Friday, April 29, 2011


Today I was walking the stacks of a library and discovered this gem. 1930 edition, Russian language, Rockwell Kent, Random House, stamped: printed in the USSR. All I could say was wow, wow, wow. I have no idea how many were printed, I have never seen a listing for it. LG's comment: "Holy S#*T" when I sent her the picture.

Also, over at Ahab Beckons,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

1969 Collier Paper Back Edition

This paper back edition is prized for its psychedelic '60's cover and the introduction written by Quentin Anderson, Professor at Columbia University.

Its interesting that the cover art primarily features the face of a person reflected in the water and not a whale, perhaps that face is Ahab, and perhaps not. There is really no indication as to who that is.

Tilting the cover on its side, one can then perhaps also make out a white whale in the act of consuming the face? Which only then indicates that it is perhaps Ahab. That ambiguity was a hallmark of the '60's art, and often times not a very successful form.

The whale boat and the Pequod are drawn with some precision, while the face and the white whale are all jittery and spooky, that juxtaposition in styles is hard to reconcile, again setting up a ambiguity that is not that successful.

No, you perhaps would guess that I was not a big fan of 60's art when I was in college in the 60's. As an art form it is interesting historically, and some pop art has merit, but in my book it was a failure and has no lasting power. Here in Albany resides one of the largest public collections of 60's art, accumulated by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Now I am a hugh Rocky fan. A visit to the Plaza Art Collection, is actually worth the effort, it is a segment specific collection.

Monday, April 25, 2011

1928 Allyn and Bacon Edition, Moby-Dick

Here is a well worn, abridged copy of Moby-Dick.

This is a publication of Allyn and Bacon, headquartered in Boston and still in existence.

Stamped "Property of the Board of Education, City of New York, Jan 8, 1932". The text was editied by Earl Maltby Benson, born Jan. 1884, Beta Theta Pi, 1906 Wesleyan and hailed from West Winfield NY, which was named for Winfield Scott, who was known as "Old Fuss and Feathers", longest serving general in American History. Mr. Benson was from a long line of yankees and taught at the English High School in Boston.

Credits in the volume include: "Colonel E. H. R. Greene for permission to photograph the Charles W. Morgan." Greene is the incorrect spelling in this case. Colonel Green was the son of Hetty Green, the "Witch of Wall Street" once the richest woman in the US. In 1924 he bought the Charles W. Morgan and kept it at his home in Dartmouth Massachusetts on Buzzards Bay. My grandfather summered near by at Salters Point, and my mother recalled to me the excursions they took by "motor car" to visit the whaling ship at Colonel Greene's home. Later the Charles W. Morgan was transfered to Mystic Seaport, where, as most people know, she still is.

On the inside back cover is a stamp of the WPA.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1926 Jonathan Cape Edition, London Moby-Dick

Alas, this lovely Moby-Dick volume is abridged. That is the failure of this volume. See the last paragraph of this post.

However, the title page and illustration is a testament to the art of graphic design. The layout, colorful, clean and crisp equates to elegant.

Rowland Hilder, the illustrator, worked this commision shortly after he studied at Goldsmith's College School of Art.

This illustration of the Pequod conveys a open sea air like few book illustrations in the collection. Had the publisher left this volume untouched, this would have been the greatest edition published to the date of publication. Only the Rockwell Kent editions which come 5 years later would have eclipse it. And I may say that the number of illustrations Kent executes may be one of the factors, the work that Hilder does here is equal to Kent in genius.

For those of you who want to know more.. here is an article that I stumbled on this article, which upon reading, I thought was worthy. The explanation of Melville and his digressions at the start is the POINT- for those of you who have found Moby-Dick a "hard read". Relax about that, get over it, and enjoy the digressions...

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Unexpected Weekend in New Haven

My father, as he has in the past, sent me last weekend as his emmissary to the annual meeting of an ancient New England Society, one that my dad has been a member of for decades. This society is dedicated to preserving the printed American page thru 1871.

One year, I had the pleasure of going to the Grolier Club in New York and viewing that awesome building and collection.

This year, I traveled to New Haven. The Society held its annual meeting in the Yale Center for British Art, and I can not say enough about that collection. Constable is one of my inpirations as a painter and there is a plethora of his sky paintings there.

One of the nights, the Society was the guest of Prof R... for drinks and dinner and were welcomed into his home. I arrived to a lovely home, gracious wife, beautiful food, lovely friends...

