it was possible for him to be when the language was so rude a state.  There seems to be a material point of difference between us—you think we have little poetry which was good for any thing before Milton; I, that we have little since, except in our own immediate days.  I do not say there was much before, but what was there was sterling verse in sterling English.  It had thought and meaning in it.  At present, the surest way to become popular is to have as little of either ingredient as possible.
 Have you read Captain Pasley's book? I take it for my text in the next Quarterly, and would fain make it our political Bible.
                                God bless you!                                       R.  S.
[Robert Southey]


                                                                                  Concord May 28th [1864]
    My Dear Mr Fields

   Many thanks for the green 'Maine Woods,' through which I have been delightfully wandering in spite of rainy weather, feeling the while as if Thoreau were walking with me again, so entirely does he seem to have put himself in the book.
  Mrs. Hawthorne frequently expresses her satisfaction in & gratitude for the fitting & friendly cares bestowed upon her & hers during the sad yet beautiful Monday which will not soon be forgotten.  Mr Hawthorne is gone but [she] still finds herself patiently, hopefully awaiting his return.  Many of us have the same feeling, I fancy, because he was one of those who are felt not seen, & we all not really miss him till we turn the last leaf of his story without end.
  Father and mother desired to be remembered, & with love to Cousin Annie I am
                                                                                       Very Truly Yours
                                                                                        L. M. Alcott

TO THE CROWN PRINCESS OF PRUSSIA                  15 February 1878
Mr. Gladstone goes on like a madman.  I never saw anything to equal the want of patriotism and the want of proper decency in Members of Parliament.  It is a miserable thing to be a constitutional Queen and to be unable to do what is right.  I would gladly throw all up and retire into quiet.
                                                                               [Queen Victoria]

                                                                                Box Hill, Dorking, April 16, 1879

MY DEAR STEVENSON,—I have had but the song of a frog for a correspondent since your last letter reached me; and my note is Batrachian still.  A hint of suppressed influenza seems to have been the cause. . . .
My 'Egoist' has been out of my hands for a couple of months, but Kegan Paul does not wish to publish it before October.  I don't think you will like it: I doubt of those who care for my work will take to it at all.  And for this reason, after doing my best with it, I am in no hurry to see it appear.  It is a Comedy, with only half of me in it, unlikely therefore to take either the public or my friends.  This is true truth, but I warned you that I am cursed with a croak.—I am about one quarter through 'The Amazing Marriage,' which I promise you, you shall like better. . . .
                                                                    Yours very cordially,
                                                                    George Meredith


           Dear Miss Lowell,                                                          3 March 1924 Paris
  It is simply ridiculous for me to try to thank you.  From the time that I posted my letter to you I lived in hope and fear that you would do precisely what you did—hope because I knew you could help me more than anyone else and fear because I know I had no right to ask you to do it. . . .
  Your suggestion that I do critical work to get into step with myself is a very keen bit of analysis.  I have a perfect clear cut dissatisfaction with what I have already done but no more than a sort of sense of gravitation toward the thing that would give me satisfaction to do.  Of course I have been trying to get my ideas into shape but they remain pretty nebulous so far.  The rhythmic problem troubles me for one thing.  I suppose the truth is that old brother Algernon made deeper ruts in my brain than I supposed.  Diluted Algernon of course.  I find that under the pressure of any sort of emotion I fall back into cadences which I know to be stale before I use them.   Working with deliberation I can get effects that don't disgust me on rereading but only then.  That's one thing.  The other is the equally basic problem of verbiage.  Where are the living waters of the word?  . . . The trouble is that you people who made poetry of natural diction, who threw the poetic vocabulary so-called into the ashes where it belonged, have left little for the bottom layer but extremities.  I don't mean that I sympathize with the position which you so effectively squash—the position of those who apparently put idiosyncrasy above poetry.  But I do mean that one must get hold of a speech which seems to him fresh—as you did—with the additional factor that you carried over the impression to the rest of the world.  I suppose one answer to my difficulty is the perfectly tenable theory that you can only get a certain amount of poetry out of the speech of any particular age anyway.  But one doesn't believe that sort of thing until one has to. . . .
As I say it is ridiculous for me to try to thank you.  But its all I can do.  Please believe that you have done one of the kindest and most generous things on record in the elaborate books.  Only the suspicion that I wasn't worth saving can possibly detract from your piece of mind.
                   Ada sends you her love and I that and all my gratitude.
                                                                              Archie MacLeish

