The Burden of a Large Collection

Several people contacted me to tell me about the Mosher listing, No. 150, in the May 10 New England Book Auctions catalogue which I got on April 21. The listing for the privately printed books was:

(MOSHER PRINTING, THOMAS BIRD).Edward Clodd. Concerning a Pilgrimage to the Grave of Edward Fitzgerald. Portrait; plate. Small 8vo, stiff wrappers, Yapp edges, slipcase (scuffed and soiled); moderate wear. Portland, 1902 [80/120]

ONE OF 50 NUMBERED COPIES “privately printed on Japan vellum by Thomas B. Mosher for presentation to his friends. Bishop B75.

I explained to all three callers that I was not submitting a bid since I already have a few copies–you know, the usual assortment like (and here I crow a little):

(1) One fine copy (#16/50), in slipcase, inscribed by Mosher to E. S. Willard, Esq., the British actor. This copy was inscribed to Edward S. Willard who once owned two of the real vellum (pure vellum) Mosher books I now have in my collection, so it’s not a bad association since this British Shakespearean actor was an avid collector of Mosher’s finer productions. Add to this that the book was privately printed for distribution to Mosher’s friends and one could counting Willard as “friend”, heightens the significance of this particular copy.

(2) One very good copy (#7 of 50) bearing the bookplates of Donald D. Eddy (Samuel Johnson scholar, retired from Cornell‘s rare book office), and A.G. Potter (the noted Rubaiyat bibliographer). Of course, this is a great association item in that everybody who seriously collects Rubaiyats intimately knows Potter whose bibliography still remains the standard published record of the Rubaiyat’s printings. Potter was an avid collector of Rubaiyats, and I even managed to get several photographs of some of the prizes in his collection which he once put on exhibit. Mosher’s publications are among the elect. Clodd’s book is about FitzGerald, so the FitzGerald-Potter-Rubiayat connection is a very good association indeed. The added fact that it’s also from Don Eddy’s collection is just icing on the cake.

(3) An then there is the ultimate association copy (#11/50) inscribed by Mosher to the book’s author, Edward Clodd, “with the regards of his friend from the USA”. The book also includes three letters to Clodd, including one ending with “thank you much for the loan of the charmingly printed brochure [perhaps a Mosher catalogue]. Mosher may be, and is, a Pirate, but he is an Artist too. And you are a Poet.” Having a copy Mosher had privately printed and then Mosher turning around and inscribing a copy for the author himself seems to me to be one of the best associations one could hope for, especially because it notes the friendship felt by the publisher for the author. The letters to Clodd, neatly packed inside the same volume, shows that this was the copy that Clodd himself kept and used as a “memento file” which was the customary thing done around that period (still is by some folks).

So, except to have yet another additional copy, and probably one which I’d have only for resale, I saw no need to have yet another copy. The three copies above are practically all one could hope for, and evidence of what is often the case with a large collection: an abundance of riches. Yet if another copy were to surface with an association value, would I purchase it? You bet I would!

© Philip R. Bishop
10 May 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.