Semi OT: Books Owned by Historical/Famous People

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Semi OT: Books Owned by Historical/Famous People

Feb 13, 2020, 2:43am

I thought I'd start a new thread here, based on Django's post in the acquisition thread. Which books do you have that have some sort of provenance of famous or historical ownership.

I generally look into all bookplates and signatures when I purchase, and the historical digging is something I get jazzed about. Famous or not, sometimes I learn something about an owner or an obscure author that leaves me with a deeper appreciate of the physical book and it's journey to my little island home.

I purchased a lovely copy of Idylls of the King with a bookplate of a "Alexander G.B. Grosvenor" and no recognition came to mind. A very preliminary search yielded some unexpected results for this seemingly obscure name. Wikipedia identifies him as the great grandson of Alexander Graham Bell.

I don't have many books owned by famous people that I can recall, but I do have two titles owned by Westinghouse (Two Years Before the Mast and Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green) and signed by him or potentially a relative (bought in person at different stores in different cities). I also have a book signed by Hemingway's sister, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford.

I also once happened to obtain a very interesting volume of John Masefield poetry, bound and signed by Bayntun Rivierre, as a gift to a B.J. Ellis who was involved in book production for J.M. Dent, which is signed by the five directors of J.M. Dent, including F.J.Martin Dent, and W.G. Taylor... and includes a typewritten letter explaining the gift.

I imagine these are very lackluster in comparison to some of your collections, but I would love to hear any book stories you may have, whether the books come from Benjamin Franklin's disposed of library or have six degrees of separation from a well-known historical figure.

Editado: Feb 13, 2020, 8:03am

I now and again go to the Oxford DNB to check for the presence there of the owner of a notable name or impressive bookplate: trouble is, after a while I've generally forgotten what if anything the names were notable for.

The books that have come my way after being the property of owners whose names I positively recognise fare better in memory. Those include T. F. Powys' copy of John Davidson's New Ballads (shortly after I'd been reading Powys after Davidson and pondering the likelihood of his being familiar with Davidson's work): John Fowles' set of Restif de la Bretonne's Monsieur Nicolas: Madge Garland's copy of Poems by George Barker; and a book of essays on Rilke that was the property of poet Dunstan Thompson.

A contrarian urge impels me to seek out books signed by favourite authors when and only when the said authors are little enough cared for by the public for their signatures to add hardly anything to the value of the book. Very often it's not at all difficult.

Feb 13, 2020, 8:47pm

My LEC Shakespeare was owned by Nathaniel Finston (Chairman of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from 1938-1944) and all my volumes have his bookplate.

Editado: Mar 5, 2020, 10:04pm

I have a copy of John Treat Irving's Indian Sketches (Putnam, 1888) that was once owned by the actor Jack Palance with his bookplate. It also bears an inscription from the author.

Other than a couple of LEC's that were once the property of the artists involved, that is about it.

Mar 5, 2020, 8:06pm

I purchased a well-read set of LEC's Sherlock Holmes Vol 1-3 on EBay last year and they have a return address label attached on the inside front cover that states:
M. Lincoln Schuster
Cow Neck Farm
Sands Point, L.I., N.Y
The seller stated she believed they were from the library of Max Lincoln Schuster who started Simon & Schuster and passed away in 1970. The seller had acquired the books at a used bookstore in 1975, which apparently was a few months after his widow passed.
In addition, the limitation number is 111, which I assume means an early subscriber or at least a cool number that possibly Macy reserved for his buddies in the biz? Anyone tracking limitation numbers with subscribers?

I find it humorous that, in lieu of a bookplate, a titan of the publishing industry simply used return address labels to affix to the books he apparently cared about.

Mar 5, 2020, 10:51pm

Schuster was a near-contemporary of George Macy, just three years older, and both attended DeWitt Clinton High School and Columbia University, so it wouldn't be imporobable that when George founded the Limited Editions Club, he would have persuaded Schuster to the one of the early members.

