When Bored, Think Up a Different Tact

Even the most dedicated collector of books –and if nothing else I am that– can sometimes fall into the biblio-doldrums. Recently, out of sheer boredom in my collecting efforts I cooked up a scheme to see how others would react to a different tack. Over the past few years I’ve come to the understanding that one of the collecting areas, books from Mosher’s library, presents a problem in that there are enough listings that include nonessential books that one could keep buying and buying and sinking all sorts of money into it without much return in value. So for books from Mosher’s library I was limiting myself to assembling those which Mosher used texts for his own publications, or those which Mosher highly valued or treasured or which he wrote about. All others, unless lowly priced, were simply cast aside as being money drains down which I wasn’t interested in pouring more money.

Thing is, while I held myself to that regulation for the past three years, but I regularly keep tabs on all such books listed in the Internet and in fact record when each and every one is listed and by whom. Nothing had happened for some time now so I decided to try something different. I contacted almost all dealers who listed and still had such non-essential books for sale on the Internet. In contacting them, I respectfully proposed an alternative amount I was willing to pay which in some cases dug as deep as 50%, in others not quite so much. I also went through my records to see whether Mosher said anything about these books or whether he quoted from them and any other reason why they might hold more than casual interest. Out of the four dealers contacted, three were in near agreement, especially after realizing that their book had been listed for up to two or more years. In one instance, a rather nice fin de siécle book, Arthur Machen’s (Arthur Llewellyn Jones) The Great God Pan and the Inmost Light (London & Boston: John Lane and Roberts Brothers, 1895) with its Beardsley cover design was acquired along with another Machen volume Hieroglyphics (London: Grant Richards, 1902). This copy actually led to a discovery in Mosher’s use of a quote which I previously didn’t know was from Hieroglyphics. Now, with Mosher’s copy, I can see his marking of the actual passage for reprint. Another volume which was part of this make-you-an-offer adventure was Edward Thomas’s Walter Pater–A Critical Study (London: Martin Secker, 1913) in which Mosher made some notes on the last free flyleaf. By the time of this book’s printing, however, Mosher had printed just about all he was going to reprint of Pater’s works, so the notes simply pertain to Mosher’s reaction to some of Edward Thomas’ comments. There are still two volumes from Mosher’s library listed on the Internet, but one dealer simply has the disbound item priced too high, and the other refuses to correspond, but who knows, I may still end up with both.

Along with this little miniature foray into bargain hunting I also revisited an offer for a book which I made to a collector a year or so ago. Nothing much came of it, but then on April 29 I got the following brief e-mail: “I am in the process of Spring cleaning and came across the Cellini. Still interested? He was making reference to Mosher’s copy of the two-volume Vale Press edition of John A., Symonds’s (trans.) The Life of Benvenuto Cellini. (London: Vale Press (Ballantyne Press printing for Hacon & Ricketts), 1900. It’s a small folio with original linen-backed boards, uncut, and one of 300 copies, and with loosely inserted prospectus. I had taken some fascination over the book because of the negative comment Mosher made about the production:

…without the lengthy Introduction, of some 60 pages, also lacking Illustrations, Notes, Appendix and Index which Symonds gave, and which he presumably intended to accompany any and all editions that might in future be called for, this reprint stands as a sumptuous model of everything a book should not be! May it not have been one of the proximate causes of that tremendous debacle which has recently taken place in the public appreciation of so-called “artistic” book-making? [–The Bibelot, Vol. XII, 1906, p. 382]

So that too was brought into the fold and these volumes are now duly catalogued and reside on the shelves of the Mosher collection. The process of identifying and cataloguing other books from Mosher’s library continues, and I’m now moderately pleased that I pursued this tact contra to my previously stated position and collecting rationale. I still won’t spend exorbitant amounts on such books, but one never knows what one might find or later come across that helps to modify the importance of some of these volumes.

As a bit of a side note, I’ve added yet another inscribed copy of Mimes (1901) to those already here in the Bishop Collection. You may recall that I have a whole bevy of Mimes from first copy printed, to inscribed copies, to copies on Japan vellum, to an outstanding real vellum copy. I once wrote an essay entitled “The Mosher Mimes the Merrier” in the March 2004 issue of Endpapers. This copy adds yet another wrinkle in that Aimee Lenalie adds an original translation of a poem from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal about which she says “is eloquent to us both–and to the dead.”

©Philip R. Bishop
June 4, 2009

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 September 2009 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.