27 December 2006

Awesome Wants List from 1920

WALTER T. SPENCER, 27, NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C. Any Parcels of Books sent, I willingly pay carriage both ways, if we do not come to terms. Telegraphic Address- "Phiz, London."

We recently found this closely written 24 page catalogue of 'books wanted' put out by London bookseller Walter C. Spencer in about 1920 (date taken from BM copy.) I have put it on our website. We are publishing it almost in its entirety (long lists of Scott, Ainsworth and Dickens have been abbreviated.) Some of the books are now impossible to find, a lot were very rare even then - especially anonymous pamphlets put out by the Romantics and items such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning's impossible first book 'Battle of Marathon', Poe's 'Tamerlane' or anything by the Hermit of Marlow (Shelley political tracts.)

Spencer, author of "40 Years in my Bookshop" (London 1923) whose dates were possibly 1860-1952 (unknown to Wikipedia, Google, etc. but these old booksellers lived long lives) was a major book seller of his time and a good friend of Thomas J. Wise, but at the time presumably ignorant of his darker side (we're talking forgery.) His shop was at 27 New Oxford and he dealt in prints, plate books, bound sets, the Romantics, Americana, first editions of his time (Wilde, Conrad, Galsworthy, etc.). A big Dickens man, popular with visiting American plutocrats like pickle king Henry J. Heinz and numbering among his customers, Sir Henry Irving, Gladstone, George Meredith, Andrew Lang, Gissing, Pater, Swinburne, and Richard Jefferies.

Spencer's list encapsulates bookseller wisdom of his age and rarities passed down from 19th century book sellers. These were the 'sexy' books of his day and some of them are still appearing on wants list, some no longer wanted or easily found (e.g. Charles Lever, Frank Smedley, Walter Scott.) I will add a few notes in but time forbids me from identifying every anonymous and pseudonymous item. Occasionally he offers money for a book and one can multiply that by about 100 to get his modern price. It is to be assumed with some books that they are there because a valued customer had asked for them. For more info on Spencer see our item 'Priceless books in Hampstead' or have a look at the whole catalogue Our picture shows Thomas J Wise -exposed as a forger of rare pamphlets in 1934 by biblio sleuths Carter and Pollard. His awesome (here the word is justified) book collection went to the British Museum in 1937.

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