Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

Maundy Gregory – a St John’s Wood Gatsby

IMG_1829Found in a 1955 Punch – a review by the novelist Anthony Powell of Honours for Sale. The Strange Story of Maundy Gregory. (Gerald Macmillan, London: Richards Press 1954). Maundy Gregory had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name–only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in Quest for Corvo) he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. He had a mansion in St John’s Wood which later became the world famous Beatle’s recording studio.

Powell calls him an ‘honours tout’, a ‘real life Gatsby’ and ‘a mad aspect of the 1920s incarnate’. He suggests that anyone  ‘who enjoys a good laugh’ should read the list of  guests at his Derby Eve Dinner at his own club ‘The Ambassador’s.’ Something of a ‘sausage fest’ (i.e. no women) but, as Powell says, Gregory certainly knew how to ‘bring them in.’  The author of the book, Gerald Macmillan, may  be exaggerating when he says it was the most distinguished gathering ever held…

List of guests at Ambassador Derby Eve Dinner, held on June 2, 1931.

Major-General J. E. B. Seely (in the Chair), Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Mr. J. H. Thomas, the Duke of Sutherland, Viscount Craigavon, the Marquess of Reading, Major-General the Earl of Scarborough, Sir John Simon, Lord Southborough, Viscount Elibank, Mr. J. Maundy Gregory, Lord Jessel, Mr. Ralph E. Harwood, Earl Winterton, Lord Queenborough, Lord Bayford, Mr. W. Dudley Ward, Lord Plender, Marquis del Moral, Lieutenant-Commander Sir Warden Chilcott. Continue reading

Bookish mnemonics – the 5 D’s and the 4 R’s

bookridepile-1Someone once categorised the 5 reasons for selling books thus – Death, Divorce, Debt, Disinterest and Displacement (the “5 D’s”). The last refers to people moving houses, a very common reason. One could add ‘Disease’- we were once called to a house in Battersea where a man was selling every single book he possessed because he had become allergic to the paper in them. Dotage could also be added but this is usually covered by displacement…Duplication is another reason— for example, marriage can occasion the turfing out of a lot of duplicated books, especially when two great collections are amalgamated. We were privileged to be called to the Notting Hill mansion of Margaret Drabble and Michael Holroyd soon after their marriage. Divorce can be problematic in the division of books and occasionally lawyers become involved. In the days of CDs this was seldom a problem except one of clashes of taste.

In deciding which books to sell or get rid of the “4 R’s” mnemonic acronym can be of use.  Read, Revere, Reference, Riches. It is slightly  more contrived than the 5 D’s but is a very good test to use when slimming down a book collection. All bases are covered. Of each book ask the question:

Are you  going to Read or re-read it?

Do you love or Revere the book?

Could the book be of use (Reference)?

Is the book going to increase in value and eventually yield Riches?

If yes to any of the above -keep the book, if no to all -toss it.

A bookseller meets T.E. Lawrence

IMG_0006Found among  the books in the working library of the actor Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)  his copy of Letters of T.E. Lawrence (Readers Union, 1941.) O’Toole had surprisingly few books on or by Lawrence considering that this  was probably his greatest role and the film that made him an international star. In the Reader’s Union edition was loosely inserted  a one page wartime broadsheet keeping members of the book club informed about new publications. It was from an address at Wray Common, Reigate. This broadsheet / flier was dated February 1941and  has a good piece (“T.E.”) on Lawrence by his friend and bookseller  K.W. Marshall.

I have more reason to feel grateful to T.E. Lawrence than most booksellers. When I was unemployed years ago, he loaned me Clouds Hill his Dorset cottage, where I stayed for just over three months. Later, my wife and I spent a honeymoon holiday there. On my first  visit I was in “possession” of the cottage, and Lawrence would ask permission to stay the night on the infrequent occasions that he managed to pay a visit. He was very proud of the cottage and spent some considerable effort and time in gradually planning a comfortable retreat for his retirement. Unfortunately, when he died he had not enjoyed Clouds Hill for as long a period as I had; and during his short term of possession he was harassed by news reporters. Continue reading

