Plodding Along

Acquisitions have been somewhat slow over the past few months but in some instances that’s good because I’m presently in somewhat delicate negotiations for two higher-end acquisitions including an archive of material between Mosher and a member of the Walt Whitman Fellowship, and a collection of ten Mosher books in superlative Arts & Crafts bindings. If nothing else these will form the basis for a couple future essays to Endpapers, but for now these have been the items which have most recently come into the Mosher collection during the past couple months:

  1. A two-page autograph letter from Dewitt Miller is printed on the pictorial letterhead of The Savery House, Des Moines, Iowa, 8 January, no year [1898] addressed to “Dear Mr Mosher: Please send me  a copy of the Japan Germ at $20. In the mail with your favor came a note from the Hon. A. P. [Addison Peale] Russell (author of Library Notes) addressed to J. Dewitt Miller (the Bibliotaph)… which possibly answers your query. I’ll think of something I’d like to have you print.”  Jahu Dewitt Miller (1857-1911) was an American educator, librarian, journalist, minister, orator, and book collector. He grew up on his father’s farm in rural New York.  When he was 14 years old, he entered the Collegiate Institute at Fort Edward, New York, and after he graduated, became a member of its faculty. As a teenager, he taught a wide range of courses at the Institute.  He also held the position of librarian. By the age of 17 he began a lifelong passion of collecting rare books.  He traveled around New England, preaching and lecturing, and later became a renowned speaker on the Chatauqua His rare book collection had been moved from the family farm after his mother’s death to a country store in Carmel, New York, under his sister’s supervision.  Before Miller’s death in 1911, the collection was relocated to the Seminary at Forest Glen, Maryland. (Biographical note provided by David Holmes)
  2. Received a copy of Mosher’s edition of Primavera (1900) signed by the American poet “Sara Teasdale / June 10, 1904 / St. Louis” (1884-1933-committed suicide) and carrying the bookplate of Howard Wilford Bell which is hand-dated “OX Mch 13 1901” and with the booksellers ticket of Williams & Norgate of Oxford. All very curious. I haven’t been able to find out much on Howard Wilford Bell except that he was a publisher in England, but I’m not sure of any connection to Sara Teasdale. It’s also highly interesting to note that Sara Teasdale wrote the poem “Primavera Mia” which appeared in her book Helen of Troy and Other Poems (yet another Mosher connection?) in 1911. How did Teasdale get the book from Bell? All these are unknowns.
  3. Several bindings have come in, but nothing to crow about except for one with a Chinese chop mark and very unusual gold tooling. The book is Walter Pater’s Essays from the Guardian (Mosher, 1897). It was on eBay and had unusual Ricketts-like markings around the perimeter of the dark blue morocco covers. Unknown to the seller, the binding is actually stamped BOUND BY BLACKWELL. Henry Blackwell was one of the binders who started out under Matthews and who eventually set up his own bindery in New York as did his fellow co-worker, James MacDonald. There was a bookplate but it was removed from the book, yet a note written in pencil remains on an endpaper saying “Clark book plate” which I presume designates the owner, not the name of a designer, and it may indicate this book was once held in the Clark Library of Williamstown, Massachusetts? or the Clark Memorial Library of UCLA?
  4. I will make a few comments about the copy No. 1 on Japan vellum of Pater’s The Renaissance from his large “Quarto Series” which I bought off the Internet. The book’s binding was in a shambles. It’s somewhat of an important copy in that it was owned by Emilie Grigsby and it shows up in the catalogue of her books for sale at auction. I also acquired another copy of the Swinburne Laus Veneris (this too being a copy No. 1 and in far nicer condition) at a garage sale in New York City earlier this year. Funny that I should get both copy #1’s of The Renaissance and Laus Veneris from Grigsby’s library within a few months of one another. I sent both the Renaissance and yet another Japan vellum copy of Swinburne’s Laus Veneris –sold to me by the widow of Dick Fredeman–to a book conservator who agreed to try to replicate Mosher’s Japan vellum printed wrappers-over-boards. I sent him jpg images of the two covers. He used photoshop and was able to replicate the covers and sewed on new boards. Quite frankly, he did a marvellous job of it. I never expected to see the returned books looking much like they did when originally issued. Just amazing.
  5. Received an absolutely pristine copy of The Standard Writing-Book which was printed sometime between 1882-1889 by McLellan, Mosher & Co., Booksellers and Stationers at No. 37 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine. It includes two monograms for the business. This lined blank-book is yet another example of the kind of material Mosher had printed before The Mosher Books came into being. In addition to that, two copies of The Old Farmer’s Almanac by Robert E. Thomas were entered into the collection. One is dated 1889 and carries the imprint of McLellan, Mosher & Company. The other is dated 1892 and carries the imprint of only Thomas B. Mosher. These were both part of the stationary and bookselling business which predated and then overlapped with the publishing of the Mosher Books beginning in 1891. Both carry extensive back-page advertisements on the businesses which are by-in-large similar except for the 1889 advertisement of George Varney’s A Brief History of Maine for which Mosher wrote his first introduction to a book.
  6. Another book from Flora Lamb’s personal library was added, this being a copy of Edith M. Thomas’s Lyrics and Sonnets (Boston & NY, 1887). The book bears the ownership signature of “Abba Goold Woolson / New York. Feb. 21. 1889.” Woolson (1838-1931) was a writer, editor, poet and lecturer in the Boston area. She wrote numerous books including Browsing Among Books, Woman in American Society, and George Eliot and Her Heroines among others. She also edited Dress-reform: a series of lectures delivered in Boston, on dress as it affects the health of women. The Thomas book later became the property of Annie Belle Morrell who then inscribed to Flora M. Lamb who was the long-time assistant of Thomas Bird Mosher. It’s also interesting to note that a poem entirely in the hand of, and signed by, Edith M. Thomas appears on the first flyleaf. Another book which came along with this was Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism inscribed to Flora M Lamb from Elinor Stewart in April 9, 1927. Enclosed is a Western Union telegram from Stewart in Plainfield, NJ thanking Flora Lamb for some kindness she bestowed on her on that date, and a little card accompanied the book as well.
  7. Along with the book from Flora Lamb’s library was a copy of Sydney King Russell’s Lost Warrior which Flora Lamb published through the Mosher Press in 1931. This copy appears to be a printer’s dummy with the printed cover over a mass of blank pages followed by only 30 numbered and printed pages. The published book is 108 pages in length.
  8. I picked up a copy of the new published Arden (Arcadia Publishing, 2010) by Mark Taylor as one of the photographic books in the “Images of America Series.” The book’s importance for the Mosher Collection is that it shows a picture of William Roberts who, along with his wife, ran the Roberts Press in Rose Valley and who later moved to Arden in 1917. Roberts corresponded with Mosher and I wrote a little piece about this for the March 2010 issue of Endpapers entitled “The William Roberts of Rose Valley Connection” (p.23). It’s so nice to match a face to a correspondent. I picked this up while doing a tour of Arden and Rose Valley this past spring hosted by Jack and Betty Jean Freas of Tamerlane Books, so thanks to them I came upon this new picture book of Arden and the Arden Community.
  9. The last item of any interest is a copy of Frederic Rowland Marvin’s Fireside Papers (Boston, 1915) which was in Mosher’s library. It’s inscribed “Mr. Mosher / with regards of the author / Frederic Rowland Marvin.” This is the second book I have from Mosher’s library that’s by Marvin, the other being Flowers of Song from Many Lands–Being Short Poems and Detached Verses Gathered from Various Languages and Rendered into English (Troy, New York: Pafraets Book Company, 1902) which was printed by D. B. Updike at The Merrymount Press in Boston. Although 1,000 copies were printed, only sixty-three (this is copy #52) “contain a portrait of the Author on parchment…” The book also contains the original prospectus and a letter from the author to Thomas B. Mosher, dated 16 April 1903, so it appears that Marvin’s acquaintanceship with Mosher spanned over at least a dozen years.


