The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections

The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections

A. Edward Newton
A. Edward Newton

Author: Newton, A. Edward (Alfred Edward), 1864-1940
Book collecting
The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections

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INDEX: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W.
(etext transcriber’s note)






Printed in the United States of America

If, as Eugene Field suggests, womenfolk are few in that part of paradise especially reserved for book-lovers I do not care. One woman will be there, for I shall insist that eight and twenty years probation entitles her to share my biblio-bliss above as she has shared it here below. That woman is my wife.


A MAN (or a woman) is the most interesting thing in the world; and next is a book, which enables one to get at the heart of the mystery; and although not many men can say why they are or what they are, any man who publishes a book can, if he is on good terms with his publisher, secure the use of a little space to tell how the book came to be what it is.
Some years ago a very learned friend of mine published a book, and in the introduction warned the “gentle reader” to skip the first chapter, and, as I have always maintained, by inference suggested that the rest was easy reading, which was not the case. In point of fact, the book was not intended for the “gentle reader” at all: it was a book written by a scholar for the scholar.
Now, I have worked on a different plan. My book is written for the “tired business man” (there are a goodly number of us), who flatters himself that he is fond of reading; and as it is my first book, I may be permitted to tell how it came to be published.
One day in the autumn of 1913, a friend, my partner, with whom it has been my privilege to be associated for so many years, remarked that it was time for me to take a holiday, and handed me a copy of the “Geographical Magazine.” The number was devoted to Egypt; and, seduced by the charm of the illustrations, on the spur of the moment I decided on a trip up the Nile.
Things moved rapidly. In a few weeks my wife and I were in the Mediterranean, on a steamer headed for Alexandria. We had touched at Genoa and were soon to reach Naples, when I discovered a feeling of homesickness stealing over me. I have spent my happiest holidays in London. Already I had tired of Egypt. The Nile has been flowing for centuries and would continue to flow. There were books to be had in London, books which would not wait. Somewhat shamefacedly I put the matter up to my wife; and when I discovered that she had no insuperable objection to a change of plan, we left the steamer at Naples, and after a few weeks with friends in Rome, started en grande vitesse toward London.
By this time it will have been discovered that I am not much of a traveler; but I have always loved London—London with its wealth of literary and historic association, with its countless miles of streets lined with inessential shops overflowing with things that I don’t want, and its grimy old book-shops overflowing with things that I do.
One gloomy day I picked up in the Charing Cross Road, for a shilling, a delightful book by Richard Le Gallienne, “Travels in England.” Like myself, Le Gallienne seems not to have been a great traveler—he seldom reached the place he started for; and losing his way or changing his mind, may be said to have arrived at his destination when he has reached a comfortable inn, where, after a simple meal, he lights his pipe and proceeds to read a book.
Exactly my idea of travel! The last time I read “Pickwick” was while making a tour in Northern Italy. It is wonderful how conducive to reading I found the stuffy smoking-rooms of the little steamers that dart like water-spiders from one landing to another on the Italian Lakes.
It was while I was poking about among the old book-shops that it occurred to me to write a little story about my books—when and where I had bought them, the prices I had paid, and the men I had bought them from, many of whom I knew well; and so, when my holiday was done, I lived over again its pleasant associations in writing a paper that I called “Book-Collecting Abroad.” Subsequently I wrote another,—“Book-Collecting at Home,”—it being my purpose to print these papers in a little volume to be called “The Amenities of Book-Collecting.” I intended this for distribution among my friends, who are very patient with me; and I sent my manuscript to a printer in the closing days of July, 1914. A few days later something happened in Europe, the end of which is not yet, and we all became panic-stricken. For a moment it seemed unlikely that one would care ever to open a book again. Acting upon impulse, I withdrew the order from my printer, put my manuscript aside, and devoted myself to my usual task—that of making a living.
Byron says, “The end of all scribblement is to amuse.” For some years I have been possessed of an itch for “scribblement”; gradually this feeling reasserted itself, and I came to see that we must become accustomed to working in a world at war, and to realizing that life must be permitted to resume, at least to some extent, its regular course; and the idea of my little book recurred to me.
It had frequently been suggested by friends that my papers be published in the “Atlantic.” What grudge they bore this excellent magazine I do not know, but they always said the “Atlantic”; and so, when one day I came across my manuscript, it occurred to me that it would cost only a few cents to lay it before the editor. At that time I did not know the editor of the “Atlantic” even by name. My pleasure then can be imagined when, a week or so later, I received the following letter:—

Oct. 30, 1914.
Dear Mr. Newton:—
The enthusiasm of your pleasant paper is contagious, and I find myself in odd moments looking at the gaps in my own library with a feeling of dismay. I believe that very many readers of the “Atlantic” will feel as I do, and it gives me great pleasure to accept your paper.
Yours sincerely,
Ellery Sedgwick.

Shortly afterward, a check for a substantial sum fluttered down upon my desk, and it was impossible that I should not remember how much Milton had received for his “Paradise Lost,”—the receipt for which is in the British Museum,—and draw conclusions therefrom entirely satisfactory to my self-esteem. My paper was published, and the magazine, having a hardy constitution, survived; I even received some praise. There was nothing important enough to justify criticism, and as a result of this chance publication I made a number of delightful acquaintances among readers and collectors, many of whom I might almost call friends although we have never met.
Not wishing to strain the rather precarious friendship with Mr. Sedgwick which was the outcome of my first venture, it was several years before I ventured to try him with another paper. This I called “A Ridiculous Philosopher.” I enjoyed writing this paper immensely, and although it was the reverse of timely, I felt that it might pass editorial scrutiny. Again I received a letter from Mr. Sedgwick, in which he said:—

Two days ago I took your paper home with me and spent a delightful half-hour with it. Now, as any editor would tell you, there is no valid reason for a paper on Godwin at this time, but your essay is so capitally seasoned that I cannot find it in my heart to part with it. Indeed I have been gradually making the editorial discovery that, if a paper is sufficiently readable, it has some claim upon the public, regardless of what the plans of the editor are. And so the upshot of my deliberation is that we shall accept your paper with great pleasure and publish it when the opportunity occurs.