                                                                                               New York City
                                                                                               November 10, 1934
          Ira Gershwin
        Listen, you contumacious rat, don't throw your dreary tomes at me.  I'll give you an elegant dinner of your own choosing and sing to you between the courses if you can produce one writer or speaker, with an ear for the English language which you genuinely respect, who uses 'disinterested' in the sense you are now trying to bolster up.  I did look it up in my own vast Oxford dictionary a few years ago only to be told that it had been obsolete since the seventeenth century.  I haven't looked up the indices in your letter because, after all, my own word in such matters is final.  Indeed, current use of the word in the seventeenth century sense is a ghetto barbarism I had previously thought confined to the vocabularies of Ben Hecht and Jed Harris.  Surely, my child, you must see that if 'disinterested' is in our time, intend to convey a special shade of the word 'unselfish' it is a clumsy business to try to make it also serve another meaning.  That would be like the nit-wit practice of the woman who uses her husband's razor to sharpen her pencil.  The point of the pencil may emerge, but the razor is never good again for its peculiar purpose.
                                        Hoping you fry in hell, I remain
                                                                                   Yours affectionately,
                                                                                                     A. W.

                                                                                    [Alexander Woolcott]

Harper, Henry H. (1905)  The Letters of Charles Lamb In which Mutilated Words and Passages Have Been Restored to Their Original Form; with Letters Never Before Published And Facsimiles of Original Letters and Poems (Volume II).  Boston: The Bibliophile society

Hibbert, Christopher (1985) Queen Victoria In Her Letters and Journals.  New York:  Viking.

Kaufman, Beatrice and Hennesey, Joseph (1944)   The Letters of Alexander Woolcott.  New York:  Viking Press.

Letters of George Meredith Collected and Edited by His Son Volume I 1844-1881 (1912) New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons.

Myerson Joel, Shealy Daniel and Stern, Madeleine B. (1987)  The Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott.  Boston:  Little Brown and Company.

Ramsden, E. H. (1963)  The Letters of Michelangelo (Volume I).  Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Redford, Bruce (1992) The Letters of Samuel Johnson Volume I 1731-1772 (The Hyde Edition). Princeton:  Princeton University Press.

Southey, Rev. Charles Cuthbert [1850?] The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey.  New York:  Harper and Brothers.  Note: Reviewed in The American Review, March 1850.

Wheeler, G. W. (1926)  Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley To Thomas James, First Keeper of the Bodlean Library.  Oxford:  Clarendon Press.

Winnick, R. H. (1983) Letters of Archibald MacLeish 1907-1982.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

You can view the listings of all of my books of Other People's Collected Letters on Library Thing.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tidbits From My Books
American Book Publishers

Books about publishers are usually among the most unrewarding parts of literature.  Sometimes these volumes are products of  retired editors far sunk in gentlemanly anecdotage.  Sometimes such a book is a piece of self-glorification issued at a centenary of a famous house, perfect in typography and empty of critical content. 
Professor Howard Mumford Jones
New York Times Book Review, Oct 27, 1946

This may be as good a place as any to call attention to the difference between a bookseller, a stationer, a printer, a binder, and a publisher, yet all these trades frequently have been merged into one.  A bookseller must have a stock of books if he wishes to survive—if you don't believe it, ask Dr. Rosenbach.  A stationer, too, must have a shop in which he sells paper, pens, ink, etc.  A printer must have types, presses, etc.; and a binder pasteboard, leather, and tools.  But a publisher requires none of these things:  he can start a business using the other fellow's plant and the author's brains—and he frequently asks him to put up some money too (73).
A. Edward Newton, Rosenbach Fellow in Bibliography for 1936
Bibliography and pseudo-Bibliography

Click on the Links Above the Images
To View Listings of the Books on Library Thing

I have found interesting tidbits—at least to me—in some of my books about publishers.  And Professor Jones had nothing but good words to write about the book he reviewed, Of Making Many Books by Roger Burlingame.

As for A. Edward Newton's striking comment about publishers, I queried David Klappholz, the noted A. Edward Newton collector.  But he knew of no problems between Newton and his publisher.  Dave even has friendly letters between Newton and two of his editors in his own Newton Collection.  I should note that Newton partially supports his own viewpoint in his second lecture, stating that the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy had to put up some money in order to get earlier works published.

The Owl Among Colophons
Henry Holt as Publisher and Editor

Charles A. Madison, a retired editor himself,  used Professor Jones's quotation to begin the preface of his book about Henry Holt.  And while Madison had good words to write about Holt, he didn't glorify him.  One chapter is even titled, "Holt's Failures With Popular Authors."  In this chapter, Madison detailed Holt's problems with Jerome K. Jerome, Anthony Hope, and Paul Leicester Ford, all of whom left Holt for other publishers. Robert Frost, on the other hand, remained with Holt for forty-eight years, and considered himself to be "Holt's oldest employee."

Of particular interest to Newton's charge, Madison wrote that Henry Holt did not think Paul Leicester Ford's first novel would sell enough copies.  And he required Ford to put up some money in order to get his novel published.  The book, The Honorable Peter Stirling, went on to become a bestseller.

