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BY EUGENE Field.
["Ad Lectorem," here reprinted, formed the introduction to "First Editions of American Authors," that long-time out-of-print book done by Herbert S. Stone and published by Stone & Kimball in 1893. As a foreword to the BookLOVER'S audience it is all that could be desired and its resurrection will, we know, be welcomed by every reader.]
The introduction to so dignified a volume as this should be wholly dispassionate: so the task to which I apply myself is a difficult one; for since last evening I have been perturbed, unwontedly perturbed, in spirit. I was planning the preface to this very volume, and had about determined to begin this Ad Lectorem, in wise fashion, with that equally wise answer which Plato made to Ximenes the Cretan, when the latter asked the famous philosopher collector why he preferred a first edition to an "eighteen thousandth"-I had nearly reached this determination, I say, when who should burst in upon me but my charming bibliophilic friend, W. Irving Way, bearing the astounding information that he had just picked up a first edition of Andrew Lang's "XXIII Ballades in Blue China" for eighty cents, a treasure recently listed by the Scribners at twenty dollars!
It seems that during a regular visit to the Saints and Sinners Corner that day, Mr. Way conceived the notion to investigate other parts of McClurg's book-mart adjacent to that resort of bibliomaniacs, and some good fairy tempted him to search out and cast curious and lingering and loving eyes upon a certain case in which lay a number of dainty parchment-covered books. In the lot Mr. Way detected a copy of the "Ballades in Blue China;" and he asked the handmaiden in attendance thereabouts to show him that pretty volume, and let him hold it tenderly and reverently in his hands. He marveled when he looked at the book and found no price therein; and from mere curiosity (as he alleges, and as I do fully believe) he demanded the price; and the guileless handmaiden (God bless 'er!), after consulting with a veiled, mysterious person in the financial department of the establishment, answered that although the regular price of that book was one dollar, the usual reduction of 20 per cent to the trade would be allowed in this instance. Mr. Way furthermore alleges (and this also do I implicitly believe) that the time occupied in getting that book of Ballades into his possession, and in getting his eighty cents into the hands of McClurg & Co., was neither more nor less time than is required by a ray of light to travel 186,000 miles, linear
Since it became known that for a few paltry dimes our fellow hunter acquired that genuine.
prize, poignant anguish has been experienced by the rest of us, and none has suffered more than I; for though I covet not the responsibilities of a scapegoat, God knows I would cheerfully bear, instead of that man Way, the burden of shame resulting from having done a bookseller. It is true that I have one of these first "Ballades;" but what of that? Can an appreciative man have too much of a good thing-when that good thing is a rare first edition?
You gather from this that I love "first editions;" so I do, although I should tell you at once that the number of first editions I actually possess is very few; furthermore, the few are not particularly rare. But some time I shall have a larger and more interesting collection; I am quite sure I shall, for I have located a number of treasures, and am conducting so aggressive and withal so discreet a campaign for their comprehension that they are practically mine already. Three of these lovely morceaux I happened upon in a New England town quite recently. No, I shall not name that town! I had been permitted to prowl in the library of the little house where for many years have lived two female relatives-women of refined tastes and much culture. At last I said, "Are these all the books you have?" The answer was, "Yes, these are all, except, perhaps, a few queer little old worthless specimens in the back room upstairs." To that back room I hurried, and bless me! the first books I clapped eyes on were three delicious little Hawthornes-"Grandfather's Chair," "Famous Old People," and "Liberty Tree"-each of the date of 1841, and each in the quaint original covers, as clean and beautiful as when they first came from the binder. My friends seemed surprised when I expressed delight at this find; they artlessly told me that about a year before they had sold for fifty cents a barrelful of just such "old stuff" to a peripatetic junk-dealer.
Several years ago I accompanied a party of amateur anglers upon an excursion to Quincy, Ill. As I was the only expert-the only member of the party that had any positive genius for fishing-I soon on wearied of paddling about in the sterile waters of that section, and forth with applied myself to visiting the places of interest in Quincy. I went first to the Soldiers' Home, and presently called upon Major Rawson, the officer in charge. That courteous gentleman gave me access to his library;
and one of the first objects I spied therein was a first edition of Whittier's "Mogg Megone,"-as dainty a little treasure as you could hope to see. With a magnanimity I shall ever commend, Major Rawson bade me put the book in my pocket, if I fancied it. It had been kicking about, he said, for the last fifty years. After some discreet expostulation, I did the Major's bidding; and that charming little Whittier is now one of my most precious possessions.
