More Primary Sources and Bibliopegic Delights

Editor’s Note: Phil Bishop knows how much I enjoy hearing from collectors about their discoveries and he regularly keeps me informed of his. A reader might think that having such a large collection of Mosher material would make it more difficult to find new additions. That, thankfully, doesn’t seem to be the case for him as evidenced by the following annotated acquisitions made in just May and June of this year. I think it is important for collectors to note how he provides additional information and gives the background on their acquisition and importance to the outstanding Mosher collection he has built.

May 2– I got a little something this morning in the mail through a purchase on eBay. It’s a copy of Collier’s–The National Weekly dated September 5, 1925. On p. 17 there’s a portrait photograph of Flora Lamb with the caption “The late Thomas Bird Mosher of Portland, Me., book publisher, left instructions in his will that his business was to be carried on by Flora M. Lamb (above), who had been his right hand man for twenty years.” Actually I had a photocopy of that specific entry in my files from a long time ago, but I never knew that context. Now that I have the whole magazine, I see that the two-page spread is entitled “The shorthand short cut to fame” and presents seventeen people (3 men, 14 women) who were once secretaries or stenographers and who used shorthand or typing in their job, but who are now (back in 1925 that is) more famous. Anyway, it’s nice to finally have the actual magazine after all these years.

May 6–Ordered several more missing Gable catalogues from Joslin Hall Rare Books of Concord, MA. These are various parts of THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE WILLIAM F. GABLE of Altoona, PA. New York; American Art Association: 1923-1924. From a wealthy merchant’s library, this important auction of Americana, literature, manuscripts and documents, association copies, and other bibliophilic rarities included Mosher and other private press books printed on real vellum. Many of his books were bound in exquisite bindings. Of course, his most important association with Mosher is that he co-published the Leaves of Grass facsimile volume Mosher put out in 1919.

A most delightful “find” in these new catalogues is the listing of special bindings in Catalogue Part One for the November 5th and 6th, 1923 sale. Really, catalogues like this are invaluable for tracing provenance. Several years ago I bought a spectacular binding by L. Averill Cole on the Japan vellum copy #40 of Clara Sherwood Stevens’ Passages from the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer (Mosher, 1910) but it carried no bookplate or other sign of ownership. Entry No. 112 in the Gable catalogue fully describes this very copy indicating it’s “a beautiful example of bookbinding.” Now I know that William F. Gable commissioned this binding for his library. I’m still missing Part II of this important sale, and one of the three parts of the separate Freeman sale of remaining William F. Gable books.

May 19–From John Cockle-Bookseller of Somerset, England I ordered an inscribed copy of Hilaire Belloc’s At the Sign of the Lion (1916).The inscription runs: “To Mr. Carson | From the Author | H. Belloc | Nov: 12: 1923.” I’m particularly pleased to get this as I am mindful of the fact that I lost out on a great Belloc letter of 1929 which I quote, in full, in the Mosher bibliography. Alas, when I reached the British dealer it had been sold. I was determined not to have that happen again, so pursued this inscribed book with a passion. The letter went for £600, but the inscribed book for only £44. I would have rather had the letter, but the book will do, especially since it shows that in 1923 Mr. Belloc was pleased to inscribe a Mosher book bearing his work even though later on in 1929 he threatened to beat Mosher with a rattan cane if he should pirate another book of Belloc’s, but I guess he didn’t mind sending people inscribed copies of Mosher’s edition of At the Sign of the Lion.

May 24–Received a copy of Richard Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart (1909) in maroon 3/4 crushed morocco with raised bands, richly hand-tooled spine compartments, marbled paper over boards, top edges gilt. The top of the endpaper’s verso is stamped KAUFMANN’S but on the same verso side of the endpaper at the bottom appears the stamp THE HARCOURT BINDERY, so the whole page is then to be interpreted as “Bound for Kaufmann’s [Department Store in Pittsburgh?] by The Harcourt Bindery.” This book was purchased through David Ogle of Solidus Ltd. of Altos, California. I’ve corresponded with David many times over the years.

June 18–After over a month in delivery from Francis Edwards of Hay-on-Wye, a copy of Arnold’s Empedocles on Etna–A Dramatic Poem (1900) arrived. It’s in a beautiful even if rather plain binding with lovely marbled endpapers. Bound in full tan calf with a double gilt ruled band around the edges of both boards, the edges of each corner have gilt filleting, there is a long dark maroon leather gilt lettered title label to the spine with intricate gilt detail at head and tail, the top edge of the leaves are gilt with the others being uncut. The amazing thing is that this book was shown at the New York ABAA Book Fair but I somehow managed to miss seeing it there, but heck, better late than never.