One other thing of personal interest is that the book came to me by way of Kinsey Baker of The Book Haven. It was from the same bookseller that I purchased my first Mosher book, and since Kinsey will be closing his business as of January 15, 2011, it’s somewhat touching that this book from Mosher’s library should come to me just six months before The Book Haven is only a memory.

I know, a lot of this is without glamour or glitz, but that’s part of what building a research collection is about. There’s a lot of material which, when standing alone, gives one little idea about anything beyond its mere presence as an object or scrap of paper. But slowly some things develop into a snapshot and then into a larger picture until, in some instances, a full story can be told. One doesn’t know when one piece will illumine another or hold greater interest beyond itself. That’s why one struggles to continue searching and adding to a collection. There’s something to say for Michael Zinman’s idea of creating a critical mass, but then again buying just for the sake of buying isn’t the answer. There has to be deliberation and guided selection, informed choice, a weighing of the item against what one already has, and selections that move in accord with a plan however that’s been defined by the collector. And all of this has to be tempered by patience and, unfortunately, supported by one’s wallet. As I stated at the beginning of this enumeration of purchases, there are two events on the horizon which represent particularly upper level acquisitions—very showy and particularly important. As collectors we live and breathe more robustly when such opportunities to boost our collection beyond its present level present themselves, but all the in between time counts too. That’s what the above represents—the in between times.

Philip R. Bishop
July 9, 2010