A warning for all collectors of manuscripts

Boerhaave picA snippet featured in the miscellany Medley dated October 1936 comes from ‘Ripley’ in the Sunday Express. It concerns the famous Dutch physician Dr Herman Boerhaave (1668 – 1738), ‘founder of clinical teaching’ and called by some ‘The father of physiology’:

“When he died his effects were sold by auction, and among his manuscripts was a sealed book for which there was a heated scramble. It was sold for £2,000 in gold, and when opened was found to contain all blank pages except one on which the doctor had written:

 “Keep your head cold —your feet warm, and you’ll make the best doctor poor “

I wonder if there are similar instances of bibliomaniacs fighting at auction for a particular sealed manuscript or printed book with annotations by an eminent, and perhaps controversial, person. Information welcome.

[R.M.Healey]

At the Bookshop 1822 and 2016

Retrieved from our old Bookride site – this not unamusing extract from an 1820s English/ French conversation manual.  It gives an interesting insight into a vanished world. It is followed by our modern version where the translation was slightly robotic, so apologies for that…

Note the concern with the appearance and quality of the books, the perennial problems with trying to get the binder to do what the bookseller and customer wants, and on time. The eagerness of the collector to be the first to be offered fresh stock from the shop has changed very little. Still with us are the problems of delay in postal sytems…  Also it is interesting that in the early nineteenth century women bookbuyers were thought likely to be attracted to ‘Large Paper Copies’ and vellum bound books. The customer’s knowledge of book lore and binding styles has changed somewhat.

1822    
Well ! you are a man of your word, as usual: and the books that you were to send me, when shall I have them?
Eh bien ! vous etes un homme de parole, comme a l’ordinaire: et ces livres que vous deviez m’emvoyer, quand viendront-ils?
You are under great obligations to your binder; he often furnishes you with an excuse.
Vous avez un relieur a qui vous avez de grardes obligations , car il vous sert souvent de manteau.
I protest that I sent them to him the same day you came to buy them.
Je vous proteste que je les ai fait porter chez lui le meme jour que vous etes venu les acheter.

Continue reading

Desiderata—a weekly publication for libraries and booksellers

Desiderata 001How come nothing can be found online about the little weekly periodical entitled Desiderata, a copy of which was found in a box of books the other day? It resembles the Clique in some respects, but unlike the latter, whose main job was to put collectors and booksellers in touch with one another, it aimed instead to provide ‘ a direct link between library and bookseller ‘.

The copy we found is probably fairly typical. It is issue number 36 of volume 8 and is dated September 9th 1955. Its 12 pages comprise an editorial in the form of a salutary story about a bookseller’s ring; there follows a rather silly defence of the inept ‘poet‘, Alfred Austin, against the entirely justifiable description of him by Evelyn Waugh as a ‘obnoxious nonentity ‘. Five whole pages of Wanted adverts from the British Museum then follow, and the rest of the issue is taken up by what appear to more Wanted ads from various public libraries, some small ads from booksellers and a full page ad from the eminent Guildford booksellers Traylen. A miscellany of literary notes and announcements takes up the back page.

The British Museum books wanted advert is the most interesting feature of the magazine. Listed in this case from ‘Tovey’ to ‘Trial’, the items demonstrate how keen the Library was (and presumably still is) to hold all editions of a particularly title, however seemingly obscure. This is, after all, its raison d’etre. However, one example listed seems out of place. There was a call put out for the 1915 second edition and its 1930 reprint of Pitman’s Dictionary of Secretarial Law and practice edited by Philip Tovey. Why would a 1930 reprint differ in any meaningful way from the 1915 second edition? Insisting on reprints for the sake of completeness is per se rather ludicrous. Continue reading

Hollywood bookplate (1928)

IMG_1443

A bookplate from Hollywood 1928 right at the end of the silent movie era. It was done for actor and film director Robert G. Vignola (1888 - 1953) and was found in his copy of Emil Lucka's Eros. The Development of the Sex Relations Through the Ages (Putnam's , N.Y. 1915.) It was drawn by the film costume designer Walter Plunkett, presumably a friend of the distinguished director and 26 years old at the time. By this time Vignola had acted in many movies and had directed at least 60, some of which are no longer to be found.

