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Title: Book-Lovers, Bibliomaniacs and Book Clubs
Author: Harper, Henry H.
Language: English
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booksmiths at http://www.eBookForge.net







  Book Clubs



  Privately Printed
  At The Riverside Press





HAVING been asked to make a few remarks upon Book-loving, Book-buying,
and Book Clubs,--not for publication before the great audience of
readers, but for the exclusive use of the members of a private Book
Club,--I venture thus to offer my views, hoping that in the light of
my own personal experience I may be able to give a few useful hints
and suggestions to those who may peruse the pages which follow.

If this little tome, in which are recorded the reflections of one who
for many years has mingled with publishers, booksellers, bibliophiles,
collectors, and bibliomaniacs, should prove to be of any interest or
service, and is found worthy of a small space in some sequestered nook
in the library, where it may in silent repose behold its more worthy
and resplendent companions, the fondest ambition of the author will be
gratified beyond peradventure.





BOOK-collecting is undeniably one of the most engaging pursuits in
which a refined and artistic taste may be indulged. From the earliest
times, and even before the days of printing, this pleasant diversion
has been pursued by persons of moderate means as well as by those of
wealth and distinction, and every succeeding generation of
book-collectors has exceeded its predecessors in numbers and in
enthusiasm. The alluring influences of bibliophilism, or book-loving,
have silently crept into thousands of homes, whether beautiful or
humble; for the library is properly regarded as one of the most
important features of home as well as mental equipment.

In _The House Beautiful_ William C. Gannett emphasizes the importance
of considering the library as foremost in furnishing a home. He says:
"It means admission to the new marvels of science, if one chooses
admission. It means an introduction to the noblest company that all
the generations have produced, if we claim the introduction.
Remembering this, how can one help wishing to furnish his house with
some such furniture? A poet for a table piece! A philosopher upon the
shelf! Browning or Emerson for a fireside friend!

"A family's rank in thought and taste can well be gauged by the books
and papers that lie upon the shelf or table of the library."

Not many years ago, Mr. Howard Pyle said: "I sometimes think that we
are upon the edge of some new era in which the art of beautifying
books with pictures shall suddenly be uplifted into a higher and a
different plane of excellence; when ornate printed colour and perfect
reproduction shall truly depict the labour of the patient draughtsman
who strives so earnestly to beautify the world in which he lives, and
to lend a grace to the living therein." The prophecy is already
fulfilled, and a modern book, in order to win favor among present-day
bibliophiles, must embody an harmonious assimilation of many arts.

The ardor of possessing books, commonly called bibliomania, also
styled bibliophilism and "biblio"--whatever else that has suggested
itself to the fruitful imaginations of dozens of felicitous writers
upon the subject,--is described by Dibdin as a "disease which grows
with our growth, and strengthens with our strength." Kings and queens
have not been immune from this prevalent though harmless malady. The
vast resources of Henry VII were employed in collecting a library of
which a modern millionaire collector might be justly proud. Many
specimens of his magnificent collection, bearing the royal stamp, are
now to be found in the British Museum. Queen Elizabeth and Lady Jane
Grey were submissive victims of the bibliomania. It is worthy of note
that while there were but few women book-collectors in the Elizabethan
period, there are at the present time in our own country almost as
many women as there are men engaged in this fascinating pursuit. As
late as 1843, Dibdin remarks that "it is a remarkable circumstance,
that the bibliomania has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the
_male_ sex, and among people in the higher and middling classes of
society. It has raged chiefly in palaces, castles, halls, and gay
mansions, and those things which in general are supposed not to be
inimical to health,--such as cleanliness, spaciousness, and splendour,
are only so many inducements to the introduction and propagation of
the bibliomania!"

It should be remembered, however, that one possessing a fondness for
books is not necessarily a bibliomaniac. There is as much difference
between the inclinations and taste of a bibliophile and a bibliomaniac
as between a slight cold and the advanced stages of consumption. Some
one has said that "to call a bibliophile a bibliomaniac is to conduct
a lover, languishing for his maiden's smile, to an asylum for the
demented, and to shut him up in the ward for the incurables." _Biblio_
relates to books, and _mania_ is synonymous with madness, insanity,
violent derangement, mental aberration, etc. A bibliomaniac,
therefore, might properly be called an insane or crazy bibliophile. It
is, however, a harmless insanity, and even in its worst stages it
injures no one. Rational treatment may cure a bibliomaniac and bring
him (or her) back into the congenial folds of bibliophilism, unless,
perchance, the victim has passed beyond the curative stages into the
vast and dreamy realms of extra-illustrating, or "grangerizing."
People usually have a horror of insane persons, and one might well
beware of indulging a taste for books, if there were any reasonable
probability that this would lead to mental derangement. There could be
furniture-maniacs, rug-maniacs, and china-maniacs just as well as
book-maniacs, but people do not generally hesitate to purchase
furniture, rugs, and china for fear of going crazy on the subject, and
no more reason is there why rational persons should hesitate to make a
collection of good books for a library, for fear of being called
bibliomaniacs. In _Sesame and Lilies_ Ruskin says: "If a man spends
lavishly on his library, you call him mad--a bibliomaniac. But you
never call one a horse-maniac, though men ruin themselves every day by
their horses, and you do not hear of people ruining themselves by
their books."

This is preëminently the age of collectors, and scarcely a week passes
without the discovery of some new dementia in this direction. Only a
few days ago I read of a new delirium which threatens disaster to the
feline progeny; it may be called the _cat-tail mania_, seeing that its
victims possess an insatiable desire for amputating and preserving the
caudal appendages of all the neighborhood cats. A self-confessed
member of this cult was recently arrested in one of the eastern

There are several species of bibliophiles; there are _many_ species
of bibliomaniacs. Some admire books for what they contain; others for
their beautiful type, hand-made paper, artistic illustrations, ample
margins, untrimmed edges, etc.; and there are others who attach more
importance to the limited number of copies issued than to either the
contents or workmanship.

If a book is to attain any considerable commercial value and increase
in worth year after year, it is of first importance that the number of
copies issued be actually limited; and the greater the restriction the
more likelihood that the monetary value will be steadily enhanced. But
it must not be forgotten that the mere "limitation" will not of itself
create a furore among judicious book-buyers; the book, or set of
books, should rest upon some more secure basis of valuation than that
of scarcity.

Dibdin says in his _Bibliomania_, issued in 1811: "About twelve years
ago I was rash enough to publish a small volume of poems, with my name
affixed. They were the productions of my juvenile years; and I need
hardly say at this period how ashamed I am of their authorship. The
monthly and analytical reviews did me the kindness of just tolerating
them, and of warning me not to commit any future trespass upon the
premises of Parnassus. I struck off five hundred copies, and was glad
to get rid of half of them as wastepaper; the remaining half has been
partly destroyed by my own hands, and has partly mouldered away in
oblivion amidst the dust of booksellers' shelves. My only consolation
is that the volume is _exceedingly rare_!"

The contents, first to be considered, should be worthy of
preservation; next in importance is the selection of appropriate type,
and the size and style of page, which should be determined by the nature
of the work and the period in which it was written. The size of the book
and the margins of the page must be carefully considered in order to
harmonize with the text-page. In choosing illustrations it is important
to determine whether they should be ornate and illustrative, or classic
and emblematical in design. The paper should be handmade, to order, and
of such correct size as not to lose the deckle edges in cutting; and the
printing should be done in "forms" of not more than eight. The paper
should be scientifically moistened before printing, and the ink allowed
several weeks in which to dry before handling the printed sheets. The
bindings should harmonize with interiors, and due care taken against
over-decoration of the covers. These few technical hints will serve to
acquaint the book-lover with some at least of the many important
features which must be regarded in the preparation of a fine book,--a
book fitted to demand and merit a place upon the library shelves of
discriminating bibliophiles, and as well increase in demand and price
whenever thereafter its copies may "turn up" for sale.

