Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Hiatus

Tarquin is on a holiday hiatus until next Sunday. I hope you all had a merry Christmas and have a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A 1925 Collection of Jewish Stories for the End of Hanukkah

Yesterday marked the end of Hanukkah this year and so this week’s book was chosen as a small nod to my half-Jewish heritage. The title is Kasriel the Watchman and Other Stories, by Jewish American scholar, historian, short story writer, and playwright Rufus Learsi. It was published by the Jewish Publication Society of America in Philadelphia in 1925 and printed by H Wolff. There was evidently a reliable demand for the book as reprints of the first edition followed from the Society in 1929, 1936, and 1948. My copy is of the first.

Tracking down biographical information on Learsi has been frustratingly difficult. The nearest I can come to an understanding of the man is from looking at the evidence of his other publications; judging from when he published I would guess his life range was approximately 1890-1965. His earliest work was a biography of one of the nineteenth century founders of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, published by the Judean Press of New York in 1916. In 1917 he published Brothers (Mizpah Publication Company, New York) and in 1919 Zionism: Its Theory, Origins, and Achievements (Zionist Organization of America, New York). This work lead to Learsi’s involvement with more current political issues and in 1920 he wrote a book for the Committee on Protest Against the Massacre of Jews in Ukrainia and Other Lands, of the American Jewish Congress, titled The massacres and other atrocities committed against the Jews in southern Russia: a record including official reports, sworn statements, and other documentary proof. This was followed by a political text on the Zionist movement (His Children, published by The Jewish Welfare Board in New York in 1925), the same year that Kasriel the Watchman and Other Stories appeared.

His prolific work over the ensuing four decades appeared in a wide range of media, including newspaper articles and editorials, magazine articles, educational literature, stories, compendiums of Jewish humor, anecdotes, tales, and Hassidic ballads, nonfiction books and biographies from Jewish history (including, in 1949 -- one year after the founding of the modern state of Israel -- Israel: as History of the Jewish People), accounts of Jewish military history (these appeared, not surprisingly, in the late 1930s and early 1940s), many plays for both adults and children, and even one musical score (“Hail the Maccabees!” in the 1930s). Learsi is perhaps best known, however, for two publications toward the end of his career, both major studies of the Zionist movement in America and abroad: Fulfillment: the epic story of Zionism (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1951) and The Jews in America, a history (New York: World Publishing Company, 1954). Given the nature of events on the world stage in the decade following the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the publication of these two books was greeted with a heightened degree of scrutiny in the press. Many reviewers took Learsi to task for his unapologetically partisan slant in his histories. A good example of this may be seen in a review of Fulfillment written by fellow Zionist Robert Weltsch in 1952:

Mr. Learsi's book is well written, carefully composed, and it sums up a wide range of relevant facts, moving with intelligence and skill over a subject of immense complexity; its language is mostly moderate and restrained, and the general reader can get from it a good picture of the historical and spiritual forces which created the mystique of Zionism and the modern Zionist movement.

But, like most histories of Zionism, this book is mainly a piece of propaganda, and this harms its value as a historical work. Mr. Learsi tends to accept uncritically, sometimes even naively, the official Zionist version of history; he sees all opposition as expressing a sinister malevolence, and thus he misses the essential drama of the story, which was—and remains—most often a story, not of right against wrong, but of opposed rights.

Information on the publisher of Kasriel is much easier to come by, particularly because the organization -- the Jewish Publication Society -- still exists. Founded in 1888, the nonprofit JPS was originally dedicated to providing second-generation Jewish Americans with English-language books about their heritage and their history. It has since expanded to include a larger audience and a broader range of books in different genres and on different topics. Most famously, JPS publishes a text of the Tanakh that is accepted as standard by most scholars, synagogues, rabbinical schools, and Christian seminaries.

My copy of Kasriel the Watchman and Other Stories is hardcover, its boards decorated with red cloth bearing repeated diamond-shaped pictures (an old, bearded man in a hat, alternating with a cityscape with a star or sun overhead). There are inconsistencies between each image on the decorated cloth, revealing that they were each individually drawn rather than stamped. The spine is black cloth; some dealers listing this book claim that titling is visible (usually faded) on the spine, but mine has no trace. The pages measure 12.5cm x 18.75cm and are of a heavy but not particularly expensive stock. It is in octavo format (some dealers list it erroneously as duodecimo) and the pagination runs [1]-311. The preliminaries (title page and copyright; blank conjugate with frontispiece; dedication and thanks; contents] are unnumbered, as is the final blank flyleaf conjugate with the rear pastedown.