Vignola's  career seems to have come to and end  just after 'talkies' came in, a not uncommon fate for older directors. The figures in the bookplate represent stars of the time and probably relate to movies he had made. Other film  directors who had bookplates include George Cukor, Bryan Forbes, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B de Mille.

“Fadeless Sundour”

Found on the dust jacket of a Collins 1939 edition of Alice in Wonderland
 this notice:

This book is bound in fadeless Sundour cloth, which can be lightly rubbed with a sponge when soiled, with perfect safety.

The cloth has hardly faded in its 77 year life and does not need sponging. The Sundour company is still going (in Warrington, Lancs) but now deals almost exclusively with  curtains. Its involvement with book cloth seems to have ceased in the 1940s. There is very little online about this and Sundour’s fadeless cloth is mostly mentioned in the more meticulous used bookseller’s lists…

IMG_1312IMG_1309

A Parisian Aladdin’s Cave of Children’s Books

Found in a small magazine/ booklet published in Edinburgh 1953.
COLLECTORS ITEMS A BIBLIO-TYPOGRAPHICAL MISCELLANY (No. 2, Vol. 1) this piece on Gumuchian – a collector and dealer in children’s books (now a hot collecting area.) His book Les Livres de L’Enfance (Paris, 1930) is still in print (Holland Press modern reprint, right.) Originals are seldom under 1000 euros.

A Parisian Aladdin’s Cave of Children Books

Short and bearded, and somewhat like Tolous-Lautrec in appearance, Victor Gumuchian was one of the great booksellers of the past fifty years. Gumuchian will probably be known for posterity by his immense two volume catalogue of children’s books, “Les Livres de l’Enfance de XVe au XIXe Siecle,” which he published in 1930. But apart from hi knowledge of juvenile literature, he was a great authority on old buildings and books relating to flying and locomotion. He was a man He was a man of erudition, wide knowledge and versatility. A great traveller and linguist, as well as a writer and dramatist, he was also gourmet and a cook of rare quality. He knew where the best food could be eaten in Paris, or, in fact, anywhere in France.

 How well I remember my first visit to his bookshop in the Rue Richelieu in Paris. A small window, with perhaps a dozen or two rare books on show; inside, a somewhat dull room, lined with glass covered book shelves full of uncommon and interesting books of all centres. At the end of the room was a small door through which he took me, up a dark winding staircase, such as is only possible in Paris, to a door in the first floor. This he unlocked, and switched on the electric light… I was in an Aladdin’s Cave! There were three rooms, leading one into the other, with thousands of children’s books, all in perfect condition, arranged to show the beautiful points of as many as possible, whether an illustration, a binding, or a page of superb typography. These books were the fruit of his three years’ collecting, and the basis of his great catalogue. I was dumbfounded at what I saw. I had never seen, nor shall I ever see again, such a galaxy of treasures: all so beautifully arranged and delighted displayed. From that moment I became, not an enthusiast, but a fanatic – and have remained so to this day.

M. Gumuchian died in America in 1949, after a series of great misfortunes and after a long illness that caused him much suffering.

A rare friend whom I can never forget.

Frank J. Minnitt (1892-1958)

FMinnitt_Bunter_sm Found in the Peter Haining archive this piece by his friend the tireless researcher W.O.G. Lofts. Both men noted in former jots. Minnitt is not  forgotten as long as Billy Bunter is still part of our culture and it is worthwhile recording this Lofts piece which appears not to have been published.

Frank J. Minnitt - Billy Bunter Artist in The Knockout.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

Every so often someone emerges from the shadows as it were to become the leading light of the show. An understudy replaces the star and becomes an overnight hit. A reserve footballer or twelfth man cricketer is promoted to the first team, and scores a hat trick, plus the winning goal, or a sparkling ceatury as the case may be. Another case in point: when Gerald Campion - a small part actor on the screen- landed the T.V. part of Billy Bunter. Completely unknown to the public at large, overnight he became a star. And so it was once with a comic artist named Prank J. Minnitt, who after years of plodding along, drawing the centre pages of small - now long forgotten strips - when was given the job of illustrating a character who today is a household word. The name of course being Billy Bunter the fat boy of Greyfriars School in Kent.

