A Little Celebration
This morning I received a small package with contents I've been eagerly expecting for over a week now. On April 19 I noticed a listing on ABE for a copy of Spring Blossoms from Maple-Cottage (Mosher Press, 1923). I have seen this publication before at Arizona State University (carrying the date 1928, not 1923), but was never able to get a copy for my own collection. The only problems with the dealer's listing were the date (as I indicated above, my records show it was supposed to be printed in 1928, not 1923), and the dealer's attending statement that it is "one of the last if not [the] last books from the Mosher Press and a charming book with a lithograph type cover. Quite scarce." During Mosher's lifetime he privately printed a similar little book in 1919 called Autumn Leaves from Maple Cottage and his assistant's (Flora Lamb's) typescript indicated that yet another was printed in 1926 using the same title, but there never was any mention of the book being printed in 1923, so either the dealer was mistaken about the date and consequently about it being one of the last books Mosher had printed before his death, or it was a find hitherto unknown to me as the Mosher Press bibliographer.
I e-mailed my query to the dealer and got the response: "Great catch, it is 1928." I was relieved since if it was 1923 I hadn't listed it in the bibliography although finding a "new" book would have been a thrill in and of itself too, and I was also pleased that I had finally found a copy for the collection. Strangely enough the book is "quite scarce" even though between 4,000-5,000 copies were printed. It was simply too ephemeral to bother with and probably got pitched right and left after using it. The funny thing about quantity is that it isn't always an insurance that many examples will survive, and if they do, few people can recognize it as being something of value.
Along with a further description clarifying the book's condition, the dealer told me that he had another Mosher book for sale which he quoted as "Golden Wings #16 of 25 on Japan Vellum." Now he REALLY HAD MY ATTENTION because acquiring that little book would allow me to complete the most difficult series to obtain of all of Mosher's publications: the "Reprints from 'The Bibelot' Series" published between 1897 and 1902. It has taken me nearly twenty years to track down and assemble each one of the twelve books Mosher published in this series which were purposely limited to the small limitations of twenty-five, thirty-five, and in a few instances to fifty copies. As the noted collector, John Quinn, wrote that "these scarce little booklets are not the regular Mosher publications, but are separates in book form from the original setting in the Bibelot. They constitute the First Editions of these pieces in book form, being mainly Morris's contributions to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, discerned by Mosher to be writings meriting a more permanent dress than the pages of a magazine." (Complete Catalogue of the Library of John Quinn, 1924 / reprinted 1969)
There have been few collectors that have ever managed to assemble a run of these elusive books. John Quinn ordered a copy as each appeared. After Mosher's death in 1923, one other collector has been able to put them together: the assistant under Mosher manager, Oliver Sheean, whose collection eventually passed into the Special Collections of Arizona State University. One of the great book collectors of modern times, Norman Strouse, had a special love for the Mosher books, but he only managed to assemble little over half of the imprints. One rather large private collection I closely inspected had eleven of the twelve titles. As an interesting sidelight, the extremely wealthy owner of that collection once found out that I purchased one of the titles through an ABAA dealer and he called my house several times (and posted a letter to me) demanding that I sell him the book at least double the price I paid for it. I wrote that it wasn't for sale, and he persisted to say that the book was rightfully his since he had dealt with that bookseller for years. Sorry folks, but that didn't wash.
I once personally catalogued an enormous collection (still only half the size of my own, however) in New Jersey and it only contained one of the titles from the series. Unless more books have been added to collections like that at Yale and Harvard, they too only have an incomplete series. Even the State Library of Maine which boasts that it has a complete collection of the Mosher books doesn't nearly have all of the titles, unless they had more of the collection which I examined hidden away somewhere. The large Robert Huston collection at Kalamazoo College doesn't have even one title according to the typed records I have of the collection, and so on, and so on. No matter if any of these claims of absence eventually can be disproved, the complete series is extremely scarce, and so far as I know, not to be had in any presently owned private collection, so you can see why it is that today, 29 April 2004, I sing this little song of rejoicing and lift a glass of Scotch up to toast the achievement, the milestone, which has been attained. It's a small matter, but one which has dogged me for all these years. Now, except for an occasional upgrading of copies, the series is complete. Finally!
©Philip R. Bishop
MOSHER BOOKS (member ABAA / ILAB)
29 April 2004
This article is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer, president of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the September 2004 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.