A Report from the Front Lines in May 2001

I’ve actually continued to have a good month of May as far as Mosher buying is concerned. I just landed several items which I bought from a dealer for less than what I paid another dealer for just one of these privately printed Mosher books, and the condition is FINE… an amazing catch in this day and age! And this was the result of finding just one listed on eBay, calling the dealer who put it up for sale, and asking him what else he had along the same line. They include:

  • Dickens. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Mosher Press, 1916). Upgraded poor copy to VG-Fine and added a 1 of 25 on Japan vellum which I didn’t have.
  • Dickens. A CRICKET ON THE HEARTH (Mosher Press, 1921) Added Van Gelder copy which I didn’t have, and upgraded a 1 of 50 on Japan vellum.
  • Ruskin. THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER (Mosher Press, 1914). Upgraded two fair copies for one bright almost spanking new Van Gelder copy. Also added a good-very good Japan vellum copy, 1 of just 25 copies.
  • Ouida. A DOG OF FLANDERS (Mosher Press, 1924). Added a fine copy of 1 of 25 on Japan vellum.
  • Jefferies. STORY OF MY HEART (Mosher, 1898). Added fine copy of 1 or 100 on Japan vellum.

I also added twelve more Mosher books in leather bindings, including three very nice specimens bound in full leather by women binders–one from England and two from the U.S. I haven’t determined just who bound two of the volumes, but the other (The Poems of Master François Villon of Paris-1909) is clearly identified and still carries the exhibition card which was once displayed with the book–“Bound by Fannie Coleman, N.Y.” It’s a handsome brown binding with black onlays and elaborate blind tooling.

Additionally there was the recent acquisition of a dozen unfolded Mosher covers from a New England dealer-Thomas G. Boss. He once advertised a couple of them in his catalogues several years ago, but since they remained unsold, I bought them all. These are practically unobtainable (in fact the only ones I’ve ever seen in sixteen years) and help to show the production process whereby Mosher had covers made for his books which were then cut down, folded (along printed fold lines in some cases) and wrapped around the boards of the actual books. They aren’t easy to store, but are interesting in what they help to exhibit. One is actually quite beautiful, the Japan vellum wrapper for Ecclesiastes (1907) with the Lucien Pissarro designs. I’m going to have it framed and hung on the wall. The others will be safely stored for the time when I’ll use them to exhibit alongside of the books for which they were made. And one, the cover for Father Damien (1897), might be used to replace the rather worn and torn cover on a copy Ed Maggs’ wife sold me from London.

Five days ago (May 17) I received an offer from London on the following book which I immediately ordered and which is currently in transit across the Atlantic The dealer’s write-up noted this was the:

Guild of Women-Binder’s The Germ, No.7 of 25 on jap. vellum signed by Thomas B. Mosher. Perhaps not as grand as your illustration on p.371 [of the Mosher bibliography] but still nice. Plain niger with blind tall twin floral designs both covers and up spine, plain gilt title to spine, swirly green-on-cream endpapers, top edge gilt, remainder uncut. Slight scuffing to corners and ends of spine but a nice copy. Quite important as another Guild example in one of their bindings.

This acquisition finally completes my variants of The Germ including a couple Van Gelder copies, a Japan vellum copy, a copy printed on real vellum in Mounteney binding, and now this the last that I was seeking: The Germ 1/25 copies numbered and signed on Japan vellum with the imprint on title page reading: “London Guild of Women-Binders 61 Charing Cross Road MDCCCXCVIII.” This builds the census up to four copies known bound by members of the GW-B: one at Brown University (actually with a binding from the Hampstead Bindery–the brotherly arm of the GW-B), one at Arizona State University, one additional GW-B on The Germ listed in the Mosher bibliography but whereabouts unknown, and one now in the Bishop collection. But wait, that’s not correct either, and it gets better.

