More Kindnesses Remembered
Since writing the above on December 2nd, I've come across a few more gifts which were not mentioned. These were totally unexpected. One was a copy of Louise Elkins Sinkler's Judas-Tree published by the later Mosher Press in 1933. This had been an elusive publication to find and after years of searching I never located a copy, but back on April 15, 2000 I met a Mrs. Harrison Hoffman (Louise S. Hoffman) of Greenwich, CT who had visited my booth at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. While in my booth she mentioned that she was related to one of the authors that Flora Lamb published after Mosher's death, and that she was pretty sure she still had copies of Judas Tree that were handed down in the family. I heard nothing from her until a small package arrived out of the blue with a note from Mrs. Hoffman accompanying the book saying: "Eureka! A am so delighted to have found my small stash of the Judas Tree and am glad to send you one for your collection. (10 minutes ago!) 'What is in this heavy box?' I asked, while moving a small Shaker box. Happy New Year!" So I received a mint copy, almost completely untouched with the original bright and shiny red silk chord attaching the book to its blue wrapper. Amazing. Of course I thanked her for remembering, and for being so thoughtful.
The other gift was from yet another attendee at New York Antiquarian Book Fairs. I had met Dr. Joseph Catalano on numerous occasions, and even sold some of his books on consignment over the years, but a few years ago he just handed me a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Lodging for the Night, a Story of Francis Villon (Mosher, 1900) and told me it was a gift for my Mosher collection. What an incredibly nice fellow Dr. Catalano has been over the years, and this was a very kind gesture on his part. I was elated, for this particular copy bears the bookplate of the noted American novelist, George Barr McCutcheon, whose Stevenson collection (among other authors) sold in 1925. The Mosher imprint is housed in a wrap-around cloth chemise which is then inserted into a finely crafted and highly decorated quarter green crushed morocco slipcase. It's a pretty fancy get-up, and I've always appreciated it, but never more so than when another Stevenson book, Aes Triplex (Mosher, 1902), was offered to me from a far off land at the beginning of February 2004. After receiving the Danish bookseller's JPEG picture of the book and slipcase, I could immediately see that the slipcase was decorated in identical fashion to that of the gift Dr. Catalano had given me several years before, the only difference being that this case was a little taller, a little less wide, and in even finer, more brilliant condition. And after receiving the book, I noticed that the owner's bookplate had been removed, but both the particularly styled slipcase with cloth chemise, and the size of the removed bookplate, clearly indicated to me that this too was a book from the famous library of George Barr McCutcheon. I was so thrilled that I immediately searched for and obtained McCutcheon's 1925 auction catalogues issued by New York's American Art Association entitled "The Renowned Collection of First Editions of Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, [and] Robert Louis Stevenson Formed by George Barr McCutcheon," and these two Stevenson titles are listed in entry 545:
VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE. 1904; Æs Triplex and Other Essays.
1902: A Lodging for the Night. A Story of Francis Villon. 1900.
Together, 3 vols. narrow 16mo, leather and Japanese vellum wrappers,
uncut. Each in half levant morocco slip-case, inner cloth wrapper.
Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1900-1904
First Mosher Editions. The last is limited to 425 copies printed throughout
on Japanese vellum paper.
The Bishop collection now contains two of the three volumes that were present in that lot which brought $25 in 1925! McCutcheon's Robert Louis Stevenson collection (lots 508-806) also contained five other Mosher imprints in lots 769 and 771, two volumes of which were likewise housed in half levant morocco slip-cases. Flora V. Livingston's "Introductory Note" to the catalogue of "the works of celebrated novelists" indicates that George Barr McCutchen's collection "is justly famous," and that he was "always a fastidious collector" whose books "must be in fine condition, in the original bindings..." She also indicates that "of these three [Hardy, Kipling, Stevenson], Mr. McCutcheon perhaps derived the most pleasure from the Stevenson, probably because there seemed to be an end to it and yet it contains many items so rare as to give zest to the pursuit of them." Following Livingston's write-up there appears this note in bold:
[NOTE: Every volume listed contains Mr. McCutcheon's
fine bookplate. Almost every volume is enclosed in a
fine half morocco slip-case with inner cloth protecting
wrapper, the HARDY books being in BLUE cases, the
KIPLINGS in RED and the STEVENSONS in GREEN]
So this fully explains why the two volumes in the Bishop collection are both in green slip-cases, and the rationale behind the single color.
McCutcheon's copy of Aes Triplex is all the more important because in all my years of collecting and visiting collections for the Mosher bibliography, I have never, ever come across a copy of any Vest Pocket book bound in gray leather, which this little copy of Aes Triplex most definitely is. I would have never known its provenance had that little gift been given to me by Dr. Catalano. How does one truly thank such persons for their generosity? The only way I know how, aside from directly sending them a thank you note, is to record their gift in these memoirs.