The book is in rough condition: the spine is quite tattered and the corners of the boards are bumped; the first three leaves of the preliminaries are loose; some page corners are dog-eared; slight water-staining occurs throughout (never interfering with text, though); in some openings the spine is splitting slightly; and, most oddly, there are some ancient, dried crumbs of bread scattered on the first page of the story “The Beggar’s Feast”. The book has clearly been well-read over the years. Despite this, however, there is little evidence of owners’ writing in the book (perhaps not surprising; there seems little reason for a reader to mark up or annotate in any meaningful way a collection of stories such as this -- as opposed, for example, to books such as textbooks, scholarly works, nonfiction, religious books, etc.).

The only previous owner’s marking occurs on the recto of the blank leaf between the title page/copyright and the frontispiece plate; the name “Morton Margolis” is penned in faint blue ink and blocky letters in the upper right corner, and beside it there is an excellently drawn portrait of an old bearded man in a flat (Russian?) hat, inked in watery green ink (perhaps watercolor paint?). I have no verifiable lead on who this man might have been, though there was a late Morton Margolis who was a professor of humanities at Boston University and also a practicing artist. According to his November 1990 obituary in the Boston Globe, Margolis specialized in the connections between music, art, and literature and was known for “enliven[ing his] lectures by playing...on the piano.” If this man is the same Margolis who owned my copy of Kasriel, his delicately detailed painting on the blank leaf certainly does offer a connection between art and literature -- in a very unique and personalized way.

Evidently Learsi obtained the material for his collection of stories from tales he had heard as a child (the dedication reads: “This medley of childhood memories I dedicate to my mother.”), and so the target reader was likely young Jewish boys of the post-World War I generation (though the stories themselves would hearken back to a pre-World War I Jewish community in America -- the time and place when Learsi was a child). There is also a special publisher’s note following the dedication that I have been unable to decipher: “The Jewish Publication Society of America is indebted to NATHAN H. SHRIFT, of New York, for aiding in the publication of this volume.” Who “Nathan H. Shrift” was I cannot tell; my suspicion is that, because the JPS was a nonprofit organization, Mr. Shrift was a benefactor who fronted the capital for the publication, but I have no evidence of this.

Included in the book are five illustrative plates inserted into gatherings on semi-glossy stock (including the frontispiece); at least one dealer online lists another copy of this edition with seven plates, which seems to suggest that two have fallen out of my copy at some point (the perils of illustrative plates that are not integral to a book’s gatherings). The artwork is fairly standard, representational black-and-white drawings that depict moments from the stories into which they are bound. These pictures are signed “R. Leaf”; I assume that this is Reuben Leaf, a prolific New York artist who taught an Arts and Crafts Group at the famed 92nd Street Y in the 1930s and whose illustrations accompanied many Jewish American books from the 1920s through the 1950s. Leaf also published his own art books through his studio imprint (most famously, his Hebrew Alphabets: 400 B.C.E. to Our Days in 1950 -- a work of beautiful graphic art but that received some scathing notices for including a large amount of inaccurate scholarship on its subject).

Learsi has organized his book into five groups of stories; each of the first four groups centers on one or two recurring main characters (“Kasriel the Watchman”, “Perl the Peanut Woman”, “Benjy and Reuby”, and “Feivel the Fiddler”) and the final group consists of varied “Phantasies”. The structure is broken up slightly by the occasional inclusion into these groups of unrelated miracles and legends from Jewish lore. Overall, the collection includes thirty-one stories. The final story, dedicated to someone named “David Emmanuel” (possibly a euphemism for the Jewish people?), is perhaps the most overtly political Zionist tale in the book.

Titled “The Severed Menorah: A Glimpse of the Great Tomorrow”, it tells of two Polish brothers (named, of course, David and Emmanuel) who go off to Russia to become scholars of Hebrew law. Their mother insists that they take the family menorah with them and pawn it for money to live on, but they cannot bring themselves to sell such a sacred object, though they take it with them for their mother’s sake.

