Saturday, May 22, 2010

Clement Yung: Bookman

An old Montreal book scout, Clement Yung, had been much on my mind recently. Why does someone from one's past enter into the conscious mind and preoccupy one's thoughts with memories of distant days? I can't say. Perhaps it was because I was rereading some of the Arthur Machen books he had sold me a long time ago. But, then again, he had been in my thoughts prior to my reaching for the books, being perhaps the stimulus towards that revisitation.

Having left Montreal over 7 years ago, I had lost touch with him, and since he was in my thoughts, I decided to look him up on the Internet in the hope of perhaps reconnecting and reliving the past. It was sad news to discover he had died on May 9th.

We were mildly competitive book scouts in the 1980s; I rarely scooped him. His superior knowledge made for a quicker eye-hand coordination. If I did come away the better at a sale, it was because I was lucky, turning left instead of right upon entering a sale room for instance. In the 1990s when I sought out the refuge of a regular paycheck in library work, we kept in touch and he was often a great help. Originally from England, he was well-known in Montreal as a knowledgeable book scout, unusual for his English accent, his colourful clothes and his independent competitive spirit--and in his early years for his astounding ability to carry boxes of books on a bicycle. I regret having lost touch. My thoughts are with you Clement.

Clement Yung (1946-2010)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Publisher's Devices: Harper & Brothers: Passing the Torch

Harper & Brothers can trace its roots to 1817 when, James and John Harper--true "partners" in the printing trade--having completed their apprenticeships, opened their own business called J. & J. Harper. They were initially job printers, John being know as the better compositor and James the better pressman. The first book to have their name on the title page was a book they printed for the publisher/bookseller, Evert Duychinck, Seneca's Morals by Way of Abstract. To Which is Added, a Discourse Under the Title of, an After-Thought by Sir Robert L'Estrange. Their first book as a publisher was an issue of Locke's Essay Upon the Human Understanding, an edition of 500 copies. The names Evert Duychkinck, Richard Scott, J. & B. Seaman and a few others were included on the title page as subscribers for agreeing to each take 100 copies for sale. A smart way of covering their production costs. The title pages of their early published works are quite elegant, clean and classical, the lines of type in upper case, alternating in larger and smaller sizes. There is no use of publisher's devices at this time. They changed their name in 1833 to Harper & Brothers, and the rest is quite a history. One source says that the firm came across the motto for their publisher's device as early as the 1830s, but I cannot find examples of it being used in their early imprints. It seems to become fairly common from the 1870s, and may have been a result of the improvement in printing presses. It seems cylinder presses which began in 1875 greatly aided the use of engraved cuts in the printing process.

Looking at a few older Harper & Brothers books, I found a number of variations on their device, and no doubt there are many others. Having no Greek, I always casually interpreted their motto according to the image, which seemed fairly straightforward, the handing on of the flame of knowledge. But with light research into various sources on Harper & Brothers, the quote is traced back to Plato's Republic, Book 1, and refers to a torch race at a Festival in honour of a Thracian Goddess: "Running in the race they pass the torch one to another." Harper & Brother's private office fitted out in the 1870s, had the words of George William Curtis inscribed over the chimney, a hearth motto for the office which is apparently a paraphrase of the house motto: "My flame expires, but let true hands pass on / An unextinquished torch from sire to son."

The device in the upper left corner is from an 1876 edition of Wilkie Collins. The torch, or "fax" in classical literarture, is described in the Harper Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities by T. H. Peck (New York, 1898) as: "The torch. The description of poets and mythologists, and the works of ancient art, represent the torch carried by Diana, Ceres, Bellona, Hymen, Phosphorus, by women in bacchanalian processions, and, in an inverted position, by Sleep and Death." (p. 664) The switch to a vertical device with a modified shield comes from a book published in 1906. The third image with what is likely laurel leaves with a more rustic torch is from a Harper & Brothers imprint from 1924. The fourth is from 1942 and the crown of leaves surrounds a torch that hearkens back to the original of 1876.

In 1962 the firm merged with Row, Peterson & Company to form Harper & Row. They kept the image of the torch alive in their modified publisher's device seen on the right. Even today, as HarperCollins, they have retained the torch in their device. A lengthy history of torch bearing there.