Growoll, It Should Be!

Not all books about publishers "are perfect in typography;" the author's name is misspelled on the spine of the book printed for the Dibdin Club in 1898.  This book, by Adolf Growoll, managing editor of The Publishers' Weekly, is about  book trade bibliography.  But added to the book is "A Catalogue of All the Books Printed in the United States" as of 1804.

The Publishing Experience

Cass Canfield was the first book publisher to become an A. S. W. Rosenbach Fellow in Bibliography.  And that didn't happen until 1968.   Canfield gave two lectures: "The Real and the Ideal Editor," and "How Publishing Has Changed and Is Likely To Change."  Of historical interest was Canfield's handling of the publication of Leon Trotsky's biography of Stalin, which he discussed in his first lecture.  Trotsky was assassinated before completing the biography, and Canfield selected a Russian scholar to complete the work.  Review copies were  sent out on Friday morning, December 5, 1941.  Two days later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.   Realizing that Stalin would be America's ally, and would not be pleased with the book, Canfield withdrew it on Monday morning, and stored the entire edition under seal in a warehouse for five years, until Stalin was no longer considered an ally of America.

Of Making Many Books

First hundred years of the House of Scribner (1846-1946).   Burlingame's viewpoint concerning the publication of political books got my attention:

A book-publishing house is in a somewhat different spot, politically, from the publisher of the average magazine or newspaper.  With a few conspicuous exceptions, periodicals have always been committed to the political stand of the editorial boards.  It is traditional for a book publisher to keep free of "partis-pris." He feels that the pubic expects him to present all views provided they are expressed in good books.  His only standard is the goodness of a book as a book; if the book is political, then the author's case must be presented in the best possible way.  What the case is, is not his concern.  No matter how many heads may shake in his editorial office over the views in a book by Trotsky or Mussolini, the editor must give full attention to each—to its clarity, its perfection of form, its proper promotion—as if the views were his own. A general publishing house must be a forum (299).

Burlingame's mention in 1946 of a book by Trotsky is just too coincidental.  Canfield released Trotsky's biography of Stalin in 1946.  Was Burlingame saying that Canfield had the responsibility to publish Trotsky's book in 1941, regardless of the political consequences?  Canfield reasoned that his responsibility as a citizen outweighed his responsibility as a publisher.

The Country Life Press.

The Country Life Press was one of my first books about publishers.  I found it in the early 1990s on the Books About Books shelves of Mike Slicker's Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Two words on the front cover first attracted me:  Long Island—I grew up on Long Island!   And when I took a look at the Contents page, I knew the book was a keeper.

This book introduced me to The Country Life Press, a division of Doubleday, Page & Company.  And it told me more than a little bit about the authors whose works Doubleday published.  But the icing on the cake was the Kipling Index.  Doubleday published all but three of Kipling's works, whose contents are listed in over fifty pages in this book.  And then there is the O. Henry Index. . . .

A view of the front entrance of the Country Life Press serves as the frontispiece for another Doubleday book:

Homes of Doubleday, Doran, and Company

In his memoirs, F. N.  Doubleday reveals that it was his friend Rudyard Kipling who first tagged him with the nickname, Effendi—I thought it was Christopher Morley!

 Doubleday's Memoirs

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling came down with double pneumonia in New York,  and F. N. Doubleday served as his errand boy in the sick room.  One of Kipling's first requests was to keep him furnished with whisky, which Doubleday's friend, Andrew Carnegie, was glad to supply.  When Kipling was well enough for visitors, Doubleday suggested that Kipling invite Carnegie and thank him personally for supplying the whisky.  Doubleday relates that Carnegie got a little bit flustered when he finally met Kipling:
"Mr. Kipling, I regard this as one of the greatest honors that has come to me in my life.  That I should have been able to serve you in this small way has been the greatest pleasure to me, and as Shakespeare put it in his immortal verse—as Shakespeare put it in his immortal verse—"
He could not remember what Shakespeare put in his immortal verse, and Mr. Kipling's pulse was mounting by leaps and bounds.
"Or as Burns expresses it in his well-known poem—as Burns expresses it in his well-known—"
He could not remember what Burns had expressed and I thought Rudyard's life would go out. . . (60). 

House of Harper:  A Century of Publishing in Franklin Square
House of Harper:  One Hundred and Fifty Years of Publishing

In 1817, when the Harpers started in business, New York City had a population of nearly one hundred and twenty thousand and the nation nine million.  The country was slowly recovering from the effects of a second war with England, and the British were still jubilant over their defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.  At Abbotsford, Walter Scott was completing a new novel, Rob Roy, and copies of that book would soon reach New York via the just established Black Ball Lines, the first scheduled operation of packet ships between New York and Liverpool.  That same year the Great Lakes were demilitarized, making a fortless boundary between the United States and Canada.  To the South a new state—Mississippi—was carved out of territory abutting the Gulf of Mexico and added the twentieth star to the flag.  In March, the month in which James Monroe was inaugurated President, a new sign was hung in front of a small frame house at the corner of Front and Dover Streets, New York,  It read, 'J. & J. Harper, Printers" (Exman, 3).

