Unexpected Kindnesses

As a brief prefatory note, much of this was written mid-September 2003 while aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship while on route to and from the Bahamas which we boarded only six days after sailing up the East Coast to the St. Lawrence Seaway and down to Quebec City and Montreal aboard the British ocean liner, the Regal Princess. There is a bit of enjoyable romance writing in one’s cabin aboard an ocean liner, and I found it very gratifying to occasionally look out our glass balcony doors to see an aircraft carrier, an oil freighter, a distant stretch of the mainland, or even watching an island slowly passing by.

This has been a very busy September 2003 for travel. Susann is in the travel business which affords us many opportunities to combine both her career and my own. While traveling here or abroad, we check out book stores along the way. Even while stopping in Boston recently I had prearranged a visit to an institution to present two of the finest, nearly matching Sangorski and Sutcliff bindings I’ve ever owned, these being on Kelmscott Press books. As eagerly anticipated, my visit ended successfully with my selling both books which are about as fine a binding as one can get next to the famous Sangorski and Sutcliff jeweled bindings. There was also a sort of romance in taking books produced and bound in England along with us on a British ocean liner, and then placing them in one of the best homes to be found for them. I’ll clearly remember all the fun details of this visit and perhaps will write about them in much further detail sometime in the future. Suffice it to say for now, it was a totally rewarding experience over which both Sue and I will reminisce well in the future. I might also quickly note that my book buying in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was also very worthwhile. Although expensive, I “walked into” a wonderful acquisition of a dozen books which made my luggage a bit heavy throughout our travels in Canada and final departure from Montreal. But enough of this. I’m supposed to write on my self-assigned topic of kindnesses.

Over the years I have been the recipient of many kindnesses from individuals along the way to forming one of the world’s most extensive private Mosher Press collections, only rivaled by that of Norman Strouse’s great collection. Whether from bookseller, private collector, or friend—and in some instances all three—I’ve been quite fortunate to have been the recipient of tangible forms of generosity which I only now, in retrospect, view with a sense of profound appreciation. Of course, when I actually received each gift, I was stunned for the moment, finding it almost unbelievable that somebody would have been so generous. Even now after a generous amount of time has elapsed, I still cannot help but marvel that so many people had taken it upon themselves to add to the collection without any remuneration, happy only to receive my thanks. I’ve always said there had to be a special place in biblio-heaven for them, but that I would also be sure to publicly proclaim their kind deeds. To be sure, more may be added to the list as time goes by, for the Mosher collection will continue to grow until the end of my life, and as witness to these past kindnesses, I have no reason to believe that these will be the last issuances of good will. Even if such favors are at an end, I count myself extremely fortunate to have been the recipient of so many gifts. Likewise, I have made it a point to surprise a select number of other collectors with my own generosity, not because I want to draw attention to myself, but because I feel it incumbent upon myself to return the favors proffered in my direction. Doesn’t the adage go like “what goes around, comes around?” So here are a few of the reasons why I feel it necessary to give to others much like I’ve been given.

On March 8, 2001 I received a call from Dey Gosse. Dey was in the audience when I gave a talk on the Mosher Press to the Typophiles, and she called to offer me the facsimile version Charles Lamb’s Prince Dorus (London, 1891) carrying the Mosher bookplate. She questioned whether I intended to ever give or sell the collection to “those folks down in Texas.” I could tell she obviously didn’t approve of East Coast material–or any literary material for that matter–going down to any Texan depository like the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas-Austin, or the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University, and I told her that I rather doubted that the collection would ever find its way there. Happily reassured to her satisfaction, she sent the little book as a gift which I very much appreciated.

Most recently, on April 1, 2003 I received a Villon Society publication from Mark Samuels Lasner. Mark had telephoned me a few days before and told me that he recently bought a book with a letter from Mosher inside. At first I thought he was describing it for resale, or even to mention in gloating that it was now part of the justly famous Mark Samuels Lasner collection, but I was entirely wrong on both counts. Toward the end of our conversation he said he wanted to send it to me as a gift, adding some excuses for the condition of the letter. I offered to pay him for the book and letter, and he explained that he got it at an embarrassingly low price and just wanted to pass it along–collector to collector. All this was totally out of the blue and I looked forward with eager anticipation to their arrival. Along with a letter from the Villon Society to a Mr. Frank Trainer of Springfield, MA, an accompanying letter from Thomas Bird Mosher to the same gentleman (2 ½ pp., ALs, dated May 7, 1895) was pasted in the back of the Poems of Master François Villon of Paris, Villon Society, 1892:

Dear Sir: | Wharton’s Sappho | is out of print, but | the third edition has been announced, and | when ready, (probably | the fall) will cost | about $3.50 net; | possible less. [p.2] Payne’s Villon | is all sold, and | copies now bring | about $10.00 net, to | import. It is not | likely that a new | edn of Villon will | be issued, as much | of the translation | would have to be | expurgated to render | the book generally | saleable. [p.3] Please note | as follows: | Songs of Adieu is now 1.25 [“net” over top of dollar column] | Old World Lyrics 1.25 | Rubaiyat, all sold | Felise 1.00 | Modern Love 3.50 | Growth of Love 2.00 | Yours truly | T B Mosher

This letter was cut up and pasted in the back of the volume, and I had a restorer gently extract it and piece it together once again. Its content may prove useful some day in that mention of this 1892 Villon was an early appearance in Mosher correspondence over a book which Mosher himself would one day reprint as part of his own arsenal of “rare and introuvable books” which he wanted the American public to see. It also shows that Mosher was mindful of the fact that there were lines and phrases that would have to be “expurgated to render the book generally saleable.” In fact, when he did publish his reprint (in 1900; reprinted in 1905, 1909, and 1916), the objectionable lines had to be separately and privately printed by one of Mosher’s Portland colleagues, H.W. Bryant, and quietly advertised and distributed to customers who bought Mosher’s own expurgated edition. The letter also reveals something about the sales of Mosher’s early publications, with the Rubaiyat “all sold” and Meredith’s Modern Love (1891) and the Bridges’ Growth of Love (1893) being crossed out because copies were long exhausted by May 1895. Wharton’s Sappho mentioned in the beginning of Mosher’s letter refers to the third London edition prepared by John Lane with a new preface by the translator, William Thornton Wharton (the first two editions were published by David Stott in London, 1885, 1887). The original letter from Frank Trainer may have been initiated following Mosher’s announcement in the April 1895 issue of The Bibelot that his next monthly issue will be on the “Fragments from Sappho” and in the May issue Mosher notes that…

No translation can ever adequately render Sappho… [and] all that can be reasonably demanded in English has been given in Mr. H. T. Wharton’s scholarly volume:–Sappho, Memoir, Text Select Renderings and a Literal Translation. (London: first edition, 1885; second edition, 1887; third edition now in press).

Indeed, Mr. Trainer’s interest was the kind of response which suggested to the publisher that maybe it would be a good idea to bring out his own edition. That realization was accomplished in 1897 when Mosher presented Michael Field’s (Katherine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper) rendition of the Sapphic fragments into original lyrics in Long Ago (which also acknowledged their “indebtedness” to Wharton’s Sappho).

Just prior to Mark’s kind gift, I received another surprise which was totally unannounced and just as totally unexpected. Around 11 AM on Thursday, June 25, I came down our back stairway and glanced out the side door just happening to notice a medium sized box setting on the side porch. “What was this?” I wasn’t expecting any package. I hadn’t ordered any book over the Internet or from a dealer’s catalogue, so my first inclination was to think that somebody was returning a book they had bought from me. Gads, I wasn’t looking forward to confronting that! Upon inspecting the package, I saw the return address was from The Bookpress, Ltd. of Williamsburg, VA. Oh great, somebody there mistakenly sent someone else’s book order to my address. What a pain. I’d have to call them and return the package so it could get into the hands of its rightful owner, but to find out just what the problem was, I had to open the package. Therein was a brief note from a long time good acquaintance of mine, John Ballinger, stating that they had cleaned out an area in the basement and came upon this batch of Mosher material and decided to simply send it to me with their compliments. I opened the neatly wrapped parcels contained in the box and found, among several Mosher books I already had, thirteen Mosher catalogues all addressed to Mr. D. W. Wylie of Iowa City, Iowa in their original printed mailing envelopes with the stamps still affixed (an ownership inscription I have in another Mosher book reveals that this is Dwight W. Wylie). These envelopes are extremely fragile, and in all my years of collecting thousands of Mosher books and related items, how many such intact envelopes containing their original catalogues had I managed to find? Only one! And now, here were thirteen more! But that wasn’t all. One of these catalogues had a little something extra tucked away in its folds. There was a 1912 letter from Mosher on the revised trade terms he was willing to offer booksellers across the country. I had numerous examples of such letters pertaining to Mosher’s early efforts to promote his wares through bookstores, but here was an example—the first I’ve ever seen in all my years of Mosher research—of his revised terms pertaining to a later period in his publishing career. This may sound like nothing to some folks, but to researchers this kind of ephemera is golden. How incredible, and all these treats gratis from John Ballinger of The Bookpress, Ltd. Of course I called John the next day to properly thank him for all the material and to let him know how exciting it was to receive it. As I told him then, and as I’ve always vowed to say in my memoirs, I will have my chance to publicly thank these folks for their kindness.

