H.D. letter about Ezra Pound’s look

End_To_TormentFound – an unpublished  typed letter from the Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) to a Mr Russell, almost certainly the poet Peter Russell who was also something of a champion of Ezra Pound. She gives her address as Hotel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland where she is known to have resided from 1946 to 1952. It is a good letter full of commentary on the modernists and with much on Ezra Pound – his style and manner, his appearance and his hair.

She starts by writing about the literary magazine The Egoist, which started in 1914.

‘Yes, I should say it was Ezra who pushed the Portrait (Joyce) in or into The Egoist. I arrived on the scene about 1911; I think during War 1, I was supposed to hold down the Egoist job  for Richard Aldington. I met him before The Egoist, it all came together in 1912, along with Ezra first condescending (and very kindly) to present a few of my poems, as for Poetry Chicago. I believe something of the same thing happened to T.S. Eliot, at one time. I think Eliot noted it somewhere. Ezra just took his pencil and crossed off lines and line-ends and the whole emerged like a stalactite, very beautiful after he chizzled (sic) it. I think it was Hermes of the Ways and it appeared in  the first imagist anthology… I should say unofficially E.  has everything to do with the more dynamic content of The Egoist as with Poetry Chicago, at that time. [At this point she says she could write an article about this but needs no money as she has an allowance and her health is good after an illness. She goes on to reminisce about Pound in early life] …it was a Halloween dance, if I remember,  that day after  Ezra’s birthday. Or it might have been Twelfth Night; I remember our discussing it as Ezra gave our hostess a copy of the same Temple edition which we were all collecting. Ezra wore a green brocade coat. It was, I believe brought back from a trip he had taken with his parents and an aunt  to Tangiers… anyway, he had a photograph with the group, Ezra with a fez over his exact Gozzoli curls. It sounds odd, but Ezra once said to me  at that time, that for one friend he made himself, he made 10 for his hair. It was quite exact, curls like the Hermes of Praxitiles. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s quartos

 

Quarto Hamlet cover 001When I studied textual criticism and palaeography at University under the legendary Peter Davison (editor of Orwell’s letters) I recall being impressed by the exceeding rarity of the original quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Rarer than hen’s teeth was, I believe, the phrase used. This was because the actors who used them to learn their lines in Shakespeare’s time had no reason to keep them after their acting careers had ended. Shakespeare was just another playwright, and it was only with the posthumous publication of the First Folio in 1623, when all the plays were collected together, that his true greatness began to be recognised.

These pamphlet-like quartos—often badly printed and containing countless errors—were published in small numbers and were not surprisingly badly treated by the jobbing actors who used them every day. Very few survived, hence their great rarity. Despite this, it wasn’t until the early twentieth century, when American multi-millionaires came into the market, that the first quartos began to fetch startling prices—startling, that is, for the time. Today, such treasures might bring in six figure sums. Continue reading

A Charles Morgan collection

 

Charles_Langbridge_MorganDiscovered in a catalogue of the late 1990s from the estimable dealer in autographs, David J Holmes, is a long description of a collection of holograph letters, typed letters, and post-cards from Charles Morgan (1894 – 1958 ), the English novelist and playwright who became a household name in the 30s and 40s. The price asked was $8,500.

Twenty years ago Morgan was out of fashion and unread, hence the relatively low price, which works out at about £18 a letter. In the same catalogue a letter of two pages from A. A. Milne would cost you $1,000, while one of similar length from Virginia Woolf is priced at $2,000. Today, while there will always be fans of Milne and Woolf, Morgan’s popularity has hardly improved, though apparently there are signs of a ‘revival ‘. However, in the world of literary biography quantity is everything. A single, if fascinating, letter from the creator of Pooh Bear would mean very little to a Milne biographer, and the same could be said for the Woolf letter. Continue reading

Another bookshop goes bust …

Though this was in 1924. Here is a wry comment from the Summer 1924 number of Now & Then, on the preference for chocolates over books. Plus ca change.Charing cross road in the twenties

