Slaughterhouse-Five, Or the Children’s Crusade. New York: Seymour Lawrence/Delacorte Press, 1969. Inscribed, signed and dated by the author.
I’ve been collecting modern first editions for a few decades. One of my absolute favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut, and for several reasons. Vonnegut was a marvelously inventive and creative writer, and was an enormously compassionate and civic-minded individual. And I got to know him a little through our mutual connection with an advertising account at Ogilvy & Mather, for which he wrote an article.
On several occasions where I would have him sign my copies of his first editions, he would inscribe and sign them, but he dated only this book. The date was February 14, 1970. Not until years later did I realize its significance. February 14, 1970 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the infamous bombing of Dresden during World War II. Twelve hundred Allied bombers dropped 4,000 tons of explosives, killing an estimated 25,000 civilians. Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden, imprisoned along with other POWs, in the sub-basement of a German slaughterhouse on the very night of the bombing. Slaughterhouse-Five, which some say is his masterpiece, is based on that experience. The fact that this is my only Vonnegut work he ever dated, and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of that event, makes this book especially meaningful to me—and I believe it was for him, too.
Ed McBain (pseud. Evan Hunter).
Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.
Author Evan Hunter (Blackboard Jungle; screenplay for Hitchcock’s The Birds) wrote, under the pen name “Ed McBain,” two series of classic crime novels: the fabled 87th Precinct series and the lawyer Matthew Hope novels. According to Otto Penzler, proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, McBain was “the greatest writer of police procedurals who ever lived.”
I was honored to be Hunter/McBain’s copyright and literary publishing lawyer. The plot of this Matthew Hope novel, Gladly, involves copyright and trademark issues. Evan, a meticulous craftsman in describing police procedure, told me he didn’t want to get letters from readers that he got the legal part wrong. And he didn’t!
Evan graciously dedicated Gladly to me. And Gladly represents a signature merger of vocation and avocation for this lawyer, whose book collection emphasizes author-presentation copies.
Milton McC. Gatch
John McLean (1785–1861).
Sketch of Rev. Philip Gatch. Cincinnati: Swormstedt & Poe, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1854.
Philip Gatch (1751–1834), my great-great-great grandfather, was one of the first American-born Methodist circuit riders. Converted in 1772, he preached in Maryland and, during the Revolution, in Virginia. An abolitionist, he freed his slaves and moved in 1798 to the Northwest Territory, where he belonged to the first Methodist class in the territory. A member of the Ohio constitutional convention, he later served as a judge in Clermont County while continuing to farm and preach.
John McLean based his Sketch on Philip Gatch’s manuscript autobiography and recollections of family and friends. A justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, McLean had practiced early in his career in Gatch’s courtroom. The volume is open to an account of persecution endured by young Gatch, when he was tarred by an anti-Methodist mob.
Basie Bales Gitlin
The Preacher: A Discourse, Shewing, What are the Particular Offices and Employments of those of that Character in the Church. London: Printed for J. Robinson, J. Lawrence, and J. Wyat, 1705. Second edition.
Provenance: Gift from Sir John Davie, Harvard Class of 1681, to the Collegiate School (later renamed Yale College).
This volume, among the first several hundred given to Yale, was donated between 1714 and 1717 and contains manuscript shelfmarks indicated in both the 1743 and 1791 Yale library catalogues. New England theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) read and was substantially influenced by The Preacher as a young Yale tutor in the 1720s. Edwards maintained a catalogue of books he read at Yale, and as the only recorded volume of this three-volume work in the college library at the time, this is likely the copy he read (it also bears contemporary student marginalia). The entire three-volume work was given to Yale soon thereafter, and this odd volume was discarded in the 1870s. Books listed in Yale’s 1743 catalogue that remained on the shelves were reassembled when Sterling Memorial Library opened in 1931, and facsimiles of the catalogue were printed as keepsakes for the library’s opening. As a Yale alumnus, a student of book history, and someone interested both personally and professionally in the growth of Yale’s libraries, I find it exciting to own a volume that testifies so eloquently to their colonial origins.
Housekeeping. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980 [i.e., 1981].
Provenance: Doris Grumbach.
Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, was published on January 14, 1981. This copy includes some ephemera relating to the handling of that detail. While reviewing this copy of Housekeeping, novelist, editor and critic Doris Grumbach noticed that both the book and its accompanying publication slip misstated the year of publication as 1980. After Grumbach alerted Farrar, Straus & Giroux, their director of publicity sent a reply to Grumbach acknowledging how “that little typo cost FSG quite a bit.”