While doing the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair from March 5-7 I wandered into one of the rooms and met Robert Seymour of the Colebrook Book Barn. Off the cuff he mentioned to me that he had come across a book from Mosher's library but that he had forgotten to bring it along to the show. "It's back on my desk in Colebrook," he said, "and things on my desk tend to get lost" which he then followed-up by asking me if books from Mosher's library were valuable. Now that was encouraging and a little distressing that he might be trying to figure out how high to price the book. I just smiled and told him I'd send him an e-mail following the Florida show which he was going to directly from Washington. Since he didn't remember the author or the title I'd just have to wait for his return. My inquiry went out on March 16 in which I asked him to "please be sure to quote me that book from Mosher's library that we vaguely talked about at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair" and on March the 21st I got the following reply which Bob kindly consented to having it quoted:
Phil, I am back from Florida, and yes, I vaguely remember "our vague" discussion about a book from the library of some little known publisher of mostly forgotten English authors. Hardly worth remembering since collectors of these poorly made books have nearly vanished, though books from his library have become extraordinarily rare and valuable. This particular one, by Elizabeth Rachel Chapman, "A Little Child's Wreath" , London, Elkin Mathews 1895 is the only copy we know of to have belonged to Mr. Mosher, and has his bookplate on the front pastedown. Mr. Mosher was so fond of this book he did not sign his name in it or write any notations in it. However he did reprint it (as, or in) the Bibelot , vol. 15, No. 12, according to OCLC. The history of the discovery of this rare survivor is too long to present in detail, suffice it to say it was found on a buying trip to the Niantic Book Barn in Niantic, Ct. So, having paid the magnificent sum of $8.00 for Mr. Mosher's book, and as it is our policy to encourage collectors, no matter what their collecting interests, we are sending it along to you gratis, free, and at no charge whatsoever. Its in the mail as of tomorrow. Best, Bob (Seriously, I didn't ask if they had, by chance, any other books from Mosher's library, so you might want to check with them.)
What a hoot! I always enjoy a good wise-crack picking fun with my ardent collecting--really. Bob's response was obviously thought out and written in a humorous vein. Of course I was floored to read his concluding remarks, so I whisked off these remarks the following day:
I loved your tongue-in-cheek assessment, and as per your advice, I will contact the Niantic Book Barn folks. How wonderful of you, totally unexpected, and very much appreciated. I look forward to getting A Little Child's Wreath which you are "sending... along to you gratis, free, and at no charge whatsoever." Holy smokes, is that possible? That's quite a deal, and all to encourage a book collector of silly Mosher books. You have a big heart Bob, and somehow I know I'll be repaying you.
Yes, collectors and booksellers alike overwhelmingly agree with you that there is an inverse relation between the recognizability of out-of-the-way publishers like our little known subject and the distance in time to which all mortals finally succumb. We've long passed the century mark since Mosher's first published book in 1891, and now we're slowly but surely approaching a century's distance since Mosher's death in 1923. A great amount of time has transpired, and inversely, Mosher's reputation is, as you suggest, practically nil (in modern parlance, his reputation has "tanked"). Some publishers survive this principal, but most (especially the small ones) drown in the flood of civilization's advances, their only traces being the flotsam and jetsam of their work: in this case, the books published and the books in the publisher's library. And who remembers, or even cares to remember, many of the author's involved. But some crazy collectors of those "poorly made books" have also somehow survived, but these too will eventually disappear and fade into the sunset. Will there be new ones to replace them? I doubt it.
Anyway, you mention that this is "the only copy we know of to have belonged to Mr. Mosher..." Actually it's one of two that were in his library, so now you know there were two. Here's a list of all the Elizabeth Chapman books he owned as recorded in his home library:
Chapman, Elizabeth Rachael. A Companion to 'In Memoriam'. London, 1901. (OS)
Chapman, Elizabeth Rachael. A Comtist Lover and Other Studies. London, 1886. (OS)
Chapman, Elizabeth Rachel. A Little Child's Wreath. London: Elkin Mathews, 1895. (OS; BC)
Chapman, Elizabeth Rachael. A Little Child's Wreath. London: John Lane, 1904. (OS)
Chapman, Elizabeth Rachael. The New Purgatory and Other Poems. London, 1887. (OS)
So, again my sincere thanks. It will be a real treat to receive the book. I've learned over the years not to question the giver of a gift, but rather to graciously accept such, and your name and our exchange will enter my memoirs as one of those "good guys" in the book business, even though I already knew that to begin with. Do you mind my quoting your entire tongue-in-cheek e-mail?
One last thing: I hope that you'll still keep an eye open for any of the Mosher related stuff to SELL to me, including:
--books form his library (I'm particularly looking for his 34 volume
set of Bell's British Theatre)
--Mosher books printed on real vellum
--Mosher books in fine decorated full leather bindings
--letters to / from / or about Mosher
--illumined / extra-illustrated copies of his books
--anything unusual related to the Mosher books
--special inscribed or association copies
I purposely didn't respond by e-mail after receiving the little book in the mail. I wanted to tell Bob in person that I received it and was very pleased, and I knew I'd see him at the Boston M.A.R..I.A.B. book show held at the Boston Center for the Arts on March 26. He asked me if I got the book and I mentioned I was pleased. I don't think this was the original source of the text Mosher printed in The Bibelot in December 1909. He probably used the first edition for that to avoid problems in copyright, but a portion of the little clipping of the "Lullaby" by Frances Bartlett did appear on p. , and the whole piece is about a parent losing a young child which is a --- of life Mosher had to face both when his own mother lost child after child, and then his first wife lost their first born. So the story had a certain poignancy with Mosher, and one can appreciate that as one holds and reads from the little book once lovingly read by Mosher himself.
So the collecting game goes on, and I continue to get a gift here and there. Kindnesses abound, to be sure.
©Philip R. Bishop
MOSHER BOOKS (member ABAA / ILAB)
25 May 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.