I cite these instances, not because they are new in the avocation of book-hunting, but because, on the contrary, they occur in the experience of every bibliophile. Mr. Way's experience with the Lang Ballades was a genuine oasis; in fact, the desert of Mr. Way's career seems to me and I say this in no spirit of bitterness-the desert of his career seems to me to be strewn with oases. I recollect that less than a year ago this same gentleman picked up for twenty-five cents a first edition of Lowell's "Fable for Critics." Some men have a genius for that particular kind of luck. My admirable friend, the Rev. Dr. Bristol, is continually unearthing one treasure or another, his most remarkable discovery having been a folio Shakespeare with the author's autographic inscription therein. Then there is my other swooping friend, O. F. Carpenter. What should he do one fateful day but step into a second-hand book shop (just before my arrival) and pick up, for a wretched quarter of a dollar, a first edition of Howells' "Poems of Two Friends"! It appears ever to have been my fate to be simply and only an accessory after the fact. Still (I say this not boastingly), I seem to bear my chastening much more kindly than does the learned Dr. William F. Poole rest under his disappointments; for it is reported of this profound witchologist that, having heard that a collector in Boston had acquired the exceedingly rare tract which Cotton Mather wrote upon "The Trewe and Righteous Damnation of Salem Witches," he forthwith contributed to a contemporary review an ingenious and scholarly paper, proving most satisfactorily and conclusively that no such city, town, or village as Salem ever did exist or could have existed. This is the same Dr. Poole who, at the John A. Rice sale, purchased the original pine stake at which old Mother BeJoyful Hubbard was burned for a witch, Danvers, June 14, 1683. I have seen the stake; it is somewhat foxed and spotted, but yet in pretty fair second-hand condition.
Not all book collectors are collectors of first editions; herein we see the just nicety of that great natural law which ordains that there shall be neither more birds than there are worms, nor more collectors than there are first editions. With what truth and delicacy the immortal Venusian hath touched upon this, and how appropriately, at this
juncture, come the lines which he addressed to his noble patron:
"Mæcenas, scion of a house of bibliophiles,
What varying lusts the bibliomaniac crowd reveals!
Black letter Chaucers, Shakespeare, Bewick, Blake-
(By other men too frequently despised,,
There are few collectors (if I do say it myself) who, when it comes to fads involving books, are as liberal and unprejudiced as I am. I often wonder at my liberality, for my most intimate companions are collectors seemingly given over, body and soul, to the gratification of such narrow little passions as only a bibliomaniac can have as the result of the wretched maggot that wriggles in his brain. And if I were not of unusual strength of character, I should have become a sadly corrupted person by this time, for these companions and friends to whom I refer have been preaching and practicing their curious, nonsensical heresies around me for a long time. There are three or four notable exceptions within the circle of my acquaintances. Mr. De Witt Miller, Mrs. Henry J. Willing and Mr. Harlow N. Higinbotham have shared in the sacrifices of righteousness; no temptation hath taken them, and they have fled from idolatry. With me in the temple of orthodoxy and at the shrine of First Editions they have reverently knelt and worshiped, and therefore goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life. But as for these others, what perversity hath seized upon them, and how blindly have they trod the
downward paths that lead not through pleasant pastures and by quiet waters. The pampered darling of Luck-that same Mr. W. Irving Way, of whom I have already spoken-how utter lost is he in his idolatry of Lang! And another such is O. W. Brewer, who, I had almost said, can outWay Way in the particular of the literature which he of the brindle-hair hath put out. My lord North, who is Mr. Brewer's business associate, is consumed of a lust after Lamb, and by what abominable and crafty arts I know not! he has on divers occasions foisted upon me certain little editions of that author's work which I did not want and never shall care for. The passion for so-called "standard authors" possesses J. W. Bradley (Milwaukee), J. P. Breitling (Oak Park), Willard Teller (Denver), C. H. V. Lewis (Kansas City), while an equally violent greed for large paper copies and editions de luxe continually inflames and goads George W. Vanderbilt (New York), R. E. Plumb (Detroit), Paul Lemperly (Cleveland), Frank O'Bear (St. Louis), W. D. Guthrie (New York), W. W. Ellis (Milwaukee), F. W. M. Cutcheon (St. Paul), H. A. Rust and Charles B. Cleveland (Chicago). My theological adviser (before the Briggs schism), Rev. Dr. Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, sees good in hymnology only, and the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Patterson (Evanston) has for many years been an enthusiastic collector of hymnbooks. As for the statesmanly Charles B. Farwell, he has accumulated a large number of curious and rare Bibles; his son-in-law, Hobart C. Chatfield Taylor, is partial to the literature of coaching. I think it is pretty generally conceded that my friend, Edward Ayer, has the largest and most valuable collection of American-Indian histories in the country, and James W. Ellsworth has gone prodigiously into incunabula. William Henry Smith dotes upon political history, while H. J. Furber, Jr., is equally interested in the fusty literature of political economy. I have not seen J. J. Hagerman's (Colorado Springs) Napoleonana, but I am told that it is the noblest collection of the kind in the country. C. L. Freer (Detroit) inclines to the Kelmscott press publications; A. W. Krech (St. Paul) and J. O'Brien (Chicago) are enthusiastic Cruikshank hunters, and our own Harry B. Smith finds summum bonum in Byron and Thackeray; his Dickens collection is very large. United States Senator Wolcott plunges universally into poetry. Another statesman, the ingenious Benjamin T. Cable, is at present daft after Washingtoniana, having recovered of an attack of missal-mania. My professional associate, Frances M. Larned, is assotted upon the literature of Paris in general, and of the night-side thereof in particular. E. B. Gould collects art books, so also does J. J. Hill (St. Paul); and my friend, J. E. Woodhead, is dipping into the extra-illustrated
heresy, I am pained to note. And Angling--oh! what a lot of these maniacs there are! I must specify James L. High, for he has a superb- yes, a wickedly superb number of Waltons; H. A. Sherwin (Cleveland) and William Parsons (Seattle) are also victims to this absurd passion. Dr. Harper, president of our new university, is gathering together a library of Hebrew. John Johnston (Milwaukee) is the only collector of Sir Walter Scott I know of. R. M. Whipple and Byron L. Smith are interested in birds and rail against the Angling heretics. C. L. Morehouse is a tireless hunter for American humor. A. J. Cox has a powerful weakness for dramatic and tobacco, and other redoubtable dramatic hunters are H. L. Hamlin, Sol Smith Russell and Guy Magee.
At last accounts, my revered pastor, Dr. F. W. Gunsaulus, hungered and thirsted after Cromwelliana and the wormed folios of Melancthon. The learned Dr. Poole hath a rabies for Cotton Mather sermons and demonology, and he is now writing a book to prove that the earth is flat, and that Columbus did not discover America. My degenerate Scotch brother-in-law. John F. Ballantyne, is possessed cf a seven-devil lust for county histories and maps. Francis Wilson, the actor, is stark mad after editions de luxe, and so, I suspect, is the ingenious and charming Brander Matthews, for with evident pride he introduced me to his delightful collection a few weeks ago. Edward S. Brewer (Springfield, Mass.) has picked up a vast number of New England chap-books; and the collection of Thackeray, Lamb and Dickens which Augustin Daly has made is simply marvelous. The most curious fad I know of is that of my friend, E. J. Boring (Chicago), for the literature of mushrooms; it strikes me as being funnier even than that fad which Slason Thompson developed at one time--a fad for books about musquashes or muskrats. He collected three little volumes on this subject and traveled all the way to St. John, N. S., for a fourth, but, unhappily, that capital burned before he got there. I am aware that St. John is not in Nova Scotia, but by letting this error stand for correction in the second edition I make this first edition all the more valuable to the possessor. But I am not yet done, for here comes my Chicago friend, S. C. Payson, a famous collector of Cruikshank, and with him I see the aldermanic Mannierre and versatile Egbert Jamieson, two ardent lovers of Americana. And, by my halidom, I must not forget the learned Judge Elliott Anthony, whose lovely library of ten thousand volumes proves his predilection for history. Of course Col. Henry L. Turner hath a heart that inclines to the literature of war and the military, so also hath Col. C. W. Laing; and our charming friend, F. W. Gookin, is possessor of a pleasing madness for Japanese art in literature. Mrs. J. S.