Soon after, a great tempest of anti-Semitism sweeps through Europe and in the violence the two brothers are separated -- each taking with them a separate piece of the menorah (one the base and the other the branches). When the fighting finally comes to an end, the surviving Jews from across the globe make their way to the “Ancient Land” and to build a home for themselves. Many years go by until, one day, an elderly Jew from America goes to visit this new land. He eventually finds himself in a synagogue where an old rabbi is debating the law with his fellows; the tourist discovers to his surprise that their menorah consists only of branches inserted into a wooden base for support. From his bag, the man withdraws the missing base of the old menorah and so the two brothers -- like the menorah and like the Jewish people -- are finally united once more. An appropriate tale, I felt, at the end of this Hanukkah holiday. Tzeth'a Leshalom VeShuvh'a Leshalom.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Book from the Days When Titles Were Essentially Abstracts

This week’s book is a slightly worn copy of a mid-nineteenth century treatise on educating and raising a child. The wonderfully specific title, in full, is: On the Importance of an Early Correct Education of Children: Embracing the Mutual Obligation and Duties of Parent and Child; Also the Qualifications and Discipline of Teachers, With their Emolument, and a Plan Suggested Whereby All Our Common Schools Can Advantageously Be Made Free; The Whole Interspersed with Several Amusing, Chaste Anecdotes Growing Out of the Domestic and Scholastic Circle. To Which is Subjoined by way of an Appendix, the Declaration of Independence by the Thirteen North American Colonies, 4th July, 1776. The Constitution of the United States, with that of the States of New Jersey and New York, as Lately Adopted.

Written by Dr. William Euen, the book was also published for him privately by an unnamed New York firm in only one edition, two issues, in 1848. My copy is of the second issue (the first paginated to only 136, presumably because it lacked the New Jersey constitution, which runs pp. 137-152). It retailed, according to the title page, for sixty-nine cents (about $18.83 in today’s money). Its valuation to collectors today seems highly erratic: the second issue seems to be worth around $30 (the first apparently around $45), but at least one dealer is selling the second issue for a ridiculously inflated price around $340.

Dr. Euen was a resident of the town of Shawangunk in Ulster County, New York. His book is exactly what the title explains, using a fair amount of appeals to patriotism, civic planning, the Bible, and nineteenth-century pedagogical theory (including on the purchase of books, the use of writing paper, and the importance of using a goose quill and not resorting to those sinful "steel pens") to make its case.

Tracking down information about the man has been a bit difficult, but it seems that he was the same William Euen who had previously published A Short Exposé on Quackery (Philadelphia, 1840). Prior to that he was apparently residing in Newton, New Jersey (hence the inclusion of both the NY and NJ constitutions in his book) where, in February 1829, he renovated his home at 29 Liberty Street and converted it into the Euen School for Girls. It is possible that our author is the same man who ended up as the editor/co-publisher of the Weekly Prison City Item of Waupun, Wisconsin from 1860-June 1861 (the writing style of the two Euen’s is similar, though the topics they write on are rather different).

The book is bound in the publisher’s brown cloth with decorative blind tooling and gilt title on the cover. The pages measure 11.5cm x 18.5cm; pagination runs [i]-iv from the title page through the preface, [1]-152 for the contents of the book. The collation is rather peculiar; signatures are numeric and include an added asterisk to indicate a signature internal to a gathering (internal signatures are not used in the appendix gatherings). The format is another octavo in twelves (with the exception of the appendices, which were apparently printed separately in standard octavo format) and the formula may be expressed as 8o: [#2] [112]-412 58-88 [π]: $1, 5. In some places the printing was clearly a rushed job: type slips (for example, the “6” in the page number “86” is almost a full line lower than the “8”) and some of the ink has smeared or not been fulling applied to the type.

The condition is average: the last page is torn in half but still attached to the binding, the cover has some bumps and chipping, and there is some foxing and other paper stain damage (on which more below) throughout. The only owner’s marks are an apparently purposeful pencil mark next to a passage about the necessity of having a globe in the classroom and an owner’s pencil inscription inside the front cover on the pastedown: “H D Ryell, / Book”.

I chose this book for this week because the combination of child-rearing advice and New Jersey seemed an important coincidence for my family this month. But while I was leafing through it I came across another interesting feature. At first I thought I was looking at some severe staining caused by a liquid spill or moisture of some kind: mirror-image marks in the gutter of many openings, not unlike a Rorschach Test.

Eventually, however, I came across the dried, brown remains of a very old flower, pressed between two pages and, in another place, an explosion of dried, brilliantly red pollen; apparently some early owner (H. D. Ryell, perhaps?) decided that the most functional use for Euen’s treatise was as a tool for the highly popular nineteenth-century art of flower pressing. It would be interesting -- though beyond my capacity -- to try to identify the specific flowers that had been pressed in the book by researching their silhouettes. I began to reflect on the many different non-reading uses of books and came across this fantastic page with a range of highly artistic (and sometimes functional) alternative uses for books.