The House of Appleton

Portrait of W. W. Appleton and a record of the first hundred years of the House of Appleton: 1825-1925.
The genius for publishing is a jewel with many facets.  It is not enough to be able to discover a great author or a great work.  One must be able to discover and supply a popular appetite.  The Appleton house has done this on more than one occasion.  Those of you who may read this and who are of my own age or older, can remember the vogue of books, often wholly pictorial works, published in small sections, monthly, to be afterwards combined and kept in portfolios or bound as the owner might wish.  I believe that W. W. Appleton supervised the first of these enterprises, conducted on a scale overwhelming in those days and not small in these.  This was the work called "Picturesque America," edited by William Cullen Bryant. . . . Of these 6,000,000 parts or 600,000 volumes were sold (10).

Inside Publishing

Bill Adler ran a successful literary agency, wrote a few bestsellers himself, and supplied others with ideas for books.  He was having lunch one day with his friend, William Safire, when Safire announced that he'd like to write his first novel, but didn't know what to write about.  Adler suggested he write about a President who went blind while still in office, bringing the Twenty-Fifth Amendment into the picture.   And that is how Full 
Disclosure came to light.  Doubleday bought it for $25,000.  The Literary Guild outbid the Book-of-the-Month Club with a bid of $275,000.  And Ballantine Books bought the  reprint rights for $1,350,000, the highest ever paid by a paperback house at the time for a first novel (104,105).

Little, Brown and Company

One of the most widely read books of its period, All Quiet on the Western Front, sold 3 1/2 million copies in three years in the original German and was translated into more than twenty-five languages.  It accounted for 20 percent of Little, Brown's trade sales in 1929, the year it was published, and became the number-one nationwide best-seller that year (82).

Horace Liveright

A most interesting book detailing Liveright's rise and fall as a publisher, and his constant battle against censorship.
By January 1928 there were approximately seventy modern books banned in Boston, although by this time no single group wished to claim credit for the wholesale suppression.  Neither the District Attorney, the Police Department, nor the Watch and Ward Society accepted responsibility for the action;  in fact, each accused the other of perpetrating it.  The sale of very popular novels like An American Tragedy, Elmer Gantry, and Oil! had been stopped, and other works—some of equal literary importance—were also unavailable in Boston.  Along with Kept Women and Loose Ladies were Count Bruga by Ben Hecht, What I Believe by Bertrand Russell, Blue Voyage by Conrad Aiken, Mosquitos by William Faulkner, Dark Laughter by Sherwood Anderson, Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (167,168).

Donald Friede

Donald Friede's obscenity trial for selling a copy of An American Tragedy in Boston is covered in both this book and the Liveright book.  By the time the case came up for appeal, Friede had left Boni & Liveright, and started his own firm with Pascal Covici.  But it didn't last long.
By midsummer of 1930 it became obvious that the whole face of the book business—and all other businesses as well—was changing, and that we had to do some pretty radical changing ourselves if we wanted to survive.  We took stock of ourselves and came to the very unpleasant conclusion that for an unforeseeably long time the market for limited editions was gone.  Our mailing lists, which in the past had helped us to dispose of the major part of any limited edition we chose to publish, were now drawing only fractional returns.  And the bookstores were ordering sparingly if at all.  Yet we had well over three times our original capitalization tied up in advance and preliminary costs on this type of publication.  We thought it over carefully, took a deep breath, and then wrote off every penny we had invested in future limited editions.  Illustrations, translations, typographical plans, all of them paid for in full, went into the safe until times should improve.  They never did.  The safe was still bulging when we ceased to exist eight years later (108).

Borzoi Books

Clifton Fadiman reviewed 5,000 books published under the Borzoi imprint during its first fifty years.  And these novels, novellas, short stories, reportage, essays, and verse he has chosen as the best of the lot.

Inserted in the slipcase of my copy of this book is Sir Edouard Morot's dinner invitation, along with the guest list of those invited to commemorate the Knopf's first book published fifty years ago.   Morot (1910-1993) was a French diplomat, author, professor, and cultural emissary—a prime player in the New York cultural scene in the 1950s and 60s.

