Mosher Catalogue Forewords, 1900-1904

1900 Catalogue Foreword

The present List of Books may stand, provisionally, for a brief Bibliography of Mr. Mosher’s publications from his first volume (November, 1891), to, and including his one hundredth volume, (The Story of David Gray), October, 1900. For the book-loving friends, dispersed throughout the world, whose appreciation has made this achievement possible, a few words in reply to questions frequently raised by them, will not, it is hoped, appear unduly egotistic or uncalled for.

To those asking if Mr. Mosher is his own editor and selects entirely on his own judgement the answer is–yes. Deliberate choice, implying equally deliberate rejection, has entered into every work thus far considered by him. Literary selections not unrelated or out of harmony with each other is an ideal never to be forgotten. How far this has resulted in accomplishment the century of books he has issued must reveal.

Again, Mr. Mosher is often asked why he refrains from bringing out original work. The reply can be given in a few words: find any poetry or prose rivalling what has been put forth in his various Series and he will gladly confer with poet or prosaist. Until then, he believes the course he has chosen is the better one.

Re-issues like Marius the Epicurean, The Poems of Francois Villon, Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, to mention three titles for this season, are admirable on grounds of their own. The Empedocles on Etna proves how well a reproduction in Kelmscott Press style can be effected, and at a price within reach of those who do not care for original editions at present enhanced values.

If, then, Mr. Mosher has succeeded in any measurable degree, it is because he actually loves the literature he has produced in new format. It is not enough for him to send forth books without striving to make them wholly beautiful. Book-making is not only an art, it may also be raised to a passion.

Towards the many friends who have come to him in the decade now ending, Mr. Mosher feels a growing sense of obligation. Seen in retrospect, these “wished for years” are very short. But what happy memories are bound up with them! Surely, if one’s future copy fair the past, this appreciation and the gratitude born of it cannot but endure. It will remain, it must remain, when much else of dear and desirable has gone into the wastes of time.

1901 Catalogue Foreword

With this season’s List of Books a new decade begins, and, as is Mr. Mosher’s wont, he desires to touch upon what he has done and is doing: in a still briefer way advert to what he hopes to do in the years that may remain to him. This has always seemed the time and place at which a few words of personal interest,–as of a friend to widely dispersed friends–might, without undue egoism, be spoken to those who have helped make his success and who rejoice in unison with him in thus increasing his clientèle.

And first as to Mr. Mosher’s methods of making his books known. He is frequently asked how he can “get on” when his publications are seldom sent out for review; and again, more insistently, “Why do you advertise so sparingly?” “I never knew your imprint until I saw a volume of the Old World or Brocade Series in the house of a friend.”

To answer these questions is not difficult. In Mr. Mosher’s opinion the ordinary book notice does not sell the book: indeed the publisher’s not wholly unbiased statements are more likely to effect a sale than the cut and (very) dried “notice” which is often of so little value that silence, even, were best. Secondly, conceding the usefulness of newspaper and magazine, their advertising pages are not susceptible of extended literary treatment; skilful type arrangement at lavish outlay is about all the largest buyer of space can demand or expect. Presumably for the general publisher there is no other way. But for the man who limits his output,–and one must be content to bide within his own self-imposed limitations–the only feasible method of gaining attention is to issue Lists, wherein something like adequate description is possible. Such Lists in their own format must be attractive; choice little bibelots in harmony with the still choicer works they announce to the book-lover. This then is how Mr. Mosher’s editions have become known and in the main is the only advertising he expects to rely upon in the future.

For in the very deepest sense–and in the most lasting way–it is our faithful friends who best advertise us and render our efforts fruitful. Accepting this proffered loyalty the publisher must, in return, fulfil his promises, as in all honesty he can do no less.

It was a wretched little pamphlet Omar, which first attracted Mr. Mosher’s attention to the possibility of a hand-made paper edition at the same price. the Vest Pocket Series is the certified result of this anticipated possibility. The same reflection led him to rescue from its trifling prettiness the Vale Press edition of Rossetti’s Blessed Damozel which but needed harmonious page-proportions to become the beautiful little quarto now offered by him. Of no other books in America can it be truthfully said that whether one buys the least or the most costly, he is equally sure of a perfect thing in itself. Only the purely personal note in publishing brings forth results in first rate quality whatever the quantity: the smallest book being an equal object of consideration, as to its requirements, with the largest and most expensive volume.