Try doing any of those -- or pressing flowers -- with a “Kindle”.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Salmagundi of English Anecdotes

Knowing of my interest in tracking down the provenance of certain volumes in my collection, a fellow book-collector has invited me to discover what I can about a special copy of this week’s book. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m interested in issues of bibliographic proximity -- whether that term applies to anthologies or collected editions (the proximity of texts to each other) or to book collections (the proximity of particular books to each other). Apparently this week’s book shared some close proximity with a collection of four of the rarest and most valuable (monetarily and textually) books in English literary history -- provoking me to reflect on the vast network of the “book web”, or the interconnectedness of the many volumes sitting on our shelves that at one time or another in their lives shared space with a volume now possibly miles or even continents away.

The title is A Book for a Rainy Day: Or, Recollections of the Events of the Last Sixty-Six Years by John Thomas Smith (1766-1833; shown here). The first edition, published by Richard Bentley of New Burlington Street in London, appeared in 1845 and was quickly followed by a second edition in the same year; ironically, the first edition is far more common than the limited second edition. This copy is of the second edition. The printer for both was Schulze & Company of 13 Poland Street in London. Bentley and Schulze are perhaps best known for being the publisher-printer team behind the first book publication of Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Subsequent editions followed in 1861, 1900, and 1905 (edited by Wilfred Whitten). In 1846, the book was adapted into Charles Mackay’s two-volume An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London, with Anecdotes of Their More Celebrated Residents.

Smith -- a character on the London social scene for much of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century -- had been since 1816 the “keeper” of the British Museum’s prints and drawings collection, was an accomplished artist (mostly of portraits) and the author of several other works, most notably a study of London street life and crime titled Vagabondia and a biography of the sculptor Nollekens and His Times -- a book that was, according to the Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. 14, “unmatched for malicious candour and vivid detail”.

As for his Book for a Rainy Day, the Cambridge History describes it as “one of the most entertaining and most trustworthy memorials of [Smith’s] period. Published twelve years after his death, it forms a valuable corrective to the flashy fictions of Egan and his life.” The book takes the form of a highly detailed, largely autobiographical diary of London society over the course of Smith’s life, ranging from theatre news to political scandal to high society gossip to literary anecdotes to the latest fashions to international news and even weather reports. Of the author himself, the Cambridge History reports that he “had a keen curiosity about things and people past and present, a retentive memory and a gift for gossip.”

The goal of the book seems to be one of eclectic variety organized around the years of the author’s life. As Smith puts it in his preface:

Some may object to my vanity, in expecting the reader of the following pages to be pleased with so heterogeneous a dish. It is, I own, what ought to be called salmagundi; or, it may be likened to various suits of clothes, made up of remnants of all colours. One promise I can make, that as my pieces are mostly of new cloth, they will last the longer. Dr. Johnson has said: “All knowledge is of itself of some value. There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable, that I would not rather know, than not.”

The book is bound in wonderfully sturdy feather-marbled boards with deep brown leather spine and corners. There are six compartments with raised bands down the spine with decorative tooling and a black leather title band with gold lettering. The edges of the pages, the inside of the front and back covers, and the recto of the front flyleaf and verso of the back flyleaf all share the same colorful marbling pattern.

The pages measure 12cm x 19.5cm and are quite healthy, with very little foxing and no tears or damage (except for the front fly, which is coming loose at the top). There are no watermarks or chain-lines; the paper was, as with almost all non-specialized printing paper after 1805 in England, wove-made on a machine. The book’s pagination runs [i]-iv, [1]-311 (the first edition may be distinguished from the second in its pagination; it runs up to 306). Its collational formula seems to be 8o: [#] [A2] B12-O11: $1, 2, 3 [5]. Thus, it seems to be an “octavo in twelves” (a full sheet folded in eight with a half-sheet folded in four).

On the verso of the front fly, and inserted after the fly (on a slip of stationery from Botleys Park Hospital Management Committee of Chertsey in Surrey) are an assortment of owners’ marks. Those written on the fly are cryptic and are combination of various pencils and a purple stamped “N6L”; the pencil marks include the notation "Finneron, Woking. Nov | 54".