Portrait of a Publisher

B. W. Huebsch, in a piece in Book II aptly titled, "The Publisher," provides an interesting viewpoint on the requirements of a publisher:
Is there any business so paradoxical, so self-contradictory, so baffling as that of the book publisher?  It calls for scholarship, artistic taste, psychological insight, business acumen, critical ability, poker sense, and a few other endowments. . .  (II, 125).
House of Dodd, Mead: 1839-1939

Publishing in this early days [1840s] was a highly respectable profession.  There must have been plenty of competition because authors and books were relatively few and sales on the average were high.  Trade ethics were very strong indeed.  There was no copyright for English authors in America, but in spite of that, 'honorariums' were paid punctiliously and publishers were very shy of poaching on a competitor's preserve (6).

Thomas Y. Crowell

In 1893, Mr. Crowell received a manuscript which attracted very little attention in the office.  It was very slight, less than thirty pages, and seemed at first hardly worth publishing in book form; but the title, What Is Worth While, was striking and he decided to try it.  The little booklet was given a very tasteful dress, and soon began to sell surprisingly well.  The author, Anna R. Brown, afterward the wife of Professor S. C. Lindsay of Columbia University, had the satisfaction of seeing her address, originally read before the Philadelphia Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, become one of the best-selling books of its kind.  This venture was so successful that other booklets were brought out in similar style—and soon the 'What Is Worth While Series' included essays of Henry Van Dyke, J. R. Miller, Professor George H. Palmer, O. S. Marden, R. W. Trine, and other prominent writers.  The total sales of this series, which was one of Mr. Crowell's big successes, ran into millions of volumes (40,41).

Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich 

Publishing, too, is steady work, for there can be no end to the constant, perdurable need to instruct and to engage by art and entertainment the whole of society, no less than every one.  By its best, humanistic definition, publishing is a major means by which we conceptualize ourselves, by which we find out what the world is and what it wants of us.  Books and journals and films and other media that inform, that tell what is known and intimate what is not—these reveal the identity of the reader and viewer no less that that of the author or producer.  Assuming that men will always be curious about themselves, publishing must be, like awaiting the millennium, the longest-lived of professions (12,13).

And finally, here's a few tidbits from my books about American book publishing in general:

Book One of John Tebbel's Masterpiece

We tend to think of early publishing in terms of hardbound books, sturdy volumes in old calf; but in fact most early books were paperbacks.  Sermons, for example, a popular kind of reading, were published in paper because it was the cheapest method.  Some of the pamphlets or books even anticipated modern  paperbacks in their use of the "skyline," that is, a phrase or sentence on the cover which summarized the content and, in effect, was a selling message.

A History of Book Publishing in the United States
The Creation of an Industry 1630-1865

A History of Book Publishing in the United States, of which the present volume is the first of three, was conceived more than fifteen years ago in the process of shaping a series of lectures for a class of graduate students at New York University.  The course, which I was to teach for many years, appeared in the catalog as 'The Rise and Significance of American Publishing,' and was a synthesis of media history, including books, magazines, newspapers, and broadcasting (xi).

American Literary Publishing Houses

In Modern America, publishing, printing, and bookselling are discrete functions not normally performed, except in the smallest of operations, by the same firm.  Commercial publishers today select works to be published, negotiate with authors, make arrangements for the physical production of books, and finally either distribute them themselves or arrange for their distribution to booksellers.  The publishing house may have little or nothing to do with the making of the physical book—printing, binding and so on.  Although a few old houses, such as Doubleday, Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, and Barnes and Noble, still maintain retail bookselling operations, most American bookstores are independent organizations.  By contrast, early American printers frequently functioned as publishers and booksellers as well. For example, Isaiah Thomas, who published in Boston and Worcester,  Massachusetts from 1770 to 1802, was both a printer and a publisher.  Mathew Carey of Philadelphia began as a printer-bookseller but established a firm that, between 1785 and 1838, became one of first American publishing houses in the modern sense of the term.  In New York from 1816 to 1844 Mahlon Day printed, published, and sold children's books for which he became well known (xx).

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Displaced Book Collector and More

My Sentimental Library blog and my Biblio-Connecting blog are my two most popular blogs; but they are not my only ones.  I have five more blogs whose posts and individual page views you can view below.

May 2007  to displace:  to take the place of
pageviews:  74          

Jun 2007  A Shelf In My Bookcase
pageviews:  143

Jun 2007  Among the Leaves, Fruit
pageviews:  211

Jun 2007  My Library:  A View From the Crib
pageviews:  165

Jun 2007  Once a Book Collector . . .
pageviews:  127

Jul 2007  Moi the Bookplate Collector?
pageviews:  165

Aug 2007  Bookplate Literature
pageviews:  116

Oct 2007  The Displaced Book Collector Has Been Replaced
pageviews:  97

Oct 2007  Researching a George Birkbeck Hill ALS
pageviews:  515

Oct 2007  Letters Found in Books
pageviews:  76

Feb 2008  Update on Letters Found in Books
pageviews:  53

Sep 2008  Charles Lamb's Library on Library Thing
pageviews:  55

May 2009  My Elements of Style Collection
pageviews:  1188

May 2009  William Strunk's Other Books in My Library
pageviews:  1060

Sep 2009  A Correction to the Copyright and Bibliographic Records of The Elements of     
pageviews:  313

