1920 Catalogue Foreword
“AMID THE ETERNAL WAYS.”
“I must go on still speeding
My highest height to find.”
There is a deep sense of happiness in my day and generation sending out this List to those who have remained faithful in their possession of a few things rather than in the heaping up of much treasure. For I consider I am one of such company; likewise, my treasure has somewhat in it of that which all Golconda’s far-famed mines could not produce.
Indeed, I suppose the love of books is inborn and grows with age; ripens in years that might else depart unsatisfied, leaving us alone with the “daughters of Time, the hypocritic days,”–the lofty ones who are merciless to man’s miseries.
If, even, in a small degree I have succeeded in drawing a little clan about me I had done well; but my clientele has increased until at last I am assured that my efforts are being fulfilled. True, I may never see you, or “touch hands and part with laughter,” but I ask that you do not forget me,–I love you. Even if the Present is an undivine adventure with the Future a closed door to us, why doubt that the words of Browning are insistently, eternally true; that there is no perhaps: “We fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, sleep to wake.” Thought goes on, and just as of old,
“The world’s great age begins anew,
The golden years return.”
In the memorial address on Jean Paul by Boerne, translated by Mr. Wolfram Day, I find a passage peculiarly adapted to the passing hour:
“Nothing lasts but change, nothing is constant but death. Every heartbeat strikes a wound in us, and life were an eternal bleeding to death, if it were not for Poetry. She grants us what nature denies: a golden time, that rusts not; a Spring that does not fade, cloudless happiness and eternal youth.”
As I look back on my own work, I am content to leave The Bibelot as it is–no more and no less: I do so because I can no other. The same limitation applies to my book-making and selections of literature in general. To go on with lesser light in heart and brain does not appeal to me. I have given of my best as it was given me to see it. When I consider the straits whereto the best and most widely esteemed publishers are compelled to limit their output, I feel glad and I trust my friends are glad, that I am permitted by my smaller editions still to bring out my work as I do on hand-made papers from hand-set type and in hand-bound paper boards. For me this has ever been an ideal procedure–the quantity is less, but the quality has not yet suffered a sad sea change. It is well to believe that the wheel of Fate will in the long run revolve in the old appointed better way. With my second impression of the 1855 Leaves of Grass and a few other new titles I now complete thirty years of service in the noble army of lovers of the Book Beautiful. For myself I am willing to depart, if commercialism wins out, even as he of old who, as Marcus Aurelius said, should abide his issue and go hence as well satisfied.
“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.”
THOMAS BIRD MOSHER.
1921 Catalogue Foreword
“THE EVERLASTING LIFE OF SONG.”
To produce less in order that the product may be more choice and beautiful, is not failure at all but the strongest proof of sincerity in what my work, even with only a single new title to offer you this year, means to me. The book I have chosen is a genuine autobiography of the soul, inexact as to material details if you will, but an autobiography if ever there was one.
It has come to this precisely; I can only go on doing a few things well: There is no other way worth trying. True, beautiful things like ugly things have their day and pass, but do they really cease to be? A thing that is once beautiful, truly beautiful, is always beautiful. Again, I read from an unpublished book: I try to tell you of the fundamental things, the lasting things, the intended things, the things which are not accidental, . . . . for everything that is outside of the spirit, is only dust.
I can better express myself through the medium of quotation: as if the things of greatest worth were best set forth in the works which my past thirty years have seen accomplished; and in the commendatory words spoken concerning them, which I have felt were in keeping with and interpretative of them.
In entering this final period of a possible ten years more, which may never be completed, it is well to speak thus plainly: for it comes to this–I can only do a few things well, and I do not have any choice in the matter!
To you who would really know what lies deepest in my heart let me say, I want to awaken a passion for the language of the absolute which from the reading of my books is discoverable in ever living beauty. For the language of the absolute is a universal voice. This may happen in prose as well as in verse: . . . . and it is the consummation of all art. You can find it in works so far apart in style, in meaning, as in Leaves of Grass, Marius the Epicurean, The Kasidah. If a man lacks this passion or has lost faith in it he should occupy himself with something else. . . . Nothing else in art or literature is worth having.
Such an everlasting gospel I can neither forego nor forget.
THOMAS BIRD MOSHER.
1922 Catalogue Foreword
“THE SONG IS TO THE SINGER AND
COMES BACK MOST TO HIM”
Be to the end what thou hast been before:
The Ancient joy shall wrap thee still–the tide
Return upon the shore.
R. W. DIXON.
In this Foreword I would call attention to the verse selections chosen from various privately printed works of The Daniel Press in my possession. It will show by a few exquisite citations what that Press bequeathed to a little clan of admirers of the book beautiful and of the poetry that never grows old nor out of date. I have, therefore, made up a small cycle of sonnets and lyrics which so far as I am aware have never gone into the anthologies and for that reason alone will allure, as I may hope, to brighter worlds and lead the way!
“With thoughts too lovely to be true,
With thousand, thousand dreams I strew
The path that you must come.”
I do not know of anything more worthy your acceptance. It is in these imperishable things that my heart has been satisfied,–these and the like of them for all the years of my book-making. And in the one new book I bring out this season I have given that loveliest of all–The Odes of Keats as selected and annotated by Robert Bridges. If I should never print another volume, this is the one book I feel is my very own for heart’s content. It reiterates and reaffirms A thing of beauty is a joy forever,–the poetry of earth is never dead, which high utterances of an earlier day bid me keep my earliest promise true:
“And I . . . . . . .
Would shape my world again:–
Dead hopes, old omens fain would trust anew;–
Believe again truths loved, yet known untrue;–
And dream . . . . Ah! let us dream ere yet ’tis day,
And since the waking dawn must come so soon!”
By this time you will know how utterly pledged I am to “the poetic principle” whether in prose or verse; that the rhythms of Ruskin’s essays and some of his prefaces are as everlasting as, say, the sonorities of Swinburne in Atalanta or The Triumph of Time. What you do not realize as well is that I find it impossible to increase my editions, even if the undue advance in cost of production was set aside. In other words I do not find available new work that to my mind compares with what I have done, so I must rest content with reprints of the things still in request, and no longer hazard any further flights to books or worlds unknown!
I could have wished to accomplish much else but this is all I can for the present. By the desire to do, you may measure my disappointment at having to abide with a lessened labour of love. Otherwise, I believe those who care for my work may still find that personal equation which from the start was there and which as I hope continues uninjured through the years that yet remain.
“Have little care that Life is brief,
And less that Art is long.
Success is in the silences
Though Fame is in the Song.”
THOMAS BIRD MOSHER.
1923 Catalogue Foreword
[Mosher died before writing his usual Foreword. In its place stands “AN ATTEMPT AT APPRECIATION OF A RARE SPIRIT” written by Wilbur Needham from The Chicago Evening Post for April 20, 1923.]