June 20–I ordered Francis Thompson’s Shelley–An Essay (Mosher, 1909) in very nice condition. The book was bound by Hatchards and is very similar to other Hatchards bindings which I have in the collection, like Oscar Wilde’s Poetical Works (1908) which I recently got from Switzerland, Edwin Arnold’s Passages from the Song Celestial (1911), and Richard Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart (1905). Of the lot, the Thompson is by far the one in the finest condition, and was acquired from Conor Pattenden of Red Star Books in Berkhamsted of Hertfordshire, England.

June 27–I received a binding from the Gibson Galleries which, although amateur, is by an American binder who I didn’t have represented in the Mosher collection. The book and binding are:

Meredith, George. Modern Love and Other Poems. Portland, ME: Thomas Bird Mosher, 1898. First edition in the Old World Series. Bound by Fletcher Battershall and from the library of Fletcher & Maude Battershall. Full dark blue morocco with densely guilt spine’ covers with tutor rose onlays; doublures of red with gilt tooling; red silk used on first and last free flyleaves.

Battershall (1866-1929) was a New York lawyer who became close friends with the head of the Roycroft Bindery, Louis Herman Kinder. Battershall authored several books, but his most notable was compiled from a series of essays collectively called “Book-Binding for Bibliophiles” which appeared in The Literary Collector–A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interest of Collectors from January 1901 to July 1902. The book version by the same title came out in 1905, and included a few additional essays from other issues of The Literary Collector, like on Italian gold tooling. Kinder dedicated his book Formulas for Bookbinders (1905) “to my sincere friend, Fletcher W. Battershall, whose love for and unceasing labors in the study of artistic bookbinding I have ever deeply admired, these Formulas are dedicated,” further inscribing Battershall’s own copy “for Mr. F. W. Battershall, with all kind wishes from his friend ~ Louis H. Kinder ~1905.” (Blacher Collection). At the fall 2004 ABAA Book Fair I saw several other Battershall bindings which are typically “signed” with Battershall’s “bat” tool, but this copy of Modern Love is stamped BOUND BY FLETCHER BATTERSHALL underneath the front doublure and is by far the most handsome of any Battershall bindings I’ve ever seen. His work is still somewhat crude, and comes nowhere close to the polished forms and precise tooling of his admiring friend, Louis Kinder.

June 29–Ireceived a copy of Whistler’s Ten O’Clock (Mosher, 1917, 2nd edition) bound in full brown crushed morocco with raised bands and marbled endpapers; aesthetically place gold stamped title with Whistler’s butterfly mark on the front cover. This was received from Sue Heller, an ABAA dealer in Beachwood, Ohio, a dealer with whom I’ve purchased several lovely Mosher items over the years.

July 6–The Mosher quest has slowly been coming back into the picture after a hiatus due to our preparation to move from Millersville to Ephrata to set up our new quarters in a vintage Gordon-Van Tine home built in 1928. The latest acquisition I made, and this for purely irrational reasons (now that’s a contradiction since how can the irrational be a point of reasoning?). Anyway, for some inexplicable “reason” I continue to gather copies of the 1895 Mosher edition of George Russell’s (i.e., AE’s) Homeward Songs by the Way. Mind you, I’ve slowed in this regard, but it still happens and I’ve added yet a 9th copy to the collection. You can ask, but I’m not sure I can say WHY I’m doing this. Fortunately sometimes when I get a copy it has a little something different to add. I bought a copy from the McCauleys in Langhorne, PA.

Now I know Rita and Tom McCauley from wayyyyyyy back. They’ve run the Philadelphia Book Fair ever since I can remember, in fact at the last fair they celebrated their 25th year in doing so. Two nice people.. Tom is probably around 75 years old, an ex-Marine, and very Irish. Usually he has only lower-end, modern books for sale, but when I saw this copy of Homeward listed for the low price of $20 U.S., I thought what the heck, I’ll gamble on it.

Actually with dealer discount, and media-mail postage, the whole darn thing came to just $20 so that’s the most I could lose if it was a bust. It turns out that not only is it a pretty nice copy (I only have two in better condition), but it stands out in a singular way. It’s completely uncut, meaning that the pages are still joined together at the signature folds and have never been “opened” by a blade, so in that sense I don’t have another copy like it. I’m still waiting to get a Japan vellum copy of the same book.

© Philip R. Bishop
7 July 2005

This essay 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 2005 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.