To be sure, the potential importance of some gifts are not clearly discernable at present, but on a hunch, they may prove of value beyond simply being intriguing. A book arrived in the mail this past year which again came clearly out of the blue along with a small box of books from Mosher’s Brocade Series. In partial response to this gift, I wrote to Donald Dede of New Hampshire:

I received your letter of July 21 today, and although I’m in the midst of writing an article on book illumination, I wanted to get this response off to you pronto. Thank you so very much for the Monna Innominata—Sonnets and Songs by Christina C. Rossetti (Mosher, 1899) with that highly unusual bookplate with the wording around the perimeter reading “THE LAST POLITICAL PRISONERS UNCONDITIONALLY RELEASED BY THE UNITED STATES: and the quote at the bottom “This Music Crept by Me Upon the Waters”, dated December 22, 1923 and which appears to be inscribed “F. St. J.S. from R.T.” That line “This Music Crept…” is from Shakespeare’s romantic play, The Tempest, and was incorporated, word for word, by T.S. Eliot in his Chapter 3– “The Fire Sermon” in The Waste Land. I’m pursuing more about the bookplate and will let you know if anything of consequence results. Needless to say, I’m very appreciative of your kind gift. One of the articles I’m soon to be writing for ENDPAPERS is on gifts that I’ve received through the years. Of course, your name will prominently appear along with several others who have extended such kindness as to make me pause and reflect on my otherwise dour view of mankind in general, and on many individuals in particular—a kind of selective misanthropic outlook. Some day I even hope that there will be a rich benefactor who will support my Mosher research on some level, but that day has not yet arrived and probably never will; however, kindnesses like yours greatly energize me to continue the quest which I suppose I won’t give up until I breathe my last breath.

I must mention that this most recent gift was but one in a long line of successive “special packages” sent to me from the same Donald Dede, my one time best customer for Mosher books. I had supplied Mr. Dede with many very nice items over the years, and at times sent him great package deals very reasonably priced, along with a gift or two to him of my own. I even procured a wonderful Mosher book printed on real vellum carrying the bookplates of both Henry William Poor and Cortland Field Bishop. Years after purchasing this select item from me–and I must admit after years of regret for ever selling it to begin with–Mr. Dede had come to the point that he decided he was going to sell his Mosher collection and other books since he tired of personal belongings and clutter. He had been a reader for the Mosher bibliography, had corresponded with me frequently over our years of association, and now that he was deciding to liquidate his collection, he asked if I’d be interested in buying it back in parcels. Thus began a delightful period of again becoming reunited with many of the books I originally sold to him, plus being able to acquire Mosher items he had independently acquired–some of which were described in the Mosher bibliography. Packages would arrive and I was asked to send him what they were worth to me. In some instances a “care package” would arrive with a little note saying these were all freebies, or that this or that book was to be considered a gift. We both had great fun over this, and I was pleased to exchange cash for books, especially those which went directly into the Mosher collection here at the Bishopric of Lancaster County. One of Mr. Dede’s concerns was that he not be written out of the Mosher bibliography when and if it ever went into a second edition. So long as I ever have any say over it, his name will always be associated with those “finds” I recorded from his collection, even though they are now in my own collection. His name is an important part of the provenance of these listings in the bibliography, and it will remain so.

These kindnesses prompted further reminiscences of similar acts from other kind individuals in the past. There was a copy of Garlands and Wayfarings (Mosher 1917) with a couple of letters from its author, William Aspenwall Bradley, to Odell Shepard (poet, 1884-1967) in which he mentions Mosher. That copy of Garlands and Wayfarings also carried Shepard’s marks throughout. While talking with Terry Haliday of the William Reese Company in Hartford, CT, I mentioned this book with its letters listed on the Internet. Terry had to find the book in their warehouse in order to answer my questions surrounding the letters. He found the book and returned my call. Yes, the letters did mention Mosher but not extensively. It still seemed like something I should add to the Mosher collection, but before we even got to that point in our brief conversation, Terry simply said he was sending it as a gift. I was stunned, and thanked Terry in this letter on April 4, 2000:

I received William Aspenwall Bradley’s GARLANDS AND WAYFARINGS (Mosher Press) along with the two letters, each one which mentions something about Mosher. I’m still amazed at your generosity and THANK YOU time over time again for sending these with your compliments. That was a very nice gesture and is much appreciated and will not be forgotten. Should you ever order anything from me, I’ll send it post free in order to reciprocate your postage costs, and who knows, you might come up with something fancy in the Mosher line. Just in case, I’m appending my Mosher Wants list…

Indeed, there was an occasion when a far more significant Mosher item was quoted to me by Terry, and I reciprocated by ordering the rather costly item which certainly enhanced my collection, while simultaneously giving me the chance to “make things even.”