Apr 2010  Stylized and the Forgotten Edition of Strunk's Elements of Style
pageviews:  329

Jul 2011  A Statius Check
pageviews:  677

Jul 2011  Corrections to the 1810 Catalogue of Greek & Latin Classics in the Auchinleck Library
pageviews:  621

Dec 2011  Researching the Value of Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare
pageviews:  1056

May 2012  Biblio Researching 101
pageviews:  173

Sep 2012 About That Engraving by William Kneass . . .
pageviews:  410

Oct 2012  Researching Serving You. . . And Its Catalog Records
pageviews:  521

Feb 2013 The Boswell Copy of Piozzi's Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson?
pageviews:  145

May 2013  A Well-Lobbied Government:  How the NRA Won the Battle Over the Second Amendment
pageviews:  351

Oct 2013  Is America Lost in the Funhouse?
pageviews:  156

Dec 2013  About Bibliomites, Biblionotes, and Walter "Wally" Harris
pageviews:  296

Jun 2014  Some Auspicious Biblio-Sleuthing
pageviews:  406
non-bookrelated:  intended to be about my childhood, Air Force days, and beyond

Jul 2007  The Old Neighborhood
pageviews:  341

Jul 2007  My Old House:  It is Still Standing
pageviews:  38

Jul 2007  Stage Fright
pageviews:  29

Jul 2007  Peeping Toms
pageviews:  44

Sep 2007  Old Stoneface:  Memories of New York
pageviews:  177

Nov 2009  . . . But Not Forgotten
pageviews:  256

Nov 2009  On Thanksgiving Day
pageviews:  1105

Aug 2011  Loves Me, Loves Me Not
pageviews:  134

Jan 2012  The Night I Beat Up Johnny Polovoy
pageviews:  89

Nov 2008  Mary Hyde and the Unending Pursuit
pageviews:  2213

Nov 2008  William Targ, Bibliophile
pageviews:  571

Mar 2009  Cataloguing Dead People's Books;  Namely, the Libraries of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Charles Lamb
pageviews:  874

Apr 2009  Birrell, Starrett, Morley, But Who Is O. M.?
pageviews:  171

Aug 2009  Kings of Persia
pageviews:  122

Apr 2013  From Whence They Came:  Don Brady and His Miniature Books
pageviews:  461

Apr 2004   Contemplations of Moi Bibliomaniac:
(Blog revived below)

Dec 2012  Contemplations of MoiBibliomaniac
pageviews:  211

Jan 2013  MoiBlogomaniac?
pageviews:  222

Feb 2013:  Jerry Morris:  The Never-Ending Story
pageviews:  233

Feb 2013  On Selecting a Bookplate For My Library
pageviews:  1878

Feb 2013  On Finding New Owners For My Old Books
pageviews:  134

Mar 2013  Library For Sale
pageviews:  162

Jun 2013  A Former Owner's Review of the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning
pageviews:  431

Aug 2013  A Most Heavenly Review?
pageviews:  159

Jul 2014  Are Libraries Obsolete?  An Argument For Relevance in the Digital Age
pageviews:  63

Aug 2014  A Second Book of Booksellers:  Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade 
pageviews:  159

Sep 2014  Johnny Evers:  A Baseball Life
pageviews:  71

Dec 2014  The Court-Martial of Paul Revere
pageviews:  17

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Number Three
of the
Twelve Blogs For Christmas

In 2012, I began a custom of sharing the essays contained in Contributions to Biblionotes with my friends and readers each Christmas.  Walter Harris wrote these essays for the Bibliomites in the 1950s.  And when he died in 1982, he was described in the Antiquarian Book Monthly Review as "one of the three most knowledgeable bookmen who ever lived."  

"Ex-Libris" was the first essay I shared, followed by "Chapbooks" in 2013.  And to provide more background information for you, I posted "About Bibliomites, Biblionotes and Walter 'Wally" Harris" on my Biblio-Researching blog in December 2013.

My Christmas gift to you this year is 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Early Editions
The Elements of Style

If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
                                                                                                   Toni Morrison

 Did you know that one of the best little books on writing has one of the worst bibliographic records?  I am referring to the pre-1959 editions of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.

Pre-1959 Editions in My Elements of Style Collection
top row:  1921 (four copies) 1919 (one copy)
bottom row:  1934 (three copies) 1936 (one copy) c1940s (two copies)
Note:  I'm still lacking the 1918 and 1920 editions.