Completely unexpected, I walked over to the bookcase shown above. Heretofore, I had not the inkling of what I was in for: as I gazed at these bright leather books and protective cases, one name popped out: Melville, and titles: Ommo, Typee and of course Moby-Dick. These were not the mundane volumes I own, but first editions, not just one, but several, not just Moby-Dick but all of the titles. There was the first British edition of Moby-Dick... and Rockwell Kents, not the ho hum one I have but the "3 in the can", and even the presentation set in pig skin, I believe he said it was pig skin. He did say there were only 6 in existence. I held in my hand not just the English first edition but that presentation Rockwell Kent.

I stood there stunned and at a loss for words, then I noticed small bindings, thin things, and as I realized what I was looking at, I said incredulously: "Are these Melville letters?"

"OH, yes Bill take a look, just dont spill anything on them" Prof R said...

Gently I took one of the many small leather folders off of the shelf and opened it up. In my hand I held a letter written by Herman Melville. I was so awed that I failed to take note to whom and about what. It did not seem to matter anymore, I was speechless.

At the time I really didn't know what to say about this experience, other than this: one of the other guests, a historian of some note said to me later that night: "this is the beauty of the private collector, you can touch things."

To Prof R, I will be forever in his debt and can never repay his kindness....

As for the future of my Moby-Dick Collection... for obvious reasons my collection will never be the kind of collection which I saw on Friday night. But as I drove home and reflected on my collection it became more and more apparent to me that my mission has been and will always be to collect the pedestrian, the mundane, the humble. As I explained it over the phone to LG, during the homeward bound trip, the Moby-Dick Collection blogged about here is a combination of Ray Bradbury's Farenhiet 451 and the Land of the Lost. My mission is to buy everything I can as fast as I can. Because of the Kindle and Nook and I Pad, there will be a day when there are no more paper backs available. We as a society love to throw stuff out and the paper backs will be the first to go. I will have a collection of those paper backs and hard covers, the ones that Prof R doesnt have... The mission is to save the dust jackets, the covers, the type, the illustrations, and the underlining and notes taken... the individuality of each book, once owned and once read...

And of course, when I show my humble collection to friends and visitors, Just as Prof R did for me..I have always, always given them the volume to hold as I point out some quirk that takes my fancy..... Now I know why I do that.... . We, individuals, are not institutions, what we own we own to preserve and share. Hopefully we make a difference. I am unaware of a museum that started organically without the backing of a collector.

Please comment . . . Thanks - BP

Thursday, April 14, 2011

1956 L. W. Singer Company MOBY-DICK

This is one crazy cover. I love the type and it would appear that someone added that little color of red. This is the 1956 printing of the original dated edition of 1942 by the L. W. Singer Company from Syracuse, NY.

At one time it was $1.20 as marked in pencil on the inside cover. When it was for sale at the Bryn Mawr Bookstore it was marked at $.25.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

1956 Houghton Miffflin Co. MOBY-DICK

Here is the 1956 paperback Houghton Mifflin Co edition of Moby-Dick.

Signed on the cover by the owner: Judith Spiegler.

The book is heavily water stained, and I have no idea where it came from. No doubt it was in the stock of the Bryn Mawr Bookshop in Albany, when I and 3 friends bought the store and renamed it the Larkstreet Bookshop. I then lifted it for the collection.

Judith began underlining and marking it right from the Table of Contents. And on the back end paper she began notes right at the top of the page written in pencil.

Here is an example of her underlining:
pg 222 Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glid under water. Beside which she wrote: Sea-truth

Often a book will easily open to the last page read and this book opens to page 240, which coincidentally is the last page with underlining.

Here she underlined: go to the meatmarket of a Saturday night..... Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? Did she see humor in that? Irony?

Since this is the last underlining, I am going to say here she stopped. The semester was over, or she lost interest.

I searched the internet and came up with this PDF of a 2008-2009 Publication

The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration
Reflections 1

Judith Spiegler Adler
A.M. ‘61
I graduated from SSA in ’61 with an A.M., after having
graduated from the University of Chicago College with a B.A.
in ‘59. ... I began to teach, first at Fordham,
then at the College of New Rochelle.

So timing was right for Judith Spiegler - Adler to be Judith Spiegler of my MOBY-DICK, she graduated from the University of Chicago College in 59. and she went on to teach in New York State first at Fordham and then a little closer to Albany at College of New Rochelle.