By the time I acquired this copy, it seemed that Robinson had fallen silent as a novelist; it had been more than two decades since the debut of Housekeeping. Consequently, first editions of Housekeeping were being sold for rather low prices. Although my means as a recently graduated student were very limited, this association copy was just within my reach. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published Robinson’s second novel, Gilead, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize—and Housekeeping was rediscovered by readers, book collectors, and booksellers alike.
Wives and Daughters (Volume I of Novels and Tales of Mrs. Gaskell). London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1880.
Provenance: Margaret Keynes; presentation inscription from Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma, to their son Leonard.
In the words of Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, this book needed “a very good home.” Gaskell was close to the Darwins and modelled the young hero in the book after Charles. A note on the pastedown by Margaret Keynes (Darwin’s niece) reads: “This book was a great favourite of Charles Darwin’s and the last book to be read aloud to him.” The family had tenderly passed this book down, as evidenced by the presentation inscription. I am honored to be the temporary guardian of such an important family treasure.
Jonathan A. Hill
John Hanbury Angus Sparrow.
Lapidaria. Printed at the Cambridge University Press [Vols. 1–6] and the Rampant Lions Press [Vol. 7], 1943–1975).
John Hanbury Angus Sparrow (1906–92), literary scholar, book collector, lawyer, warden of All Souls College, Oxford, and conservative polemicist, was my friend and the author of Association Copies, the first of three books I published. Printed by Henry Morris at his Bird & Bull Press, it appeared in 1978, the year I started my own bookselling business. I don’t collect books in any formal way, but I do accumulate books that have meaning to me. As a result of my friendship with John, I began to search for books and pamphlets written by him.
This is the most attractive of his publications; they are collections of Latin inscriptions, with designs by Stanley Morison (except for the last volume in the series) and wood engravings by Reynolds Stone. John inscribed each to me during my visit to see him in 1978.
F. H. Ernst Schneidler (1882–1956).
Der Wasserman. Stuttgart: Julius Hoffmann Verlag, 1945. Edition of 70.
Provenance: Type designers Georg Trump and Hermann Zapf.
Der Wassermann has a legendary status among those interested in the letter arts. Each copy consists of four portfolios containing hundreds of examples of Schneidler’s calligraphy, typography, and illustrations printed by teachers and students at the Württembergischen Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart from 1925–33. The work was not published until after the war, and even then the project was not considered complete.
Schneidler designed a few important typefaces and created some exceptional commercial work, but he is most remembered for his students, many of whom went on to become some of the finest graphic artists of the twentieth century. Among them were Imre Reiner, Walter Brudi, and Rudo Spemann. But arguably his most prominent student was Georg Trump, designer of many important typefaces, including Trump Medieval and Delphin. Trump was a close friend of my mentor, Hermann Zapf. Unlike most collectors, I care little about provenance, but I make an exception for this copy of Der Wassermann: it was given by Schneidler to Trump, who gave it to Zapf, and several years ago Hermann Zapf gave it to me.
William Butler Yeats (1865–1939).
Reveries over Childhood and Youth. Churchtown, Dundrum: The Cuala Press, 1915. No. 6 of 425 copies. With a separate portfolio of plates consisting of family portraits by Yeats’s father and a scene of Sligo (in Ireland) by his brother.
Provenance: Inscribed “Mabel Wright from W B Yeats, Jan 14, 1916.”
Reveries was W. B. Yeats’s first book of autobiographical essays, published by his sister Elizabeth C. Yeats and printed by hand on paper handmade in Ireland. This copy is notable for Yeats’s inscription to Mabel Beardsley, the subject of his series of seven short lyrical poems, “Upon a Dying Lady.” It begins:
With the old kindness, the old distinguished grace
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid the dull red hair
Propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face.
Yeats and Aubrey Beardsley became close friends during The Yellow Book years, and following his untimely death at age twenty-five, Yeats continued the friendship with his older sister Mabel, a London actress. From 1912, when she fell ill with cancer, Yeats paid her regular bedside visits until her death, shortly after he inscribed this book to her.
I am grateful to fellow Grolier Club member Mark Samuels Lasner for having recognized that this copy was inscribed with her seldom-used married name, Mabel Wright, presumably because during these final months of her life, she was being cared for at the home of the mother of her husband, George Bealby Wright.
Pier Niccolo Capocci [translator].