When writing about these dear folks, another name comes to mind, this one being at the very beginning of my Mosher collecting while I was still an administrator at our local university. Although later on I will more fully chronicle my relationship with the great book collector, Norman Strouse, let it just suffice to say that there were times during our three years of correspondence that a mysterious package would arrive and there would be a gift from Norman, usually a book from Mosher’s library. He sent me Marley Roberts’ Songs of Energy (L: Lawrence & Bullen, 1891), The Love of Books–The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury. Newly translated into English by E. C. Thomas (L: Alexander Moring [of] The De la More Press, 1902), Walter Jerrold’s The Autolycus of the Bookstalls (L: J. M. Dent & Co., 1902), R. C. Trevelyan’s Mallow and Asphodel (L: Macmillan, 1898), William Gifford’s two volume translation of The Satires of Decimus Junius Jevenalis (Philadelphia & NY: J. Morgan and Ezra Sergeant, 1803),   and the strangely titled book by Theo. Marzials, The Gallery of Pigeons and Other Poems (L: King, 1873), this copy of which, in turn, I gave several years later to the University of Louisville along with a purchase they made because they didn’t have one book from Mosher’s library.

These gifts from Norman were terribly exciting to me in my early days of collecting. I’d write to Norman about this or that book I added to my collection, and he’d respond as best he could during the years of his debilitating disease. I think he loved to think of me opening an occasional gift package and knowing how thankful I’d be upon its unexpected arrival. I think of him every time I light upon any of these gifts, and in honor of Norman’s generosity of those early days, I continue the practice of giving gifts to some Mosher collectors. My association with Mosher collectors comes and goes as they enter into my purview, but if I decide there is a fitting candidate to receive a “Norman gift” as I like to think of it, I send it off in honor of this past association with Norman Strouse.

Of course, the one gift from Norman I shall always cherish is a copy of Arthur Symons’s An Introduction to the Study of Browning (London: Cassell & Company, 1886) initially inscribed by Symons to Browning using the following unpublished quatrain:

To draw no envy, Browning, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither man nor muse can praise too much.

This copy of Symons’s book was withheld and then re-inscribed to Mosher:

I am happy to offer this copy of the first edition of my ”Introduction” (which had been inscribed for Browning himself, but held back in order to have a copy specially bound) to Thomas B. Mosher, printer of beautiful books.

Arthur Symons
March 1903

Quite obviously, Symons held a special place in the heart of Thomas B. Mosher, and Symons admired Mosher’s work. This copy is now located in the Bishop Collection thanks to Norman Strouse and to his daughter, Pat Beresford, who read many of my letters to her father while he was unable to read them for himself, and who forwarded an occasional gift package from Norman to me. I shall never be able to fully repay Norman for his kindnesses, but I did make a special point to see to it that the first Mosher publication I had anything to do with, i.e., Thomas Bird Mosher and the Art of the Book (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1992), was dedicated to him.

Even after Norman’s death on January 19, 1993, I still received a couple of gifts from his collection through his daughter, Pat Beresford. The last such gift was a copy of Richard Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart (1905) specially bound by Hatchards with little hearts on the spine. Little did Mrs. Beresford know that the very first Mosher book I ever owned was a copy of this very title, and receiving this copy “out of the blue” from Norman’s daughter seemed like it as a sign from Norman that all was well in the great beyond. Wow, what a gift!

Yet another delightful association I had over the years was with a fellow bookseller some considered as the dean of New England booksellers, Francis O’Brien of Portland, Maine. Again, I’ll be thoroughly detailing that relationship elsewhere in these memoirs, but let me just say here that on one occasion I received a flat package in the mail from Portland. I hadn’t ordered anything from Francis, yet it had his mailing label on it. Upon opening it, there in all its glory was a large original pen and ink drawing for a later bookplate Mosher was contemplating for use in his personal library. The drawing was signed with the monogram of Earl Stetson Crawford. How wonderful this gift was from a bookseller who supplied me with many fine Mosher items over the years. In the years that followed, I came across some additional sketches and mock up pen and ink drawing Crawford made for this bookplate (now housed at Arizona State University‘s Special Collections in Tempe), but this work given to me by Francis was the final, most complete of them all, and is pictured in the Mosher bibliography on p. 486. Incidentally, the drawing is also important for another reason. Two pictures of Mosher’s library have surfaced over the years, but one shows the fireplace to the right while the other shows it to the left. It is only because of Crawford bookplate drawing that we know the fireplace was most assuredly located on the right as viewed from the adjoining room through a large doorway.