Brockwelder, whose home is Morgan Park, collects books on Iceland; and here we have Messrs. F. W. Porter and Fred L. Fake, who are agog for everything that has been printed about coins. Two Chicago gentlemen, Messrs. G. E. Wright and H. B. Mitchell, have gone deeply and enthusiastically into theosophy and astrology, and W. E. Kelly collects works on Arctic exploration. Now, then, here are more Waltonians-more anglomaniacs-H. S. Farwell and Charles P. McAvoy and E. F. Lawrence. Alfred Bull affects early printing; that admirable gentleman, Prof. G. Brown Goode of Washington has gone largely into books about Virginia, and here we have A. H. Butler of Lockport, Ill., who can never get enough about the occult arts and sciences, while, very naturally indeed, my otherwise exemplary friend, George P. Upton, is consumed of a passion for the literature of music.
A motley aggregation surely! Motley's the only name for it. Yet could I swell the list, and tell many interesting tales of these hopeless maniacs, were I not warned by the printer against making this porch more ostentatious than the edifice into which I am introducing you.
This much, however. I must say: in spite of all contaminating influences and these heretical environments, I have pursued unfalteringly and enthusiastically the better and straight path; and I am proud of that appreciation and recognition of my wisdom and my loyalty which the compilers and publishers of this volume exhibit in asking me to provide the prefatory note. O brethren, it is good to be of "the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin!"
Not very long ago I dined with my esteemed friend, Melville E. Stone. On that occasion he referred, in a tone expressive of poignant regret, to the fact that one of his sons was engaged in "the Quixotic business of compiling a catalogue of the first editions of American authors." The scheme was one that he deemed wholly impracticable; there was "nothing in it," he said. I undertook to argue this matter; but none of my arguments (which, I will admit in all modesty, were wholly sound and incontrovertible,) had any effect upon this usually candid and judicially-minded gentleman, further than, seemingly, to irritate him. Nay, Mr. Stone (pere) finally gave me to understand that first editions were worthless, that collectors of first editions were imbeciles, and that, ergo, a catalogue of first editions must be and was the flower and fruition of general worthlessness and specific imbecility,
Somewhat heated by his earnestness, Mr. Stone very casually but very naturally drew a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the sweat from his os frontis. I could not help noticing that handkerchief, it was so remarkable of size and color;
then, too, I was only too glad to get away from the discussion of a subject which I saw was far above and beyond the intellectual, spiritual, and sentimental comprehension of my host.
"What a wonderful handkerchief!" I cried. "You like it?" he asked. "Yes, it is handsome, and I am very proud of it. I intend to have it framed; for it is a great rarity, illustrating, as you observe, incidents in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte!"
Thereupon he spread the handkerchief out before my view. It was of cotton, and its dimensions were possibly 30 by 24 inches; the colors employed in the composition were red, brown and yellow, and these were now faded to a lamentable degree. By means of these faded colors, there were depicted upon that fabric of cotton divers scenes in the life of the First Napoleon,--his exploits in Egypt, Austria, among the Mohammedans, in Spain, Italy, etc. The whole, evidently of British manufacture, was intended to satirize the conqueror,-his exploits and his methods. Presumably, kerchiefs of this particular character were exceedingly popular in England and in Prussia seventy-five or eighty years ago; and, as presumably, they were sold at that time for sixpence apiece. Mr. Stone told me, with evident pride, that he had given fifteen dollars for this specimen; and then he went on to explain that he was a collector of Napoleonana, and he hoped that I would visit him sometime and inspect his large collection of cracked vases wasbbowls, teacups, and other things, each of which had a picture of "the Immortal Corsican" upon it.
"Inscrutable Providence!" thought I. "Here in this nineteenth century lives and moves and has his being, in the very heart of our progressed and progressive civilization, a man who rails at the sacred, the immortal beauties of first editions, and grovels before painted rags and cracked crockery! Perverse and wicked generation! They have forsaken the Lord; they have 'served Baal and Ashtaroth!'"