Next in importance, after considering literary and mechanical fitness,
and the limitation of the work, is the question of distribution; its
scope, and the class of subscribers. The stock of a corporation, if
limited to a reasonable number of shares and issued only to a few expert
investors of high standing, and for tangible considerations, will
obviously be considered a safer and more attractive investment than if
it be scattered indiscriminately among a class of professional
manipulators for stock-jobbing purposes. With such a stock where thus
closely held for investment purposes, an order for a few shares may
largely elevate its market value. But if the stock were issued in
unlimited quantities, the monetary value would be entirely lost. Again,
if the stock had no corporeal assets as a basis for its issue, the
"limited and registered" clause could not sustain it in the market.

So it is with books: if the number of copies issued be held within a
reasonable constraint, consistent with the price charged per copy, and
if they are subscribed for by book-lovers who prize them for their
literary or historic value and luxurious appearance no less than for
pecuniary values, they are not likely to find their way into the
bookstalls, or to be "picked up" in auction rooms at less than their
original price. This condition applies particularly to legitimate club
editions and privately printed editions. If an edition of five hundred
copies is widely distributed throughout the country, it is reasonable
to assume that the speculative market therefor would be less apt to
suffer from congestion than if the sale of the whole number of sets
were confined to one locality.


Passing now to those who, in one way or another, are to meet with
and handle the completed book, we may begin with a class of _literary
barnacles_ who stick about the libraries of their friends and of the
public institutions, and feed their bibliophilistic appetites on what
others have spent much time and money in collecting. These may perhaps
more appropriately be called biblio-spongers, and are of all ranks in
the community, many even owning beautiful homes, and having ample
resources at command; but while enjoying the congenial atmosphere of a
well-furnished library, and the delights of caressing the precious and
wisely selected tomes of others, they are still of such temperaments
that they would no more think of _buying_ books than would another of
buying an opera-house in order to satisfy theatre-going propensities.
These people should be taught that fine books, like friends, are not
loanable or exchangeable chattels. They will argue that there is no
use spending money for books, because they reside within easy reach of
a public library where such books as they desire are readily
obtainable, or perhaps suggest that "I have free access to my friend
Smith's library; he scarcely ever uses it;" without reflecting that
Smith would probably use it more, if his friends used it less. And yet
such folk will still incur the needless expense of providing their own
homes with chairs, unless, haply, such homes may chance to be within
convenient reach of some park or public institution where _free_ seats
are provided.

Most of us are disposed to idealize a besotted bibliomaniac as a
harmless being whose companionship and favor are neither to be courted
nor particularly avoided,--a sort of shellfish basking on the bank of
life's flow in whatever sunshine it may absorb, and paying little heed
to the thoughts or actions of others.

The following curious inscription which is found on an old
copperplate print of the famous bibliomaniac, John Murray, will
illustrate one of the varieties:--

    Hoh Maister John Murray of Sacomb,
    The Works of old Time to collect was his pride,
      Till Oblivion dreaded his Care:
    Regardless of Friends, intestate he dy'd,
      So the Rooks and the Crows were his Heir.

Mr. Nathan Haskell Dole, President of The Bibliophile Society, aptly
describes a miserly bibliomaniac as a

    Victim of a frenzied passion,
      He is lean and lank and crusty;
    Naught he cares for dress or fashion
      And his rusty coat smells musty;

while in characterizing the natural impulses of true bibliophilism, he
says that

    Bibliophiles take pride in showing
      All the gems of their collections;
    They are generous in bestowing,
      They have genuine affections.

Peignot says a bibliomaniac is one who has "a passion for possessing
books; not so much to be instructed by them as to gratify the eye by
looking on them." This presumption is about as reasonable as it would
be to say that a man is a monomaniac because he gets married when he
is in no special need of a house-servant, or body-guard.

In his _Bibliomania_ Dibdin enumerates eight symptoms of this "darling
passion or insanity," in the following order: "A passion for
large-paper copies, uncut copies, extra-illustrated copies, unique
copies, copies printed on vellum, first editions, true editions, and
black-letter copies."

The first of these should be omitted from the symptomatic category:
it would be fallacy to assume that one is a maniac because one admires
the ample margins and paramount qualities of these large-paper copies,
which Dibdin himself says are "printed upon paper of a larger
dimension and superior quality than the ordinary copies. The presswork
and ink are always proportionately better in these copies, and the
price of them is enhanced according to their beauty and rarity. . . .
That a volume so published has a more pleasing aspect cannot be
denied." He adds that "this symptom of the bibliomania is at the
present day both general and violent." No wonder! And yet the charming
Dr. Ferriar dips his pen in gall and writes the following satirical
lines upon this highly commendable "weakness:"--

    But devious oft, from every classic Muse,
    The keen collector, meaner paths will choose.
    And first the margin's breadth his soul employs,
    Pure, snowy, broad, the type of nobler joys.
    In vain might Homer roll the tide of song,
    Or Horace smile, or Tully charm the throng,
    If, crost by Pallas' ire, the trenchant blade
    Or too oblique or near the edge invade,
    The Bibliomane exclaims with haggard eye,
    "No margin!"--turns in haste, and scorns to buy.

Dibdin ventures to further assert that "the day is not far distant
when _females_ will begin to have as high a relish for large-paper
copies of every work as their male rivals." If he could return to this
sphere and behold the enormously increased number of women
bibliophiles in our country at the present time, the subject would
doubtless furnish him with a congenial theme for another of his
rambling discourses, this time perhaps under the caption of
_Bibliowomania_. He was far in advance of the age in which he lived;
for although he had very little upon which to base the prediction, he
yet prophesied that not many years would lapse before women would
invade the fields of book-collecting and prove themselves valiant
competitors in the market. This, in fact, is now common enough, and I
myself have known of many instances in auction-rooms where a small
army of rampant bibliomaniacs have been obliged to retreat and to
abandon their pursuit of some coveted treasure, on finding it boldly
covered by a _carte-blanche_ order from a feminine competitor. Women
rarely appear in the book auction-room, but leave their orders to be
executed through a trusted broker, and many a collector has found
himself suddenly obliged to soar aloft to dizzy heights in quest of
some prize, on being thus lifted and pursued by one of the
representatives of an unseen and unknown member of the gentler sex.

Many people suppose the term "uncut," characteristic of Dibdin's
second "symptom," to signify that the leaves of such volume as may be
concerned have never been severed, whether for convenience of reading
or otherwise. "Uncut," however, in its technical sense does not imply
that the sheets are folded and bound just as they came from the press.
The leaves may all be cut, and the tops trimmed, and even gilded,
without striking terror to the heart of the bibliomaniac. Dibdin,
indeed, treats this last mentioned symptom in merely a superficial way
and dismisses it with a few cursory remarks, viz: "It may be defined a
passion to possess books of which the edges have never been sheared by
the binder's tools." This definition is vague and unsatisfactory. Mr.
Adrian H. Joline (_Diversions of a Booklover_, Harper & Bros., New
York, 1903,--a charming book that should be read by every
book-fancier) discourses upon the subject more intelligently; he
observes that the word _uncut_ appears to be a stumbling-block to the
unwary, and says: "The casual purchaser is sometimes deceived by it,
for he thinks that it means that the leaves have not been severed by
the paper-knife. I have read with much glee divers indignant letters
in the very interesting 'Saturday Review' of one of our best New York
journals, in which the barbarian writers have denounced the _uncut_,
and have assailed in vigorous but misguided phrases those who prefer
to have their books in that condition. Henry Stevens tells us that
even such a famous collector as James Lenox, founder of the splendid
library into whose magnificent mysteries so few of us dare to
penetrate, was misled by the word _uncut_, and chided Stevens for
buying an _uncut_ book whose pages were all open. He says: 'Again when
his tastes had grown into the mysteries of _uncut_ leaves, he returned
a very rare, early New England tract, expensively bound, because it
did not answer the description of _uncut_ in the invoice, for the
leaves had manifestly been cut open and read.' When it was explained
to him that in England the term _uncut_ signified only that the edges
were not _trimmed_, he shelved the rarity with the remark that he
'learned something every day.' . . . Perhaps the Caxton Club of
Chicago is wise in describing its productions as 'with edges
untrimmed.' Even a Philistine ought to be able to comprehend that
description, although I once knew a man who supposed that a book
'bound in boards' had sides composed of planking."