This is NOT a confirmation of yet another Guild binding on The Germ. The dealer indicates that the copy being sent is copy #7, and both that number and the dealer’s description quoted above confirm that this copy is R26.1, the hitherto unfound but recorded Curtis Hidden Page copy as discussed on p. 351 in the Mosher bibliography and which I provide here for the reader:

R26.1 Another copy has also been recorded. The Curtis Hidden Page catalogue entitled “List of association books, first editions, book-plates, autographs, limited editions from special presses… from the library of Curtis Hidden Page… offered for sale by C. H. Page, Gilmanton, New Hampshire” ca. 1931. Entry No. 242 on p.71 notes: “Only 25 copies of this issue were printed for the Guild of Women Binders, London, to be specially bound by hand. This is [copy] No. 7 with the autograph signature of Thomas Bird Mosher, authenticating the above. Printed on Japanese vellum and bound in full crushed levant morocco with exquisite blind tooling, by the Guild of Women Binders. ‘Out of Print and rare’ the moment it was issued. Perhaps this is the hardest to find of all Mosher items-as well as being a rarely beautiful example of the binder’s art, (each being unique); and a first edition (in book form) of Rossetti.” Curtis Hidden Page assembled this undated sales catalogue around 1931. Page was a professor of English at Dartmouth, authored a book on Japanese poetry, translated numerous French works, and was a book collector turned bookseller.

So the magnificent thing about this copy being sent from England is that its only record was there in the Curtis Hidden Page catalogue which was all I could find to list in the Mosher bibliography. Now the actual book is hovering over the Atlantic to touch down in America once again since its last known appearance in 1931. There may be more news to report on the binding because I haven’t fully researched the catalogues the Guild of Women-Binders put out. I’m getting the following resources which will hopefully contain some record of this binding in:

  1. Catalogue of the first exhibition of bookbinding by women, with an introductory note by Curzon Eyre. Held at 61 Charing Cross Rd., London, W.C., by arrangement with Messrs. Karslake & Co. (London: Guild of Women-Binders, 1897/98).
  2. Bookbinding by women; second exhibition of artistic bookbinding by women, including many very beautiful and original books suitable for Christmas presents, New Year’s gifts, wedding presents, &c., also some examples from the Hampstead Bindery and the Sandringham Bindery; held at the depôt of the Guild of Women Binders, 61 Charing Cross Rd., London, W.C. …1898-99. (London: Guild of Women-Binders, 1898).
  3. Catalogue of Bindings by the Guild of Women-Binders and the Hampstead Bindery for which the Silver Medal was awarded at the Paris Exhibition, 1900.

Surely something will show up in one of these three catalogues, or at least that’s my calculated guess. And when and if it is found, it should tell me who were the actual forwarders and finishers associated with the book. And quite frankly, I should be able to determine just how many of the 25 Mosher specially printed for the Guild were actually put into GW-B or Hampstead Bindery bindings.

The binding finally came today, May 24, 2001, and I sent off this message to the bookseller in England:


Today, at 9:30 AM, I received the bound copy of The Germ. I waited two and a half hours before opening it, and finally unveiled it at noon while watching the news of our “political earthquake” here in America. In tandem with this news, I noticed upon unwrapping that the front hinge has a break of 2″ from the bottom, which I assume happened in transit to America. These parcels do get knocked about and there wasn’t much protective material around it. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the book. I worked on the binding over the noon hour and am generally pleased with the results although the hinge remains tender at the point of break. Still, it is disguised quite well, a skill which I’m fortunate to have.

You were indeed correct that it is “not as grand as your illustration on p.371 but still nice”. I am glad to have at least one example of this imprint over the Guild of Women-Binders’ name AND in a Guild binding which is an added plus; however, the binding is not an additional find to the two examples cited in the Mosher bibliography. This is, as you pointed out in your initial e-mail, copy No. 7 and, as I suspected, is the Curtis Hidden Page copy as recorded in some detail from its catalogue description in the Mosher bibliography on p. 351, copy R26.1. Further confirmation of this is that on the first free flyleaf appears the penciled ownership notation in Page’s hand: “C. H. Page | March 19, 1912” which I assume is meant to record the date upon which he acquired the book. So although it is not a new addition to the known copies, it is a rediscovery of the Page copy and I’m very pleased to have it, with copious “thanks” to you.