Jun 12, 2020, 1:01am

Bumping this thread after coming across an eBay listing for The Lyrical Poems of Francois Villon that unexpectedly includes a COA attesting it once belonged to the "personal library" of none other than Buddy Ebsen :) - Turns out Buddy had an artistic bent and was also a serious coin collector, so he fits the LEC "profile" more than ol' Jed would lead you to believe. If I had any interest in the text I would snap it up, especially given its seemingly excellent condition and affordable price.

Jun 12, 2020, 1:07am

>7 johnbean9: Which edition, the 1933 copy illustrated by Howard Simon or the 1979 book with the signed Eichenberg woodcut?

Jun 12, 2020, 1:10am

'79, with no evidence of the woodcut

Jun 12, 2020, 1:25am

>9 johnbean9: I wouldn't buy it without the signed print. My first Fine copy in a Fine slipcase cost $20 (this is a very economical LEC to purchase) without the print. Eventually I paid $120 to get a Fine copy with the extra print. The eBay copy you reference is not signed nor does it have a book plate. One would be paying an extra $35 for COA. The same listing references another copy available for $12.

Jun 13, 2020, 2:32am

Another day, another discovery. Actually not an especially famous person, but the one-time owner of this Autocrat of the Breakfast Table was married to a rather colorful heir to the RJ Reynolds tobacco fortune - The seller apparently doesn't know the person behind the rather large inscription but I managed to sleuth it out :) Discoveries like this are proving to be part of the fun of LEC collecting for me!

Jun 13, 2020, 11:38am

Hey! There's an idea: collect LEC volumes which have been previously owned by people of note. 'Twould make a challenging quest, would it not?

Ago 23, 2020, 12:25pm

I’ve got a funny special binding red leather unslipcased 1932 Alice in Wonderland hors series signed by Frederic Warde (and not by Alice) for H/G Mardersteig and with the latter’s bookplate. I suppose it’s not wildly valuable. Having read about probable-Helen-Macy-copies on this forum I rather wonder how many unnumbered copies there were of each book.

Ago 24, 2020, 8:02am

I like bookplates in books (I feel that I shouldn’t, as they remove the book from its ‘as published’ condition and are usually impossible to remove without leaving any marks, but nevertheless I do like them).

My copy of the LEC Tyl Ulenspiegel has the boldly-designed bookplate of Walter Kahoe. I must admit that this was not a name that meant anything to me, but I was struck by the design of the bookplate. I suspect however that those more familiar with the history of printing in the US than I am will know the name.

I discovered that Walter Kahoe was a man of great energy. Kahoe trained at the printing firm of William Edwin Rudge under Bruce Rogers. He then set up the Antioch Bookplate Company (now The Antioch Company) in 1926 with fellow student Ernest Morgan who both worked part time in the Antioch College print shop. Kahoe left after 1 year to become director of the Antioch Press. Throughout his busy life in publishing he appears to have set up printing companies (including Kahoe and Spieth, Kahoe and Company, The Rose Valley Press and The Whimsie Press).

Knowing a little about the man who previously owned my copy of the book has added to my pleasure in the book. This is why I like bookplates!

Editado: Ago 24, 2020, 12:42pm

>14 edgeworn: Unlike you, I don't like bookplates and almost always avoid books that have them. However, if I can discover biographical information about the previous owner, and if the book isn't especially valuable, then I really enjoy having the plate because, like you, it adds to my reading pleasure to have some kind of historical link. Three of my recent LEC purchases fit this type, one of which I recently read. My copy of South Wind was previously owned by Marjorie Montgomery Ward, a name which might not resonate with many but for me, being a Chicago native, it made this volume one I really wanted. Marjorie was the orphaned niece and adopted heiress of mail order tycoon Montgomery Ward, to whom Chicagoans (and countless visitors) owe a debt of gratitude for helping to preserve Grant Park. Marjorie took full advantage of her inherited largesse and did what many of the area's wealthy did in the early 1900s - build a mansion on a Wisconsin lakefront property. Her 15,000 square foot palace, named Knollward, is still highly regarded in architectural circles as being a fine example of the French manor house style. It of course had a magnificent library, complete with solid oak-paneled doors for the bookshelves. When reading of the carefree hedonism of South Wind's Nepenthe, I would think of the parallels to Marjorie's own life, and wonder if she thought the same :)