This then is the conclusion in book-making as in all other arts: whatsoever we would accomplish with any measurable degree of success must be by our own hearts inspired. By our own hearts, and the resultant knowledge of what other hearts hold precious,–“if aught is precious in the life of man.” For we possess but “this short day of frost and sun,” wherein to reach out with passionate eagerness toward an Ideal it may well be impossible to attain, and so pass on–if not wholly victors yet undefeated and unafraid.

Fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

1902 Catalogue Foreword

“Perhaps the ideal library, after all, is a small one, where the books are carefully selected and thoughtfully arranged in accordance with one central code of taste.” In these words of Mr. Edmund Gosse, lies the very open secret of Mr. Mosher’s aims and efforts for the past twelve years. Only as he has gone on from season to season has it been possible to develop a theory of book-making, which at no time greatly concerned itself with “the best one hundred books” or a large and relatively unimportant output of arbitrary selections. That his publications considered as a whole converge to a definitely thought-out end, both “carefully selected” and “in accordance with one central code of taste,” a widely increased patronage goes far to substantiate.

Under the title of The Quarto Series four volumes somewhat tentatively grouped in former Lists are now brought together, with three additional works, the whole being an attempt at forming a representative collection of the English Aesthetic School in Poetry and Prose, and its successors. As this series grows to completion, we believe it will be counted as one of the most important tributes to Letters as yet produced in America. It will also be seen that our other new volumes appeal to an ever widening class of book lovers. To mention three examples chosen almost at random: The Garland of Rachel, known only to the inner circle of bibliophiles; the photolithographic reproduction of FitzGerald’s 1859 text with facsimiles of rare title-pages and a suppressed frontispiece of which only twenty-five proof impressions exist; Francis Hindes Groome’s delightful causerie, including a fresh rehandling of material, with a series of original illustrations never before made public.

Within the past year Mr. Mosher has been often asked to define his attitude toward certain developments in what, for want of a better phrase, may be termed “coöperative book-making.” In so far as this has resulted in achievement, distinct from self-seeking notoriety, there can be no question of its educative value. “Paint, chisel, then, or write”–the law of survival decides what shall last, and what from its own weakness will be forgotten. Conceivably it is easy to point out defects; would it not prove wiser to accord the movement its just due, which is a very decided broadening in the aesthetic lives of the young men and women of to-day? For, viewed in any fair-minded way, “this principle of joy in one’s labour, of comradeship in one’s work,” is a very real possession, as old, and as true, and as everlasting as the love of Things Beautiful out of which it was begotten.

And now to make an end. As these words are written the pageant of the punctual year unrolls throughout the land,–Spring’s flowing tide of tender green and tints of orchard bloom, lost in a larger life, have ceased on sun-kissed hill and plain. Slowly the high midsummer pomps will make way for Autumn’s garnered sheaf, the dead red leaf and trailing vine. Last of all, deep drifts in lonely country roads, the solemn snow-clad forest and surf-tormented wintry shore. And through all this the thought, old as the processional of the year, comes back with insistent thrill: even as these–signs not of extinction but of beneficent change–is that World of Books which carries across the centuries the buried Summers of Literature and the souls of all dead singers: “imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a Life beyond Life,”–immortal thoughts “that pierce the night like stars.”

1903 Catalogue Foreword

Beginning with the present List a distinctive name for Mr. Mosher’s collection of choice and limited editions in Belles Lettres has been decided upon. Henceforth THE MOSHER BOOKS will be known as such, and must stand or fall upon that degree of personal equation and its power of reaching kindred minds and hearts, which the publisher believes he has imparted, or may yet hope to impart, to his work.

Concisely stated THE MOSHER BOOKS from 1891 to 1903 inclusive, are as follows:

THE BIBELOT SERIES . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 ”
THE BIBELOT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 ”
THE OLD WORLD SERIES . . . . . . . . . 32 ”
THE BROCADE SERIES . . . . . . . . . . . .42 ”
BOOKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 ”
THE VEST POCKET SERIES . . . . . . . . .6 ”
THE QUARTO SERIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 ”
MISCELLANEOUS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 ”

Here we have a sum total of 160 volumes. Quantity alone considered, this has surely been outdone in a single year by any one of a score of well-known publishing houses. What then does Mr. Mosher claim for his products as distinct and different (with an implied advantage in his favour,) as against the many who easily outstrip him in a twelvemonth?