On my Biblio Researching blog, in September 2009, I posted  A Correction to the Copyright and Bibliographic Records of The Elements of Style .   And the Library of Congress corrected its bibliographic records that very month.  A worn or broken typeface had made a poor impression of the middle initial of the publisher, W. F. Humphrey, on the copyright page of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.  Consequently, W. P Humphrey received credit as the publisher of the 1918 and 1919 editions  of The Elements of Style on the copyright and bibliographic records of the Library of Congress.

And now, five years later, there are several prestigious websites and libraries whose bibliographic records still identify W. P. Humphrey as the publisher of the first and second editions of The Elements of Style.   Moreover, numerous sources cite an incorrect publication date of the last edition published during Strunk's lifetime, The Thrift Press Edition.  As one bookseller on Abebooks  recently put it, "some sources say 1958, some say 1940s."  Another source cites 1918, while still another cites "1937 or after."

I am one of the sources that cite the 1940s. And I went even further in my April 2010 Biblio Researching blog post, "Stylized and the Forgotten Edition of The Elements of Style."  I cited 1943 as the date of publication.  I even stated that Strunk himself may have updated the list of recommended references, and replaced some of the words in the list of words often misspelled.

"Stylized and the Forgotten Edition of The Elements of Style" was more a rant than a review of Mark Garvey's book,  Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.  In retrospect, I would recommend his book if all you were interested in was E. B. White's 1959 edition.  But I wanted to read a book about the history of The Elements of Style, which included an obsessive history of the pre-1959 editions.  That book has yet to be written.  So I will write it myself.  And it will be published in 2018, the one hundredth anniversary of Strunk's little book, The Elements of Style.

But before I do that, I need to pin down the  publication date of The Thrift Press edition.  I call this edition, "The Forgotten Edition," because Mark Garvey never mentioned it in his book.  Moreover, The Thrift Press edition is not listed in the bibliographic records of the Library of Congress; nor is it listed in the Catalog of Copyright Entries.

I have spent the last few weeks researching.  I scoured the web,  queried libraries, historical societies, and online mailing lists, seeking the location of the archives of The Thrift Press.   I identified the founder of The Thrift Press: Professor Jacob Hieble (1902-1995).  I can tell you where and what he taught, what other books he published, and where he lived after he retired.  What I can't tell you is what he did with the archives of The Thrift Press.  At least not yet.  But I'm still researching.

I can tell you that The Thrift Press edition of The Elements of Style is mentioned on page 348 of the Feb. 1958 issue of the Cornell Alumni News:

Perhaps this is where the sources citing 1958 got their date.   While E. B. White was busy writing his 1959 edition of The Elements of Style, The Thrift Press was printing and selling numerous copies of an updated reprint of The Elements of Style in 1958.  But was 1958 the year The Thrift Press edition was first printed?

To answer that question,  I refer to one word on the title page of The Thrift Press edition:

And that word is Emeritus:  

William Strunk, Jr.
Professor of English, Emeritus
Cornell University

New Oxford American Dictionary

William Strunk retired in 1937.  He died in 1946.   The word, Emeritus, denotes that William Strunk was retired, but was still alive when The Thrift Press edition was first published.  It was first printed after 1936 but before 1947.

I bought my first copy of The Thrift Press edition on eBay in 2001.  And I wrote about the purchase on an old webtv website, which I managed to resurrect on

In the eBay listing, the seller, Wendell Smith, wrote, "This copy I am listing was assigned to me at Cornell in the early 1940s."

If I could verify his statement, I would have added proof that The Thrift Press edition was published in the 1940s.

So I googled "Wendell Smith" "Cornell" and "Alumni."

And I received about 4,890 results. . . .

But I got lucky on the first result!

The link led to the May 1963 issue of the Cornell Alumni News, where I performed a search of "Wendell Smith."

And I found out where this Wendell Smith lived in 1963:

Next, I googled "Wendell Smith" "Rock Harbor Rd" and "Cornell."  And this led me to an interesting blog post.  A son posted an interview of his father and mother, which he had recorded while his father was still alive.  The son was the writer, Dell Smith.  And his parents were Wendell and Muriel Smith.

The blog itself will will be one of the blogs I'll feature on my Biblio-Connecting blog post for December 2014.

But here is the part of the interview pertaining to Wendell Smith's time at Cornell:

Further in the interview,  Wendell Smith revealed that he was a writer and a bookseller for the better part of his life, and that he sold "special books" on eBay.  His wife and his children are writers as well.

I contacted Dell Smith and asked him to verify his father's signature on the title page of my copy of the book.  Dell Smith verified that it is his father's signature!

I still have more researching to do.  But I can safely rule out that The Thrift Press edition was published in 1958.  The latest Wendell Smith's copy could have been published is 1948, the year he graduated at Cornell.  Wendell wrote that the book was assigned to him at Cornell in the early 1940s.  He could have acquired the book in 1941 or 1942 before he went into the Army.  And that would eliminate my theory that William Strunk had The Thrift Press edition published in 1943.  Or would it?  In Mark Garvey's Stylized book, he notes that E. B. White took Strunk's course, English 8, in his junior year in 1919.  The course required a prerequisite English course, which, in turn, required an introductory English course.  If the course was still taught twenty years later, and if the requirements were the same,  Wendell Smith would have taken the course after he returned to Cornell in 1945.

