Tuesday 27 October 2015

Merryland in French, not 1805

In January 2010 I posted images of an "1815" (actually, 1872) edition of a French translation of Thomas Stretzer’s A New Description of Merryland (1740) that I had recently bought, but which is now in the Monash University rare books collection (here), having appeared in a Monash exhibition: Lewd and Scandalous Books (July–September 2010), item 58 (here).

I recently acquired another copy of Description Topographique, Historique, Critique et Nouvelle du pays et des Environs de la Forêt Noire Situés dans la Province du Merryland (above), which also has a false imprint and date (below): “A Boutentativos, chez les veuves Sulamites, aux petits appartements de Salomon. L'an du monde 100,800,000,500.” [Boutentativos: among the widows of the Sulamites, in the small apartments of Solomon. The year of world 1805]

“Boutentativos” is, seemingly, an invented adjectival, and plural masculine form of bouter (to push, pin or enter, from Middle French bouter, from Old French bouter)—so, somewhere that men enter the small apartments of the widows of Solomon. Hysterical.

This is one of a number of falsely dated French reprints of Merryland. In this case, the title-page is 1805, but the paper is clearly watermarked with the date 1863. Catalogue entries for this edition usually give the date as “1863?” without offering any explanation for how the date was arrived at (as here—citing the British Library, citing Gay). Below, you can see the evidence.

I see no real justification for the question mark, but librarians frequently add them without the slightest provocation. Tens, hundreds (?) of thousands of new books, issued with a date on the verso of the title-page, are catalogued every year with one of these question marks when there is do doubt whatever that the new book concerned was published in the year indicated. In this case, it would be a strange, costly and elaborate deception to publish Merryland with a falsely-dated imprint, and a falsely-dated watermark.

Unfortunately, this copy lacks the rather odd, but eye-catching frontispiece (below). It was also miscataloged as a copy of the first edition of 1770. That is didn’t have the frontispiece and it wasn’t correctly catalogued was probably for the best, since a copy of this edition with the frontispiece sold for four hundred Euro six years ago (see here) in the Karl Ludwig Leonhardt sale (Un Enfer Privé: Collection Sieglinde et Karl Ludwig Leonhardt (3 December 2009), no. 279), a discount on the copy in the Gérard Nordmann sale (pt.2: 15 December 2006, no. 505), which sold for 720 Euros.

The frontispiece in the Leonhardt and Nordmann copies is copied from the sepia version (above, right) in the first edition (1770) held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and available on Gallica (here), along with a second plate (here), very similar, but on a smaller page, which appears to have been tipped in. Unlike the wonderful frontispiece to the eighth edition of the English text, neither image contributes anything to the somatopic text.

BTW: Another copy of my edition (sans frontis) is presently available from Madoc Books here, for GBP400.

Monday 26 October 2015

Lisping Booksellers and La Belle Affemblee

Earlier this year I stumbled bought two odd volumes of Haywood’s La Belle Assemblée. I located the first (below) in a general search of eighteenth-century books on eBay—which surprised me, way since I have a number of searches which run continuously on eBay that should have picked it up and sent me an alert. It took a moment to realise why none of my searches had worked: the book was listed as La Belle Affemblee!

Since just about everyone reads the long esse and an eff the first time they see it, it should have occurred to me before to go looking for lisping versions of her titles. But it hadn’t. So I did a search for Belle Affemblee and found another odd volume straight away. What amused me about the second one was, while the first seller was obviously an enthusiastic amateur, the second was sold by “World of Rare Books”!

You’d think, that a specialist “rare book” dealer—who has sold 37,656 items on eBay, has over one hundred and twenty thousand books presently listed, including over five hundred eighteenth-century books—could distinguish an esse from an eff. But that would be a no.

However, “World of Rare Books” did know exactly how much to charge for it: an excessive amount, but not so excessive that I wouldn’t buy it. That I bought it at all, as a duplicate no less, says something about my present priorities. (And, possibly, that there really is a sucker born every minute.) Here is the description:

Brown leather hardback with gilt lettering and decoration to spine. Prelims missing. Internal hinges cracked. Wear and tear to pages with some losses. Heavy use marking, foxing and tanning present. Some pages creased. Text remains clear and legible throughout on yellowed pages. Illustrated. Binding has weakened due to hinge cracking. Heavy scuffing, edge wear and use marking present with sunning to spine. Bumped and torn corners.