In The House of Harper: A Century of Publishing in Franklin Square by Joseph Henry Harper (1912)--from which I gleaned much of the information here--there are two anecdotes--out of many--that come to mind. The first is rather a sad story about the horse the brothers employed to run the presses when they were in their start-up years before they had advanced to steam. This horse for many years went around in circles to run the presses, with a midday break for its lunch. When they retired the horse to their father's farm, it would go in circles around a tree in the pasture, and at midday return to the barn for feeding, then return to the tree to continue its circular endeavors. The second story has the hallmark of the apocryphal but could possibly be true. John Kendrick Bangs, an author much connected with Harper, told the story of how his father and a good friend having left their club after a late dinner, came across a rather forlorn looking man leaning on a lamp post, his hat in the gutter. His father retrieved the hat and upon receipt, the man thanked him with magnanimous and eloquent courtesies. When his father inquired of the man's name, the man said with dignity, "Mr. Edgar Allan Poe." His father responded by saying that was very interesting as his name was "Tay" and his friend's name was "Toe", to which the afflicted author responded in kind, before walking off into the night, that they were well met, for together they made Potato. Poor old Poe. Speaking of Poe, in 1838, Harper & Brothers published one of his works, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. It must be one of the contenders for the longest subtitles on record. On first look, the layout of the typography detracts from the visual appeal of the title page, but on second look, it does seem to mimic a nautical vessel, and was likely a creative intention, the compositor doing the best they could with a seemingly intractable book title. The original imprint can be read here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Publisher's Devices: Greening & Co. Ltd.: One Crowded Hour

Greening & Co., Ltd. Books by this British publisher are probably a bit thin on the ground here in Canada, though most libraries and book dealers have probably handled them from time to time. I only have one copy, an imprint in their Lotus Library Series, The Kreutzer Sonata by Count Tolstoy, a revised translation by Ivan Lepinski, and published in 1911, a late issue from this publisher whose first issue was published in 1897. It is pleasantly bound in purple cloth with blindstamp designs of stylised lotus flowers. The title page sports a decorative border including their device, a stylised lotus blossom pictured here. The initials at the bottom right hand corner of the decorative border are W. G. M. which belong to W. G. Mein who I have to presume was the artist of the device itself. I came across Mein's name listed as the illustrator of a volume I mention below from a Greening & Co. catalogue from 1908. The Lotus Library consisted of works by de Musset, Louys, Gaboriau, Gautier, de Maupassant, Daudet, and Zola among others. Not knowing the history of this publisher, I began some light research and I started to form an idea of their place in the London publishing industry of the turn of the last century. Their advertisements at the back of many of their volumes reveal quite a bit: Popular Shilling Editions of L. T. Meade, Marie Corelli and Baroness Orczy among others; series such as Popular Fiction, Half-Crown Novels, Cheaper Fiction, and Popular Sixpennies. They also issued a series called the Masterpiece Library with books by the likes of Dumas, Beckford and Prosper Merimeé. Then there was their English Writers of To-day series with books on Algernon Charles Swinburne, Brett Harte, George Meredith, Hall Caine, Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Wing Pinero, and the above mentioned Lotus Library series. There was a book by Dan Leno and a book about Harry Lauder with advertisements for Lipton's Teas and Bovril. A few titles in their Court Series of French Memoirs including Recollections of Léonard: Hairdresser to Queen Marie Antoinette which sounds like a work of fiction but is evidently a true memoir.

Popular fiction titles by truly forgotten popular authors of the day included some interesting ones: The Pottle Papers; A Modern Christmas Carol (A "Dickensy" Story); Seven Nights with Satin; The Dupe; An Act of Impulse; A Doctor in Corduroy; A Suburban Scandal; The Loafer; The Cigarette Smoker; A Romance in Radium; The Weaver's Shuttle; The Woman in Black; Mad? (An Exciting Story of Predestination); The Tragedy of the Lady Palmist; The Puppets' Dallying; In the World of Mimes. 

