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John Steinbeck and ‘The Wizard of Maine’

Found among a collection of modern first edition catalogues this offering from Bradford Morrow in a catalogue entitled John Steinbeck: A Collection of Books and Manuscripts, Formed by Harry Valentine of Pacific Grove, California (Bradford Morrow Bookseller: Catalogue 8/1980). Morrow has subsequently become a distinguished novelist.  Hopefully this was  bought by a library but it could also have gone to a wealthy private collector. It does not appear to have ever been published. Many such items, especially letters and association copies sometimes disappear completely, and the only record of the item is a catalogue entry…

Manuscript of Unpublished Novella

289. ‘The Wizard of Maine’. Original holograph manuscript written on 30 folio leaves and laid into original three-quarter cloth and marbled paper binder, of an unpublished novella by Steinbeck. Each sheet is written on recto only
in Steinbeck’s distinctively cramped and neat hand, and the length of the text amounts to well over 15000 words. The novella begins with the following passage:

In a time not so very long ago, an ancient creaking, complaining caravan squeaked and grumbled through the hamlets and towns of Eastern America. From Maine it went to the cool lakes of Wisconsin and, by-passing Chicago, too itself to the fabulous meadows of Kentucky. It smooth [sic] oak tongue and ancient harness were shared by a succession of horse rescued for a time from glue and fox feed factories. And it was a good life for these horse for the caravan did not go far nor fast in a day and it stopped where there was pasturage…

‘The Wizard of Maine’ is divide into six sections,and is the story of a travelling elixir salesman and magician who has set out from his home in Maine and travels across the country in hope of being discovered, so that he can perform his tricks on stage as a professional. Composition date for the manuscript is unknown, but would seem to date from the 1940s based upon the style of the binder housing the paper. The manuscript has numerous alterations and is in need of minor editing. It is, however, a highly diverting and typical Steinbeck story which should be published…Needless to say, Steinbeck manuscripts of this length and importance, which are still unpublished, are virtually gone from the market place. Enclosed in folio custom morocco slipcase. Further details available to interested parties. $27500.00

[RMJ – London]

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2 thoughts on “John Steinbeck and ‘The Wizard of Maine’

  1. Mumpsimus

    "Hopefully this was bought by a library…"

    I can't agree. I think it's a small tragedy every time a rarity is removed from circulation, and disappears into a drawer in some institution.

    Reply
  2. Jot101 Post author

    Many thanks M – understood, but at least in an institution the rarity can be seen and used…I recall the collector who bought 200+ important Ronald
    Firbank letters at auction and would let no-one see or use them…even now much of his life is a mystery because of this…

    Reply

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