The William Roberts of Rose Valley Connection

Three manuscript items made their way to the Mosher collection back in September 2007: an inscribed photo and two letters. They are all in Mosher’s hand and all to one William Roberts of the Rose Valley community, a Utopian venture outside Philadelphia and closely aligned with the Arden experiment. You can see something on this at the following website and information on William Roberts which appears at the link for Louise Smith Roberts at

The items were offered to me out of the blue by a fellow member of the Delaware Bibliophiles whom I’d never met prior to his appearance here at Acorn Cottage. He obviously knew about me most likely through the essays I’ve submitted to Endpapers (thank you Gordon). The three items were offered as a grouping and the content of the letters is– well to keep it subdued–very nice. I had to take out a loan to cover it, so yet another reason I did not regret purchasing a special copy of Norman Strouse’s book, The Passionate Pirate, bound by Roger Powell. It would have been nice, but not a critical addition to the collection, and the price… well it was good that I didn’t already have a loan to which I’d have to add the cost of these letters.

In doing some preliminary research I found that William Roberts was married to Louise Smith Roberts and both of them worked at Rose Valley, first in printing greeting cards, and then later William succeeded Carl de Moll in the Rose Valley book bindery set up in the Guild Hall. In 1906 Roberts advertised in The Artsman that he was running The Roberts Press. I wonder if anyone out there in Endpapers land has ever heard of it or seen examples of the printing? How about his bindings? From what I’ve been able to tell Louise Smith Roberts did design work for the press and her designs were also later used by the Abel Press. She also worked as an illustrator for books and magazines.

The inscribed Mosher portrait and two lengthy ALS by Mosher to William Roberts of the Rose Valley community arrived by courier. The inscribed 1902 portrait of Mosher reads: “My dear Roberts: | I am only too glad | to send you this counterfeit presentment. | Sincerely yours | Thomas B. Mosher | Dec 29, 1904” while one of the letters reads, in part: “It is a joy to | me that you and many | another friend scattered | about the world cares | for what I am doing. || It was the lack of | comradeship in my life | that forced me into | reaching out for just | such returns as you | give…” It’s really nice meaty stuff, frightfully expensive, but each of these letters includes key passages which I’ll someday want to more fully transcribe and explain. Of course that opportunity will come with the compiling of Mosher’s letters. Speaking of which, I’ll reiterate a notice that’s been posted in several venues:

For an edition of the selected correspondence of Thomas Bird Mosher, the Portland, Maine publisher who issued books of Victorian and fin de siècle literature from 1891 to 1923, I wish to find letters in public and private collections. The contents of the principal libraries with Mosher materials–Harvard, the University of San Francisco, Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, the University of Virginia, and the Huntington Library–are known to me, as are a few smaller holdings. Of particular interest are letters concerning Mosher’s relations with British and American writers, his publishing activities, his book collecting, and his relationship with organizations such as the Whitman Fellowship. Note: I am the compiler of Thomas Bird Mosher–Pirate Prince of Publishers (1998) and can be contacted:

Philip R. Bishop
P.O. Box 542
Ephrata, PA 17522-0542

©Philip R. Bishop
January 30, 2010

This article is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the March 2010 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.