There was an emphasis on the theatrical arts--even with much of the fiction--and a hint of the Yellow Book in their offerings, an afterglow of the aesthetic and decadent movements, which made me think the owner may have had an interest, or a past, in the theatre. One example being their book, Oscar Wilde, the Story of an Unhappy Friendship by Robert H. Sherard, (1905) a reprint of a book that was originally privately printed in 1902 and well-known for being the first biography of Wilde after his death in 1900. Another book on the theatrical side is Some Notable Hamlets of the Present Time by Clement Scott, with an appreciation of Mr. Clement Scott by L. Arthur Greening, and The Art of Elocution and Public Speaking by Ross Ferguson, with an introduction by George Alexander, and dedicated by permission to Miss Ellen Terry.

They also published various choices of literature such as Hudibras by Samuel Butler. This edition, with an introductory note by T. W. H. Crossland was issued with 12 illustrations after Hogarth and available in either Foolscap 8vo cloth, top-edge gilt, with bookmark, 2s. net, or in Leather, top-edge gilt, with bookmark at 3s. net. The Bookseller had this to say about it: "a most interesting reprint of Butler's celebrated poem in a form which strikes us as being entirely appropriate. The size of page, type and margin are both delightful to the eye of a booklover, and pleasantly reminiscent of the little volumes of the 17th century. While the fine paper, and the dozen excellent reproductions of Hogarth's well-known plays, the portrait of Butler himself, and the neat, artistic binding, make it, in its way, a miniature Edition de Luxe." Their range in production went from very cheap popular editions which probably disintegrated with use in the library systems, to the finer quality productions such as this Hudibras or another book by that C. Ranger Gull, The Adventures of Ulyssess, the Wanderer: an Old Story, Retold. Illustrated by W. G.Mein and issued in an edition de luxe, demy 8vo, printed on antique handmade paper, and bound in Half Japanese vellum, cloth sides, gilt lettered, gilt top; limited to 110 copies signed by the author, 5s. net.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, the novel that Baroness Orczy had been trying to publish for a few years, was first issued by Greening & Co., Ltd. in 1905 after the play based on the novel had become popular with the theatre going public. Although Greening & Co. published a number of Orczy titles, Hodder & Stoughton later bought the rights to the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel from them.

I was delighted to finally come across an interesting account of L. Arthur Greening written by Cecily Close. Greening's rather peculiar history and the story behind his name makes for interesting reading. Though he had a fairly long and varied career--ending up in Australia--I imagine that it was those early years of the 1890s and the first decade of the next century that "Greening" truly felt he was in the very beating heart of life. I can imagine him in his old age, a pipe in hand, warm embers on the way to a cold dottle, quoting lines of verse from Sir Walter Scott's novel Old Mortality--lines quoted as anonymous but written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt:

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
Throughout the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Wells's William Clissold, or the dusty penumbra of pen wielders (not to mention Benn's T'ang Horse)

I found this publisher's advertising ephemera resting between the leaves of a 1923 Doubleday Page & Company book of one of Wells's contemporary writers. I've had the book for thirty years but have never read the edition, having read Penguin and Pan paperback copies of the title. This advert which mimics the leaf of a book in size and paper type, and possibly made to be tipped into other books, had been sitting there undisturbed for perhaps over 70 years. When I was younger I actively sought out books by Wells but I never got as far as his later works. The World of William Clissold seems a world away. When this three decker novel--an anachronism by the 1920s surely--came out in 1926 on three successive months, September through November, it was the book of the season, much discussed and commented on. (Makes me wonder how the British Lending Libraries dealt with this three-decker; could a patron take all three at the same time, all 885 pages of it, or only one volume?) The critical views by the likes of J. M. Keynes and Conrad Aiken among others were not good, though H. L. Mencken's critical opinion was not unfavourable. Considering the supposed autobiographical nature of much of the book, it didn't keep this protean force from later writing his autobiography proper, Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866) in two volumes (414 pages) and published by Victor Gollancz and The Cresset Press in 1934.

Time, it seems, has swept much of Mr. Wells's work into the dusty penumbra of pen wielders, for it is unlikely that many people read this or most of his later works these days. I can't say I have. (Although I have to admit the advert does create a small frisson of interest--who could resist that puff of "Great" by the Daily Chronicle.) Not a novel that immediately comes to mind when asked to name a few of his works. It is his early books, the scientific romances and short stories and some of the novels like Kipps, Tono-Bungay, Ann Veronica and The History of Mr. Polly and perhaps through Colin Wilson's influence, that late work The Mind at the End of Its Tether, which still hold some interest.