My South Wind's one-time home, before stepping way down in life :)

Ago 24, 2020, 2:55pm

>14 edgeworn: Interesting. I have some Macy ephemera which includes a TLS from GM on LEC letterhead to Mr. Kahoe. It is a solicitation attempting to get him to buy the first six Heritage Press books. It is addressed to him at The Antioch Press, Yellow Springs, Ohio. Like you, I wanted to know a little about Mr. Kahoe, so Googled the man and came up with much of the same info you did, naturally. I was already familiar with the Antioch Press, as I used to buy bookplates from them when I was managing a bookstore about 40 or so years ago.

Here are my notes on the man:

Walter Kahoe: Notes on his life.

Walter Kahoe, 1905-1978, received his training as a printer at the house of William Edwin Rudge in Mt. Vernon, NY, and at the Antioch Press in Yellow Springs, Ohio. While he was at Rudge's, in 1924, Bruce Rogers was the Master.

Kahoe, a fast learner, was Director of the Antioch Press from 1926-1935. In this same period, with Ernest Morgan, Kahoe started the Antioch Bookplate Company. Kahoe fairly quickly sold his interest in it to Morgan. It became Antioch Publishing, and was bought by Trends International on March 1, 2008.

Also during this period, with David Spieth, Kahoe started Kahoe and Spieth, soon buying out Spieth and changing the name to Kahoe and Company.

Walter Meyer, bookbinder for the Rudge company, commented on one of Kahoe and Spieth's first publications: "'Eternal Springtime' has all the earmarks of a de luxe book."

In 1939, Kahoe published "The Golden Door: A Magazine Anthology for Bookish Folk." It ran eleven issues.

After moving to Philadelphia in 1940 and joining the medical department of J.B. Lippincott Co., as a hobby Kahoe began The Rose Valley Press, each year printing and binding several hundred little books as Christmas presents. The Rose Valley Press did non-Christmas books as time permitted. Kahoe became head of Lippincott's medical division and a Vice President of the firm. He also served as a Director of the Independence Press in Philadelphia.

After retiring in 1971 Kahoe started The Whimsie Press, and published five titles. He did all the layout and binding on Whimsie books.

Ago 24, 2020, 5:51pm

>15 johnbean9: I will admit that I don't go out of my way to find copies of books with bookplates, but if a book I am interested in has one I am happy to buy it. Like you, there are many (perhaps the majority) of book buyers and collectors who would rather not have someone's bookplate in a book. This probably helps to keep the price down for me!

How fascinating to be able to find a photograph of a previous home of a book you own, especially when it is such a grand building.

>16 Glacierman: Thank you for this info about Walter Kahoe. It seems that, although he held senior positions in publishing, his heart was in printing. No-one would start a new press at the age of 66 unless they absolutely loved the act of creating books!

Ago 29, 2020, 9:47pm

Lauren Bacall was once like us - I researched and Bonham's did sell a lot consisting of her books, many LECs, five years ago - And completely OT, but I think it's interesting that she passed away at the same place, New York's The Dakota, as John Lennon's tragic death.

Editado: Dic 6, 2020, 10:52am

Live Auctioneers has the Silver Jubilee Dinner Party booklet up, but what makes it interesting is an included letter from George Macy to actor Fredrich March and his wife. I enjoyed experiencing George's distinct writing style somewhere other than an ML :)

Dic 6, 2020, 11:21am

This party, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Limited Editions Club also coincided with George Macy's 50th birthday. In many ways it marked the pinnacle of George's career. Within two years he would die of cancer. Being the classicist he was, one wonders if he heard the memento mori whispered in his ear, or if he was planning new enterprises.