Although one can write the whole life story and history of Billy Bunter, almost nothing is known at all about the artist who drew him in Knockout except for his birth and death dates. Born in 1892, possibly at Warlord, nothing is known of him until his work appears on the scene in 1927 in several Amalgamated Press comic papers. His art work that featured in such top selling papers as Chips Jester, and Joker, with a curious rounded style (that was to stand him in good stead in later years) could be said to be competent enough to fill the centre pages. Never in the class of Bert Brown, Percy Cooking, G.W. Wakefield, or Roy Wilson, he was never even considered to duplicate like most artists for these great illustrators. His style was so distinctive that it is hard to see how he could copy any other artists work. Seemingly, he was just content to plug along, eking out a living for a few guineas a week, and never improving sufficent to get bigger commissions to draw the front pages.

Continue reading

Barry Ono (1876–1941) collector of Penny Dreadfuls

440px-Barry_Ono_Songbook_coverBarry Ono was a British variety theatre performer,music hall singer and collector of Penny Dreadfuls. Part of his is collection was bequeathed to the British Library in 1941. It is still there and available for research. This obituary was found in Collectors Miscellany (Fourth Series Issue 3 – February, 1942). It was an ephemeral “paper for anyone interested in old boys’ books, type specimens etc.,” and was founded in 1917 by Joseph Parks.

Barry Ono

An appreciation by his friend, John Medcraft.

The recent sad death of Frederick Valentine Harrison, better known as Barry Ono, at the comparatively early age of 68, came as a shock to his many friends. Although apparently in good health at the time, he had a severe heart attack at 11pm on Wednesday, February 5, 1941, and died from angina pectoris four hours later. An able and talented man, Barry Ono had the ability to shine in more than one profession, nut his activities and interest were many, and his life too full of permit just that little extra effort necessary to reach the top. An ex-councillor of Camberwell, he was also an active member of the Water Rats, the well-known music hall charitable organisation. Music hall audiences will remember his dual act with Maud Walsh, billed as Barry and Walsh, and afterwards as a solo turn in ‘An Old-Time Music Hall in 12 Minutes,’ which heralded a boom in the old songs about ten years ago. Latterly, he had retired from the Halls and devoted more of his time to the old Bloods and Dreadfuls he loved and with which his name will ever be associated. Known to the book trade as the ‘Penny Dreadful King,’ and to collectors and sentimentalists as the high priest of the cult of the penny dreadful, Barry Ono was proud of having attracted many new collators to the hobby. His fine collection contained many extremely rear items, some of which were probably unique, and was a never-failing source of wonder, admiration, and good-natured envy to those who were privileged to view it. Barry Ono retired to Barnstaple in September, 1940, but keenly felt the severance from his old friends and the haunts and interests of a lifetime. His collection is stored for the duration of the war, and will probably be handed over to the British Museum at the end of hostilities. Wartime railway restrictions denied Barry Ono a last resting-place in his beloved London, and he was buried at Barnstaple, on February 10, 1941.

John Rylands on the art of the bookplate

Rylands letter 001Bookplates have been out of fashion for many decades, but throughout most the nineteenth century up to the early twentieth century, bibliophiles spent good money commissioning artists to design these very personal items. The bookplate craze reached a sort of height in the Edwardian period and the following unpublished two letters from the lawyer, antiquarian and businessman, (1846 –  23) dates from this era. The addressee is J.A. Twemlow (1867 – 1954), a medieval historian and archivist who became an authority on the early history of Liverpool.

Highfields,

Bidston Road,

Birkenhead,

7th Feb: 1911

Dear Mr Twemlow,

Thank you for the book-plates of Prof & Mrs Barnard. Of course they are far above the average of armorial plates & I hesitate to criticise them; however I will truthfully express my thoughts.

                                 All the lettering of Prof. Barnard’s plate rather displeases my eye, being quite modern. I should have liked more mantlet; but that is merely a matter of taste, for the present mantlet follows some excellent examples.

Continue reading

CouvertureeCC81ditionoriginaledeBoadilla

Collecting Spanish Civil War literature

(Merci, Surbouquin)

An excerpt slightly  abbreviated, from Student Magazine issue (January 1963.) Quite prophetic as almost all the books mentioned in it are now valuable, especially the Orwell. Edmond Romilly's Boadilla is almost unobtainable as a first edition and copies of his scurrilous magazine Out of Bounds are thin on the ground. Frederick Grubb, who was a friend of radio pundit Fred Hunter -whose estate of books we bought, was a poet and literary critic much admired in the 1960s.