I have more research to do regarding The Thrift Press edition.  And I haven't even mentioned the errors in the bibliographic records of the other editions published during William Strunk's lifetime:  the Harcourt, Brace and Company editions.  Moreover,  I only recently learned there was a 1920 Harcourt, Brace and Howe edition that was published before the 1921 Harcourt, Brace and Company edition.   Yes.  I need to research further.  I need to apply for fellowships.  And I need to write the book on The Early Editions of The Elements of Style.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Sentimental Library Blog:
The First Five Years

October marks the fifth anniversary of my first post to My Sentimental Library blog.  And to celebrate the occasion, I am posting the individual page views of all My Sentimental Library blog posts for you to view.  Some posts have been more popular than others.   But I have enjoyed writing every one of them.

Oct 2009:  An Unexpected Find in Umatilla, Florida  504 page views

Oct 2009:  Snapshots of Mary Hyde  113

Jan 2010:  A Cornerstone in American History  110

Jan 2011:  Always Be On Time  289

Jan 2011:  Arthur Schlesinger's Bookplate:  The Whole Picture  963

Feb 2011:  Changing Bookplates:  Multiple Bookplates of Famous People  2555

Mar 2011:  Maureen E Mulvihill List of Online Work  3044

Mar 2011:  Two Hurt Books And Their Former Owners  438

Apr 2011:  My William Targ Collection  487

May 2011:  My Many Lives of Samuel Johnson  1304

Jun 2011:  Ten Books From Texas and Two Reminiscences  801

Jul 2011:  Blog Posts From Two of My Other Blogs  96

Aug 2011:  Grand Moments  443

Sep 2011:  My Autograph Letter Collection  2454

Oct 2011:  In And About Foley  269

Nov 2011:  J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, Bibliophile  457

Dec 2011:  Biblio Researching, Biblio-Connecting, and Biblio Reviewing  92

Jan 2012:  The Words of the Wise:  My Periodical Collection  403

Feb 2012:  My Samuel Johnson Collection:  Odd Volumes, Association Copies, And                        
                  Other Interesting Items  276

Mar 2012:  On Or About Moi's Books About Books  472

Apr 2012:  Around the Dining Room Table:  A View of My Shakespeare Collection 361

May 2012:  My Sentimental Library Collection:  Association Copies 325

Jun 2012:  A Virtual Tour of My Mary Hyde Collection 1603

Jul 2012:  My Philology Collection:  Dictionaries  709

Aug 2012:  Grammars, Spellers, and Writing Guides  542

Sep 2012:  Eloquent Words Written and Spoken  912

Oct 2012:  Books on Language:  Part the Last  186

Nov 2012:  Mostly Letters About Bookplates  639

Dec 2012:  Twelve Blogs For Christmas:  Contributions to Biblionotes:  Ex-Libris 538

Jan 2103:  Memories of Things Experienced and Things Missed  723

Feb 2013:  RES JUDICATÆ:  A HISTORY  630

Mar 2013:  From G's Hand  584

Apr 2013:  The Vanishing Breed:  A History of Bookbinding Compiled by Don Brady 786

May 2013:  His Dictionary?  719

June 2013:  Cataloguing and Recataloguing the Boswell Library  467

July 2013:  My Books About Libraries  949

Aug 2013:  Elegant Extracts About Books, Booklovers, And Libraries  455

Sep 2013:  The Collector and the Collected:  Two Typophiles From New York  317

Oct 2013:  A Splendid History of Ownership  809

Nov 2013:  Andrew Lang and the Property of a Gentleman Who Has Given Up Collecting  

Dec 2013:  Twelve Blogs for Christmas:  Contributions to Biblionotes:  Chapbooks  189

Jan 2014:  A Census of Ladies in My Library  881

Feb 2014:  The Reference Library of a Bibliomaniac  891

Mar 2014:  A Student of Catalogues  423

Apr 2014:   A Virtual Tour of My Poetry Collection  667

May 2014:  A Virtual Tour of My Collection of Essays  430

Jun 2014:  My Books About the English Book Trade  307

Jul 2014:  In Memoriam:  Jamie Ryan DeJaynes  620

Aug 2014: The Monk, the Bookseller, and the Manuscript:  Tracking Lydgate's Boke of 
                  the Sege of Troy Through Bernard Quaritch's Catalogues  767

Sep 2014:   The Last Book Sale Care Package  307

Oct 2014:  The Second Beginning of the Chief End of Book Madness  240