Pasted on the slip of stationery, in the same hand as the “Finneron, Woking. Nov | 54” notation (though annotated in black and blue inks, not pencil) are slips of paper cut from advertisements for various editions of the book. The slip advertising the 1905 edition is annotated with “Myer, London. Jan | 57”; the first slip advertising the 1845 edition (first) is not annotated; the second slip advertising the 1845 first edition is annotated “Beaucham<> London. 1960”; the final slip advertises Mackay’s 1846 adaptation and is annotated “Hammond, B’haus. Oct | 56”. Whomever bough the book was apparently fastidious about recording its values in various editions when they came up for sale; if the inscription on the fly is the mark of when and where it was first purchased by this owner, it seems that he or she bought the book from E. J. Finneron, a bookseller in the English town of Woking since at least 1935.

There are two bookplates, and these bring me back to the topic of tracking down interesting provenances and the larger conceptual idea of the interconnectedness of our books through their past proximity to one another.

One bookplate shows a hunter’s horn, tied and apparently hanging from a bowed ribbon, on top of a barrel that is lying on its side. The cryptic initials JFTD encircle the horn in a clockwise direction. The second bookplate, pasted on the inside of the front cover, is more clear: a ribbon reading “Sub Tegmine Fagi” (“Concealed Beneath the Beech Tree”) crowns a beech tree that rises from a particolored band. Below this crest is the owner’s name: Henry B. H. Beaufoy, F.R.S. (“F.R.S.” stands for Fellow of the The Royal Society).

Beaufoy (shown below) was likely the book’s first owner. From roughly 1784 through 1843, Beaufoy was one of Europe’s most celebrated and prestigious hot air ballonists; his numerous ascents contributed unprecedented support to the nascent discipline of aeronautics, as well as providing new information to cartographers, meteorologists, and physicists in England and on the continent. Beaufoy was also a great collector of both coins (he wrote a well-regarded book on early English “tokens”) and, more importantly for my purposes, books. Beaufoy collected across a range of topics and genres. Most famously, however, was his assembling together in one library a copy of the first (1623), second (1632), third (1663), and fourth (1685) folios of the plays of William Shakespeare (his library was dispersed at auction by Christie’s in July 1909 and the four folios were eventually split up at auction in July 1912). To put it briefly, then -- and to return to this post’s initial premise -- holding Beaufoy’s copy of A Book for a Rainy Day is likely to be as close as I’ll ever come to all four of the seventeenth century Shakespeare folio collections at once.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Tarquin is on a two-week vacation hiatus. We'll be back next Sunday with a new post exploring the ownership provenance of a rare early nineteenth century memoir.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Family of Pioneering Educators and their Copy of the First American Edition of "Hudibras"

This week’s book offered me the intriguing opportunity to try to track down the physical movement of a copy as it traveled between owners. The book is titled Hudibras, in Three Parts: Written in the Time of the Late Wars...with Annotations and a Complete Index, an epic verse satire written by the royalist Anglican Samuel Butler during England’s civil war (1642-1660). The tale follows the misadventures of the ridiculously over-confident and under-skilled knight errant and his long-suffering squire. Like Don Quixote, Sir Hudibras encounters a series of mundane and everyday people and events and mistakes them for true chivalric conventions. Unlike Don Quixote, his screw ups and his inability to distinguish truth from fiction is not because of an overbearing sense of romanticized idealism but simply because he is an idiot.

The epic was first published in London in three parts in 1663, 1664, and 1678 (Charles II had been restored to the throne in 1660, making mockery of the Parliamentarians, including Cromwell, much more publicly acceptable by the time Butler published his satire). In addition to ridiculing the writer’s political foes and religious opponents (Puritans and Presbyterians), the work also pokes fun at ludicrously hyperbolic and stilted styles of poetry from the time.

My copy was printed and published in 1806 by the firm of Wright, Goodenow, and Stockwell, in Troy, New York, and was sold by the firm at their Rensselaer Book-Store (not associated with Troy’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which did not open until 1824). This makes my copy, as the title page claims in elaborate font, the “First American Edition”. The second American edition did not come out until 1812 (published F. Lucas Junior and P. H. Nicklin, of Baltimore). The work was very popular in England and Scotland, however, and it seems that Wright, Goodenow, and Stockwell, for their copy, simply reprinted one of the UK editions.

