Saturday, December 10, 2005


Christmas gift suggestions from 1928

Friday's lovely snowfall has me thinking about my Christmas list. I turned to the Christmas Bookman from 1928 (Vol. LXVIII, No. 4) from my shelf of old book catalogues, to see what reviewers were recommending back then. In the "Notes on New Books" section: The Outermost House by Henry Beston (Doubleday), a "new" edition of Persian Pictures by Gertrude Bell (Liveright), and Memories of Books and Places by J.A. Hammerton (Houghton Mifflin), even though the reviewer says, "The books and places are irrelevantly mingled.... the memories of a varied life in many corners of the world and of as varied reading done in strange places..." (p.xxii) I'd like to write a book like that, come to think of it. The catalogue is full of advertisements for the kind of novels that are now the bane of used booksellers - they are what everyone wants to sell us, and what we do not want to buy...

Other items of note within: an ad from Dutton for a Maine-related book I've never seen before - Wits' End by Viola Paradise ("Set in a gorgeous summer home in Maine is this tale of a writer harried by beautiful ladies" - can that be the author's real name?); and in "The Book Mart" section, a few columns on the upcoming auction of the library of Jerome Kern. Quoted are Miss Belle daCosta Greene, director of the J. Pierpont Morgan Library, A. Edward Newton (who says "...if he cannot transfer a few choice items from the Kern library to his shelves at Oak Knoll he will be a broken-hearted man") , Christopher Morley, Dr. Rosenbach, Harry B. Smith, and others (pp.lxvii-lxviii), all praising Kern's books and book-buying acumen, and indeed this sale went down in history as one of the great rare book auctions ever. How I would have loved to be a fly on the wall.

Gift suggestion for the booklover: The Fortunes of Mitchell Kennerley, Bookman by Matthew J. Bruccoli, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. Many used copies are available online ( Kennerley was the auctioneer at the Kern sale, and a publisher and rare book dealer. He met a tragic end, and this book is his biography as well as a fascinating look at the book world of the early twentieth century.

Customers have been buying Christmas gifts here at the shop, bless them. Sold this week: books by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Billy Collins, Clifton Fadiman, Steve Almond, Edward Gorey, Chekhov, Julia Child, Daphne du Maurier, Paul Collins, Dostoyevsky, the list goes on. People do still read!

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