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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Stephen Zovickian

My collection interests stem from my love of literature.  The books I have chosen represent three of my collections: 

The first is “The Travel Literature of American Novelists between the Civil War and World War One.”  Many of the eligible authors are well known:  Henry James, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and so forth.  Others are surprising, such as Emily Post (she wrote novels and published a travel book, “By Motor to the Golden Gate”); and Frederick Douglass, who included an extensive description of his overseas travels in the 1892 edition of “Life and Times” and also wrote a novella ("The Heroic Slave”).  For this exhibition I’ve included what I regard as a piece of unusual travel writing by the poet and novelist Francis E. Watkins Harper (1825-1911), a famous African-American abolitionist and suffragette.

The second is the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.  For this exhibition, I’ve chosen the important 5-volume edition of the Canterbury Tales published by Thomas Tyrwhitt in 1775, 1778.  For comparison, included is a copy of it in its original paper boards and a copy lavishly bound. 

The third is the Pickwick Papers.  My collection focuses on the original parts and bound editions of the parts; piracies of any kind; contemporary reviews; illustrations and extra-illustrated copies of Pickwick; and related Pickwickian ephemera -- but as a general rule only if the item is contemporaneous with Pickwick’s original publication or subsequent actions taken by Dickens himself with specific reference to Pickwick.  Nevertheless, the example I have chosen to share is a Pickwick published in 1915.  To me it is a somewhat mysterious edition, about which I’d like to learn more.

[Accompanying photographs the courtesy of fellow Grolier member Laurelle Swan]

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Sketches of Southern Life.

Harper, Francis E. Watkins. Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros., 1890.

Later printing, original printed wrappers, 58 pp., 96 x 145 mm.   First edition published in 1872, but reputedly scarce in any edition.

Known during her lifetime as the "Bronze Muse," Harper (1825-1911) was born in Baltimore, the daughter of free black parents.  An ardent abolitionist, she lived and worked in northern states not subject to a Fugitive Slave Law. She published novels (e.g., Iola Leroy; or, Shadows Uplifted . . . (Garrigues Brothers, Philadelphia 1892, 282 pp.)

During reconstruction, Harper traveled extensively through the southern states. Based on the scenes she encountered, and the people she met, especially freed slaves, Sketches retells the history of reconstruction from the perspective of a freed-woman, Aunt Chloe, in verse. 

Sketches is not "typical" of travel literature, to be sure, but it documents through Harper’s poetic imagination a journey to a place as foreign to an educated freeborn black woman immediately after the Civil War as Europe was to any upper class American at the time.

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Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer, Geoffrey (Tyrwhitt ed.). London: T. Payne and Son: London, 1775, 1778.

First printing of this edition, complete in 5 volumes. Errata page for v. 1- 4 in vol. 1 (pp. [xxxvii]-[xxxviii]), errata for vol. 5 on p. [xxviii] in vol. 5. Pp: vol.1: [4], xxxvi, [ii], 310; vol. 2: [iv], 318; vol. 3: [iv], 320; vol. 4: vii, [i], 336; v. 5: [iv], xxvii, [i], 290, [ii].

Two copies of this edition are displayed.  The first in the original publisher's paper covered boards. Leaf size 204 x 127 mm. Signed "Dr. Wheeler 12. 6. 1784" in Vols. I and IV.

The second is also a first printing of the same edition, 5 volumes, 198 x 125 mm, but lavishly bound in 19th century red morocco by Chambolle-Duru.

According to the DNB, Dr. Tyrwhitt (1730-86) "significantly advanced the understanding and appreciation of Chaucer" in this era. His edition was considered in its day to be "'the best-edited English Classic that ever has appeared.'" (DNB, quoting the "Gentleman's Magazine"). Many fine press editions through the mid 20th century used the Tyrwhitt edition as their Middle English text.

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The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club: Illustrated with Etchings by T. Onwhyn, C. Coveny and W.F. Pailthorpe (Some Coloured by Hand), also Wood Engravings from Designs by H.K. Browne.

Dickens, Charles. Southend, Essex: John Coxall, 1915.

4 vols. (290, 288, 296, 290 pp.), 7" x 4 ¾." Total of 95 illustrations. Contemporary full green morocco, single-ruled borders in gilt, gilt spines & dentelles; a.e.g. Number of copies unstated (probably privately printed).

Mysterious because neither Copac nor OCLC records a publisher with this imprint. Coxall evidently used the letterpress of the “Household Edition” of Pickwick first published in 1861 by W.A. Townsend, NY (with illustrations from F.O.C. Darley and John Gilbert).  Both editions have the same colophon, “Cambridge: Printed by H.O. Houghton.”

The Coveny plates are unusual. They were designed for Twenty Scenes from the Works of Dickens (Sidney 1882). Coveny was an Australian self-taught engraver.  Of the six wood engravers for the Phiz “designs,” only five can be identified by their signatures (W.T. Green, W. Measom, W.G. Mason, W.R. Sedgfield, and G. Dalziel).  The Onwhyn and Pailthorpe illustrations are familiar to Pickwickians.

Bibliographically, a set “outside” the usual parameters for a Pickwick collection.

Stephen Zovickian