Dr. Ferriar's satirical lines in his _Second Maxim_ will find
sympathizers among admirers of uncuts:--

    Who, with fantastic pruning-hook,
    Dresses the borders of his book,
    Merely to ornament its look--
        Amongst philosophers a fop is:
    What if, perchance, he thence discover
    Facilities in turning over,
    The virtuoso is a lover
        Of coyer charms in "uncut copies."

I have been requested to "explain the reason, if there be any, for
leaving leaf-edges fastened [unopened]--even in evanescent
magazines--and why people keep books in this condition, without
looking at the contents." The reason why the binder does not open all
the leaves is that it involves additional labor and expense which the
publisher usually does not care to incur, as it does not essentially
add to the selling value. Indeed, some collectors hesitate to open the
leaves of their books with the paper-knife, for fear that the selling
price would be thereby depreciated. This is an entirely mistaken idea,
though it prevails very generally among those who do not understand
the real meaning of the term "uncut." Most booksellers prefer having
the leaves of the volumes all opened, as many buyers and readers
object to the nuisance of cutting them open. Some of the magazine
publishers have modern folding machines equipped with blades for
severing all the leaves. In fine book-making, however, most of the
folding and cutting is done by hand.

The third "symptom" defined by Dibdin, viz: "extra-illustrating,"
commonly called _grangerizing_, is really so far removed from the
indicative stages of bibliomania as to render it entirely
inappropriate as a proper single characteristic; it is the whole
disease in its worst form. Fortunately, it is not a frequent infirmity
among our present day bibliomaniacs. I cannot refrain from quoting Mr.
William P. Cutter's vehement denunciation of the class of literary
foragers who are thus affected. He observes that "this craze for
'extra-illustrating' seizes remorselessly the previously harmless
bibliophile, and leads him to become a wicked despoiler and mutilator
of books. The extra-illustrator is nearly always the person
responsible for the decrepit condition of many of the books which
'unfortunately lack the rare portrait,' or have, 'as usual,' some
valuable plate or map lacking. Were this professional despoiler, or
his minions, the ruthless booksellers, to destroy the sad wrecks which
result from their piratical depredations, all would be well. But they
set these poor maimed hulks adrift again, to seek salvage from some
deluded collector, or some impoverished or ignorant librarian.

"It is curious that the very volume in which our reverend friend
Dibdin so heartily condemns these inexcusable bandits, should be
seized on as a receptacle for their ill-gotten prizes. May the spectre
of Thomas Frognall Dibdin haunt the souls of these impious rascals,
and torture them with never-ceasing visions of unobtainable and rare
portraits, non-existent autographs, and elusive engravings in general!
They even dare to profane your sacred work, the _Biblia_ of
book-lovers, by the 'insertion' of crudities invented by their
fiendish imagination. They have committed the 'unpardonable sin' of
bibliophilism. Not only do they carry on this wicked work, but
actually flaunt their base crimes in the face of their innocent
brethren. Hearken to this:--

"DIBDIN, T.F. _Bibliomania._ London, 1811. Extended to five volumes,
with extra printed titles, and having eight hundred engravings
inserted, comprising views, old titles(!), vignettes, and six hundred
and seventy-five portraits of authors, actors, poets, sovereigns,
artists, prelates, &c., &c., 250 guineas."

Limited space prevents me from making any remarks upon the other five
"symptoms," none of which are of any special interest, except to
collectors to whose eccentricities they particularly relate.

As to "Autograph Editions," the craze for these continues without
abatement. To me, this has always been one of the unsolved mysteries
of the book-mania. I can readily appreciate how a collector would
prize an author's inscribed copy of some choice edition, but why
intelligent people should be allured into the belief that an author's
stereotyped autograph displayed upon a front page gives any added
value to a set of subscription books, will to me, I fear, forever
remain a disentangled enigma. I was once applied to by an agent
representing a $6000 "Autograph Edition" of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Having never seen Rousseau's autograph, I asked that it be shown me.
"Oh," said the agent, "Rousseau himself don't sign the copies, but the
set will be signed by the publishers." Would not a much less expensive
and more expeditious way of obtaining publishers' autographs be found
in writing a postal card of inquiry for the "prices and terms" on
their publications?

Gilpin has left the following quaint account of the eccentric old
bibliomaniac, Henry Hastings, the uncompanionable neighbor of Anthony
Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. The accompanying pen-and-ink sketch
represents Louis Maynelle's idealization of this interesting
character; it was made especially for this volume:--

"Mr. Hastings was low of stature, but strong and active, of a ruddy
complexion, with flaxen hair. His clothes were always of green cloth.
His house was of the old fashion; in the midst of a large park, well
stocked with deer, rabbits, and fish-ponds. He had a long narrow
bowling green in it, and used to play with round sand bowls. Here too
he had a banqueting room built, like a stand in a large tree.


"He kept all sorts of hounds that ran buck, fox, hare, otter, and
badger; and had hawks of all kinds, both long and short winged. His
great hall was commonly strewed with marrow-bones, and full of
hawk-perches, hounds, spaniels, and terriers. The upper end of it was
hung with fox-skins of this and the last year's killing. Here and
there a polecat was intermixed and hunter's poles in great abundance.
The parlour was a large room, completely furnished in the same style.
On a broad hearth, paved with brick, lay some of the choicest
terriers, hounds and spaniels. One or two of the great chairs had
litters of cats in them, which were not to be disturbed. Of these,
three or four always attended him at dinner, and a little white wand
lay by his trencher, to defend it if they were too troublesome. In the
windows, which were very large, lay his arrows, cross-bows, and other
accoutrements. The corners of the room were filled with his best
hunting and hawking poles. His oyster table stood at the lower end of
the room, which was in constant use twice a day, all the year round;
for he never failed to eat oysters both at dinner and supper, with
which the neighbouring town of Pool supplied him.

"At the upper end of the room stood a small table with a double desk,
one side of which held a church Bible; the other the _Book of
Martyrs_. On different tables in the room lay hawks' hoods, bells, old
hats with their crowns thrust in, full of pheasant eggs, tables, dice,
cards, and store of tobacco pipes. At one end of this room was a door,
which opened into a closet, where stood bottles of strong beer and
wine, which never came out but in single glasses, which was the rule
of the house, for he never exceeded himself nor permitted others to

"Answering to this closet was a door into an old chapel, which had
been long disused for devotion; but in the pulpit, as the safest
place, was always to be found a cold chine of beef, a venison pasty, a
gammon of bacon, or a great apple-pye, with thick crust, well baked.
His table cost him not much, though it was good to eat at. His sports
supplied all but beef and mutton, except on Fridays, when he had the
best of fish. He never wanted a London pudding, and he always sang it
in with 'My part lies therein-a.' He drank a glass or two of wine at
meals; put syrup of gilly-flowers into his sack, and had always a tun
glass of small beer standing by him, which he often stirred about with
rosemary. He lived to be an hundred, and never lost his eyesight, nor
used spectacles. He got on horseback without help, and rode to the
death of the stag till he was past four-score."

It is said of George Steevens, the famous Shakespearian collector,
that he "lived in a retired and eligibly situated house, just on the
rise of Hampstead Heath. It was paled in, and had immediately before
it a verdant lawn skirted with a variety of picturesque trees. Here
Steevens lived, embosomed in books, shrubs and trees, being either too
coy or too unsociable to mingle with his neighbours. His habits were
indeed peculiar: not much to be envied or imitated, as they sometimes
betrayed the flights of a madman and sometimes the asperities of a
cynic. His attachments were warm but fickle both in choice and
duration. He would frequently part from one with whom he had lived on
terms of close intimacy, without any assignable cause, and his
enmities once fixed were immovable. There was indeed a kind of venom
in his antipathies, nor would he suffer his ears to be assailed or his
heart to relent in favour of those against whom he entertained
animosities, however capricious and unfounded. In one pursuit only was
he consistent: one object only did he woo with an inflexible
attachment; and that object was Dame Drama."