I have not been able to determine which one precisely was used, but they did reuse the prefatory material (a note “To the Reader” and “The Author’s Life”) and annotations originally provided by Zachary Grey in his edition of 1774 (which included illustrative plates by none other than William Hogarth). The publishers of my copy were evidently unaware that some of Grey’s claims had been modified more recently in John Bell’s Poets of Great Britain (published originally in 1777 and republished by the British Library in 1797).

The most substantive variation to the 1806 edition’s form was the decision to move all of Grey’s annotation from the back of the book to the foot of the page of text itself -- no doubt a concession to (American) readers for whom much of the epic’s dense and historically specific allusions and humor required a heightened degree of explanation. The editors also included some additional glossarial notes at the foot of pages and, in a few places, an explanation of a typographic error in their copy-text (see the final photo in this post).

The book is bound in soft brown sheep leather, with some faded decorative tooling and a dark leather title label on the spine (see the photo at the start of this post). In binding the book, the printer did an excellent job: aside from some splitting to the front hinge, the spine is very tight and strong. The pages measure 10cm x 17cm and are of a sturdy though not particularly expensive paper stock with no evident watermark. The pagination runs [i]-xi from the title page through the end of the “Author’s Life” and [1]-286 for the content; a 13-page unpaginated “Index” of important concepts and events written in comically implicit language, keyed to page and line number, concludes the book.

At the front there is a flyleaf, marbled on the recto (as is the pastedown) and blank on the verso, followed by two blanks; at the end there is a blank followed by a fly similarly marbled and conjugate to the final pastedown as the first. There are no catchwords and no variants to the running-titles. Signatures are alphabetic and appear on the first and third leaf of each gathering (the first leaf is signed with the sheet letter; with the exception of the final gathering, in which it is not signed, the third leaf of each is signed with the sheet letter followed by “2”). It may be collated as 12o: [#3] [A6]-Aa6 [π]. The type is a small pica throughout and is often so firmly impressed into the page that the bite has left a rippling, tangible texture to the paper (see the image below) -- a rich tactile reminder of the physical process by which the book was created. With the exception of a few pages, the type was fully inked.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this copy of Hudibras afforded me the opportunity to sleuth out how an early nineteenth-century book moved around the young United States. There is little evidence of early readers within the content of the book itself, aside from an erased pencil note on the first page, an erased pencil doodle later in the preface, and some page corners that were clearly once dog-eared as place-holders. In the blanks, however, there is some more useful information.

My book is ex libris, bearing an erased pencil record of its (Library of Congress) catalog number. Inside the back cover there is a computer-printed label reading “A22901 059017” (accession number, perhaps?) and a label with the LoC number PR 3338 A7 1806. Typed in red on the label is the word “Vault”, suggesting the library kept the book in a special restricted-access area for rare books. Inside the front cover there is a bookplate indicating the library from which the book came: Springfield College, founded in 1885, in the city of Springfield, MA. According to the bookplate, it was given to the college library as part of the “Carolyn Doggett Memorial Collection”. The bookplate indicates that the college’s name at the time it was given was legally “International Y.M.C.A. College”, but the seal shows the name “Springfield College”, meaning the book must have been given (or the bookplate put in) after 1939 (when “Springfield College” was adopted as the institution’s public moniker) and before 1954 (when “International Y.M.C.A. College” was formally removed as the corporate name). It is only by finally coming to Springfield College and its history that I can begin to piece together the narrative of this book’s travels.

From 1896 to 1936, the President of Springfield College was Laurence L. Doggett. Laurence’s wife was his college sweetheart, Carolyn Doggett of Providence, Rhode Island; from 1898 to 1928, Carolyn provided what her husband called the “cultural background” he felt the College’s students needed in their comprehensive education; she taught classical and modern literature, art, and music for the duration of her husband’s tenure as President.

In his 1943 Man and a School: Pioneering in Higher Education at Springfield College (dedicated to his late wife, whom he terms his “Comrade in Pioneering”), Laurence explains a little about his family history -- and in the process helps illuminate the history of my copy of Hudibras. The Doggett family traces its roots in America back to Thomas Doggett, who arrived in Marshfield, Massachusetts in 1637. The family was always involved in educational “pioneering” -- they were involved with administration at Brown University and in 1796, Laurence’s great-grandfather Simeon founded Bristol Academy and was “the pioneer of liberal education in the old colony.” (He was also the subject of a brief biographical sketch, written in 1852). Laurence’s grandfather, Samuel Wales Doggett, started a school for women in South Carolina. When Samuel died, his widow (Laurence’s grandmother, Harriet Doggett) moved to Manchester, Iowa, where she lived until her death in 1892. Her son was Simeon Locke Doggett, who, after obtaining his law degree in Worcester, Massachusetts, returned to Manchester in 1856.