This acquisition finally completes my variants and different issues of The Germ including: several copies printed on Van Gelder paper, two copies printed on Japan vellum, a copy printed on real vellum in a Leonard Mounteney binding, the original source book for James Ashcroft Noble’s introduction “A Pre-Raphaelite Magazine” in his The Sonnet in England and other Essays (London: Mathews & Lane, 1893) with Mosher’s pencil notes, and now the 1/25 copies numbered and signed on Japan vellum with the imprint on title page reading: “London   Guild of Women-Binders 61 Charing Cross Road MDCCCXCVIII.” As you said on your compliments slip, “very glad it’s gone to the right home.” Indeed, but don’t let the preceding stop you from finding another. What can I say?–a bookseller’s missions are never over, as likewise with the collector’s quests. You and I fill both billings–each being both bookseller and collector.

Sue and I are looking forward to finally meeting you in July and we’ll need to be in contact before that date just to firm things up, get directions, etc.

Thanks again, and…

Best wishes,

To which the book dealer responded the next day that he was “devastated” to hear that The Germ arrived somewhat damaged, and that he had “swathed it in protective material.” Well a couple wraps of a thin spongy foam and a lightly padded envelope he did use, but it wasn’t nearly enough to fully protect the volume. He suggested I bring it along to England and have his “sensitive” repair man work on it. Then before signing off he correctly ascertained that in all my excitement “this must have been a great let-down” and again offered his “profound apologies,” further indicating that he was glad that I still wished to meet him in England this summer, to which I responded:


No need to worry. I’m getting used to what happened and am still pleased that I had the opportunity to buy this piece of book history, and am pleased that you actually came through to offer me the book. Few dealers ever do.

I doubt that I’ll bring it along to England. I’d rather keep it safe “as is” in its new environment, but thank you for the offer. Yes, it initially was a letdown, but even my wife commented on what great job I did to fix it for the time being. Maybe someday I may need to get a professional to carefully insert leather at the joints (back joint also has 1/2″ closed split), but for now I’m satisfied. And OF COURSE, I –we–still wish to meet. Any friend of Dick’s is automatically a friend of mine, and no little mishap is going to alter that course.

Keep in touch,

His brief e-mail reply to my last note indicated that my response was “much appreciated” but that he still felt awful. I think enough was said, the point was made, and that we were both ready to see where we’d go from here. I wasn’t asking for a refund or any reduction in price, yet I was getting something perhaps more valuable: the book dealer’s lingering feeling that on account of this mishap he sort of owes me one. That’s a position I would always like to be in, rather than one resulting from a defensive posture following a scolding of the dealer, or to have our exchange end on some other sour note.

This was yet another fostering of Anglo-American relations and I wanted it to be as positive as possible. Quite frankly, even though I’m a condition freak–especially when it comes to bindings–, I would have bought the book anyway even with this conditional flaw (which is now nearly unnoticeable due to the patient repair). The book is historically important and has already been recorded in the new Mosher bibliography. Besides, the bookseller in question may become an important source for Mosher material and, in fact, with this copy of The Germ he already IS. I don’t want to adversely influence that in any way.