Del cantico di Mose audite Caeli quae loquor & c. Nel Deuteronomio al capo 32. Parafrasi lirica. Rome: nella stamperia Salomoni, 1782.
Provenance: Henry Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York.
The art and culture of early-modern Italy, especially Rome, are interests that inform all of my collections. A largely forgotten aspect of eighteenth-century Rome is that the papacy hosted the “court in exile” of England’s would-be Stuart monarchs, who attracted a core group of Jacobite loyalists as well as curious Grand Tourists. This Italian translation of the “Song of Moses” was dedicated to Henry Stuart, a son of the “Old Pretender” known as the Cardinal Duke of York. This copy was bound by a contemporary Roman craftsman and features the royal Stuart arms as borne by him: the small crescent moon at center discreetly marks his status as a younger son, while the elaborate cardinal’s hat surrounding the armorial trumpets his rank as a prince of the Church. Upon the death of his elder brother in 1788, the Cardinal Duke styled himself Henry IX, but by this point the “Stuart claims” were little more than an affectation. A recurring theme in the history of Rome: sic transit gloria mundi.
The Jewel, or Token of Friendship: A Christmas or New Year’s Present. Hartford: Silas Andrus & Son, [n.d.]
Provenance: Signed and dated “Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Mansion, Albany 1930.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a great book collector, in his early years collected nineteenth-century holiday annuals. He also published limited edition Christmas books for many years. Over the years I built a considerable, primarily secular, collection of Christmas-related books and art. Of the several thousand items, this is one of only two I retained. The rest of the collection is now part of the collections of the Pennsylvania State University Rare Book Library. I found this book too precious to part with. It is in grand condition and beautifully boxed.
Ireland’s Literary Renaissance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922.
Provenance: Stanislaus Joyce, with a presentation inscription by his brother, James.
James Joyce didn’t appear in the original 1916 edition of Ernest Boyd’s classic survey—a virtual ‘Top 100” of the Irish literary revival. In this 1922 “New Revised Edition,” however, Boyd celebrates Joyce’s “daring and extraordinary genius, and his great experiment, Ulysses.” Ever sensitive to perceived injustice, Joyce must have felt redeemed, because he makes a gift of this new edition to his brother and ally, Stanislaus.
As much as any object in my Joyce collection, or any I’ve seen, this copy brings me closer to the human Joyce, not the writer hiding behind “silence, exile, and cunning.” I can imagine the impact he expected this book to have on his devoted brother, and he signs his name as he did for his family alone, “To Stannie / Jim / Paris / 6 September 1923.”
William S. Reese
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1865.
Provenance: Presentation from the author to Henry A. Smythe.
I set out to read Herman Melville, not collect him. After hearing the writer Robert Penn Warren read the poem “Shiloh,” I resolved to read all of Melville's works. Inevitably I became a collector as well. When I began, I was frequently told that all of the great material was in institutions. Acquiring this volume convinced me to go forward; later experience has shown the naysayers were wrong. This is a presentation copy of Melville's first book, and one fraught with irony. In a special full morocco binding, it is inscribed “Henry A. Smythe Esq. with the Sincere Regards of Herman Melville, Xmas 1868.” Smythe, an admirer of Melville's works, was the collector of the Port of New York. He had just given the author a job in the Customs House, where Melville later said that he sought to “bury himself alive” for the next two decades. This was a thank-you present for the man who had allowed Melville to turn his back on writing.
Typee was Melville's first book, and a resounding success; this is a sixth edition, suggesting its ongoing popularity. Melville came to hate his most salable work, finding himself typecast as “the man who lived among cannibals.” Still, he chose it for a gift, knowing it would be more appreciated than Moby-Dick.
Millard McAdoo Riggs, Jr.
Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. London: T. Bensley & Son for J. Taylor, 1816.
Provenance: Dumbarton Oaks co-founder Mildred Bliss, with her bookplate.
I have lived to see many of my plans beautifully realized, but many more cruelly marred sometimes by false economy, sometimes by injudicious extravagance.
Humphry Repton, 1816
Having visited several European libraries—including Wormsley with the Grolier Club—that displayed Repton’s Red Books, I could not resist the desire to own Fragments, offered to me by the late dealer and club member Geoffrey Steele during a 2000 visit.
Years earlier, I made several visits to Dumbarton Oaks and the home of Mildred Bliss. My copy bears her personal bookplate, and this association makes it a prized part of my collection. This first edition of Repton’s final great work on landscape gardening contains all forty-three plates, including twenty-two hand-colored aquatints and twenty wood engravings.