I believe this is called lowering buyer expectations. I wish I could say that this was the ugliest Haywood volume I have bought, but it isn’t, not by a long shot. (this one might be, or possibly this one.)

* * * * *

Returning to the first Belle Affemblee—which had an old diary cover sticky-taped over the original full calf binding (so, also ugly)—I am grateful to the vendor (Billy), who bought this camouflaged volume, without realising it, in a huge box of books at an estate sale in West Virginia. Not only is there a battered Caesar Ward and Richard Chandler trade card pasted onto the front fixed endpaper (below; compare this to my other copy here)—which suggests both that Ward and Chandler may have been the original vendors of the volume and that it was sold, bound, with their trade card in place—but there is also some provenance and reading records in this volumes, which are gold for my present research.

A faded note has been tapped onto the front free endpaper; it reads:

To John from Cystlina Feb. 1953 | [I] bought this book over | from England when I | returned after 11 months | absence”

“John J. Jones, Malden WVA” and “John J. Jones — Malden, W Va. | Telephone WA53-838” are stamped on the endpaper and in the middle of the volume. There are also two dates, which appear to indicate where John (?) had reached with his reading, when he picked up the book nine years later: “Sep 29, 62” (on page 194) and “Dec 27, 62” (page 198). And, as you can see on the title-page at the head of this post, John (?) worked out that his book was 234 years old in 1966, which he updated to 238 years in 1970.

It is not clear whether it was, but it is certainly tempting to conclude that the huge box of books Billy bought was, from the estate of John J. Jones, of Malden, West Virginia. It is also not clear whether it was, but it is certainly tempting to conclude that it was, John who (read and) annotated this volume. But whether or not there were other owners since Cystlina in 1953, John is certainly the most important for my purposes. So, if anyone reader knows anything at all about John J. Jones, Cystlina or even Malden, West Virginia—the Wikipedia entry here is not particularly informative—I’d be grateful if you could drop me a line.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Routledge and the fate of my Bibliography

Routledge have bought out Pickering and Chatto. The Pickering and Chatto site (http://www.pickeringchatto.com/) now redirects here, where the reader is informed that "Routledge is pleased" with their acquisition of my publisher.

Although Routledge appear to have created listings for the "more than 750" Pickering and Chatto titles they acquired (on 1 July, according to this page), the detail from the old Pickering and Chatto site has not been carried over. Worse, the interface on the Routledge is appallingly designed, with entries listed horizontally behind a large search box (as below), which obscures much of the screen.

Anyway, I discovered all of this a few weeks ago when I went looking for the URLs of a few of my publications for a post I was working on. When I eventually found a URL for my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood—which was not easy, either on Google or via the Routledge site—I discovered that it was listed as "out of stock"—which seems highly unlikely. My annual royalty statements from Pickering and Chatto suggest that I am (or should be) "in print" for a while yet. So I sent an email asking what was going on. Routledge have not replied.

Since my 27 other Pickering and Chatto Routledge publications are all available, I suspect that Routledge has actually read my contract, which included (at my insistence) a sunset clause that gave Pickering and Chatto the "exclusive right" to publish my Bibliography only "for a period of ten years from publication". That ten years expired in 2014.

What this suggests is that Routledge has the right to sell the copies it has acquired from Pickering and Chatto, but no longer has exclusive rights as publisher. At any point from now on I could sell the rights to a (revised or not) Bibliography to another publisher or simply publish it myself online—something I have long planned to do.

I am guessing Routledge have decided to despose of the copies it has—without consulting me about it, although I hope not. My original contract included a clause allowing the publisher to remainder my Bibliography—but required them to notify me in writing of their intention to do so and giving me "the option for twenty-eight days of purchasing such copies at the remainder price." (I am not sure why I would want scores of remaindered copies of my Bibliography, but if Routledge were proposing to sell them very cheaply, I might use them to make a papier mâché monument of some sort ...) Perhaps they simply destroyed them. It would be nice to know either way. So, if anyone reading this sees piles of my Bibliography at a remainder sale, please let me know!