It was not always so. In the palmy days of Hellenic philosophy, poesy, and art,-yes, now we come to that conversation between Plato and Ximenes, and I would not for the world have omitted it; for no essay can be scholarly and dignified unless the author gropes back twenty or thirty centuries for material and data.
"Tell me, O Plato," quoth Ximenes the Cretan, -"tell me why it is, if it be true, as the Cynics say, that you prefer a first edition to an eighteen thousandth?"
"By the dog! it is true," quoth Plato, "and I make no denial of it; for, O Ximenes, although I have love for all good books, yet have I an especial and particular love unto those that are called first editions. And to the truth of this will Crito bear witness; for he hath the bookstall near the Acro
polis, over against the Attic salt-cellars, and he knoweth a genuine original from a doctored specimen."
"But why, O Plato, have you this special preference?"
"Mehercule! that were not hard to answer. For although men may love all women, may they not also love, before the others, certain special and particular women? Do you not hear each day, O Ximenes, this one and that commend Lycastra, the widow of Timon? And do you not also hear, each day, others praise the beauty of Chaia, the daughter of Anaxagoras the Thracian?"
“Yes, by the shield of Pallas! that do I hear." "And truly, they are fair to look upon, and pleasing to converse with. Both, too, would wed; for Chaia hath just turned of eighteen, and Lycastra hath cast old Timon's ashes to the winds."
"But softly, O Ximenes! think well before you speak. The widow hath experience in the harsh ordeal of life; all crudeness hath been purged away, offensive traits deleted; there is to find in her none of the absurd impossibilities and exuberant heresies of youth; she is matured and attuned to the uses of sensibility and happiness."
"To the dog with the widow! You speak after the manner of the sophists, O Plato! This do I swear before the gods immortal: with no widow will I wed!"
"Now for my answer, O Ximenes! 'Tis my philosophy to love all books; but 'tis my practice to search out, and comprehend, and have and hold unto my special love and delectation, the virgin book that is come fresh and unrevised from the author of its being. For, by the thunderbolts of Zeus and by the beard of Pluto! that book reflecteth truthfully the mind of him that made it; no selfish consideration nor mean desire to pander to the conceits of the world hath abridged or expurgated it; it breatheth the breath of unfettered youth, exuberance, candor, and unsophisticated wisdom. In such a book we have him that begot and bore it; in that which followeth, it is too often to see simply the intellectual skeleton, docked, trimmed, curried, bridled, caparisoned, and handicapped by the critics and other evil spirits of A ter-Thought and Politic Suggestion,-even as the horse is bridled and handicapped by his jockey. It is, therefore, O Ximenes, to choose the first edition, as you would choose the maiden Chaia; for the first edition, like the maiden, giveth unto its possessor such sweet virginal delectation as maketh it sacred in the opinion of all that be righteously and gently minded."
Borrowers of books have always, and that much more so even than rats or book worms, fire or water, been the terror of bibliophiles. "Ite ad vendentes!" Scarron had inscribed over the entrance to his library. "The devil take all borrowers of books" was one of the humorous mottoes with which the cynical and learned artist, Du Moustier, in the reign of Louis XIII., ornamented the door of his study in the garrets of the Louvre.
But something beyond selfishness and jealousy are found to be connected with the passion for books: a mania for appropriating them, it has been often proved, occasionally and by degrees creeps in; occasionally the lover of books bea thief. How many people even tempted to think as Tallemant des Reaux once said, "That to steal books is not stealing, provided that one does not afterwards sell them." In support of this avowal the tell-tale author of the Historiettes relates the curious scene which took place one day between Monsignor Pamfili, who became later on Pope Innocent X., and the artist Daniel du Moustier, he who consigned so emphatically to the devil all borrowers of books: “Cardinal Barbarini having come to France as legate during the pontificate of his uncle, felt a curiosity. to see the study of Du Moustier and Du Moustier himself. Innocent X., then Monsignor Pamfili, was at the time datary and chief officer of the legate's suite. He accompanied Barbarini on his visit to Du Moustier, and seeing on the table