More from the Petite Memoirs…

Greetings and Happy New Year to the members of the Delaware Bibliophiles. Gordon notified me that it’s just about that time again to submit a few articles for Endpapers, so here’s a little something to kick off the third millennium. You may recall from the September 2000 issue that I am sending installments to what will collectively become The Petite Memoirs of a Petty Book Collector. In that September issue I explained what I meant by “petty” so I won’t bother to rehash that term’s definition again since you can easily look it up. This installment is one more toward the collection. Any reactions, comments, suggestions or whatever may be sent to the author at his e-mail address <>.

The following is a brief account of just some of the items that have come into the Mosher collection toward the end of the last millennium. If you’re already beginning to yawn, then you might as well move on to the next article in Endpapers and come back to this one when you need something to put you asleep at bedtime, but I hope at lest some of you will begin to see, behind the descriptions and articles I offer, one collector’s reasoned approach and passion to collection building. You can substitute your own area of collecting and see how you might approach it using some of my own approaches. Of course, far be it for me to say that I’ve invented the only way. Just reading back issues of Endpapers and the classic books on the subject and one can easily see that there are many ways to skin the cat (imagine, a phrase like that coming from a vegetarian and a cat lover to boot!). Anyway, here are a few of the century close-outs that I managed to add to the Mosher collection just before father time’s sickle cut off yet another year–decade–century–millennium.

1. Books from Mosher’s Library

A few books from Mosher’s library and bearing his distinctive bookplate, including:

(Heine) Karpeles, Gustav, ed. Henrich Heine’s Memoirs from His Works, Letters, and Conversations. English translation by Gilbert Cannan. 2 vols. London: Heinemann, 1910. Mosher wrote about Heine in The Bibelot. I’m always adding to my collection of books originally found in Thomas Bird Mosher’s personal library which, by the way, numbered over 10,000 volumes! Since I have collected only 300 of his books with his unusual double breasted griffins bookplate, I suppose I still have a few more to go.

Bradley, William Aspenwall. Garlands and Wayfarings. Portland: T.B. Mosher, 1917. One of 450 copies on handmade paper. First edition of this collection of verse by the man who later served as literary agent to a number of American expatriates, including Gertrude Stein, Henry Miller and Anais Nin. With poet/editor/ biographer Odell Shepard’s note of receipt of the book from the author and pencil annotations. Laid in are two letters from the author to Shepard (15 Nov. 1917 3pp.), about Shepard’s comments re: the book, and (25 Nov. 1917, 1 1/2pp.) re: Shepard’s own book.

Oswald, Eugene. The Legend of Fair Helen as Told by Homer, Goethe, and Others. London: John Murray, 1905. Book on the historical nature of Helen of Troy.

Thackeray, Francis St. John and Edward Daniel Stone. Florilegium Latinum – Translations Into Latin Verse. [Pre-Victorian and Victorian Poets]. 2 vols. London and New York: The Bodley Head, 1899-1902. This is probably the dumbest set I think I’ve ever acquired from Mosher’s library. Just what was the point to take various Victorian poems and translate them into Latin? But a book from Mosher’s library is a book from Mosher’s library, so I had to buy it. Interesting little story through: a dealer in Boston offered me the book for $200. I turned it down being somewhat repelled with the content as well as the condition. A couple months later I found the very same two volumes listed on the Internet by a dealer in Kentucky for $75 which is why the set is now in the collection.

Synge, John M. The Tinker’s Wedding. Dublin: Maunsel and Co., Ltd., 1907. First edition.

Stevenson, Robert L. Aes Triplex. New York: Scribner’s (printed at the Merrymount Press), 1901. The book recently came up at auction and I bid quite high thereby discouraging any further bids. Why? It’s just because this is the only book by that title that Mosher owned besides his own publication of Aex Triplex. The Scribner’s copy was printed at the Merrymont Press one year before Mosher’s little Vest Pocket Series version appeared. It may have very likely been the impetus behind Mosher’s own edition.

In acquiring these personal books of the publisher, I find that I can imaginatively come closer to the man who once assembled them on his bookshelves. Sometimes I find Mosher’s notes in the margins which indicate a select passage he liked and he sometimes even comments on a passage. Other times his selections are marked for the printer so the quote can be placed in one of the Mosher publications. Collectively these books speak of the publisher’s likes, the type of poetry and literature he read, and what secondary literature he relied upon to help form his opinions about the primary texts involved.