The paper appeared in due course, and several more followed. The favor with which these papers were received led the “Atlantic” editors to the consideration of their reprint in permanent form, together with several which now appear for the first time. All the illustrations have been made from items in my own collection. I am thus tying a string, as it were, around a parcel which contains the result of thirty-six years of collecting. It may not be much, but, as the Irishman said of his dog, “It’s mine own.” My volume might, with propriety, be called “Newton’s Complete Recreations.”
I have referred to my enjoyment in writing my “Ridiculous Philosopher.” I might say the same of all my papers. I am aware that my friend, Dr. Johnson, once remarked that no man but a block-head writes a book except for money. At some risk, then, I admit that I have done so. I have written for fun, and my papers should be read, if read at all, for the same purpose, not that the reader will or is expected to laugh loud. The loud laugh, in Goldsmith’s phrase, it may be remembered, bespeaks the vacant mind. But I venture to hope that the judicious will pass a not unpleasant hour in turning my pages.
One final word: I buy, I collect “Presentation Books”; and I trust my friends will not think me churlish when I say that it is not my intention to turn a single copy of this, my book, into a presentation volume. Whatever circulation it may have must be upon its own merits. Any one who sees this book in the hands of a reader, on the library table, or on the shelves of the collector, may be sure that some one, either wise or foolish as the event may prove, has paid a substantial sum for it, either in the current coin of the realm, or perchance in thrift stamps. It may, indeed, be that it has been secured from a lending library, in which case I would suggest that the book be returned instantly. “Go ye rather to them that sell and buy for yourselves.” And having separated yourself from your money, in the event that you should feel vexed with your bargain, you are at liberty to communicate your grievance to the publisher, securing from him what redress you may; and in the event of failure there yet remains your inalienable right, which should afford some satisfaction, that of damning
The Author.
Oak Knoll,”
Daylesford, Pennsylvania,
      April 7, 1918.


I. Book-Collecting Abroad 1
II. Book-Collecting at Home 36
III. Old Catalogues and New Prices 65
IV. “Association” Books and First Editions 107
V. What Might Have Been 129
VI. James Boswell—His Book 145
VII. A Light-Blue Stocking 186
VIII. A Ridiculous Philosopher 226
IX. A Great Victorian 249
X. Temple Bar Then and Now 267
XI. A Macaroni Parson 292
XII. Oscar Wilde 318
XIII. A Word in Memory 343
INDEX: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W.


Caricature of Two Great Victorians Frontispiece in Color
W. M. Thackeray and Charles Dickens
Title of “Paradise Lost.” First Edition 6
Title of Franklin’s Edition of Cicero’s “Cato Major” 9
Letter of Thomas Hardy to his First Publisher, “Old Tinsley” 12
Page of Original MS. of Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” 14
Bernard Quaritch 14
Title of MS. of “Lyford Redivivus” 16
Bernard Alfred Quaritch 16
Samuel Johnson 20
Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds about 1770, for Johnson’s Step-Daughter, Lucy Porter. Engraved by Watson
Page of Prayer in Dr. Johnson’s Autograph 23
Title of Keats’s Copy of Spenser’s Works 24
Portrait of Tennyson Reading “Maud” to the Brownings, by Rossetti 26
Dr. Johnson’s Church, St. Clement Danes 31
From a pen-and-ink sketch by Charles G. Osgood
Inscription to Mrs. Thrale in Dr. Johnson’s Hand 32
Inscription to General Sir A. Gordon in Queen Victoria’s Hand 35
George D. Smith 36
Photographed by Genthe
Autograph MS. of Lamb’s Poem, “Elegy on a Quid of Tobacco” 40
Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach 42
Photographed by Genthe
Title of “Robinson Crusoe.” First Edition 45
Title of “Oliver Twist” 47
Presentation Copy to W. C. Macready
Original Illustration for “Vanity Fair” 48
Becky Sharp throwing Dr. Johnson’s “Dixonary” out of the carriage window, as she leaves Miss Pinkerton’s School
From the first pen-and-ink sketch, by Thackeray, afterwards elaborated
Specimen Proof-Sheet of George Moore’s “Memoirs of My Dead Life” 50
Title of George Moore’s “Pagan Poems” 51
Presentation Copy to Oscar Wilde
Title of Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” 52
Charles Lamb’s House at Enfield 54
Inscription by Joseph Conrad in a Copy of “The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’” 56
The Author’s Book-Plate 60
Henry E. Huntington 72
Stoke Poges Church 74
A fine example of fore-edge painting
Title of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” 80
A Leaf from an Unopened Volume 82
Specimen page of an unpublished manuscript of Charlotte Brontë
Title of the Kilmarnock Edition of Burns’s Poems 85
Fifteenth-Century English MS. on Vellum: Boëthius’s “De Consolatione Philosophiæ” 90
Title of George Herbert’s “The Temple.” First Edition 97
First Page of a Rare Edition ofRobinson Crusoe 102
Autograph MS. of a Poem by Keats—“To the Misses M—— at Hastings 105
Inscription to Swinburne from Dante Rossetti 106
Autograph Inscription by Stevenson, in a Copy of his “Inland Voyage
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