Thursday 8 October 2015

Little Victories

Above and below are photos of a set of four volumes of Eliza Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, 5th ed. (London: H. Gardner, 1772)—Ab.67.8 in my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood (2004), but now Ab.67.8a for reasons I explain at the end of this post.

What makes this set remarkable is not its rarity, though I could only locate three sets in 2004, but both the provenance and the fact that I bought volume 4 in 2005 (from a US dealer) and volumes 1–3 last month (from a UK dealer who has had his incomplete set in his back room since the mid-1980s). The UK dealer bought his three volumes while he was in the States, but it seems unlikely that we bought our volumes from the same dealer, twenty years apart. Rather, I suspect the original vendor sold the volumes, at different times, to different dealers. Whether or not I am right, this “broken” set, which I have just re-united, had been broken for at least thirty years.

The reason that I don’t think that all four volumes were sold by the same vendor is that [1] no dealer worth their salt would sell an incomplete set unless that were 100% sure that the set was really incomplete—since incomplete sets are worth less than complete ones— and [2] the volume I bought in 2005 has been “improved” in a way that the other three volumes have not. Notice (above) that a pink-red tint has been applied to the leather binding of volume 4 and that the upper edge (below, fourth volume from the left) has been sanded in an attempt to brighten the dust-darkened page edges, so that it matches the un-darkened lower edge (below, right).

(That volumes 1–3 were not darkened after the set was broken is evident from the uneven effect that the sanding has on gatherings in volume 4 which are sewn in lower than the others. Beyond the reach of the sandpaper, these low-set gatherings remain dark—just as dark as the volumes that were not sanded. As well as removing dust, this sort of sanding damages the paper in distinctive ways, softening the edges, giving the paper a rounded and blurred look which is hard to describe.)

Re [1] above, there will always be dealers who disregard their own best interests, who sell odd volumes so vacuous ninnies can advertise their ignorance by decorating their homes with odd volumes, but such dealers are rare. And re [2] it is possible that the hack-dealer who slapped on some leather stain and sanded the edges of volume 4 bought this volume from a dealer who had bought a complete set but sold it off in odd-volumes, but this also seems unlikely.

I think that it is more likely that the vendor sold off the volumes at different times, to different dealers. My reason for thinking this brings me to the second remarkable thing about this set: their provenance: I think it is possible to trace the history of these volumes from eighteenth-century to today.

* * * * *

This set is half bound in early twentieth century brown roan morocco. All volumes contain the book label of “Richard Ashhurst” which has been removed from the original endpapers and reattached to new endpapers.

Richard Ashhurst appears to be Richard Lewis Ashhurst (1784–1809) who, ca. 1809, married Elizabeth Beck Crotto (1777–1857)—a widower; Richard and Elizabeth were the parents of Catherine Helen Ashhurst (1814–1910); mother of Richard Ashhurst Bowie (1837–87), father of Richard Henry Bayard Bowie (b. 1868), who sold the 11,887 volumes of his father’s “most interesting and very remarkable” library to Harvard in 1908 for USD10,000, stipulating “that any books containing the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst … be removed as belonging to Bowie's grandmother.”

All of the books belonging to Bowie's grandmother were removed (set aside, or preserved) from among those going to Harvard and kept by Mr. R. H. Bayard Bowie of 171 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. It is unclear what happened after 1908, but it seems likely that Mr Bowie spent some of this ten thousand dollars on having this set rebound. The family portraits—including portraits of Richard Ashhurst, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Catherine—and the “Richard Ashhurst” library were passed onto his son Richard Henry Bayard Bowie Jr. (d.1961) and then to Williams Cadwalader Bowie, who died, childless, in 1991 (his wife died in 1996).

I suspect Williams Cadwalader Bowie was the one who sold the “Richard Ashhurst” library, though it is possible that the volumes had passed to other family members and were sold off before the mid-1980s. Williams Bowie dropped out of University to join the Marines, unlike his many university-educated, gentlemanly, ancestors, and, also unlike his every ancestor back to Richard Ashhurst, he did not stay in Philadelphia, so he seems like a good candidate for disposing of the family heirlooms.