In Dibdin's Bibliomaniacal romance, "Philemon" is credited with the
following narrative concerning one who was probably a bibliomaniac in
all that the compound sense of the term implies:--

"You all know my worthy friend Ferdinand, a very _helluo librorum_.
It was on a warm evening in summer, about an hour after sunset, that
Ferdinand made his way towards a small inn or rather village alehouse
that stood on a gentle eminence skirted by a luxuriant wood. He
entered, oppressed with heat and fatigued, but observed, on walking up
to the porch 'smothered with honeysuckles,' as I think Cowper
expresses it, that everything around bore the character of neatness
and simplicity. The hollyhocks were tall and finely variegated in
blossom, the pinks were carefully tied up, and roses of all colours
and fragrance stood around in a compacted form like a body-guard
forbidding the rude foot of trespasser to intrude. Within, Ferdinand
found corresponding simplicity and comfort.

"The 'gude man' of the house was spending the evening with a
neighbour, but poached eggs and a rasher of bacon, accompanied with a
flagon of sparkling ale, gave our guest no occasion to doubt the
hospitality of the house on account of the absence of its master. A
little past ten, after reading some dozen pages in a volume of Sir
Edgerton Brydges's _Censura Literaria_, which he happened to carry
about him, and partaking pretty largely of the aforesaid eggs and ale,
Ferdinand called for his candle and retired to repose. His bedroom was
small but neat and airy; at one end and almost facing the window there
was a pretty large closet with the door open; but Ferdinand was too
fatigued to indulge any curiosity about what it might contain.

"He extinguished his candle and sank upon his bed to rest. The heat
of the evening seemed to increase. He became restless, and throwing
off his quilt and drawing his curtain aside, turned towards the window
to inhale the last breeze which yet might be wafted from the
neighbouring heath. But no zephyr was stirring. On a sudden a broad
white flash of lightning--nothing more than summer heat--made our
bibliomaniac lay his head upon his pillow and turn his eyes in an
opposite direction. The lightning increased; and one flash more vivid
than the rest illuminated the interior of the closet and made manifest
an old mahogany book-case stored with books. Up started Ferdinand and
put his phosphoric treasures into action. He lit his match and trimmed
his candle and rushed into the closet, no longer mindful of the
heavens, which now were in a blaze with the summer heat.

"The book-case was guarded both with glass and brass wires; and the
key--nowhere to be found! Hapless man! for to his astonishment he saw
_Morte d'Arthur_, printed by Caxton--_Richard Coeur de Lion_, by W. de
Worde--_The Widow Edyth_, by Pynson--and, towering above the rest, a
large-paper copy of the original edition of _Prince's Worthies of
Devon_, while lying transversely at the top reposed John Weever's

"'The spirit of Captain Cox is here revived,' exclaimed Ferdinand;
while on looking above he saw a curious set of old plays with _Dido,
Queen of Carthage_, at the head of them! What should he do? No key! No
chance of handling such precious tomes till the morning light with the
landlord returned!

"He moved backwards and forwards with a hurried step, prepared his
pocketknife to cut out the panes of glass and untwist the brazen
wires; but a 'prick of conscience' made him desist from carrying his
wicked design into execution. Ferdinand then advanced towards the
window, and, throwing it open and listening to the rich notes of a
concert of nightingales, forgot the cause of his torments--his
situation reminded him of _The Churl and the Bird_--he rushed with
renewed madness into the cupboard, then searched for the bell, but
finding none, he made all sorts of strange noises. The landlady rose,
and, conceiving robbers to have broken into the stranger's room, came
and demanded the cause of the disturbance.

"'Madam,' said Ferdinand, 'is there no possibility of inspecting the
books in the cupboard? Where is the key?'

"'Alack, sir,' rejoined the landlady, 'what is there that thus
disturbs you in the sight of those books? Let me shut the closet-door
and take away the key of it, and you will then sleep in peace.'

"'Sleep in peace!' resumed Ferdinand; 'Sleep in wretchedness, you
mean! I can have no peace unless you indulge me with the key of the
book-case. To whom do such gems belong?'

"'Sir, they are not stolen goods!'

"'Madam, I ask pardon. I did not mean to question their being honest
property, but'--

"'Sir, they are not mine or my husband's.'

"'Who, madam, who is the lucky owner?'

"'An elderly gentleman of the name of--sir, I am not at liberty to
mention his name, but they belong to an elderly gentleman.'

"'Will he part with them? Where does he live? Can you introduce me to

"The good woman soon answered all Ferdinand's rapid queries, but the
result was by no means satisfactory to him.

"He learnt that these uncommonly scarce and precious volumes belonged
to an ancient gentleman whose name was studiously concealed, but who
was in the habit of coming once or twice a week, during the autumn, to
smoke his pipe and lounge over his books, sometimes making extracts
from them and sometimes making observations in the margin with a
pencil. Whenever a very curious passage occurred, he would take out a
small memorandum book and put on a pair of large tortoise-shell
spectacles with powerful magnifying glasses in order to insert this
passage with particular care and neatness. He usually concluded his
evening amusements by sleeping in the very bed in which Ferdinand had
been lying.

"Such intelligence only sharpened the curiosity and increased the
restlessness of poor Ferdinand. He retired to his bibliomaniacal bed,
but not to repose. The morning sunbeams, which irradiated the bookcase
with complete effect, shone upon his pallid countenance and thoughtful
brow. He rose at five, walked in the meadows till seven, returned and
breakfasted, stole upstairs to take a farewell peep at his beloved
_Morte d'Arthur_, sighed 'three times and more,' paid his reckoning,
apologized for the night's adventure, told the landlady he would
shortly come and visit her again and try to pay his respects to the
anonymous old gentleman.

"'Meanwhile,' said he, 'I will leave no bookseller's shop in the
neighbourhood unvisited till I gain intelligence of his name and

"The landlady eyed him steadily, took a pinch of snuff with a
significant air, and returning with a smile of triumph to her kitchen,
thanked her stars that she had got rid of such a madman!"

To return, however, to the subject more immediately in hand, it
will be observed that the present age is more prolific of bibliophiles
than any preceding one, and that the growing interest in collecting
fine books is attended by a relatively increasing demand for a higher
standard of excellency of manufacture. A few years ago, there were
only two or three publishers in this country who "specialized" in fine
editions, while at present there are no less than thirty publishing
houses, large and small, and as many more "private presses" engaged in
the production of beautiful books to appease the demands of
book-buyers. Many of these are well established and conducted upon
thoroughly honest business principles; some, unfortunately, are not.
The publication and sale of books--especially the so-called "de luxe"
editions--is, like some other branches of industry, beset with
numerous evils; so many sharp practices, indeed, having been resorted
to by a few conscienceless publishers, and by a certain class of
unscrupulous agents, that buyers have become wary, not to say weary,
of being made the victims of their deceptive inventions. It is indeed
lamentable that a few such pestiferous schemers should thus bring a
certain degree of reproach upon the entire publishing business. It is
a common practice among these _soi-disant_ publishers--many of whom
possess neither capital, credit, nor sense of honor--to buy some lot
of etchings or old prints from a junk-shop, or second-hand dealer, at
a trifling price, and thereupon work the same off on credulous
admirers of rare prints for possibly a thousand times their real
value. And it is a common practice for these insidious sharks further
to prey upon unsuspecting book-buyers by obtaining publications of
reputable houses and falsifying them by the insertion of spurious
titles calculated to delude the buyer into the belief that there are
"only fifty copies issued." Many of them are ostracized book-salesmen
who have at some previous time enjoyed the confidence of their
employers, but have been ex-communicated by all honest publishers and
booksellers on account of dishonest proclivities. They are therefore
set adrift to prey upon the public, and are a constant menace to both
publishers and buyers. I shall pay my further respects to these
counterfeiters later on when I come to the subject of Book Clubs; in
the mean while, it need hardly be pointed out that reprehensible
methods of this kind are uniformly condemned among all respectable
publishers and book-dealers, and that buyers should cautiously
discriminate against those who practice them. It is not surprising
that even the honest publishers and dealers themselves are
occasionally made the scapegoats of these obnoxious parasites; but the
astute collector is rarely "caught" by their schemes; and after a
book-buyer has passed the primary or "experience" stages of
book-collecting, he (or she) is designated as a "dead one," in the
common parlance of the underground trade here referred to. Fortunate,
indeed, are the bibliophiles who have passed unscathed into the
category of "dead ones."