Dic 7, 2020, 5:40pm

>20 Django6924: I don't mean to quibble but I believe George was 54 at the time. He was 56 when he died.

Dic 7, 2020, 6:19pm

>21 laotzu225:

I believe he was 56 when he died.

Editado: Ene 26, 12:59pm

I purchased a copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales several years back. It has a standard limitation page in the back of the second volume, but the front of the first volume includes this personal inscription from Jean Hersholt. According to Wikipedia, Margaret Gledhill was a librarian and executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not too exciting, but I do like Mr. Hersholt’s sweet message:

Editado: Ene 26, 4:50pm

>23 katy1584:


Hersholt was probably a wonderful person in real life: President of the Motion Picture Relief Fund for almost 20 years, and star of the "Dr. Christian" motion picture and radio series, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is given in his honor to figures in the entertainment business who have made "outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes."

Ironic that as an actor, Hersholt originally came to prominence as the reprehensible "Marcus" in "Greed," Erich von Stroheim's classic adaptation of Frank Norris' McTeague.

Ene 26, 8:34pm

>24 Django6924:

Very interesting! You are a wealth of knowledge and I always enjoy reading your posts. This makes me want to check out “Dr. Christian” and “Greed.”

Ene 27, 12:27am

>25 katy1584:

"Greed" is an amazing, almost shattering, experience to see even after nearly 100 years. Not a pleasant film, it was hated by the studio and public, but in the years since has been attained the status of one of the greatest films ever made.

"The Country Doctor," the film in which Hersholt played the kindly doctor (called Dr. Luke in this film and based on the real life Dr. Alan Dafoe), is a different movie altogether. Loosely based on the true story of Dr. Dafoe's delivery of the Dionne Quintuplets--a story that knocked Hitler, Mussolini, and the Depression off the front pages of newspapers round the world--it was a major hit, spawning two sequels. When Dr. Dafoe decided he didn't want to license further portrayals of his alter ego "Dr. Luke," Hersholt simply renamed the character "Dr. Christian," due to his lifelong study of countryman Hans Christian Andersen, whose complete stories he translated for the LEC.

Editado: Ene 29, 11:40am

Hello, group! My name is John and I am relatively new here, mainly lurking and posting an occasional message. So I wanted to formally introduce myself, and write something that illustrates why LEC collecting only gets more and more fun. When checking through the volumes of my new acquisition, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, I was surprised to find a telegram tucked within the pages of volume 6.

I got a kick simply from the fact this was the first time I had ever actually held a telegram, after seeing them as a plot device in countless movies and TV shows. The names in the telegram meant nothing to me but a little research revealed that Dr. Preston Bradley, the recipient and presumably the owner of the book, was a prominent church leader in Chicago, my hometown. I was raised Catholic and he was a Unitarian, so that helps explain why I had never heard of him lol It's interesting that his friend in the telegram calls him "the world's greatest liberal" and Bradley's Wiki page calls him "a forceful liberal voice" - apparently he lived up to his reputation. Wiki also reveals that the very long-running soap Guiding Light was inspired by Bradley's radio sermons.

It's serendipitous finds like this that add to the enjoyment of book collecting :) (btw, the Empress of Australia has its own interesting history, but I won't get into that here)

Mayo 28, 5:32pm

>6 Django6924: Having recently acquired an original prospectus for the Limited Editions Club (1929) it is confirmed: “Prominent book publishers, such as Alfred A. Knopf, F.N.Doubleday, M. Lincoln Schuster, Crosby Gaige, are enrolled.” Between that and the description of the upcoming books, I’m tempted to send in my application to 551 Fifth Ave, NY

Mayo 28, 7:17pm

>28 BionicJim:

A very different time then--book publishers in New York were like a club--they all hung out at the Waldorf-Astoria bar and they and their families met socially. Not like the (few) big corporations who publish books today

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