A happy couple

I like this pair: two copies of a rare piece of occasional verse, printed in 1768 in Naumburg (a pretty town on the river Saale, between Weimar and Leipzig) by local pastor Carl Gottlob Kümmelmann, on the occasion of the wedding of Ferdinand Ludwig von Hausen, valet de chambre at the court in Gotha, and Caroline Dietricken Louyse von Zehmen, from an old Saxon family.

Each measures 325 × 192 mm, but one copy is printed on fine paper, with the names on the title overprinted in gilt and then bound in gilt wrappers; the second copy, clearly for lower-ranking guests, is printed on normal paper.

Booksellers often say books are rare.  But these really are: I can’t locate another copy, in either printing, anywhere.


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‘The first unwritten book’

Something else for the New York Book Fair, I think.  It may not look all that special, but this is an extraordinary production: a book composed by the author straight into type.  The writing method is alluded to in a printed inscription on the leaf preceding the title-page:

The explanation is provided in full in a long dedication to John Wilson (a.k.a. ‘Christopher North’), the Scottish critic who edited Blackwood’s Magazine: ‘Of the little volume before you, one individual has been the composer, and compositor and imprinter throughout …  The pen has been a stranger to the prose part of its composition, and the scribe’s office subverted: — with the exception of acknowledged quotations, I have been unaided by a line of manuscript or other copy.  There is a rhythmical extravaganza in the sixth chapter, which I very reluctantly signalize in this place, because the skeleton of twenty lines of it, or thereabouts, was pen-traced; the composing-stick has otherwise been my sole mechanical “help to composition”’.

Included are ‘colloquies’ about Wordsworth and Shakespeare, and ‘twenty minutes talk about Milton’.  The text was published in a trade edition the following year, where it was described as ‘the first unwritten book’.  The identity of the printer, J. Lordan of Romsey in Hampshire, has not been specifically determined; the typography looks fairly normal throughout, save for the first leaf and the colophon, which are printed in a rather primitive typeface.  The name of the author, C. L. Lordan, appears in the imprint of a number of later books of Romsey interest, but as a publisher rather than a printer.

If you would like to see what else I shall be exhibiting in New York next week, please click here.


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Moving pictures

In the century before cinema and television changed our lives forever, there were other ways of creating moving pictures.  One such inventive Victorian method was the zoetrope (from the Greek zoe, ‘life’, and tropos, ‘turning’), ‘a mechanical toy or optical instrument consisting of a cylinder open at the top, with a series of slits in the circumference, and a series of figures representing successive positions of a moving object arranged along the inner surface, which when viewed through the slits while the cylinder is in rapid rotation produce the impression of actual movement of the object’ (OED).  You can watch a modern version of one here.

I’m sure many early zoetrope owners made their own image strips for inserting into the cylinder, but you could also buy them:

This little ‘book’ was, of course, never supposed to survive.  You were meant to take it apart, cut it up, and use it.  But the printed wrapper offers us quite a lot of information about the early days of the zoetrope, and the role of H. G. Clarke in popularising it: ‘Messrs. H. G. Clarke & Co., 2, Garrick Street, Covent Garden, were the first to introduce the Zoetrope to the English public, having published this amusing Toy in the early part of July, 1867, several months before its importation from America.  Several other sheets of humourous [sic] figures for inserting in the Zoetrope are now ready.’

As one might expect, such published sheets of zoetrope inserts, still in their original wrappers, are very rare.  This one, produced about 1870 or so, features in my latest printed catalogue, Short List 6, copies of which will be ready shortly.


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Fair warning

Spring has sprung, and thoughts (well, mine anyway) turn to the New York Book Fair.  What to take?  One thing which may make an appearance is the following which came in recently: a Whig poetical address to Queen Anne from 1710, written in opposition to Henry Sacheverell (1674–1724), the political preacher whose impeachment turned him into a champion of the High Church cause.

The poem is unusual in that it is printed in a font called Glover’s scriptorial type, in which the words are made to look as if they were handwritten.

Foxon (English Verse, 1701–1750) reports three other broadside poems in this distinctive typeface, printed between 1712 and 1727.  ESTC records only 3 copies of Fair Warning in North America.  I’d like to think there will be room for another.


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“Original” printed wrappers

This is a very scarce edition of Aesop, published in Aberdeen in 1781: Fables of Æsop and others: translated into English.  With Morals and instructive Applications; and a Print before each Fable.  To which is prefixed, the Life of Æsop, more enlarged than in any former Edition of this Size.  It’s attractive, with, as the title says, a woodcut for each fable—I wonder which book they were originally cut for?—but what drew my attention was the wrapper.

The bookseller I bought it from described it as being “in the original printed wrappers”.  I’ve always liked printed wraps, especially 18th-century ones, so I ordered it.  However, when it arrived it was evident that the wrappers weren’t original, or at least not from 1781.  The typography just wasn’t right.  The only conclusion I can come to is that the book was reissued in the early 19th century, with the addition of these wrappers.  A 19th-century reissue of an 18th-century book?  All things are possible.  The wrapper is certainly rare: I have only found one other example of it, suitably enough at the University of Aberdeen (front cover only).