FOR twenty years in the middle of Charing Cross Road, London, there was a certain bookshop. It had a nice central position and thousands of people passed its doors daily. When it was first started it had a bold frontage with nice tall windows full of new books. A few years later the shop was cut in two, half of it continued to sell books, but the other half became an emporium for the sale of chocolates. It was not a very smart bookshop—its stock might have been wider in appeal and better displayed. Its attention to customers was however courteous, and willingness to get any book not in stock was invariably expressed. It performed a service and its proprietor continued to live. Now the bookshop, or rather the half-shop, has disappeared owing to its inability to pay increased rent. In place of the books in the window appears a bold announcement:

                                        DUGGAN’S DERBY SCHEME

                                       TICKETS TEN SHILLINGS EACH

                                           £25,000 IN CASH PRIZES!

The chocolate shop continues.

   We have no doubt that Duggan’s takings and the receipts from the chocolates are considerably larger than was the turnover from the sale of books. Bread and Circuses in Ancient Rome—Chocolates and Spotting Winners in modern London—it’s the same old world! 

[R.M.Healey]

 


 

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

This the final part of this amazing series. Many thanks David Redd.

APPENDICES

Assorted background and peripheral information on Bear Hudson and others.

Appendix 1 

Norah C. James 

Her 1939 autobiography I Lived in a Democracy is good on reminiscences of Victorian childhood and early grass-roots politics, but then becomes sketchier, mainly due to James’ determination “to avoid my emotional life”. Love affairs with “C” and “Y”, and indeed the obscenity trials of The Well of Loneliness and James’ own Sleeveless Errand, receive only brief treatment, as (with more reason) does a phase of subsequent writing covered by “I decided to write some more books, and used a pseudonym for some of them.” However James’ many cameos of social attitudes are revealing, and the reader can discern the mood which made “Jimmy” write Sleeveless Errand the way she did. The appearance of her Straphangers as a Cub Book is just one of the minor mysteries which must lie behind so many Bear Hudson activities.

Appendix 2

Bernards’ Fiction Series

Bernards contained mysteries too. This sub-series seems to have consisted of just two thin paperbacks, Nos. 27 and 29 within the general wartime numbered series otherwise labelled “Bernards’ Technical Books”. Continue reading

The Worst English Poets—number 4—Rev Edward Dalton

Jot 101 Worst poets cover 001The Rev Edward Dalton was a Victorian cleric and leading light in the Protestant Association. Here is an extract from his sublime effusion, ‘The Railway Journey’ (in The Sea, the Railway Journey and other Poems, London c1875)

The last friends part,

And off we start,

The engine pants and snorts and blows,

The carriage doorways slam and close,

The broad and ponderous wheels are rolled

By thick-set arms of iron mould,

While streaming from the sprouting side

The steam escapes in hissing tide.

Cranch, crunch, thud, rud, dubber-dub-rub.

Thudder, rubber, dub-dub-dub- a- rub-rub.

 

Startled at starting, for our nerves are weak,

We gasp for breath,

Grow pale as death,

As one long piercing, shrill, unearthly shriek

Rings thro’ ears, and stops the power to speak,

The cry of anguish, or vindictive yell

Of baffled imp, or vanquished fiend of hell,

The death-shriek of some monstrous beast,

We’ve smashed a million pigs at least.

Ah no! no sucking pig has lost a bristle,

The shriek was but the starting railway whistle,

Our speed increases as we rattle down

And reach the suburbs of the outer town;

And there, yes, there

On the look-our slope of the garden sward

I caught a glimpse of my darling Maude… Continue reading

An artist among the Charing Cross Road bookshops

IMG_3272Found in the art instruction magazine The Artist (London, November 1934) an interview with the artist and art therapist Adrian Hill about his recent oil painting ‘In Charing Cross Road.’ Here are a few extracts -most of Hill’s talk is about  technique, but there are some insights on the choice of subject:

… there were some who questioned the impulse behind the work, and wondered whether the scene was worth the skill and discernment that the artist had brought to the task

I admit that I shared a little of this feeling. Charing Cross Road is a central and important thoroughfare, but it must rank in the C3 class amongst London highways. Indeed, there is so little of the beautiful or the picturesque about the neighbourhood that I asked Adrian Hill if the idea of sitting down to paint it came to him suddenly, or if he had deliberately hunted for such a subject.