On a somewhat heavier note, I have elsewhere described the book given to me by Dr. William E.(Dick) Fredeman just a few days before he died. My tribute to Dick is found elsewhere in the essay entitled “A Pre- Post Mortem Addition to a Book Collection.” I wasn’t expecting anything from him, and was surprised at his allowing me to select and keep a Pre-Raphaelite work from Mosher’s library: William Bell Scott’s A Poet’s Harvest Home: Being One Hundred Short Poems. With an Aftermath of Twenty Short Poems (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893). Of course, as with Norman Strouse, what was more importantly given, without any strings, was their friendship. Such is perhaps the most unexpected and cherished gift of all.

There were also other gifts, like a few pieces of memorabilia once owned by the second Mrs. Mosher sent to me by Nick Salerno of Arizona State University-Tempe (following a research visit back in 1994) including some Mosher stationary, some photo reproductions that the Moshers brought back with them from a European trip (which I know nothing about), and a little oriental bookmark made by Mrs. Mosher; and a couple of Mosher Press look-a-like books from the Foulis Press sent to me by a Canadian colleague, Jim Earl. Most recently (June 2004) Jim also sent me a gratis copy of my Mosher bibliography’s review written by Dr. David Latham of York University which appeared in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada in Spring 2000. Before this I hadn’t seen this issue of the Papers.

Somewhat outside of the Mosher field, I’ve also received several lovely items from fellow book collector, Sid Neff, who has assembled a magnificent collection of piscatorial books in Sewickley, PA. Highlights of his collection include bindings which he applied to old books on fish, many of which were shown in the traveling exhibition: “THE COLLECTOR AS BOOKBINDER–The Piscatorial Bindings of S. A. Neff, Jr.” with an accompanying color-catalogue. On one occasion he gave me two hand-made boxes covered with marbled paper. In these I’ve placed two of Mosher’s boxed sets of books from the Brocade Series, and the boxes work well in helping to protect these now fragile Mosher items. Yet a larger box, this one covered in cloth, was more recently given to me by Sid. The decorative lid shows examples of leather onlays, an inlay, gilt tooled lines, and blind tooling, all examples of various leather working techniques using templates developed by Sid Neff showing the great skill and accuracy of his accomplished work as a binder. The lid was actually a demonstration plaquette which Sid made as instructor at a bookbinding workshop. He turned it into a lid for a felt-bottomed box, signed the lid on the reverse side “20 SAN 03” and presented it to me as a gift. It’s a very nice production and a reminder of this dear friend, and now takes on the function of being a protective box for another one of Mosher’s boxed sets. I also received a wonderful framed color picture of his library at Sewickley which now hangs between the Mosher & Music Room, and the room I use for my book stock for the Mosher Books business. More detail on this bookbinder, collector, fisherman and friend will appear as a separate entry in the memoirs to come.

Of course, no account of kindnesses would be complete without mention of my wife’s many gifts: both in books, time, and support. I remember Christmases when I’d open a package containing an exquisite binding on a Mosher book. The first such surprise was a copy of The Poems of Master François Villon of Paris (1900) from the library of E.M. Cox in an exquisite, yet mystifyingly unsigned full burgundy morocco binding with ornate gilt tooling. She got this book from a British bookseller at a Boston book show. She also got all of Mosher’s reprints of William Morris’s works that appeared in the Brocade Series. These are bound several titles to the volume in very attractive 3/4 red and blue morocco matching binding with highly gilt tooled spines including acorns in the panels. These are little treasures, and I know it set her back a little to pay for these, but they are so very attractive and forever treasured Christmas gifts procured from Ron Cozzi of the Old Edition Book Shop (Buffalo, NY) at a New York ABAA Antiquarian Book Show.

There may have been other small gifts which I’ll need to include, but for now this is about all I can remember. So as time passes and the Mosher collection continues to grow, I expect I’ll remember others, and welcome new additions. I’ll record those too, but for now, it’s just nice to think back over those unexpected and most welcomed additions to the Mosher collection which I’ve received totally due to the generosity of persons with whom I’ve been pleased to be associated. May they all be blessed, whether still alive or not. I know they will certainly all be fondly remembered.

© Philip R. Bishop
2 December 2003

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 September 2004 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.