Other May News / Updates

The last of the page proofs for the “A BR QUARTET” monograph are finally coming. I expect to see them the week of May 20. Almost everything is now in the hands of Scott Vile at the Ascensius Press. I saw a trial design for the monograph cover which was kind of daring. They hold the reins and I’ll accept whatever they finally come up with (but will see the near-end result very soon), and I’m pretty sure it will look good if the trial design accurately depicts their capabilities. I actually liked the cover design. The only thing which I haven’t seen is the title page, but it looks like everything is going to press soon. I’ve been in contact with Theo Rehak, president of the Typophiles, and he’s pleased with the production schedule and wants 500 copies. I’m hoping to get some extra copies and there will be 26 specially lettered (A-Z) and specially bound copies that I’ll distribute to friends and institutions of my choice, but these will come much later for the binding will be handled by Kevin Auer at Cornell University. Auer has to first get out the 500 copies to the Typophiles. Copies remaining after the mailing will go to Oak Knoll for further distribution. I’m excited about releasing this monograph to the public and hearing or reading their reactions to the four letters from Bruce Rogers to Thomas Bird Mosher now located at the Houghton Library, and of course to my Introduction to the letters.

I’m presently working on the biography of Mosher’s early years as per Dane Yorke who wrote this account around 1947. I purchased his original manuscript and all his notes and note cards several years ago and am now going to “make hay” with the manuscript. A couple days ago I finished editing the 40 pages of Yorke’s biography, half of which I will need to properly footnote, and the whole which I will introduce. I have transcribed Yorke’s original typescript into the computer. The typescript was in two parts, one which was more or less polished with footnotes, and the other a first draft. I have merged the two by constructing the bridgework between them to make the story flow. I’m in the process of adding footnotes which Yorke certainly would have added if he had finished the project. Additionally I am writing a compatible conclusion which finishes out the story (which is basically complete but which ends too abruptly). Then I’m going to write an Introduction to the Yorke biography and am going to insert whatever documentary and photo illustrations I have. I will have to find a publisher or pay for a limited number of copies to be printed via some private press. Perhaps the Oak Knoll Press will have some interest, and of course I have to give them first right of refusal.

I’ve also been working on a project (among others) with yet another spin-off from the Mosher Press website. As a result of a website search, I was contacted by an independent researcher who is writing on Emilie Grigsby. Grigsby was an enormously wealthy woman in New York City who was befriended by Mosher. She actually co-printed a Rubaiyat with Mosher, but later sold her book collection and moved to England where she became part of the social scene fostering Anglo-American relations. It turns out that this writer’s maternal grandmother was best friends with EBG, and even owns artifacts from Grigsby. I’ve been supplying her with lots of information including the summary of a letter Mosher sent to Grigsby (in the Bishop collection), and an e-mail transcription of a three page typescript sketch of EBG’s life by Sir Shane Leslie (if this person ever intends to use any of it, proper clearances from the holding institution and the Leslie family will be needed). Anyway, this has all been great fun and I’m hoping that EBG’s biography will become a reality. The writer is making plans to visit England and EBG’s Old Meadows “cottage” (yeah, cottage like in Newport, Rhode Island) to interview some people with whom she’s been in contact. Apparently there are some folks still living who knew EBG before she died in 1944.

And speaking about London, Sue and I just found out that we’ll also be in there for four days around mid-July just before we embark on a Mediterranean cruise, so maybe we’ll be able to find EBG’s place outside London if it still stands. I’m also lining up several visits to London booksellers. The bookseller who is selling me that copy of The Germ will be in for a surprise in that I always promised to anybody who found me a copy that there would be a reward. I’m going to hand him a big fat £100 note after dinner. I’m a man of my word even if he never even suggested that I had offered a reward and probably doesn’t even remember. But I’m getting ahead of myself in that I’m still waiting for that special copy of The Germ to be delivered from England. I’m actually quite excited about it and have prepared its new home, a spot in the bindings case. Meanwhile I anxiously go to the post office every morning looking for the pink slip in my post office box.

Additionally –for me at least– I’ve been on somewhat of a buying spree for the business, including a large paper copy of the 1721 edition of Chaucer, a two volume set of color plate books illustrating 52 scenes along the Thames River in England, and then my most precious new acquisition: the first edition of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) in German, of course. This set me back a few bucks but I still think it’s worth it and I’m look forward to exhibiting it at my next book show.

— “A Report from the Front Lines in May 2001” in Delaware Bibliophiles Endpapers (September 2001), pp. 7-11.

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 2001 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.