This is just one of the books I shall be taking with me to the Edinburgh Book Fair later this week.  You can see a full list of what I’ll have with me here.


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Under the influence

This is the first edition in Russian of Thomas De Quincey’s famous Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822), a very rare book.  The title reads: The confession of an Englishman who has taken opium.  A work by Maturin, the author of Melmoth.  The attribution is to the Irishman Charles Maturin, whose Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) had been published in Russian (via a French translation) in 1833.

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)

Critics have shown that De Quincey’s book had a direct influence on the great Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol, author of The Government Inspector (1836), Dead Souls (1842), etc.  ‘Though writing at a time when Russian literature was still under the strong influence of western European letters, Gogol was himself scarcely touched by this influence …  But in one instance, at least, we have what looks like a case of the direct influence of an English work on Gogol, and the use he made of this source presents an interesting problem in literary borrowing.  This is the influence of De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater on Gogol’s well-known tale, The Nevsky Prospect.

Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)

‘The Opium-Eater was first translated into Russian in 1834, and the authorship was then very strangely attributed to Maturin …  De Quincey had scarcely been heard of in Russia by this time, and it is quite certain that the Russian version of his masterpiece was based on a French translation with the initials of Alfred de Musset attached to it (L’anglais mangeur d’opium … Paris, 1828) … [and] indeed, a Russian critic of 1834 … felt that at last the secret of Maturin’s fantastic imagination was revealed …

‘The treatment of London in the Opium-Eater … seems to have directly influenced [Gogol].  The great metropolis, with its mists and age-old wonders, its pleasures and sorrows, looms up as the background for all De Quincey’s shadowy narration …  For him London is at once the gateway to sublime pleasure and terrifying despair.  In a similar fashion Gogol portrays St Petersburg.  His treatment of the Russian capital in this respect was quite unique …’ (E. J. Simmons, ‘Gogol and English literature’, MLR, vol. 26, no. 4 (Oct. 1931), pp. 445, 446, 447f).


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Musical fundraiser

This book came in recently, appealing to my interests in Russia, music, and (as you may have read before) the First World War.  Dating from 1914, it’s a charitable publication: ‘20% from each copy sold will go towards helping the All-Russian Zemstvo Union for Aid to Sick and Wounded Troops’ (founded July 1914), it reads.  The title translates as The Folk Epics and Songs of Great Russia, and it relates to a man called Mitrofan Pyanitsky.

Pyatnitsky (1864–1927) was a famous folk singer and collector of folk songs.  ‘In 1903 he was invited to join a commission on folk music set up by the Society of Friends of Natural Science, Anthropology and Ethnography, attached to Moscow University.  He appeared in folk concerts organized by this commission in Moscow and elsewhere [which] captured the interest of Russian audiences, and Pyatnitsky was encouraged to form an ensemble of singers and instrumentalists to give regular performances of folk music.

‘In 1910 Pyatnitsky founded a larger choir, whose programmes featured not only folksong arrangements but also choral dances, children’s games and dramatized scenes of peasant life.  He made more than 400 cylinder recordings of folksongs from the Voronezh area, and also formed an invaluable collection of folk instruments and peasant costumes.  After the 1917 Revolution Pyatnitsky’s folk choir was given state support, and similar choirs were set up through the Soviet Union …  His choir continued to exist after his death; in 1940 it was renamed in his memory Russkiy Narodnïy Khor imeni Pyatnitskogo’ (New Grove).

The present work was published by Robert Kenz in Moscow, to coincide with various fundraising concerts put on by Pyanitsky there.  The book contains an article by Vyacheslav Paskhalov on Pyanitsky’s work on the musical construction of songs from Voronezh, before printing 20 of the songs themselves, with musical notation.  The next sections reprint various newspaper reviews of Pyanitsky’s concerts (pp. [11]–30) and the programmes for ten concerts, 1911–14.


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A double-take book

Sometimes, as a bookseller, you come across a book which makes you do a double take.  Here’s one I discovered recently: Briefe über den Verlust der Regenten und Völker Europens an, und durch Frankreichs Republik (pp. [2], 66), with the imprint ‘London 1798.  In allen Buchhandlungen Deutschlands in Englischer, Französicher und Deutscher Sprache zu haben.’  It’s a collection of open letters—to the leaders of Europe; to French legislators; to the peoples of the world; to the enemies of crime—warning of the dangers posed to the stability of the whole continent due to recent events in France.  I’ve always been keen on fictitious imprints (this book was probably printed in Hamburg), but what particularly fascinated me here was its printed wrapper:

English text, but in Fraktur, is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a German book of this period.  Usually, when eighteenth-century German printers used English words (or French, or Latin; in fact, anything which wasn’t German) they used roman letters.  It immediately caught my eye.  Another, rather wonderful aspect to the wrapper is that it refers to itself, in verse: ‘Whoever sells this Book, without this Patriotic Label, / Not only violates, our British Patent-Laws, / But favors Britains Foes, — to wrong his Countrys Cause. / Like Judas he would act, the Fox against a Civic Gabel!!!’