For one thing, this: If Literature is, as some of us believe, finally resolvable into and coextensive with the term Ecstasy, and if the comprehension of Literature is not a mere process of formal logic but rather a return through the heart to the lost gardens of the heart, then this collection most decidedly offers aesthetic values not elsewhere discoverable in like combination.

First and last, the production of these books has been a labour of love, began as an escape from the commercialism which as one grows older tends to obscure and make less realisable the things that are more excellent. Not for mere profit in dollars and cents but from the desire of producing beautiful books at a moderate price–“things of beauty rather than of mere utility”–thereby inducing that personal relationship between craftsman and client without which all doing is labour misapplied–was and is the measure of our intent in reaching out towards that ever-growing republic of booklovers, whose appreciation is alone worth while!

Believing, with Mr. Arthur Machen, that Literature and Ecstasy are convertible terms, we close with a passage of singular beauty chosen from the same felicitous source:

. . . “But, oh! If we, being wondrous, journey through a wonderful world, if all our joys are from above, from the other world where the Shadowy Companion walks, then no mere making of the likeness of the external shape will be our art, no veracious document will be our truth; but to us, initiated, the Symbol will be offered, and we shall take the Sign and adore, beneath the outward and perhaps unlovely accidents, the very presence and eternal indwelling of God.”

1904 Catalogue Foreword

For the past decade it has proved a very decided pleasure to greet our clientèle through these brief Forewords. And we have sometimes wondered if such discourse has induced that sympathetic acceptance of our aims and ideals in editing and publishing which should be the natural outcome of this intime attitude towards the saving remnant of book-lovers.

A résumé of our tenets as expressed in these pages during the ten years past may best be introduced here by a quotation which eloquently sums up conditions confronting every serious mind: “art, music, beautiful nature, poetry, and that queer chaos within our souls of fragmentary and mingled impressions whence all things beautiful arise, into which all things beautiful resolve–all this has in reality but one fault: that it is unequally distributed.”

That “these beautiful uselessnesses of the world,” as Vernon Lee calls them later on in her Epilogue should “in justice be possessed of all,” is a consummation devoutly to be desired. How, then, remedy such unequal distribution? It cannot be doubted that the problem is being solved in our own day. Even the veriest beginner in the Arts and Crafts movement has his or her place and God given opportunity. That we, too, have played our part is, we believe, mainly by virtue of an essential something which for want of a better name is tentatively defined as “personal equation,” an operative, that in THE MOSHER BOOKS has touched the intellectual and emotional lives of many whom we shall never meet face to face, but whose friendship is none the less a basic fact in life.

In earlier days when Mr. Mosher prophesied to his best friends that he would sometime publish books that should be truly beautiful as well as within reach of the many who appreciate, but who cannot possess at exorbitant rates, they declared such methods stood for failure if he expected either recognition in a large way or profit in a small way. When the day of verified prediction came it is probable that Mr. Mosher’s first seven issues, covering a space of four years, were regarded by the publishing fraternity rather as a labor of love than as a serious business undertaking. But, this period of probation ended, the publisher had passed through the crisis “of doubt, heroic resolve and small accomplishment,” and since then has amply demonstrated that environment and isolated locality are no bar to recognition of such a palpable fact as an output of highest standards combined with lowest prices. He has never betrayed his public: the honest work he first guaranteed he has fulfilled, in no way descending to frivolous, catch-penny methods of allurement for the admiring but uncritical amateur, or lowering his standards for money-making considerations.

It has been said by a not unfriendly critic, that the keynote of these reprints is an echo of that “modern melancholy” which Chateaubriand is supposed to have invented. And, if the criticism indeed by true, what then? There is, as it seems to us, a greatness of soul which is oftenest sadness of soul and claims for its own a book-a-bosom.

“O World! whose days like sunlit waters glide,
Whose music links the midnight with the morrow,
Who for thine own hast Beauty, Power and Pride–
O World, what art thou? And the World replied:
‘A hush of pleasure round a heart of sorrow.’

“O Child of God! thou who hast sought they way
Where all this music sounds, this sunlight gleams,
‘Mid Pride, and Power, and Beauty day by day–
And what art thou? I heard my own soul say:
‘A wandering sorrow in a world of dreams.’ “