“No, I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “It came to me. It was a gift from the London traffic. I was waiting to cross the road when I suddenly found it in front of me, complete in design and detail, asking to be painted.”

“As far as size is concerned, did you see it as a 24″by 20″?”

“No, I thought at first of making it bigger – about 40″ by 30″ – but it was an experiment in the ay of subject, and I decided to go modest. If ever I do a similar scene, I shan’t hesitate to paint it on a grander scale!”

“You had no misgivings about tackling it inside the studio?”

“None at all. I believe I should have painted it mush less spontaneously and confidently if I had had the subject in front of me. The details would have been so insistent that I should have been led into making a still life study of books instead of an impression of a bookshop, which was what I was after.”

“But I suppose you had to use a model for the books?” Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (4)

John Lane, the London publisher of Eudora Welty’s classic story-collection The Golden Apples, decided in 1952 that sales had slackened too much to justify keeping the work in print. According to Noel Polk’s Eudora Welty – a bibliography of her work (1994), “1175 unbound sheets were sold to “Bear Hudson[?].” How very odd. Perhaps across the world there are copies of John Lane’s edition of The Golden Apples in unusually basic binding.

Did Bear Hudson do that kind of thing often? Apparently, yes. Or at least, it did in 1952. The Reading University literary archives include records from publishers George Allen & Unwin Ltd; in 1952 there was correspondence with “Bear Hudson Ltd who buy remainders from A&U”. Interesting.

A year later, though, Bear Hudson made one last attempt at an orthodox publishing venture.

The Hudson House Classics

After the gap, in 1953-54 there materialised the “Hudson House Classics”. These were five hardcover books reprinting safely out-of-copyright children’s stories such as Treasure Island.

Despite the statement “Published by Hudson House, London” these were clearly Bear Hudson productions. The 1953 dust-jacket spine of Kidnapped carries the familiar logo of the reading bear, and the books were printed by Technical Suppliers Ltd., known to be located at 63, Goldhawk Road, as was Bear Hudson Ltd. itself. Untitled19

Not all Hudson House Classics were dated (or indeed showed the bear anywhere). I found a 1954 date for Treasure Island hiding behind the frontispiece, inexplicably avoiding the title and back-of-title pages. Some books may have been reprinted or only bound-up intermittently; their boards can be either red or green.

Then, after these five, nothing. (More Hudson House Classics were said to be forthcoming, but naturally I can’t find any, not even Little Women despite the HHC Good Wives being its sequel.) So there are still questions.

What was Bear Hudson doing after the Forties? Who were the people behind it?

I looked for the people first. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

Continue reading

Collecting Nudist Literature

Nudist magazine GermanFound in the December 1935 issue of The Collector’s Miscellany is this extract from Nudelife, a magazine devoted to Naturism.

To the astonishing number of hobbies, quaint, varied, cheap, expensive, voluminous or requiring very little space of time, already practised by countless numbers of all ranks, sexes, ages and colour throughout the whole world, may be added this new one—thanks to nudism—that of collecting nudist magazines, either for pride of possession, or scientific, art or educational adjuncts. The field is a new one, and provided a spice of novelty, not to say thrills or even risk, inasmuch very many foreign publications, particularly German, have been prohibited or suppressed. To collect these latter publications is no crime, but they must be kept private and for the purposes above mentioned to be absolutely on the safe side. The number of German magazines have been many and varied and of comparatively short duration except in the case of an outstanding two or three. They are marked chiefly for their frank portrayal of free-body culture between the sexes in the open fields or nudist camps, with a few indoor nude studies sandwiched in between, in the matter of half-tone illustrations, which are noted for their beauty of form, relation to natural surroundings, valued instruction in sex hygiene, the value of sunlight in health . The word obscene has crept in with regard to these magazines, which are displayed for sale or are sold for a purpose other than as necessary adjuncts to the culture of science, art or specific education. In this case it would be most advisable to earmark the collection under one or more of these headings and mark strictly private and personal. In our case they become included in our Nudelife dossier for the relativity of the movement. Some other nudist countries, or better still, some other countries having a nudist movement within its confines, have at one or two publications which will eventually be more accessible and obtainable perhaps than was the case of Germany, for collectors.