A blind impression stamp on one of the blanks at the start of the book reads “S. L. Doggett / Notary Seal / Iowa.”, and penciled on the recto of the blank before that is the large signature of “S. L. Doggett”. More faint is a penciled inscription in a different hand, running vertically on the verso of the flyleaf and facing the signed blank: “Samuel W. Dogg[ ]”. Beneath that is a second illegible inscription in the same hand. According to the 1878 History of Delaware County, Iowa, Simeon was first hired as a county clerk in 1860 and then served variously as clerk or justice of the peace (or both) through at least 1877 (when the record ends). In 1865 he drafted a petition to the state asking that the village of Manchester and the surrounding villages be incorporated into a town; the petition was approved by the county and then the state in 1866. In 1870, 1871, 1872, and 1876 he was elected mayor of the town. He also served as chair of the school board for many years.

His interest in Butler’s Hudibras, and in literature in general, is attested to by his involvement with the Manchester Select High School, which he and his wife, Mary, founded in 1858. There he was head of the classical department and taught the classes in literature (in his own memoir, his son recalls Simeon reading works “aloud with dramatic feeling”, including The Vicar of Wakefield, The Arabian Nights, and the works of Scott and Dickens, as well as, of course, the Bible). His younger sister, Gertrude was the school’s assistant and later “Preceptress” for a year; she is described as “a lady of rare native grace and of brilliant accomplishment”. Gertrude went on to teach literature and elocution, eventually becoming a Shakespearean actor in Chicago and mother of the novelists Charles Norris and Frank Norris.

In 1860, Simeon gave an address to the county’s first Teachers’ Institute, and while no record of what he said survives, he is described as “one of the pioneer teachers of the county”. The county marriage records show that he was still active as a notary there through at least October 1886; in June 1929, Mary provided music for the funeral of Susannah Coon, in Henderson, Iowa, at which Simeon served as pallbearer.

His son, Laurence (shown to the left, towards the end of his time at Springfield College), ended up attending Oberlin for theology, where he became active in the Young Men’s Christian Association. This eventually led to some time at the University of Berlin and in Leipzig (Carolyn also studied at both places with her husband), and finally his position as President of Springfield College. Presumably Laurence inherited his father’s books (including my copy of Hudibras). Because the book was given as part of a “Memorial” collection, he probably donated it to the College’s Library after 1943 (the date of Laurence’s memoir and its dedication to the memory of his late wife) but before 1953 (the last year the name “International Y.M.C.A. College” would appear on a bookplate for the College library). At some point between that date and 2007 it was deaccessioned from the collection for some reason, and it made its way up to Antiques at Deerfield in historic Deerfield, MA, where it was purchased to be added to Tarquin Tar’s Bookcase.

The book has gone from upstate New York to Massachusetts, South Carolina, Iowa, possibly Ohio and Germany, and then back to Springfield, Deerfield, and finally (for now) Leverett, Massachusetts. To say nothing of many possibly unrecorded trips between each temporary stop. When we look at our own books in the relatively immediate context of our own lives, they seem to be perpetually stationary -- sitting on their shelves, silently gathering dust. But when we look at them in the trajectory of history, our books are always moving -- far more, even, than any single one of their owners.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Charles Lamb on the Greatest Hits of the Renaissance Stage

My brain this week is stuck in preparatory mode for my doctoral qualifying exams on Friday (yes, that’s right...Friday the 13th) and so this week’s book is related to my exam on the history of the book.

In my exam reading, one particular issue that has caught my attention within the field of editorial studies is the practice of anthologized editions -- how are they assembled and why, what is included and what is excluded, in what order is the material presented, and how are they used? One particular class of anthologized works is the “greatest hits” collection; usually an arbitrary selection of some material that the editor, in his or her subjective judgment, thinks is representative of the period in question.

This week’s book is a late American edition of English poet, critic, and essayist Charles Lamb’s classic of the anthologized Renaissance drama genre: Specimens of English Dramatic Poets Who Lived About the Time of Shakspeare [sic], With Notes. Lamb’s eclectic collection was first published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme of London in 1808. My copy was published by Willis P. Hazard of 190 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, PA, in 1856. The title page bills the book as a “New Edition” and presents the contents of the original two-volume set in a single volume. It was printed by Philadelphia book and job printer Henry B. Ashmead, whose substantial, five-story shop was to be found on George Street just above Eleventh Street (that is, at today’s 1104 Sansom Street).