ENGLISH LITERATURE AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
 
They clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch
Through the unjust lands, through the night, through the alpine tunnel;
They floated over the oceans;
They walked the passes: they came to present their lives.
 
W.H. Auden: Spain.

Continue reading

IMG_1042-2

Samuel Fuller and 144 Piccadilly

Found- a British paperback 144 Piccadilly (NEL, London 1973) a novel by the American film director Samuel Fuller. It concerns a group of London hippies who barricade themselves inside a decaying Mayfair mansion and resist all efforts to evict them. One cataloguer notes that the American edition rather obscures the fact that it was based directly on an actual event — “ripped from the headlines,” as Fuller might have put it. In September of 1969 a radical group known as The London Street Commune, formed to highlight concerns about rising levels of homelessness in London, took over a large house at the corner of Piccadilly and Park Lane (just across from Hyde Park); they occupied the building for six days before being forcibly evicted by the police. Fuller’s literary conceit was to insert himself into the situation, “playing” the narrator, a cigar-smoking American film director (in London for a BFI retrospective of his films) who gets involved with the squatters by accident. Unlike most of Fuller’s books, it’s not just a novelization of one of his own film treatments; as he tells it in his posthumously -published memoir, he actually had been in London when the occupation was taking place, had witnessed the initial break-in while out on a late-night walk, and with his “newspaperman’s nose,” had contrived to have a chat with the occupiers. “The disheveled squatters invited me to stay on,” he wrote ‘(if)…I hadn’t had prior commitments, a wife, and a flight back to the States the next day, I would have.” He subsequently got “damn mad” about the treatment accorded the squatters by the British media and the police, and knocked out a novel in which “an American film director very much like me participates in an illegal entry in London, then tries to bridge the generational gap by becoming the group’s mascot and witness. The fictional ‘me’ does what I was tempted to do but couldn’t, abandoning his hotel suite for a mattress on the floor with the flower children.” He never made a movie of the book.

Loosely inserted in the book is a typed postcard (27/11/71)  from Fuller “Am writing ‘Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street’ which I’ll shoot here in Feb. My book 144 Piccadilly just came out… Am at Senats Hotel 5 Koln 1 – Unter Goldschmied”. Fuller has not signed the card but the words ‘Mit Luftpost’ are handwritten in red ink, presumably by the great man…  At the front of the book is the ownership signature of Phil Hardy, the recipient of the card- he wrote a book on Fuller published by Praeger ( N.Y. 1970)


IMG_1012-3

The Library of J-P Mayer

Found among the papers of  J-P Mayer (1903 – 1992) – this appraisal of his massive library by his friend F.R. Cowell. Peter Mayer was  Professor Emeritus at Reading University and author of books on De Tocqueville, Max Weber, the sociology of films,  and French political thought. He fled to England in 1936 having been a leading figure in the anti-Nazi movement in Germany. He then worked for Britain in the Ministry of Economic Warfare.His library was acquired by us last year, many of the high price items having been taken by Bonham’s auction house. This included a presentation copy from John Stuart Mill to Alexis de Tocqueville and  signed material from Friedrich Engels which made £100,000 plus each. Oddly we (Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road) also bought in 2009 a large part of the library of F.R. Cowell another man with a very large and interesting book collection. Both men went on book hunts together, Paris being (then) fertile ground. Mayer also bought heavily while in America. F. R. Cowell was a historian and author of Cicero and the Roman Republic, The Athenaeum, and Leibniz Material for London and many other works on ancient history, horticulture, economics and bibliography. In the accompanying letter (shown) he invites J-P Mayer to join him for a meal at his London club – The Athenaeum (February 1962). It appears that Mayer was trying to sell his library to ‘Boulder’ -presumably the University of Colorado. Evidently the sale never happened and the books stayed in his house in Stoke Poges for another 50 years. The house was near St. Giles church where Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is believed to have been written. It took 5 large vans to move the books. F.R. Cowell’s book collection just two…

Continue reading

IMG_0974

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]

AntiquarainBookMonthlyreview067

ABMR – The Antiquarian and Book Monthly Review

There are now no popular magazines in the UK covering the field of rare and antiquarian books. Just seven years ago there were two—Rare Book Review and Book and Magazine Collector –and I wrote regularly for both of them. First to fold was Rare Book Review, a very glossy and well designed affair financed by a wealthy dealer. Previously this had been known for many years as the Antiquarian Book Review, and before this as the clumsily-titled Antiquarian Book Monthly Review, an early issue of which we have here.

