Catalog 18 from The Kelmscott Bookshop
- by Michael Stillman
Catalog 18 from The Kelmscott Bookshop
The Kelmscott Bookshop has issued their Catalog 18, long title Artists' Books & Private Press, Miniature Books, Movables, History, Literature, Art, Travel & Exploration, & More. That's a lot. Just about anything may be here. It is worth noting that the Kelmscott Bookshop has items relating to William Morris and his Kelmscott Press, and other fine presses that followed his lead, but this is not a strictly book arts bookseller. That is only part of the story, with many books of a totally different focus. Here are a few samples of the items you will find.
If at first you don't succeed... Stephen Crane would achieve great acclaim for his writing in 1895 with The Red Badge of Courage. However, two years earlier, he was an unknown with a book nobody wanted. His first novel was Maggie. A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York). It wasn't a pleasant tale. It is the story of life in New York's slums, about people living on the margins, like Maggie, who falls into prostitution. Publishers didn't want the story. They wanted books that were more uplifting and Maggie's story was not. Unable to find a publisher, Crane self-published his first novel in 1893. It was a flop. He printed 1,100 copies, but sold only a few, gave away others, and destroyed the rest. It is very rare, only 35 copies of this first edition known to have survived. After Red Badge, in 1895, Crane had a bright future, but he took ill and died in 1900 at the age of 28, that future extinguished. Item 110. Priced at $8,000.
This next item is an artist's book and one that looks at the career of one of America's first film stars. Her name was Gladys Louise Smith, which probably means nothing to you, but she went by the name of Mary Pickford. She was the “Queen of the Movies,” or “the girl with the curls.” She was America's original sweetheart in the early days of film, the silent movies. Things didn't go so well for her once talkies came around, though that was more because she was no longer the young girl she had previously played than because she couldn't speak. After a few flops, she retired from film a few years later. The book is Mary Pickford: The Queen of the Silent Film Era by George A. Walker, published in 2020. This is #4 of 35 copies, signed by the artist. Walker has created 87 black and white wood engravings (she was 87 when she died), with black and white being appropriate for films from her era. The 35 copies relates to the 35 mm film on which she was filmed. Interspersed between the woodcuts are sequential narrative plates, black with white type, like the dialogue boards used in silent films. Item 75. $1,500.
This is a compendium of Irish history all the way back to ancient times: Chronicles of Eri; Being the History of the Gaal Sciot Iber; or, the Irish People; Translated from the Original Manuscripts in the Phoenician Dialect of the Scythian Language. It is a remarkable history book, and would be even more so if any of it were true. It begins with records from a man said to have lived 50 years after Moses, and proceeds with translations of ancient Phoenician manuscripts that cover the people who later migrated to Ireland. However, O'Connor was unable to produce these manuscripts. He claimed to have attempted to write the history three times prior, but was thwarted by enemies who stole his copies or a fire that consumed one. O'Connor also called himself “Head of his Race,” claiming to have descended from a 12th century Irish king. The two-volume book was published in 1822. Item 139. $700.
This book was published in honor of William Morris' 100th birthday, which occurred in 1934. The title is A Pre-Raphaelite Aeneid of Virgil in the Collection of Mrs. Edward Laurence Doheny of Los Angeles, Being an Essay in Honor of the William Morris Centenary 1934. The writer was Anna Cox Brinton, a classics scholar and college administrator. Estelle Doheny was one of the greatest collectors of the twentieth century, perhaps the greatest woman collector ever. Her collection included a Gutenberg. Her husband was a fabulously wealthy oilman. He died in 1935 after which she devoted much of her life to collecting. This copy is signed by Doheny, Brinton, and printer Ward Ritchie. Item 85. $575.
Here is another item related to Morris, but it is a small one. This is a miniature book 3 x 2.5 inches. The title is Printers on Morris, edited by John J. Walsdorf, printed at the Beaverdam Press in Beaverdam, Oregon in 1981. This is copy #78 of 326. It contains quotes by printers and others about Morris. Kelmscott Bookshop tells us “most are complimentary, but some are critical.” The book contains a frontispiece portrait of Morris by Barry Moser. Item 78. $125.