So here we have a justification, on the grounds of their educational or scientific value,  for collecting what, in a recent Jot, R. Edynbry argues are merely obscene “ art “ magazines, fit only for the stupid and ignorant. Despite the fact that the anonymous author of this piece emphasises the legality of collecting nudist magazines, the whole defence is set about with cautions and suggestions as to how such material might be kept away from the prying eyes of the censor. [R.M.Healey]   

Fake news—-1932 style

Buddha matches

Found in the Jan-Feb 1932 issue of Collector’s Miscellany is this report on a bizarre anti-religion campaign rumoured to have been created by the USSR.

‘It has been extremely difficult to secure definite information relating to the anti-religious match-box labels said to have been issued by the Soviet Government as part of their anti-God campaign. The one illustrated in this issue depicts the crucification of Christ and bears the words “Jesus Christ Safety Matches”. This label is understood to be one of a series, as there are said to be others depicting the Sacred Heart and various other religious subjects.

       These matches which have been the subject of much comment in the daily press, are said to have been hawked upon the streets of London by gutter merchants and that a member of Parliament raised the question in the House of Commons as to whether any action was being taken by the British Government.

         One thing is certain, and that is these labels are likely to be rare; I do not know of any collector in this country fortunate enough to secure a specimen. A London correspondent assured me that the matches were never sold in London but were produced by the Krishna Match Co. of India, who also issue of BUDDHA MATCH, and others featuring various Indian religions. Personally, I am inclined to favour this statement, as the box in question, said to have been bought in the New Cut, may easily have been bought from India by some seaman.                                                                                                        (JOSEPH PARKS ) Continue reading

Wilmarth Lewis—book collector extraordinaire

Strawberry Hill catalogue 1842Found in a copy of John O’London’s Weekly for 18th April 1952 is a review of Collector’s Progress by Wilmarth Lewis ( 1895 – 1979) in which the author reveals that the combination of wealth and a collector’s obsession brought about the greatest collection of manuscripts relating to Horace Walpole in the world.

In his book Lewis revealed that he had always been a born collector. At the age of five he collected house flies in a discarded cigar box. A year later he had turned to shells. Stamps, coins and butterflies followed. Eventually, he began to collect books, starting with standard works and moving on to first editions. On the way to Europe by ship to fight in the First World War he met John Masefield, who introduced him to the writings of Horace Walpole. As a result of this meeting he collected a complete set of Masefield first editions. In 1923, at the age of 28 he had $5,000 a year (a large sum in those days) to spend on books. He was an enthusiast for the eighteenth century, but had not yet decided which particular eighteenth century writer to collect. Eventually, in 1923,after buying in London a copy of Jesse’s George Selwyn and his Contemporaries annotated by the bluestocking Lady Louisa Stuart, he returned to Horace Walpole, vowing to assemble the finest collection of Walpoliana– mainly letters and Strawberry Hill books– in the world. In 1952 he described his Library thus: Continue reading

A new kind of bookshop in 1930s New York City

Drew elizabeth pic 001Discovered in a copy of The Publisher’s Weekly for March 22nd 1930 is this feature by John D. Stannard on a New York bookshop that aimed, with its decorations and objets d’art, to emulate the comfort and charm of a private library.

