Friday, February 12, 2010

A BookHunters Holiday - Book Review

The Book Hunters Holiday
Adventures with Books and Manuscripts
by A S W Rosenbach
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1936

Upon thinking of the success of Chris at Book Hunters Holiday (with her Dante Catalogue), I am reminded that I have not yet read and reviewed the book I purchased after which Chris named her business.

I purchased this book, Bookhunters Holiday, back in late 2007.

I mentioned this purchase again on the day the book arrived, and then forgot about it, allowing the book to languish on my shelves.

Now would be a good time to read it - for the Bibliophilic challenge.
Like Charles Everitt and his book, Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, Rosenbach too wrote a series of stories related to books and manuscripts. None of them biographical.

If you want to read a biography of Simon Rosenbach (or Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach - his full name) you would need to find the very expensive biography called simply Rosenbach. It sits on the shelf at my local rare book shop here in Canada, waiting for someone who can afford to pay CAN$180 for the privilege of owning it. And it also sits on the shelf of some rare book shop in the USA priced at US$125 waiting for someone to buy it.

ROSENBACH a Biography. Wolf, Edwin 2nd and John F. Fleming. Cleveland and New York; (1960): The World Publishing Co., First Edition. Octavo. 616pp.,(2)pp.

While Rosenbach was a collector, he was widely considered the greatest antiquarian bookseller of the world had ever known - or so the catalogues say.

Anyway, back to the review. There are 9 chapters. The foreward notes that 6 of these articles (chapters) have been published in the Saturday Evening Post, one article (chapter) appeared in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society and three of these articles (chapters) are appearing for the first time. The article titles are listed as follows.

Letters we Ought to Burn
Old Mystery Books
The Trail of Scarlet
Extra! Extra!
Mighty Women Book Hunters
The Libraries of the Presidents of the USA
Old Almanacs and Prognostications
Munchausen and Company
Earliest Christmas Books

Letters we Ought to Burn, is about letters (some love letters) from famous authors including Dickens, Thackerey, Benjamin Franklin, Keats, Oscar Wilde, Napoleon, Dr Samuel Johnson, Robbie Burns, Shelley, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Old Mystery books are the first books in the murder mystery genre. They originally started during the time of Shakespeare. Rosenbach was quite taken with these and loved collecting them - especially Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Trail of Scarlet is about the fictional detectives in the trail of the criminals of the murder mysteries. Rosenbach's favourite fictional detectives were;
C. Auguste Dupin (Edgar Allan Poe)
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Monsieur Lecoq (Émile Gaboriau)
Father Brown (G.K.Chesterton)
Sergeant Cuff (Wilkie Collins)

Extra! Extra! is about the Revolutionary War (and later) broadsides - announcing the news of the day - most often the battles fought during the war. These were large pieces of paper, attached to poles, walls, and hung up everywhere, as well as sold to the people so that everyone could read the news. The broadside is the fore runner to the modern newspaper. Some broadsides have survived, and when they are found, are now quite valuable.

The Mighty Women Book Hunters.
Diane de Poitiers and Gabrielle D'Estrees - the mistresses of King Henry 2nd of France. Diane's father was Jean de Poitiers, and he was a Bibliophile, so Dianne grew up amongst books. In 1558 (possibly at the behest of Diane) an ordinance was issued by Henry that every publisher should present a copy of each book he issued to the libraries of Blois and Fontainebleau.

Diane's personal collection included such books as Serveto's edition of Ptolemy's Geography published at Lyons in 1541, and Christopher Plantin's France Antarctique published in Antwerp in 1558.

Louise de Savoie, Duvhess de Angouleme (mother of Francois I) was one of the first French women to form an important collection of books. Her books included;
Life of St Jerome
The Triumphs of Virtues
Boccaccios Lives of Noble Ladies
Epistles of Ovid or Examples of Letters Suitable for a Lady to Write to her Husband

Queen Isabella of Spain was also a book lover. One book she owned was a manuscript called Le Livre de la Chasse by Gaston de Foix (aka Phebus) written in 1387.

Catherine de Medici inherited some well known books from her ancestors, and brought them to France with her. She was not afraid to steal any books she wanted. One book she obtained was La Cyropedie de Xenophon, printed at Lyons by Jean de Tourbes in 1555.

Other well known Women French Bibliophiles included Catherine's daughter Marguerite de Valois, Anne of Austria, Madame de Pompadour, Madame de Montespan, Queen Marie-Antoinette, Madame de Verrue (born 1670).

English Bibliophiles include several of Henry 8ths wives - Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr - also Henry's daughters Mary Tudor and Queen Elizabeth 1st, not to mention Elizabeths cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Sidney Countess of Pembroke can also be counted amongst that group.

Americans Amy Lowell, Mrs Norton Quncy Pope, Miss Richardson Currer and Mrs Edward S, Harkness.

I always thought it strange that no wife of any American President has been a book collector. Rosenbach commented.

Libraries of the Presidents of the USA.
Several Presidents were real book lovers and collectors. The first 3 - George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
Washington had volumes by Shakespeare, Swift, Smollett, Goldsmith, Addison, Sterne, Fielding, Cervantes. Also titles of Tom Jones, Pope's Works, Smollets Humphrey Clinker, Voltaire's Letters, Gulliver's Travels, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and a copy of Doctor Samuel Johnson's Dictionary in 2 large volumes published in London in 1786.
John Adams had on of the largest libraries in the Colonies. He collected Voltaire, Cervantes and Shakespeare. He also had Plato's Works in 3 volumes published in Paris in 1629, theorks of Aristotle published in Paris in 1629, as well as early editions of Bacon, Cardinal Bembo, Diderot, John Locke, Isaac Newton and others.
Thomas Jefferson had books on art, literature, religion, architechture, philosophy, chemistry, husbandry, classics and almost every subject.
Jefferson's library of over 7000 volumes was purchadsed by the government in 1815 and removed from Monticello and housed in the new Library of Congress. In 1851 the LOC suffered a fire, and two thirds of Jeffersons book were destroyed.
The 4th, 5th and 6th Presidents (Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams) were also book collectors. But they collected mostly Americana, and mostly books and pamphlets about themslves and their Presidencies. Most of the later Presidents also had libraries during their terms as President.

Old Almanacs and Prognostications - Alternatively called the Farmers Almanacs and Weather forecasts.

Then there are the Poor Richards Almanacs written by Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin began publishing Poor Richard's Almanack on December 28, 1732, and would go on to publish it for 25 years, bringing him much economic success and popularity.

Munchausen and Company - Liars and the Lies they told in Books.

Earliest Christmas Books - Books with Christmas recipes and carols, hymns and songs therein.

Apologies for the long post. I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Now I have to find and purchase or read Rosenbach's first book - Books and Bidders published in 1927.

1 comment:

Historia said...

Edgar Allan Poe introduced mystery fiction's first fictional detective, Auguste C. Dupin, in his 1841 story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

Just a little trivia to add to the review.