Susan Jaffe Tane
Autograph postcard signed to Susan Jaffe [Tane]. [Somewhere between Chicago and New York, 1959.] Framed with a photograph of Sandburg and a clipped signature.
In 1959, my father was returning from a business trip, and his seatmate was none other than the poet Carl Sandburg. My father had him sign a postcard for me, and when I met him at the airport, I was too excited to see him to even notice who he was introducing me to. As we were walking away, I realized who I’d just met, and ran back to recite “Fog” to the poet, just as strangers recited “The Raven” to each other on the street during the height of Edgar Allan Poe’s fame.
This postcard is one of my most treasured items. It represents for me what a collection is all about: a connection to the past, and a concrete and living piece of writing.
David L. Vander Meulen
Claude Quillet (1602–1661).
Callipædia, seu de pulchræ prolis habendæ ratione, poema didacticon. London: J. Bowyer, 1708.
This unrecorded book from Alexander Pope’s library is the first London edition of a didactic poem published by the French physician and neo-Latin writer Claude Quillet in 1655.
The volume reflects a paradox at the core of my collecting and scholarship: focus generates breadth. I came to the book through my pursuit of anything Popean; this discovery then became an interest in itself. I have now identified and collected most editions of Quillet’s poem in Latin, English, and French across four centuries (including the 1655 Chatsworth copy with manuscript notes by the collector Thomas Dampier).
The work’s connection with Pope helps to explain some lines in his poem An Essay on Man and also offers a poignant hint of his inner life. Pope seems to have purchased this book when he was about twenty and presumably near the peak of his physical powers. Meanwhile, his 4' 6" frame was bent from tuberculosis of the spine, and his literary enemies would soon describe his appearance in the vilest terms. It was in such circumstances that he was reading Callipædia, or (as one translation had it), The Art of [be]Getting Beautiful Children.
Thomas D. Whitridge
William Tyler, R.A. (active 1878–1893).
Portrait bust of Matthew Arnold (1822–1888). Terracotta patinated plaster bust, [ca. 1889], 30 x 24 in.
Provenance: Lord Coleridge [John Duke Coleridge].
Lord Coleridge was Matthew Arnold’s “most loyal [and] enduring of any of his friends” (Honan). He unveiled another bust of Arnold, by Bruce Joy, in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Coleridge and Arnold first met as undergraduates at Balliol College, Oxford, and remained lifelong friends, regularly seeing and corresponding with one another.
The finished marble bust (current location unknown) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1889. Another plaster version is in the art collection of Balliol College, not definitively known to be, but almost certainly, the gift of Lord Coleridge.
Matthew Arnold was my great-great-grandfather. My grandfather, Arnold Whitridge (a one-time Grolier Club member) acquired and collected books once owned by his grandfather, Matthew Arnold, which had been sold and dispersed by Arnold’s family when he died. I am the current caretaker of that collection, now presided over by this bust.
Saints and Their Stories. Illustrated by Cayley Robinson. London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd., .
This is the first book I know for sure I owned, because my nanny made a needle-work cover lined with silk for it and embroidered my name “John” on the upper cover. The book is thus in virtually perfect condition in the original dust jacket. How it survived my peripatetic life is miraculous, and I deem it today the rarest book I have ever owned. How many Grolier Club members still have their first book would be an interesting fact. As born bibliophiles, perhaps most of us!
[Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay].
The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, written in favour of the New Constitution, as agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787, 2 vols. New York: Printed and sold by J. and A. McLean, 1788. A thick paper copy, rarely seen.
Provenance: Presented by James Madison to James Maury, a confidant and first consul of the United States.
Madison, Hamilton and Jay agreed amongst themselves to write position papers supporting the proposed Constitution, at the same time deciding not to disclose authorship. As such, there are virtually no presentation copies of The Federalist, this example being one of two known. Even Washington's copy, now at Williams College, has no direct indication of presentation.
My copy arrived in a particularly felicitous way. A bookseller called me and asked if I would be interested in volume one of The Federalist. I purchased it and asked about volume two, but he said it was not among the books he purchased. I suggested he speak with his seller, who told him that he donated a number of books he thought were of no value to a local thrift shop. Suffice it to say that my bookseller friend journeyed to the shop and found the volume.
Such are the tales that attach themselves to some books, and which live on in booklore forever.