Elizabeth Drew, a graduate of Vassar College and her ‘ associate’ , the artist Jessie Leach Rector, opened their (unnamed) shop on 43 East 60th Street in September, 1929, just a few weeks before the Wall Street Crash. Designed to be an antidote to the ‘ graceless ‘stores that most booklovers had become used to, the couple had created a ‘ bookish background’ in which old furniture and rare objects of art competed with books for the attention of customers.

Everything in the shop was for sale, including the ‘ lamps, lampshades, old prints and watercolours, framed and unframed mirrors, screens and tables’ provided by Rector, who specialised in interior decoration, and the ‘primitive Indian pottery and Spanish colonial silver which Drew imported from Peru. Drew emphasised that although her store was sophisticated, had an exclusive list of patrons, and sold old and rare books, including modern first editions and fine bindings, her ideal customer was the ‘middle-class ‘type who travelled into town on the subway.

A key innovation devised by Drew was the monthly review of new books in the fields of fiction, biography, essays, Book-of-the Month, Literary Guild, Crime Club and best sellers, which was sent out to a hand picked 6,000 names, half of whom came from friends of the two booksellers, and which bore the testimonial ‘ Recommended by Elizabeth Drew’. In fact, the reviews came not only from Drew herself, but by these friends, who signed their work. Continue reading

One foot in the grave at 44 !

12796501More heart-warming advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) by the cheery R Edynbry.

‘I am just forty-four years and beginning to feel that real middle age is just around the corner. I don’t mix much with other men and never talk over my symptoms with anybody. But I often speculate as to what may be in store for me in the way of health and sickness. I should be glad if you would tell me some general symptoms of middle age so that should experience them in the coming years I should not be taken by surprise.’

Changes take place so slowly in middle age that it is often difficult to compare conditions from one year to another. The trend of physical life is now downwards, however, gradually, and whether it will be hurried or delayed depends upon the constitution and manner of living. As a rule it becomes more difficult now to plan and carry out personal schemes, the success of which depends upon quick movement and energy. The healthy flush of youth shown in the complexion, gives place to a certain pallor, except when blood pressure gives a florid appearance. Greyness and some degree of baldness begin to show. There may be a bagginess under the eyes and wrinkles at the outer corners. Hearing may not be so keen as formerly and glasses are generally necessarily for reading small print.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of middle age is the layer of abdominal fat and the general sagging of the body. Unless increasing care is paid to the diet, dyspepsia may give trouble, and various forms of nervous irritability draw attention to the fact that something is wrong. Worry about the physical or economic situation often causes insomnia at this time. The sex life needs careful regulation and all emotional strain should be avoided as far as possible. The sensible man—who should be his own doctor to some extent in middle age—should know that one of the secrets of health and happiness at this period lies in the simplification of one’s needs and demands. Less food and plainer food; less worry because of fewer ambitions and desires; less responsibility because nothing is undertaken without reasonable hope of accomplishment. [RR]

 

George Sims and espionage

img_2750Found in a thriller by George Sims (1923 -1999) an interesting letter about the book. Sims was a successful and much admired dealer in rare books, something of a poet and a novelist with several of his books being about the book trade (bibliomysteries.) This book Who is Cato? (Macmillan, London 1981) actually has an art dealer, one William Marshall (rich but disillusioned), as its hero. He becomes involved in espionage through his connection to  ‘Intelligence’ in WW2 and finds himself working against the KGB many years later while on holiday in Majorca…

The letter from Sims to a woman friend, who ran a bookshop, is on headed notepaper from his cottage ‘Peacocks’ in Hurst, Berkshire. It reads:

Many thanks for your helpful cheering letter. I was glad to have it. Probably I’ve told you that when Cato was published we were in America and our daughter phoned to say that there had been a mysterious burglary at our cottage in which nothing was taken. When I came back I was puzzled as to how an entry was made into our cottage and my office; nothing was missing not even some £10 notes in the office drawer… exactly like the burglary which took place at William Marshall’s cottage near Hambleden!!