That my present condemnatory observations are not directed against
that great majority of publishers, booksellers, and agents whose
methods in business are founded upon sincerity and integrity, will, I
take it, be clearly understood; and I am, indeed, forced partially to
disagree with Mr. Joline in his vigorous and general proscription of
"subscription book-agents," for experience shows that there are many
worthy people of this class, however much they may suffer by the sins
of some of their kind. An acquaintance once said to me that he would
"_never buy another book_," because he had been "buncoed" by a
book-agent, to whom he otherwise referred with an uncomplimentary
adjective. But this did not convince me that his position was more
logical than that of the man who declared he would never take another
bath because a watch had been stolen from his pocket while he was in
bathing at some beach resort. It is incomprehensible that any one
could imagine that our paper currency system is fraudulent because
there are a few "green-goods" men in the country, or because
counterfeit bills appear every now and then.

We read so much in the papers nowadays of the extravagant sums paid
for rare books by our modern millionaire bibliomaniacs that one is apt
to become somewhat panic-stricken upon experiencing the first symptoms
of the bibliomania. While these more opulent victims of book-madness
vie with one another in the auction-room, the rational bibliophile
sits in the gallery and views with silent awe and amazement the
scrimmage over some apparently trifling volume that wouldn't fetch ten
cents, but for the fact that it is "unique," and that so and so paid a
stupendous sum for it at some previous sale. Despair not, dear
bibliophile, of never being able to join in the mad scramble for these
"uniques;" nor need you feel that they are essential to the formation
of a library. They possess no virtues perceptible to the ordinary
bibliophile, and it requires all the eloquence of a Cicero to
elucidate their charms when displaying them to friends. For after all,
the chief point of interest in such books is their cost price, and
this you may be obliged to refrain from mentioning for fear you will
be accused of being mentally unbalanced.

It is not necessary to squander a fortune in collecting a library,
nor to be hasty in buying every book you come across. Better go slowly
and select wisely; you will derive more enjoyment from it, and in
later years have less to charge to "experience account."

There are a few "busy" book-collectors who intrust the selection of
their books to secretaries or librarians, and thus sacrifice the
keenest enjoyment of this captivating pursuit. Of all absurdities,
this seems the most insupportable. It would be far more sensible to
have your secretary select your friends, because if you should happen
not to like these, you could abandon them without ceremony or expense.
Why not also attend the opera and your various social functions by
proxy, through your secretary? If he were as good a courtier as he is
"literary adviser," he might succeed in getting as much enjoyment out
of the receptions and dinners as you would, if you were to attend in
person. Then, think of the _time_ you would save! We frequently hear
the remark: "I have no time to devote to my library. I am very fond of
books, but haven't time to collect or read them." And yet seeing what
may be done in this regard by care and system, and that the greatest
readers have been the busiest men, it seems strange that persons of
intelligence should thus express themselves; should admit such obvious
fatuity of view and procedure.

In referring to this class of book-buyers, Roswell Field says, "The
book-lover, so-called, who lacks any of the thrills that go with the
_establishment_ as well as the enjoyment of a library in all of its
appointments has deprived himself of many of the most pleasurable
literary and semi-literary emotions. That bibliophile never pats his
horse or his dog. To him his books are merely tools of trade,
accessories to knowledge, to be pawed over, thrown away and replaced
by new copies when worn out. He glories in the fact that his books are
his servants rather than his companions, and he affects to despise and
laugh at the sentimental relation which others have established with
their books. Look out for that man! He is not of us; he is not of the
elect; there is as little of warmth and the genial glow of fellowship
in his library as in the middle gallery of the catacombs in the Appian
Way. His very books cry out against him; but he hears them not, for he
is deaf as well as blind."

One of the busiest men in New York City, whose name is familiar in
financial circles throughout the civilized world, is one of the most
voracious collectors of the age. He probably transacts more business
in a day than half a dozen ordinarily busy men, and yet finds time to
give his personal attention to every minute detail of his vast
collections, to which are added hundreds, and probably thousands, of
items every year. This is only one of many such examples among our
busiest men.

I have often heard persons lament in a pensive and apologetic sort of
way, "Yes, I have a great weakness for fine books." The very presence
of this mis-called weakness, however, is unmistakable proof of great
mental strength, and those who suffer from it may find solace in the
fact that the giants of commerce, leading statesmen, and great men of
affairs in general are frequently thus afflicted all through the
periods of their greatest activity and success. What can possibly
afford a more agreeable relaxation from the toils and perplexities of
the day than to recline in an easy chair before an open grate fire in
the library, surrounded by the silently reposing tomes which record
and preserve the noblest thoughts of past and present generations?
Surely no enjoyment in the home or office can be more delectable and
unfailing in assuaging the worry and solicitude of a strenuous life
than the silent companionship of books. It is a noteworthy fact that a
large percentage of the leading stock brokers, bankers, active
statesmen, and sedulous lawyers are bibliophiles. I attribute this to
the fact that all of these vocations are extremely taxing upon the
nervous system, and those men who are busily engaged in them are,
during the intermittent hours of rest and recreation, naturally
inclined to seek the most enjoyable and refreshing diversions; for, as
Horace says,--

    . . . nunc veterum libris, nunc somno et inertibus horis
    Ducere sollicitae jocunda oblivia vitae.

    Along with old books, or a nap, and divine hours of leisure--
    To taste thus forgetfulness--sweet, in the midst of life's troubles.

In an article written for The Bibliophile Society's (1903) Year
Book, Caroline Ticknor says, "The true book-lover loves his books for
their helpfulness, for their companionship; but he regards them as
well for their elegant settings." She also observes that "strange as
the anomaly may seem, there are still many persons of ample means, and
some education, who, although they would be horrified at the very
thought of admitting to the home a cheap rug or vase, to destroy the
harmony and bring discord and confusion into the luxuriance of the
furnishings, yet will nonchalantly tolerate the incongruity of a
miserable fragment of a library made up of the cheapest and meanest
editions to be found in the market, such as would be scorned by those
of the most limited means and plebeian tastes. These will be found
inappropriately housed amid the most sumptuous surroundings. A single
rug to adorn the floor, or a single vase resting on a mantle, will
often be found to have cost ten times as much as the whole home
library. And yet the intellects of these people have been nurtured and
trained in their youth by the brilliant thoughts of ancient and modern
writers! Even the favorite author, be it Shakespeare, Dickens,
Longfellow, Tennyson, or some other, is frequently represented by a
half dozen or so disconsolate-looking volumes, the remainder of the
set either never having been bought, or else, if bought, thrown aside,
or strewn around the attic, or abandoned as a child would discard a
toy which afforded it no further amusement.

"It is worthy of remark, however, that the enormously increased
demand of late for beautiful books evinces the fact that cultured and
wealthy people are growing to appreciate the importance not only of
having a good library, but that its quality should embody a degree of
estheticism to correspond with the surroundings."

Many of the most delightful persons, well read and competent to
discourse intelligently upon the merits of books and authors, have
never experienced a single pulsation of true bibliophilism; they have
never known the joy of possessing and admiring a beautiful book, and
that the attachment one bears for such a treasure is wholly
reciprocal. They have not learned that fine books, like human beings,
are capable of mutual affection, and that it is not necessary to
devour them in order to value their charms. "We do not gather books to
read them, my Boeotian friend," says Mr. Joline; "the idea is a
childish delusion. 'In early life,' says Walter Bagehot, 'there is an
opinion that the obvious thing to do with a horse is to ride it; with
a cake, to eat it; with a sixpence to spend it.' A few boyish persons
carry this further, and think that the natural thing to do with a book
is to read it. The mere reading of a rare book is a puerility, an
idiosyncrasy of adolescence; it is the _ownership_ of the book which
is the matter of distinction. The collector of coins does not
accumulate his treasures for the purpose of ultimately spending them
in the marketplace. The lover of postage-stamps, small as his horizon
may be, does not hoard his colored bits of paper with the intent to
employ them in the mailing of letters. When some one complained to
Bedford that a book which he had bound did not shut properly, he
exclaimed, 'Why, bless me, sir, you've been _reading_ it!'"