When we consider how well designed and glossily produced magazines covering other fields in the arts –such as fashion and the fine arts—it is astonishing how unglamorous this particular magazine must have appeared to the eye of someone familiar with, say, Vogue,  the Burlington Magazine, or Country Life at that time. To arrive at something that could compete in visual terms with these titles it took over 40 years and oodles of dealer's dough. It isn’t as if there had never been glossies that had dealt with aspects of the antiquarian book trade---The Bookman, a product of the twenties and thirties, being the most notable.

The idea for a new popular magazine distinct from the academic Book Collector and the dryasdust Clique, which was then just a list of books for sale and wanted ( it has since extended its range and appeal) came from the antiquarian  book dealer, Paul Minet, who operated from Chicheley House, Bedfordshire. Minet ( 1937 – 2012) provided most of the copy, as he was to do for many years after, but the editing was left to one of his employees, the recently married Elke Sadeghi, then in her early twenties, who was also helping to compile his catalogue of Chicheleana, and was working from Minet’s home and her own flat in the Georgian Brayfield House, near Olney. A local printing firm called Comersgate, based in Newport Pagnell, was chosen and the first issue appeared early in 1974. It is easy to forget that before the advent of digital publishing, which now makes it possible for amateurs to produce magazines and booklets of a professional standard for next to nothing, that back in the seventies a magazine produced cheaply on bog-standard paper by a non-professional art editor would tend to look like this 1974 issue of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review, with its yucky light orange cover, title in Gothic script, and clunky page set-up.

The content was unpromising too, consisting mainly of an exhibition review, some book chat, extensive book lists and a piece on recent science fiction that clearly has nothing to do with ‘antiquarian’ books. There was nothing to suggest that this venture would come to anything. We know that it did, and its eventual success seems to have had something to do with the good intentions of dedicated people like Minet, Sadeghi and her successors as editors, but perhaps more importantly, with the goodwill shown in the letters page, which is dominated by messages of encouragement from dealers and collectors alike, who clearly welcomed what the new enterprise represented.

Sadeghi was eventually replaced as editor and left publishing to start a family with her husband, Dr Majid Sadeghi , who became an internationally acclaimed expert on automotive design and anti-crash impact technology at Cranwell. Around 2002 she became a bookbinder and still practices her art from North Crawley, near Newport Pagnell.

Collectors and dealers now hope that Rare Book Review, the splendid child of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review, will somehow, with the help of another wealthy sponsor, be resurrected.
[R.M.Healey]

MitfordJohnVicarageatBenhall

John Mitford—‘a pleasant layman spoiled’

Mitford's vicarage at Benhall

That’s what Charles Lamb called this literary odd job man, who was a cousin of the essayist Mary Russell Mitford, and who wrote of a visit to Lamb at his home in Islington in the  Gentleman’s Magazine, which he edited for seventeen years; he was   also editor of Gray and Goldsmith, and collected manuscripts ,old books, paintings and Chinese ceramics. He was a gifted cricketer too, a passionate gardener, and in any spare time left to him, he managed to squeeze in a bit of preaching in his parish of Benhall, near Saxmundham in Suffolk.

Here we have a tiny letter from Mitford, in miniscule handwriting, dated July 5th 1848 and addressed to an unnamed correspondent—probably the editor of a magazine, for Mitford was a prolific writer of articles. At this time Mitford himself was editing the Gentleman’s Magazine. It’s worth transcribing the letter in full as it gives a flavour of what a literary hack of the early nineteenth century got up to, although with the security of a clergyman’s income, Mitford was hardly a typical denizen of Grub Street. The letter relates principally to Mitford’s opinion of a new biography of Oliver Goldsmith.

Continue reading