Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Another steamship dust jacket

This novel from Houghton Mifflin (1935) has a great jacket and a great premise. The front flap of the jacket reads in part: "In the lovely Illyrian littoral on the Mediterranean, the bright lights of the literary world were converging for the annual congress of the P.M.S. (Pen is Mightier than the Sword) Clubs, of which peace was to be the by-product.... a fast-moving narrative that the sophisticated reader will be quick to appreciate." Now, not only does the plot center around a group of writers at a literary conference, but the back flap has an ad for a book entitled Impersonation of a Lady. If I was the curious type, this might lead me to believe that this book was a roman a clef written under a psuedonym. I've had the book for a long time and can find out next to nothing about the author. Then again, the writing itself is so very bad, that this may have been her only novel. I found a citation for another book with the same author, but can't tell if it's fiction or fact. Hmm.

By the way, the jacket flap tells us that the cover illustration is by Pruett Carter. Thanks, Pruett, I love it, all these years later.

Great picture!

I can't believe I haven't asked if you have a copy of David W. Bone's 'The Lookoutman'. "The purpose of this book is to familiarize the reader with the outward appearance of representative types of vessels so that they may be recognized occasion, and to offer a Lookoutman's comments on their character, habits, and tempers," from the introduction. There's a copy on eBay- search David Bone. Great pictures; the vessels are all steamships.

My copy is from Jonathan Cape 1923 and is signed: David W. Bone, Captain R.M.S. Transylvania, August 6, 1937. I tremendously enjoyed reading this; I found it calming and interesting, a perfect bedtime book. I was already disposed to think well of it, given Christopher Morley's (who else's?) friendship with and admiration for Captain Bone. He has one or two essays on him and his remarkable family (his brother was Muirhead Bone). He had a bookstore on one or more of the liners he captained and I have a copy of his book Broken Stowage, short pieces, mostly on steamship journeys, signed by him and with a label- Bought at the High Seas Bookshop, T.S.S. Transylvania- pasted on the inside cover.

The final story is from Morley's Ex Libris Carissimis: "There is one special thing for which the world of literature must always be grateful to him. It was he who has brought to this country the first copy of the noblest book, I think, that has yet been written about the war [WWI], C.E. Montague's Disenchantment. When it had been turned down by a dozen American publishers, it was Captain Bone who brought it personally to me and said: 'Here is a book which so great that it is outrageous a year has gone by and it hasn't been published in this country. Isn't there anything you can do about it?' And Bone and I put our heads together and got the book published. My copy of Disenchantment is not a first edition- I am much more of a connoisseur than that. First editions are relatively frequent. But out of my copy of Disenchantment, which Captain Bone brought me, every copy that has been printed in America was born."

Dan, I know I've got one of David W. Bone's books at home, but I can't remember the title. I know it's not either of the ones you cite (I now want both of those, too...thanks, THANKS A LOT). However, I DO have a book by a different author that also has a High Seas Bookshop plate in it. I'll bring it in and scan it for the blog. A truly great bookplate - I remember buying the book at a bookshop ten or so years ago just because of the plate. I opened the book and gasped when I saw it. Many liners and steamers had their own print shops on board, to print daily menus, passenger lists, shipboard news, and the like. Bookplates too, apparently.

A recent book I really enjoyed: "Supercargo: A Journey Among Ports" by Thornton McCamish, Lonely Planet, 1992. Mostly container-ship travel tales from Mediterranean and African ports, with a lot of literary references throughout, written by a young Australian in search of the old days of tramp steamer travel. Nothing heavy, just interesting and introspective, what I like.
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