Herrick says that "the truest owner of a library is he who has bought
each book for the love he bears to it; who is happy and content to
say, 'Here are my jewels, my choicest possessions!'" Seneca, the great
Roman philologer, wrote: "If you are fond of books, you will escape
the _ennui_ of life; you will neither sigh for evening, disgusted with
the occupations of the day, nor will you live dissatisfied with
yourself or unprofitable with others." "I am quite transported and
comforted in the midst of my books," says the younger Pliny, who was
an ardent book-fancier; "they give a zest to the happiest and assuage
the anguish of the bitterest moments of existence. Therefore, whether
distracted by the cares or losses of my family or my friends, I fly to
my library as the only refuge in distress: here I learn to bear
adversity with fortitude."

Southey thus immortalizes his speechless, yet beloved, library

    My never failing friends are they,
    With whom I converse day by day.

Balfour is no less eloquent in paying worthy tribute to his library:
"The world may be kind or hostile; it may seem to us to be hastening
on the wings of enlightenment and progress to an imminent millennium,
or it may weigh us down with the sense of insoluble difficulty and
irremediable wrong; but whatever else it may be, so long as we have
good health and a library, it can never be dull."

"Bookes," said the immortal Milton, "demeane themselves as well as
men. Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie
of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they
are: nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and
extraction of that living intellect that bred them. Unlesse warinesse
be us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a
man kills a reasonable creature, God's Image; but Hee who destroys a
good Booke, kills reason itselfe, kills the image of God, as it were
in the eye."

In the garnering of book-treasures, some collectors are prompted
wholly by mercenary motives--most of them, fortunately, are not. There
are biblio-mercenaries of such sordid inclinations that they would
readily part with almost any book in their possession,--even inscribed
presentation copies!--if lightly tempted with money considerations.
Verily, these parsimonious traders would barter their own souls, if
they possessed any value.

I am indebted to the Secretary of a well-known book club for the
following facts, to confirm which I saw all the correspondence. A
certain book-buyer joined the club some time ago, and subscribed for
the first publication issued after he became a member. Upon receiving
the work he wrote: "I consider them among the most beautiful examples
of book-making that I have ever seen, and prize them above all other
books in my library." Six months later he sold the copy to a
book-agent for twice its original cost. He "passed" the next
publication issued by the club, as it did not interest him, but
appended a postscript to his letter, saying: "If any member wants an
extra copy, I have no objection to one being issued upon my membership
and turned over to him, provided I receive the increase in price."

The following humorous incident is recorded in the (1903) Year Book
of another prominent book club. It may be explained that the club
issued a very elaborate and beautiful publication, printed upon deckle
edge handmade paper, illustrated with remarque proof copperplate
etchings on Japanese vellum, and in duplicate without remarque on
Whatman paper: "One of the members upon receiving the first two
volumes of the ---- publication, writes: 'The Society starts out by
making the worst kind of a blunder. The man's picture in the front of
the volume is put in twice and on _two kinds of paper_. I could excuse
this error, but imagine my horror when upon turning to the back of the
volume I found the _same mistake repeated_. This is too much.' He
closed by expressing a desire to resign, saying that he did not know
he 'was joining a faddists club,' and takes occasion to remark further
that 'the books are cheaply finished, not even being trimmed and
gilded;' also that he 'can buy better books in the stores, _with full
gilt edges_, for less money.'"

So much has been written about the vagaries of book-collectors and
bibliomaniacs that the subject has long since become threadbare, and
about the only unexplored field of labor left to the choice of him who
would gain a hearing with the reader--if one can be found who is not
already weary of reading what the wags think of his (or her) own
peculiar whims--is to fall in with the spirit of the age and compile
an "International Library of the World's Greatest Gibberish about
Bibliomaniacs." We have the "World's Greatest" everything else in
book-lore, and I shall not be surprised if some enterprising publisher
gets out a "definitive" _de luxe_ edition of the "World's Greatest
Dictionaries." Indeed, the Holy Bible itself has not escaped, for they
are now making a "de luxe" edition, in fourteen volumes! to be sold by
subscription. It will not be an "Autograph Edition," however.

The freaks and fancies of capricious book-gatherers and bibliomaniacs
have undergone so few changes in the last hundred years that modern
writers on Bibliomania, after vainly searching the horizon for some new
development in the way of symptoms of the disease, or characteristics of
those afflicted, have wandered off into the verdure of adjacent fields
to avoid repetition. Some of them, from sheer lack of anything new to
say, have set upon each other in the most unflattering terms. Many of
the writers on the delectable "Joys of a Book-buyer," or "Habits of a
Bibliomaniac," etc., evidently appreciate the fact that these much
persecuted human beings have other pastimes and habits than collecting
books, and that they really inhabit the earth in all its civilized parts
and partake unstintedly of its many pleasurable diversions. But again,
there is another extreme, for I once read a book issued under the
misleading title of "Pleasures of a Book-collector," or something of the
sort, which might have been more appropriately called the "Pleasures of
a Single Man," seeing that the work had more to do with the hero's
hopeless love for a fair damsel, and his hours at clubs, cafés, and
other places of amusement in which I had no special interest, than it
did with the acquirement of literature. Thus, with the delusive idea
that I was to be ushered into some of the secret enjoyments of the
pleasing diversion of book-buying, I presently found myself more
familiar with the habits, vices, and various unimportant matters of the
author's conception--points, in short, having no bearing whatever upon
the subject under consideration--than with the pleasures of a
book-collector. The book was not badly written, nor wholly
uninteresting; but if a man buys a ticket to the opera, he doesn't go
prepared to see a cock-fight.

For literary scoffers and malcontents who find fault with everything
and everybody, who even scold publishers because their own books bring
but meagre royalties, who fuss and fume over the harmless foibles of
the very ones upon whom they depend for their audience, and like an
ungrateful dog fasten their teeth in the charitable hand that offers
them food, there can be but small sympathy. One is tempted to enlarge
upon this familiar type, but here I am digressing from my subject, and
am committing much the same offence as that of which I have elsewhere
accused others.

I have been asked to include within the scope of my article a few
remarks about Book Clubs and Book Societies. In presuming to trespass
upon sacred yet inviting ground of this character, I must be
understood as approaching the subject with due reverence and apology.
It is an indisputable fact that among the agencies that have
contributed to the advancement and ennobling of the bookmaker's art in
the past twenty years, the legitimate Book Club has been one of the
most potential. We have only to refer to _Growell's American Book
Clubs_ in order to learn of the many clubs and societies of this kind
which have arisen in the past few years, with varying degrees of
success and failure,--success, when intelligently conducted upon
honest coöperative principles, and failure, if irrationally directed,
without regard to the maxims upon which successful clubs are managed.
The province of these worthy accessories in the world of fine
bookmaking has not been free from invasion by sharks and charlatans,
some of whom have succeeded for a time under the guise of honest and
reciprocal motives.

In this country there are private book clubs and societies that have
won places of enviable distinction both here and abroad, and naturally
among the foremost of these are the ones which have been pestered by
"imitators." The following significant remarks are taken from the
president's annual address to the members of an old and honored book

"Fame brings its penalties, and during the last year many of us have
suffered considerable annoyance, both individually and as members of
the Club, through the exploitation of books advertised sometimes as
publications of The ---- Club, and more often as publications of the
---- Society. These have usually been offered in connection with works
of distinguished authors in numerous volumes, stated, as a rule, to be
limited to a thousand copies, and described as the contents of the
private library of a lady, which the agent declares to have been
placed in his hands to dispose of as quickly as possible, regardless
of cost. No widow's cruse, apparently, could be more unfailing in its
supply than this 'private library.' While annoying, the device of a
'---- Society,' though manifestly designed to confuse the public mind
and trade on the reputation of this Club, can scarcely deceive our
members or even the book-loving public. It, nevertheless, is an
annoyance, and the more vexatious because scarcely calling for other
remedy than exposure.