Obviously someone thought I knew more than I did. I was to blame as I had signed the official secrets document when I was at the SCU, and there was quite a deal of fact mixed with the fiction. Love George.

The S.CU. ‘Special Communications Units’ were outstations of S.I.S (‘Special Intelligence Services’) involved mostly with radio communications. They were disbanded in 1946. Sims, known to be irascible, appears quite philosophic about this incident. His books are collected, especially the bibliomysteries, also his excellent and still mouthwatering catalogues

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. Continue reading

Bishop Bury: a 14th century bibliomaniac

philobiblion-pic-001Bishop Bury of Durham spent so much money on books that he lived in dire poverty and debt and when he died all that could be found to cover his corpse was some underwear belonging to his servant.

The facts regarding his library are mind blowing. According to W.M. Dickie, who wrote a paper on Bury and his magnum opus , the Philobiblon, in The Book Handbook (1949), he had more books than any bishop in England. Five wagons carried them away, which suggests that the number of volumes was more than 1,500. This compares with the Sorbonne’s 1,722 in 1338, the 380 volumes at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, in 1418 and the 122 housed in the University Library there in 1424.

In his Philobiblon Bury writes of wishing to found a college in Oxford and to endow it with his library, but no college is named. Some historians have maintained that the library was bequeathed to Durham College, but there is no evidence that the college received any such endowment. The sad truth is that this wonderful library was probably broken up and sold off to pay Bury’s huge debts.

The Philobiblion is revealing as to how many of Bury’s books were acquired:

“We were reported to burn with such desire for books, especially for old ones, that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books than of money. Wherefore since support by the goodness of the aforesaid Prince (Edward III)…we were able to requite a man, well or ill, to benefit or injure mightily great as well as small, there flowed in instead of presents and guerdons, and instead of gifts and jewels, soiled tracts and battered codices, gladsome alike to our eye and heart…In good will we strove so to forward their affairs ( the affairs of donors of books) that gain accrued to them, while justice suffered no disparagement”

In this way Bury, when Keeper of the Privy Seal, was given four books, namely Terence, Vergil, Quintilian and Jerome against Rufinus by Richard de Wallingford, Abbot of St Albans, who also sold to Bury for fifty pounds of silver, thirty-two other books, of which he gave fifteen to the refectory and ten to the kitchen (presumably at Westminster Abbey), an act which was later condemned by Thomas Walsingham, former scriptorarius at the Abbey. The Abbot’s motivation in securing such an astonishing bargain for Bury was to promote the interests of his monastery at Court and indeed Bury helped him secure a royal charter giving the Abbot the exceptional right of imprisoning excommunicated persons. When Bury became Bishop of Durham in a fit of remorse he restored some of the books to St Albans. And following his death, Wallingford’s successor at the Abbey secured other volumes at a discounted price from Bury’s executors. One of these, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus—now in the British Museum—bears an inscription recording its sale to Bury and its repurchase in 1346 from his executors. Only two other manuscripts are known to have belonged to Bury. One is in the British Museum and the other is in the Bodleian. Both are from St Albans. Continue reading

World War 1 – the last hours

image1This short piece was sent in by by an anonymous jotwatcher, for which much thanks.  It shows a typed military communique about the end of hostilities in World War 1 that was kept by his  great, great grandfather and handed down through the family. It reads:

After telling the troops, my great great grandfather folded up this piece of paper and put it in his pocket nearly 100 years ago. It’s been handed down since. It marks the end of the First World War:

Translation:
1) Hostilities shall cease along the entire front at 1100 hrs on November 11th (French time)
2) Until further orders, troops shall not move forward of the line seized by this hour and date. Report exactly the position of the line. 
3) All communication with the enemy is forbidden until receipt of instructions by the army commander.

A real piece of history! Now raising a massive gin and tonic to those who gave their tomorrow for me to enjoy my today and I’m surrounded by people I love. Don’t forget to remember.