Was this German book ever sold in Britain?  Or is the wrapper all part of the publisher’s obfuscation?  According to ESTC, ‘the French version was entitled Deux lettres adressées au genéral Bonaparte et une aux peuples de la terre [unlocated, at least by WorldCat]; no English version has been identified.’

The final page reads ‘Ende des ersten Theils.  Der zweite wird unverzüglich erscheinen.’  In the event, a second part did not appear, although a second, expanded edition was published the following year, again with an apparently fictitious imprint: ‘London 1799. at the Continental Agency Office nearthe [sic] Royal-Exchange’, pp. [2], 137, [1].  Both versions are very rare.


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The lure of Hollywood

Ilya Trauberg on William S. Hart (1926)


In the 1920s, in early Soviet Russia, a series of booklets began to be published by Kinopechat’, the state publishing house for cinema, focusing on the popular film actors of the day, Russian, German, French, British, and American.  ‘Bibliotechka kino-akterov’ (‘The Little Library of Film Actors’), as it was known, proved very popular, and ran to dozens of volumes, each devoted to a particular actor.


Vladimir Korolevich on Gloria Swanson (1926)


‘The evidence was overwhelming that, if given a chance, the Soviet people preferred foreign products.  The Mask of ZorroRobin Hood, and The Thief of Baghdad, all starring Douglas Fairbanks … were seen by many more people than Battleship Potemkin.  These were the most popular films that played in the Soviet Union in the 1920s …  In the early 1920s German films dominated the market.  As late as 1924 80 percent of the foreign films playing in the Soviet Union were made in Germany …  [A survey in the mid twenties showed that Harry Piel was the most popular actor in the Soviet Union.]  At first, however, it was not Soviet films that replaced German ones, but the products of Hollywood …

Viktor Shklovsky on Harold Lloyd (1926)


‘Russian love for Hollywood needs no special explanation.  People all over the world enjoyed the adventures, the glamorous stars, and the spectacles that Hollywood alone was able to manufacture.  Hollywood found the recipe: the hero in search of fortune visits locales, goes through extraordinary adventures, and achieves love and fortune.  People did not get tired of the same formula …  For some time it was impossible to do without exports; Soviet studios produced too few films.  As a result the Soviet people enjoyed the luxury of seeing what in fact they wanted to see, because their state was still too poor to provide them with what they should have wanted to see’ (Peter Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917–1953, pp. 72, 74).


Vladimir Nedobrovo on Richard Barthelmess (1927)

I shall be exhibiting a collection of books from the series at the forthcoming 47th International California Antiquarian Book Fair, in Pasadena.  Included are works on actors from America (Richard Barthelmess, Wallace Beery, Lillian Gish, Corinne Griffith, William S. Hart, Charles Hutchison, Harold Lloyd, Adolphe Menjou, Mae Murray, Mary Pickford, Charles Ray, Gloria Swanson, Conway Tearle, Ben Turpin, Pearl White); Britain (Ernest Torrence); France (Max Linder); Germany and Austria (Bernhard Goetzke, Emil Jannings, Werner Krauß, Ossi Oswalda, Harry Piel, Henny Porten, Paul Richter, Paul Wegener); Sweden (Greta Garbo); Japan (Sessue Hayakawa); and Russia (Grigorii Afonin, Alice Coonen, Aleksandra Khokhlova, Vera Malinovskaya, Gennady Michurin), as well as directors D. W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, and Hamo Beknazarian.
If you would like to see what else I shall have with me at the fair, please click here.

Aleksandr Razumovsky on Wallace Beery (1928)


Aleksandr Abramov on Harry Piel (1927)


K. Oganesov on Sessue Hayakawa (1926)

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Corporal Violet

The story goes that, after his defeat in 1814 when he was deliberating whether to contest his banishment to Elba or not, Napoleon was given a bunch of violets by a child.  Taking this to be a sign that he should accept exile meekly, as a ‘shrinking violet’, he declared the violet to be his emblem and he earned the soubriquet ‘Corporal Violet’.  Wearing the flower became a popular means of showing support for Napoleon, and an enterprising printseller produced a ‘puzzle print’ of violets with outlines of Napoleon, his wife, and son hidden in the image.  Can you find them?

Not to be outdone, Louis XVIII’s supporters produced their own print, featuring lilies, the symbol of the French Crown:

The prints proved extremely popular in France but, fascinatingly, they were exported to England, too, as these rare advertisements from 1815 show:

These are just some of the things I shall be exhibiting at the forthcoming 47th California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena.  My fair list will be out next week.  Please just me know if you would like to receive it.


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