"It is possible, however, that harm to the good name of the Club may
be wrought through the advertisement, in an English newspaper, to
which my attention has been drawn, of a so-called '---- Society of
Great Britain,' which is declared to have been recently formed in
conjunction with the '---- Society of the United States,' which is
described as having been established in 1884, and to have occupied its
own Club House since 1888, and to have published handsomely printed
books for sale exclusively to the members. It is announced, however,
that the '---- Society of Great Britain,' although intending to act in
conjunction with the American society, 'will work upon somewhat
different lines, at any rate at first.' It may well be that this
cleverly deceptive advertisement will require some attention from us,
either directly or through members resident abroad.

"This, however, seems to be the only fly in our ointment, and we may
congratulate ourselves that there is nothing more serious to disturb
our enjoyment of the anniversary which we now celebrate."

Another and more palpable fraud has been perpetrated in copying the
name of The Bibliophile Society, but with a slight prefix, just enough
to afford a loop-hole through which to escape legal prosecution. Not
enough, however, to enable the public to distinguish between the
spurious and the genuine, and even the members themselves have
sometimes been deceived by unscrupulous agents representing their
wares as the regular productions of the valid society. The audacious
promoters of this so-called Society had the boldness not only to
pilfer the name of the legitimate society, but also the name of its
president, which was ostentatiously printed upon their letter heads,
together with the name of Dr. Richard Garnett. Both of these gentlemen
have recently published their denunciations through the columns of the
press, and protested vigorously against this unauthorized use of their

The _modus operandi_ of this pestiferous concern is to send numbered
"complimentary certificates" throughout the country to persons whose
names are obtainable from directories, and when acknowledgment cards
are received from those who deign to accept the exalted compliment,
they are forthwith called upon, usually by some "officer" of the
Society,--sometimes the "President," but usually the "Treasurer,"
"Secretary," or "Registrar."

Some time ago I was honored by a call from one of these circumventive
"Treasurers," but happened to be conveniently busy at the time, and so
made an appointment with him to meet me at my office the next day.
Meanwhile, I prepared to have his statements reduced to writing by a
stenographer, anticipating that it might be necessary to refresh my
memory upon certain passages that I might fail to remember verbatim.
The following is the substance of the "canvass" as taken by the
stenographer in an adjoining room, the door of which was wide open:--

"I am the Treasurer of the ---- Society, with headquarters in
London. By a special grant from the English Government, we have
recently been permitted to extend our membership into this country,
and three hundred life members are to be admitted under this
enlargement of our constitutional privileges. It may interest you,
first, to know something of the origin of this Society. It was
organized in London about three hundred years ago by the Duke of
Roxburghe [who was not born until more than a hundred years later],
and was originally composed of about thirty members of the royal
family. The original charter limited the membership to fifty members,
and in less than a month the limit was reached. Through the powerful
influence of the royal family the Society had easy access to all the
great repositories of unpublished manuscripts, and the most valuable
and interesting of them were selected for publication. These
publications became so enormously valuable that it stimulated a desire
on the part of others to join the Society, and particularly, some of
the nobility of France and Germany. It was decided to increase the
membership to three hundred, and to take in a few members from France,
Germany, Italy, and Russia. The Society thrived for about a thousand
years [this is either a stenographic error, or else he meant to say a
hundred]; then there was a period of inactivity, and later on it was
revived again, and the membership limit increased to five hundred.
Last year we obtained permission to again increase the membership by
taking in three hundred prominent people in America. I am over here to
arrange for three vice-presidents,--two for the East and one for the
West. I have a special commission to ask you to become one of the
honorary vice-presidents and to offer you a life membership for less
than half the regular fee, viz., $225.00; the usual fee for life
membership is $500.00, but you get it for $225.00 on account of acting
as our honorary vice-president for this territory. Of course you would
have no regular duties to perform. You would sign all the membership
certificates in your district, and in case of the death of any member,
you would have the privilege of naming his successor.

"The Society issues every year a volume giving all the price
currents for the year, and keeps the members posted on the advance or
decline in the value of all important publications. We also give you
in confidence the ratings of various publishers, and print reports to
members exposing all the frauds in the book business. Upon payment of
the fee of $225.00, you receive all of this material free, for the
balance of your life, and in addition all of the Society's regular
publications, including the present one, consisting of ---- volumes
[here he produced the customary specimen sheets]. You see this one
work alone is worth the full amount you pay for life membership [here
occurred a "special offer" of some sort, given in a low monotone which
the stenographer was unable to hear; and I must confess that I was so
stupefied by this astounding fabrication that I myself have not the
faintest recollection of what this "special offer" consisted]. We are
very anxious to have your name as our honorary vice-president here,
because you will not only be an honor to the Society, but the Society
will be an honor to you."

Here my Treasurer friend produced a regular form of subscription
contract for a set of books; but it contained no clause about life
membership, or any other membership, and included no promise of
anything further than the delivery of the books.

The honor of such a vice-presidency being thrust upon me was indeed a
thrilling sensation, and the story was told in a fluent, cohesive, and
logical manner; so well, in fact, that had I not known in advance that
it was purely imaginary from beginning to end, I could scarcely have
avoided giving it full acceptance. But I had heard of the story
before, and although partially prepared, it staggered me surprisingly.
I afterwards learned that every one else canvassed by my interviewer
was equally offered one of the "three vice-presidencies."

There appears to be no defense for book clubs against these bogus
impersonations. The injured club, or society, can sustain no claim for
any special damage, because, as not offering its publications in the
open market, it actually suffers no ascertainable loss of patronage.
The principal damage results to those who are thus victimized in
permitting themselves to be deluded into the belief that they are
acquiring the valid editions of reputable clubs. When club
publications come into the open market they are usually picked up with
avidity by collectors, and they have thus grown into very general
favor among book-lovers. Indeed, the high esteem in which they have
come to be regarded offers a productive field for a few crafty
publishers to ply their wily designs in. The audacity of these
schemers carries them to such incredible measures that they sometimes
buy sheet-stock from reputable publishing houses, change the name of
the edition, and deliberately manufacture new titles on which they
print the name of some book club or society. These counterfeits are
sold to the unsuspecting book-buyer, who often imagines he has landed
a prize. Later, he is likely to become disillusioned. There can be no
doubt that the contemptible practice of thus mutilating and garbling
books should be defined as a felony and made punishable by fine or
imprisonment. Book-buyers, however, can in a measure help the
situation and protect themselves by not dealing with such people; they
should particularly remember that creditable book clubs _never_ employ
soliciting agents, and rarely, if ever, offer their publications for
sale outside of the membership. Any one, therefore, representing
himself as an authorized agent of a book club may usually be branded
as an impostor. Most book clubs print only such number of copies of
each publication as are subscribed and paid for by members in advance,
and the funds thus advanced are used to pay the cost of the edition.

Notwithstanding the evils referred to, the book club is with us to
stay, and the very fact that it is continually pestered by these
hangers-on is conclusive proof of its potency and usefulness; features
which insure its secure foundation in the community.

Very few people are able to appreciate the amount of gratuitous labor
performed by the officers and committees of private book clubs. It is
erroneous to suppose that beautiful books are a purely natural
offspring of the book club. The preparation of the material for
publication and successfully following it through all the various
stages of manufacture requires an enormous amount of detail work, as
well as an accurate knowledge of bookmaking. The president of a
prominent book club recently said, in his annual address to the

"I wish that our members could be witnesses at the many conferences
held by the Committee on Publications and by the Council; of the
various experiments needed to settle upon the size and shape of the
book, the size of its page and its margins, the style of type, the
initial letters, head-bands, tail-pieces, engravings, etc. etc.; of
the printer's endless proofs, the making of a special paper (which
sometimes proves to be unsuited), and, finally, the style of binding.
What material, color, and general make-up shall it have? If our
members could thus follow the progress of the work from beginning to
finish they would be reconciled to disappointment. At any rate it is
through their subscriptions that these experiments can be undertaken,
and it is by knowledge thus gained that the Club has won credit for
the Arts and Crafts of our country, and made an honorable record even
in other lands; so that to be a member of the Club has become an
enviable distinction."