Lamb's book was one of the more popular of several nineteenth-century excursions into the drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, going through subsequent editions in London, Philadelphia, and New York in 1808, 1845, 1849, 1854, 1856, 1859, and throughout the twentieth century. As with most of the other anthologies of Renaissance drama from this time, the material selected is almost always couched in explanatory material demonstrating the superiority of Shakespeare -- though Lamb does claim that part of his objective was “[t]o show what we have slighted, while beyond all proportion we have cried up one or two favorite names” (a flaw that modern scholarship has still done relatively little to rectify).

The preface that Lamb provided to the first edition -- and that remained largely unchanged in all of the subsequent editions -- makes his intentions clear; it also indicates how unapologetically intrusive and judgmental the editor was in picking out parts of plays to present and modifying them to suite his tastes (and those, he presumed, of his readers) -- see the third paragraph of the preface in particular. As he puts it, his “leading design” was always “to illustrate what may be called the moral sense of our ancestors”, and he had no qualms about tidying up the texts (though, to be fair, he never goes quite as far as some infamous meddlers did).

The range of material Lamb has selected for inclusion is quite impressive: Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Christopher Marlowe, Robert Tailor, Joseph Cooke, Thomas Dekker, John Webster, Anthony Brewer, John Marston, George Chapman, Thomas Heywood, Richard Brome, Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, John Ford, Cyril Tourneur, Samuel Daniel, Fulke Greville, Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Philip Massinger, James Shirley, Nathan Field, and the ever ubiquitous “Anonymous”. These writers represent a broad range of dramatic traditions (professional, academic, literary), a relatively wide period of time, and many different genres and styles.

Lamb’s style of presenting the works of these plays consists of selecting choice passages or scenes from various plays and presenting these passages with explanatory headers (often summarizing the passage’s “theme”), annotation including glossarial and critical footnotes, and added stage directions and explanations of action that has been skipped over. The overall effect is rather disjointed and the textual authority of the passages is highly corrupt, though as far as providing access to relatively obscure playwrights and their important works, Lamb did his contemporaries and many later readers a great service.

The pages measure 12cm x 18cm. Ashmead evidently carried out the printing by separating the two volumes into two separate jobs. The pagination of the first volume runs [i]-[xii] [1]-220 and the pagination of the second runs [v]-vi [1]-230; the lack of two leaves at the start of the second volume (that is, pages i-vi) suggests that a dividing, internal half-title and “flyleaf” was meant to be inserted but was for some removed before binding.

The book is printed in octavo, with numeric gathering signatures; on each signed page, there is also an indication of which volume the gathering belongs to (again, suggesting separate but likely simultaneous printing in Ashmead’s shop). The use of machine press seems likely because of the date and the scale of Ashmead’s operation, but the mechanization of the craft has unfortunately resulted in some problems with inking: the type on many pages is often under-inked, blurred, or scarred; indeed, sometimes one page in an opening will be visibly fainter than the facing page -- suggesting the outer and inner formes were being inked separately and not in synchronization.

The binding is a firm hardcover with marbled boards, a leather spine with gilt title, and leather corners. The spine is cracking slightly, especially along the front hinge, and the spine has some damage, but overall the condition is quite good. The only evidence of earlier readers consists of some faint pencil marks next to some of Lamb’s notes, two sentences in his preface, and the title of Ford’s The Broken Heart in the table of extracts in volume two. These may have been made by the same owner who pasted the “Underhill” family bookplate inside the front cover. The bookplate presents the family crest over a Latin phrase that I welcome help with: “Tibimet ipsi fidem praestato”.

Lamb’s book uses the ahistorical “greatest hits” methodology in anthologizing Renaissance drama, though it broadens the field considerably by drawing in a number of works that even most scholars today wouldn't bother reading. Lamb takes the practice to an even higher level of selective control by removing passages from their context and presenting only “extracts”.

This was something that certainly appealed to Lamb’s own predilections as a poet (rather than a scholar, historian, or theatre practitioner) -- he desperately wanted to believe in the discrete, detachable, and discernible nature of poetic genius and its products. Indeed, the practice did not die in the nineteenth century; at least one prominent twentieth-century poet took it up himself to adjudicate on the “essential” poetry of Shakespeare, removing the passages rather brutally from their appropriate dramatic context in so doing.