The publisher of this work, Ernest Benn Ltd., had its roots in trade journal publishing. Ernest Benn's father's J. W. Benn and Brothers publishing company was later registered in 1897 as Benn Brothers Limited, and in the 1920s, they decided to develop a separate book department which eventually became Ernest Benn Limited. Their publisher's device, was a stylised T'ang Horse, supposedly influenced by their publishing of The Catalogue of the George Eumorfopoulos Collection (there is the limited edition 11 volume set presently listed on ABE at more than $27,000 US) which had many illustrations of art from the Far East. Ernest Benn Ltd, with managing director Victor Gollancz, purchased T. Fisher Unwin in 1926 which brought a wonderful assortment of authors and their backlists, including H. G. Wells. His new novel, The World of William Clissold was the first original Wells they issued. A hefty debut that was heavily promoted. If they lost money on Clissold, they no doubt recovered it from the sales of their edition of his short stories and their small 24 volume edition of his works.

Victor Gollancz left the company in 1927 to start his own publishing business. Sir Ernest Benn was an individualist capitalist of the right, while Gollancz was decidedly more to the left. With H. G. Wells and his views on world society and the future, an after dinner conversation between the three of them would have been an occasion to eavesdrop. Might make a good play by the likes of Tom Stoppard. Then again, it does seem like so much water under the bridge what with our modern world a swirl with a superabundance of fresh-minted words.

The World of William Clissold having been published in 1926, seems to be on the cusp of copyright freedom so it may not be too long before we can peruse it digitally--all 885 pages of it.

Ernest Benn Ltd. was acquired by the old British firm, A. & C. Black Publishers in 1984, which was in turn acquired by the Bloomsbury group in 2000. But another big fish little fish story of the modern publishing world.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Publisher's Devices: Among the Leaves

I have always found publisher's devices to be of interest. Their origins are of course derived from the early printer's devices, the best known being the anchor and dolphin of Aldus Manutius, much adapted through the ages. Others such as those of the Antwerp printer, Christopher Plantin, and the Estienne family of printers originally out of Paris, used latin phrases along with their images much like those in heraldry. Plantin used labore et constantia, while the Estienne family used noli altum sapere, sed time. Most of the major University presses have their own phrases and devices which are fairly recognizable and common to the eye, but it is the lesser known nineteenth and twentieth century publisher's devices that I find more interesting.

Having recently looked at two books at random sitting on the same shelf, I couldn't help notice the similar Latin phrase used. The folia inter folia of the MacMillan Company of Canada comes from a book published in 1934 (J. B. Priestley's English Journey) while the inter folia fructus comes from a book published in 1935 by D. Appleton-Century Company (Stephen Leacock's Mark Twain.) The image of the tree, an iconographic deep-rooted mainstay, along with the open book, another stalwart image, are also used in these devices. The MacMillan woodcut is much more rustic and reflects the Thoreau MacDonald Ryerson Press style which was perhaps the self-conceived and projected image of Canada at the time. The choice of maple leaves was a simple one.

It is unlikely that one would see the phrases, Leaves among the leaves, and Fruit among the Leaves used by publishers today, but they still hold a charm and reflect their period. The date 1933 listed on the book in the D. Appleton-Century device is the year when D. Appleton merged with The Century Publishing Company.

Both books, as stated on the copyright page, were printed in the United States of America. It seems the actual printing for MacMillan of Canada was handled by American printing companies--at least during this period. Although some publishers, mainly British, listed the name of the printer either on the reverse of the title page, or along the bottom of one of the rear free endpapers, many printers are anonymously listed in the basic phrase, Printed in the United States of America, or Printed in Canada. To see the changes in publishing from when printers were the acme of the creative process of publishing, to the present time when they are but anonymous jobbers, makes me wonder what changes are coming to publishing in the next hundred years. For someone who won't be around at that time, such anticipations may be fruitless; or perhaps I should say, non inter folia fructus(?)

addendum: Looking at another MacMillan of Canada book published in 1928 with the same woodcut publisher's device, I notice that at the bottom of the copyright page the printer is listed as The Hunter-Rose Company, Limited. A little info can be found here on this old Canadian printer/publisher.