(Two of the important family portraits by Thomas Sully, mentioned above, were given away after the death of Williams’ father in 1961, including one of Elizabeth Crotto (1833) [below]; reproduced in Charles H. Hart, “Portrait of Mrs. Richard Ashhurst, painted by Thomas Sully,” Art in America, vol. 5 (April 1917): 140–43 [available here and here]; and Lewis Richard Ashhurst (1833). See also “The Misses Ashhurst” reproduced in The Life And Works Of Thomas Sully, 1783–1872 (Philadelphia, 1921), 124 [here] and Mrs. Thomas Ashurst.)

* * * * *

James E. Walsh's account of the “Richard Ashhurst Bowie Collection” (in A Catalogue of the Fifteenth-Century Printed Books in the Harvard University Library, vol.5 (1997), 21–25 [here]), which I have drawn on above, describes Richard Ashhurst as “Bowie's maternal grandfather,” but Richard Ashhurst was actually the grandfather of Richard Ashhurst Bowie—the book collector—not his son Richard Henry Bayard Bowie, who sold his father’s library, and whose actions are the subject of Walsh's account at this point.

It is possible that Walsh has confused father and son and that he is referring to Richard Ashhurst Bowie’s maternal grandfather, so that, when he says “books containing the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst” belonged “to Bowie's grandmother” he means that books containing the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst belonged to Richard Ashhurst’s wife: the book-collector’s grandmother, Elizabeth Crotto (above).

But it is also possible Walsh is simply inconsistent: mistaking Richard Ashhurst as “maternal grandfather” to the man selling off the library, but correct in identifying “books containing the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst” as belonged “to Bowie's grandmother”: the book-seller’s grandmother, Catherine Helen Ashhurst (below, at right; daughter of Elizabeth).

It is unclear why, if Elizabeth Beck Crotto—daughter of Henry Crotto and Catherine Van Flick, who married (first) Captain Joseph Hughes on 17 June 1794 (ætat 17) and (second) Richard Ashhurst ca. 1804 (ætat 27)—did own this set, it would contain the name plate of her husband. But if the books belonged to her daughter—Catherine Helen Ashhurst (1814–1910), who married Thomas Latimer Bowie—the presence of the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst in them would suggest that Catherine inherited them from her father’ meaning that Richard Ashhurst was, in fact, the original owner of this set (as his name-plates suggest).

I am inclined to think that the latter is true, that Walsh is inconsistent, and the relevant passage should read:

He [R.H.B. Bowie] stipulated a few conditions: first, that any books containing the name or bookplate of Richard Ashhurst, [R. A.] Bowie's maternal grandfather, be removed as belonging to [R.H.B.] Bowie's grandmother.

(And since I am in the middle of marking undergraduate essays, I have to say avoid implied subjects—and don’t start a new paragraph with an implied subject—or, perhaps, just unclear!. This confusion of father and son is exactly the sort of muddle that occurs when writers make liberal use of implied subjects—Walsh refers to “he” twice before he gets to “stipulated”, by which time even the author has forgotten who “he” is.)

Unfortunately, the Thomas Sully portrait of Richard Ashhurst, “Merchant” of “No. 263 Arch St., Phila. … begun March 7th, 1826, finished April 13th, 1826” was “destroyed” prior to 1921 “having been injured beyond repair.” Consequently, I do not have a portrait of the man behind the name, but it is certainly satisfying to be able to trace this set—re-united after having been “broken” for at least thirty years—through six generations of the Ashhurst and Bowie families, from the eighteenth century through to the twenty-first.

* * * * *

As a final note, I should mention that I had not thought to buy another copy of this fifth edition, but I was offered the volumes with another Haywood item that I very much wanted. As a result I now have three complete sets of the fifth edition, and a fourth (incomplete, but seemingly unique) set of an undated re-issue that I did not know about when my Bibliography was published (thus Ab.67.8a and Ab.67.8b).

Four sets might be considered excessive but—as David Levy reminds me—there are no duplicates in the hand press era. And so, already having a Haywood item is “no reason to hinder a man from the buying of [another], if he has the money that is demanded for [it]”—as Richard de Bury writes—“unless it be to withstand the malice of the seller or to await a more favourable opportunity of buying.”