We found this rare and second hand book catalogue in our pile of ephemera the other day. It was issued by the well-established book dealer Elkin Mathews Ltd in July 1946, just a year or so after the close of the Second World War.
It is interesting in several respects—not least because it lists books from the libraries of ‘Stephen Hudson’, the novelist and patron of the arts whose real name was Sydney Schiff (1868 – 1944) ,the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, the acclaimed thriller writer Coulson Kernahan ( 1858 – 1943), the fin de siecle writer Arthur Symons and Sir Hugh Walpole, the popular novelist and book collector. It is also revealing in that among the list of three directors published we find the name of Ian Fleming, who was to create James Bond a few years later. Fleming was a keen bibliophile, whose special interests included firsts of the most crucial works of modern civilisation (TV, atomic fission, birth control, motor cars and penicillin). One can imagine that before the list went out he would have selected several titles for his own collection.
Naturally, many of the items described in the catalogue are presentation copies from the authors and from friends and admirers; some contain pencilled annotations by the owners. For instance, at 4 guineas, a price which reflects the growing reputation of the author at this time, there is a copy of Betjeman’s exceedingly rare poetry pamphlet Sir John Piers (n.d.) with the poet’s corrections. Equally appealing and priced at 3 guineas is a first edition of Edward Dowson’s Decorations in Verse and Prose(1899) with a presentation inscription from Leonard Smithers to Arthur Symons: “ in memory of our friend the author “.
A number of the items listed had already been sold and this fact can be revealing.
For instance, an otherwise unremarkable copy of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel
(1927) was marked as sold, presumably because it came from the library of the popular philosopher C. E. M. Joad, at that time one of the most famous personalities on radio. He was, of course, much later on, prosecuted for fare evasion, an offence which effectively ended his career. Continue reading