Ironic if my Judith is the Chicago Judith....

Monday, April 11, 2011

1929 Macmillan Company Moby-Dick in 2 vols

I have discussed one of the many wonders of collecting a book and that wonder is the history and mystery of the individual editions, who owned them and did they read the book. Try that with an Apple I Pad!

Recently, I purchased the 2 volume Macmillan Co. 1929 edition. I own oddly Vol 2 not vol 1 so I was pleased to find this duo and when they arrived I was more pleased to see both were inscribed in the same neat hand by the purchaser: Dorothy Louise Harding, Radcliffe '30. Dorothy also was kind enough to take notes in the end of vol 1, which either indicated that she read the the book, or at least took notes in class!

Radcliffe College which became fully absorbed into Harvard University in 1999, once was one of the seven sisters, which now are either the six sisters, or the five sisters depending on how one views Vassar College, which no longer is a single sex institution, thus is arguably not a sister at all.

I choose not to show much detail of the covers, as the story inside is much more compelling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

1946 German Language Moby-Dick

This edition of Moby-Dick was printed in Hamburg, Germany by Claassen and Goverts Verlag, just 18 months of the end of WWII. The notation is "printed in Germany", which is significant in the Hamburg was in the British Zone of Occupation and did not become a state of the Federal Republic of Germany until 1949.

This is not a very robust edition, the cover had become separated and is held together with scotch tape and the pages are very yellowed indictative of low grade paper.

The only art is this cover, a most interesting image of Moby Dick. The tail is too short and the eye too big, the head is miss shaped yet it conveys the whaleness of the story.

Why would the publisher choose Moby-Dick to print at the end of a horrific war? The English fire bombed Hamburg in 1943 killing 42,000 civilians and the Nazi's killed 55,000 people in the Neuengamme concentration camp within the city of Hamburg. This surely was a murderous obsession by Hitler. Hitler as Ahab? Confined to his cabin on a fools quest to dominate the world? In the end everyone perishes.

This post was inspired by dolphinguy's comments...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1981 Oxford University Press, Moby Dick

Of all the publishers of editions of Moby-Dick in this collection, The Oxford University Press seems to be responsible for most number of the fish in this particular school of fish, and whether it is a quirk of this school alone, or indicative of the entire shoal of all the schools of Moby-Dick's, I can only speculate.

As far as I can learn, The Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world and began publishing around 1480, although it did not print a Moby - Dick then, that would be weird.

There are seven catalogued Oxford books in the collection with the earliest one is dated 1921. Some of the paper backs have yet to be catalogued so there are, for sure, many more housed here in Albany.

This species is a recent capture, and a fine example of the late 20th century marketing foray into the fine book field. That was a trend, dominated by the likes of Easton Press and the Franklin Mint, who brought to market high end bindings, gold and leather, with the hopes of capturing sales to those folks who wanted nice looking shelves of books in their homes, and most likely they never read any of them. How would a Kindle compete in this market? Riddle me that, Batman.

This Oxford Edition is relatively hard to find.

Purchase date: 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Road Trip - SUNY by way of Arrowhead

Friday, April 1, 2011

Undated: Thames Publishing Co. London

I have always wanted to live in a very large house, a house with so many rooms that some of the rooms I may not enter but once a year. I think its a psycological quirk of mine. I can imagine the wonder and excitement of entering room after room and trying to figure out: now what is this one for or who uses this utility room.

Anyway back to the Collection: this morning as I went to the shelves to find a book to blog about I came across this edition. I have no recollection as to when or where or even why I have this book... it was like entering that room in that huge house. I said cool, what is this?

Its small, has a really great piece of cover art. Its English! A search of the ABE Books, yield some dated ones, 1954, but they had blue boards and these are red. So I just randomly say 50's, if anyone has any definitive knowledge, comment for me.. thanks!

If you have a few extra moments, take a close look at the cover art: it shows a boat chasing a whale at the ready to harpoon it. Pretty dramatic really, but as I looked at it for a longer time, several things jumped out at me. First there is the problem of the whale, he has stopped running and turned to look at the boat, his eye is menacing... Second and more importantly, there is the problem of the rowers, there are six men in the boat, only 2 are rowing. there are two other men looking aft with nothing to do. I think really they should get out some oars, because this whale, perhaps its meant to be Moby Dick, clearly wants to do them some harm. One little harpoon is not going to do the trick here, this is not going to end well.......