2. Correspondence

Correspondence to, from or about Mosher gives first hand, primary research insight into a subject. In this case I acquired (at far too high a price I might add) the following letter from:

T.B. Mosher to Schleuning & Adams [Bindery] (1 p., TLS with holograph notes) – May 6, 1902 concerning “the Ballads and Lyrics of Old France which is in the Vincennes [Mosher’s error–should have been Viennese] style by Mr. Adams”, saying that he (Mosher) has “always felt very great interest in the special copies of my editions that have been bound for New York collectors.” This is one full typed quarto page, with hand-written additions at the bottom in Mosher’s hand. The dealer offering me this letter was unable to identify who Schleuning & Adams were, nor did he have any idea of the “Vincennes” style of binding. I wouldn’t expect he would have such esoteric information at his disposal. As I mentioned above, the word was supposed to be “Viennese” rather than “Vincennes”. Most importantly, a purchase I made several months ago has once again come in VERY handy: Gustav Sewickley’s copy of Twentieth Century Cover Designs (Plymouth, MA: Briggs & Briggs, 1902), a source which includes numerous references to Mosher and which pictures bindings on several Mosher books. Incidentally, a copy of this precious reference is at the Morris library at the University of Delaware for several of you who would benefit by perusing its contents. I’m just tickled pink that this source has once again been indispensable in helping me identify just what’s being spoken about in Mosher’s letter. Just humor me by following these points of discovery:

(a) An important article on “Book Covers and Cover Designing” by W. G. Bowdoin of Brooklyn, NY mentions that “Ralph Randolph Adams, of the New York firm of Schleuning & Adams, has revived binding in the style of the Viennese, except that he has overcome the difficulties against which the old binders of Vienna vainly contended, and has secured some most pleasing as well as astonishing results.” (p. 23) So, what information may have sunk into oblivion is here conveniently recorded, namely that there was a firm in NYC called Schleuning & Adams. Furthermore…

(b) An errata page just before the book’s advertisements indicates: “On page 23 there is a reference to Schleuning & Adams, a firm which was in existence when the page was set in type. Since then the partnership has been dissolved and Mr. Adams is now proprietor of the Adams Bindery.” Amazing! One of the few binderies I had absolutely no information on for the Mosher bibliography now has been explained therein. And the fleeting reference to the partnership of Schleuning & Adams has been revealed. So now I am able to tell to whom Mosher was writing.

(c) From pp. 57-59 there is a brief article by R. R. Adams entitled “Viennese Inlaying” written July 9, 1902., and after page 59 there are numerous unnumbered pages of photographs of binders and their bindings. The first is of a pencil drawing by Mrs. Ralph Randolph Adams of her husband, the president of the Adams Bindery. Just two pages later there is a photograph of–you guessed it!–Mosher’s Ballads and Lyrics of Old France in a binding by Ralph Randolph Adams, the very book which Mosher cites in his letter of May 6, 1902 noted above. I was giddy with joy over finding this very book pictured in this source, and you can imagine that I’m rather excited about finally receiving the letter –though too expensive for a Mosher letter of little interest to 99.9% of the antiquarian book buying public. But with this insight, how could I not purchase it?

Of course, among all the subscribers, advertisers, etc. to Twentieth Century Cover Designs was Thomas Bird Mosher who had a copy, or at the very least had access to one. Even though I have had no direct evidence that a copy was in his home library, one still has to account for the books that were burned in the fire of 1915 which involved the destruction of hundreds of books at the publisher’s office at 45 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine. He must have had a copy, especially since his books are so often pictured in the volume either for bearing certain designs, or for being the imprint chosen to place a fine binding upon. Besides, Mosher also purchased a full page advertisement in the book.

3. Association Copies

Even though I already own two signed copies of the Quarto Series edition of Rossetti’s Ballads & Sonnets: one a very fine Japan vellum copy No. 20 of 25 in dust jacket and slipcase, and another copy No. 4 of 25 on Japan vellum but bound in full polished & marvelously gilt tooled morocco bound by the Donnelley Bindery in Chicago, the following book, however, was still a welcome addition from a village bookseller in England:

D. G. Rossetti’s Ballads & Sonnets (Portland, ME: Mosher, 1903–Quarto Series). One of “25 copies of this book have been printed on Japan vellum, numbered and signed by the publisher. This is No. 10 ” followed by the signature of Thomas Mosher. A gift inscription at the front reads “To Theodore Watts Dunton Esq with the regards and best wishes of Thomas B. Mosher. Oct 27, 1903.” Although frightfully expensive especially since the exterior condition of this book is only fair-good, Mosher’s presentation of this book to the poet, novelist, steady contributor to the British publications, The Examiner and The Athenaeum, and final guardian and close friend to both Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) –and later to Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)– makes this copy highly desirable. But the real excitement –an excitement only a ardent bibliophile or scholar can appreciate– comes with the fact that this book had personal meaning to Watts-Dunton as well. The importance of Mosher’s edition to Watts-Dunton is significant, not only because it contained Watts-Dunton’s poem on Rossetti, but also because (a) Mosher reprinted Rossetti’s original dedication “To Theodore Watts [later Watts-Dunton], the friend whom my verse won for me, these few more pages are affectionately inscribed” and (b) because Mosher used this presentation volume as a Trojan Horse to deliver a critical message to Watts-Dunton himself! Mosher writes in his Preface to this book (bold emphasis and [bracketed notes] are mine–PRB):

With the completion of Ballads and Sonnets our editorial labours in connexion with the poetical works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti come to an end. The main object of giving the American reader an untampered text in Rossetti’s original order of publication and “in a format commensurate with his rank and dignity as a poet,” thus stands accomplished. A few additional poems brought together from various sources since 1881 by his brother and editor, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, are properly placed at the close of the present volume. (1) [and now for the rub]

There are in existence, however, certain desiderata which might well have found place here had that been possible. “One of these is a grotesque ballad about a Dutchman, begun at a very early date, and finished in his last illness. The other is a brace of sonnets, interesting in subject and as being the last thing that he wrote. These works were presented as a gift of love and gratitude to a friend [guess who?], with whom it remains for publishing at his own discretion.” Further light is thrown upon the subject by Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton in an article entitled Rossetti’s Unpublished Poems. (2) Therein a promise was made: “Time… is the suzerain before whom every king, even Sorrow himself, bows at last. The rights of Rossetti’s admirers can no longer be set at nought, and I am making arrangements to publish within the present year Jan Van Hunks and the ‘Sphinx Sonnets,’ the former of which will show a new and, I think, an unexpected side of Rossetti’s genius.” Seven years have elapsed since this was written but these “rights” unhappily remain unsatisfied!…

[intervening paragraphs omitted–PRB]

One would indeed rejoice to know that an authoritative biography of Rossetti was set down for publication in the immediate future. For this boon we may have some few years more to wait. Nevertheless it is tolerably certain that the friend to whom “he unlocked the most sacred secrets of his heart” will, when the time has arrived for him to speak, take the world into his confidence. In that day we shall possess a picture of the poet-painter as he appeared to one who loved him very dearly, limned in language enduring truth, for all time present and to come.

– – – – – – – – – –

(1) [footnote omitted here–PRB]

(2) Contributed to The Athenaeum for May 23, 1896. See also a letter of great interest in The Spectator for April 25, 1896 upon which we base our closing paragraph.

(3) [other footnotes omitted–PRB]

— from Ballads & Sonnets (Mosher, 1903), pp. xvii-xx

So as one can see from the above quotes from the Preface, Mosher was criticizing Watts-Dunton for not following through with his seven year old promise, and exhorting him to reconsider to finally have these remaining poems published. One can sense Mosher’s exasperation in not having access to Rossetti’s final poetry, and that he should choose to send Watts-Dunton an inscribed with “best wishes” copy of the very book containing his critical remarks of Watts-Dunton is amazing. It certainly was a brazen step for Mosher to take. Of course, I have no further evidence as to what Watts-Dunton thought of this presentation, especially after reading Mosher’s Preface, but it certainly couldn’t have been too kindly. I have not further researched to know if these two Rossetti pieces were ever published in Theodore Watts-Dunton’s or even in Mosher’s lifetime.

One last record: last month I also got the two books from Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford, England: Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Goal (1904), one of ten on real vellum with both Mosher’s signature and that of Edward Smith Willard. The other book, Edward Clodd’s Concerning a Pilgrimage is to the Grave of Edward Fitzgerald (1902) inscribed by Mosher to Willard on Nov. 14, 1902 (Incidentally, I have Clodd’s own copy inscribed to him by Mosher and with several other letters to Clodd in it.). I did a little research and found out that Willard (1853-1915) was a British Shakespearean actor who traveled to America in 1902 where, from Boston, he wrote to Mosher. I just ordered photocopies of the six Willard to Mosher letters how housed at The Houghton Library at Harvard. I even found photographs of Willard on the Internet and ordered one picture from a dealer. I just love it when all this research comes together and gives a more rounded view of who was one of the recipients of Mosher’s books!

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