500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

img_2706Found – a 1982 book collector’s catalogue from George S Macmanus of Philadelphia 500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions. Mostly modern American and British literature, it has many direct signed presentation from the authors and  many association copies. There are the usual authors who are known to have signed a lot – Galsworthy, Masefield, John Drinkwater, Witter Bynner etc., but also uncommon signers like the great WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg-  a copy of his play Moses signed shortly before his death, a modest condition copy at $2500. There are some inscriptions whose significance is hard to fathom- Norman Douglas’s In the Beginning inscribed by him to the effete (and highly collectable)  novelist Reginald Turner “To Reggie hoping he won’t follow Symira’s example in ‘every’ respect, from Norman Douglas.” Great condition $375. There are several Aldous Huxley 1920s novels inscribed to Anita Loos with minor condition problems in the $300 range and several Swinburne presentations at $1000 inscribed to the artist Burne-Jones. A decent buy at $1750  is George Orwells Eton leaving present. We have had dozens of these through over the years. Each boy was given a current smart cream-coloured edition of Poems by Thomas Gray. The presentation leaf reads: ‘Hunc Librum Erico A Blair’ and it is signed by the master ‘Cyrillus’ Alington. Potentially these ‘leaving present’ books exist for Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Aldous Huxley, Harold Acton, Henry Green and, possibly more valuable than even Orwell, Ian Fleming.

Macmanus notes that the book (Privately Printed for Eton College by the Riccardi Press, 1920) is rare but there are now many copies online…a quick search reveals 50 at abebooks, some signed by Alington, none more than £60 but the only mildly distinguished one is to Richard Baerlein (the late horse-racing correspondent of the Guardian.) Auction records reveal only an 1867 edition given to Prince Duleej Singh as a prize while at Eton.

Lastly, Macmanus seems to have acquired a serious Edward Thomas collection mostly inscribed to his close friend and backer ESP Haynes, the most desirable being the dedication copy of Thomas’s book on George Borrow ‘This is your book in more ways than one..’ Macmanus explains that Haynes had lent him money in a bad time, enabling him to get away to Wales. Macmanus wanted $2500. The prices, apart from the Orwell, were slightly strong for the time and most would prove mediocre investments –  after 35 years some may have doubled or a little more.

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3 thoughts on “500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

    1. Jot 101 Post author

      There are one or two chaps who on going down from ‘Slough Grammar’ went fairly quickly to jail…I won’t name them but there are a few at Wikipedia’s famous Old Etonians site. There may also have been some who got so broke they had to sell their Thomas Gray. There used to be a proper second hand bookshop on Eton High Street that must have witnessed that…

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