Owing to the tricks and stratagem practiced in _manufacturing_ "de
luxe" editions, some of our bibliophiles have taken matters of
bookmaking into their own hands, with the result that they have
organized clubs and societies, the members of which take much pleasure
in introducing to their library companions each year one or two
charming new acquaintances which come bearing the club's seal of
endorsement. A true bibliophile always feels a just pride in shelving
one of these book-treasures of his own club's production, and
thereafter displaying it before his friends, with the interesting bit
of information that "This is the latest production of _our Club_; it
is issued _only for members_." For obviously an owner's interest in
any work is increased many fold by the fact that he is a constituent
part of the organization which produced the same: the relationship to
the book in such a case is akin to the love of a parent for a child;
and the owner of a fine library will not unusually regard his Club
publications and privately printed books as the objects therein which
are entitled to his fondest consideration.

I have recently taken occasion to examine with considerable care the
latest publications of the leading book clubs of this country, and to
compare them with some of the first issues of these same clubs. The
improvement in the later productions over the earlier ones astonished
me. There were as good artists, editors, binders, type, paper, ink,
and other accessories twenty years ago as we have now, and indeed it
is doubtful if our modern printing presses show much improvement in
the quality of work during that time; but it would seem that
persistent effort along the lines of experimental work has been
generously rewarded by a steady improvement in the general results now
attained. Nor is the situation injured by a slight tinge of friendly
rivalry among clubs, to lend an additional zest to their labors, and
to whet the praiseworthy ambition of each to make every succeeding
issue a little better than the last. There are many zealous
bibliophiles who belong to two or three book clubs at once, finding it
interesting to collect and compare the works produced by the several

Many of our great scholars as well as leading publishers are members
of these book clubs, and serve on the councils and various committees;
so it must not be supposed by skeptics that their publications are in
the slightest degree amateurish. They employ the best talent and
materials; the councils and publication committees, as well, being
composed of persons of unquestioned integrity, who possess an
intelligent understanding of bookmaking.

Some of these clubs (particularly those whose membership is largely
local) have commodious quarters where the members may meet at all
times, whether to discuss matters of common business interest, to
exchange their latest jokes, or to generally discuss book-lore and
other congenial topics. The social features of some of the book clubs
are, however, reduced to the occasions of the annual meetings and
dinners. The "Club-Room Question," in one of these organizations
having a membership of five hundred, distributed in one hundred and
sixty-seven cities and towns in this country and abroad, was recently
reported upon by the Council as follows:--

    The question of providing and maintaining club rooms and
    establishing a suitable library for the Society has been more
    or less discussed since its incorporation. The Council has not
    found that spacious and luxuriously furnished rooms are an
    important requisite in accomplishing the expressed purpose and
    limitations of the Society. These, according to Article I. of
    the Constitution and By-laws, are to be "the study and
    promotion of the arts pertaining to fine bookmaking and
    illustrating, and the occasional publication of specially
    designed and illustrated books, for distribution among its
    members at a minimum cost of production."

    Then, too, while our membership is entirely homogeneous in
    bibliomaniacal spirit, it is so scattered over such a vast
    expanse of territory that only a small percentage of the
    members would be able to enjoy club-room privileges; even
    those within easy reach of such rooms would probably not
    frequent them enough to justify any considerable expense in
    maintenance. It would be necessary, also, to change the
    present constitution (and to assess the members for annual
    dues in order to meet current expenses), should the club-room
    idea be carried out. This would be objectionable on various
    grounds, and amongst these, because a non-resident member
    might thus be paying an annual fee without receiving any
    corresponding benefit in return; a condition in such case
    which would be tantamount to his meeting an increased charge
    each year for the privilege of subscribing and paying for the
    Society's publications. Hence, the Council do not see their
    way to entertaining or recommending the club-room feature. But
    it is not supposed that the spirit of fellowship among our
    bibliophiles--naturally related as they are by a kindred
    interest--will in any degree suffer because of the lack of
    such facilities. A personal contact, however agreeable, does
    not seem essential. Certainly the many charming letters
    received from members whom we have never seen, go far to
    relieve the present lack in this regard, so far as the
    officers are concerned.

    As matters now stand, the Society has sufficiently comfortable
    quarters in one of the offices of the Treasurer, where the
    Council holds its meetings. These are found by experience to
    be quite ample for all practical purposes and present needs.

Collectors of manuscripts and of unique copies often furnish the book
clubs with valuable and otherwise unprocurable material to be printed
for the members. Last year one collector alone furnished gratuitously
to a society of which he is a member, many thousands of dollars' worth
of unpublished manuscripts of interesting historical matter to be
printed exclusively for its members. In this way much valuable
material is preserved in print, when it would otherwise remain forever
unpublished and unobtainable.

During the past few years it has been my pleasant privilege to spend
many hours of each week in concurrent labor with the Council in the
preparation of the publications of The Bibliophile Society, in which
Council I have had the honor to serve continuously since its

There is no pleasure more delectable, no joy more inspiring than that
of devising books which prove a delight to the eye and a satisfaction
to the artistic tastes of those who are competent to appreciate the
qualities that should characterize a perfectly made book.

I now realize as never before why it is that our busiest men of
affairs, and scholars of renown, are actuated to serve so assiduously
in this labor of love; for surely no amount of effort, however
laborious, can be regarded as having been in any sense misguided or
wasted when it elicits such approbation as expressed in the following
letter from Charles A. Decker, Esq., a fellow member, of New York

                                                March 15th, 1904.

    MR. H. H. HARPER, Treasurer,
      The Bibliophile Society,
        Colonial Building, Boston, Mass.


    My stock of superlatives is insufficient to adequately express
    my appreciation of "André's Journal." Keats must have had a
    psychic sense which enabled him to see the latest issue by our
    Society, and he had this in view when he wrote the opening
    line of _Endymion_. (Is n't "A thing of beauty," &c., the
    opening line?) Such books as the Council has planned are an
    education to bibliophiles; the work is progressive, for each
    issue is finer than the one which preceded it. Can any book be
    finer than "André's Journal"? If so, I can't conceive it. Such
    noble types, the pages so perfectly balanced; the margins so
    broad; the paper of such beautiful texture; the ink so
    brilliantly black; the maps so marvelously reproduced; the
    etchings so artistically conceived and executed and the title
    page so beautifully engraved; then the binding--real
    vellum--so rich, simple, and in such perfect taste; even the
    box-cover is fitting in every sense. A perfect book, it seems
    to me. If there are any shortcomings, and you know them, don't
    tell me of them, that in my ignorance I may be content.

    Please thank all the members of the Council for me. Somebody
    must have spent many, many hours in arriving at a final
    judgment upon all the parts which make up such a beautiful

    I have yet to enjoy the pleasure of _reading_ the "Journal,"
    then I will be thankful to Mr. Bixby and to Senator Lodge.

                      Yours sincerely,
                                      (Signed) CHARLES A. DECKER.

Mr. Decker is one of the many pleasant and appreciative members of
The Bibliophile Society whose personal acquaintance it has not been my
good fortune to make, but from whom the Society has received many
delightful and inspiring letters. The numerous communications thus
received from all quarters have been placed before the Council, with
the result that the individual interest of every worker has been
greatly augmented in the Society's welfare. Indeed, I attribute no
small measure of the success and the good name of the Society to the
indirect influence of such words of encouragement and expressions of
appreciation as have come from the members.

I sincerely wish for health and continued success to our worthy Book
Clubs, and regret that there are not more of them.

    Sit bona librorum . . . copia.


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