28 September 2012

At the Bookshop 1822 and 2012

We posted this extract from an 1820s English/ French conversation manual on our shop website in 2005 and on revisiting it find that it now needs a modern version. It gave an interesting insight into a vanished world.

Note the concern with the appearance and quality of the books, the perennial problems with trying to get the binder to do what the bookseller and customer wants, and on time. The eagerness of the collector to be the first to be offered fresh stock from the shop has changed very little. Also still with us are the problems of delay in postal sytems...

 It is interesting that in the early nineteenth century women bookbuyers were thought likely to be attracted to Large Paper Copies and vellum. The customer's knowledge of book lore and binding styles has changed somewhat.


Well ! you are a man of your word, as usual: and the books that you were to send me, when shall I have them?
Eh bien ! vous etes un homme de parole, comme a l'ordinaire: et ces livres que vous deviez m'emvoyer, quand viendront-ils?

You are under great obligations to your binder; he often furnishes you with an excuse.
Vous avez un relieur a qui vous avez de grardes obligations , car il vous sert souvent de manteau.

I protest that I sent them to him the same day you came to buy them.
Je vous proteste que je les ai fait porter chez lui le meme jour que vous etes venu les acheter.

Well, I am willing to believe you; but, tell me, have you received anything new?
Allons, je veux bien vous croire; mais, dites-mio , avez-vous recu des nouveautes?

None since I had the honour of seeing you; but we have received within these few days the bill of lading of several chests which we expect every hour.
Aucune, depuis que j'ai eul'honneur de vous voir ; mais nous avons recu ces jours-ci le connoissement de plusieurs caisses que nous attendons incessamment.

Do not fail to preserve me a copy of every thing you meet with that is interesting.
N'oubliez pas de me reserver un exemplaire de tout ce qui pourra s'y trouver d'interessant.

Have you Moliere in a small size?
Avez-vous Moliere en petit format?

We have the stereotype edition, on four different kinds of paper.
Nous avons l'edition stereotype, sur quatre differens papiers.

As it is a commission that a lady of my acquaintance has given me, I think I had better take the large vellum paper.
Comme c'est une commission don't une dame de ma connoissance m'a charge, je crois que je ferai bien de prendre le grand papier velin.


Are all your books to be found online?
Sont tous vos livres pour être trouvé en ligne?

I have seen many copies of this book at Amazon some priced as low as 1p

J'ai vu de nombreux exemplaires de ce livre sur Amazon certains prix aussi bas que 1p

The Harrington brothers have a fabulous signed copy of this book in a magnificent binding. Sadly their price is beyond my means.

Les frères Harrington  ont une fabuleuse copie signée de ce livre dans une magnifique reliure. Malheureusement leur prix est au-dessus de mes moyens.

Please email if you see any books about hippies, beatniks, thieves or punks.

Veuillez nous contacter par e-mail si vous voyez des livres de hippies, beatniks, des voleurs ou punks.

He has closed his bookshop and now sells online from his home.

Il a fermé sa librairie et vend maintenant en ligne à partir de son domicile.

We do not sell the Kindle machine. I am sorry to say that we regard it with disfavour

Nous ne vendons pas le Kindle machine. Je suis désolé de dire que nous le considérons avec défaveur.

My price is fair. You can check the current price at ABE on your iPad. 

Mon prix est juste. Vous pouvez vérifier le prix actuel à l'ABE sur votre iPad.

That price is from an American web company called Custodial  Arts. I am sorry to inform you that their prices are utterly ridiculous and they are lunatics.

C'est le prix d'un Américain société web appelé Custodial Arts, je suis désolé de dire que leurs prix sont tout à fait ridicule et ils sont fous.

Thank you. I do not require the Print on Demand edition. They are an abomination. 

Merci. Je ne nécessitent pas un POD edition. Je considère ces livres comme une abomination.

P.S. The latter translation is via Babylon and I am waiting for a colleague in Paris to send a less robotic version.

27 September 2012

Ford Madox Ford as Daniel Chaucer

Daniel Chaucer (ie Ford Madox Ford), The Simple Life Ltd, John Lane, The Bodley Head, London 1911.

Current selling price £300 +

Seeing that every branch of Waterstones is presently crammed with fat paperback reprints of the Parade’s End tetrology, now perhaps is the time for publishers to consider new editions of the less well-known titles by Ford Madox Ford. One of the contenders must be The Simple Life Ltd (1911), one of two satires with similar themes, the other being  The New Humpty Dumpty (1912 ). A reprint would certainly please members of Ford’s fast-growing band of followers. At present there is no copy of The Simple Life Ltd on ABE. Indeed, there appears only to have been one edition, and this is an ever present item on some bookseller’s wants lists.

Simple Life Ltd is still regarded as a ‘curio‘ among critics, positioned somewhere between the early fiction and poetry and the experimental, impressionistic work of Ford’s mature years. Published at a difficult period of his life, just two years after he had been displaced as editor of The Fortnightly Review, it is a satire on Utopian lifestyles, but predominantly focuses on those who corrupt the ideals of the simple-life movement  for their own gain. It features caricatures of many of those with which Ford had been associated a few years earlier, while living a simple life himself  in Pent Farm, Kent and Limpsfield, Surrey. These figures included anarchists and proto-socialists such as Kropotkin, Edward Pease and the Garnetts. The frequently abrasive satire at the expense of many of his former friends may explain why Ford chose to write under the pseudonym Daniel Chaucer, which he continued to use for The New Humpty Dumpty.
The straight-forward plot of the novel revolves around the lives of a group of Simple-Lifers (as they are called throughout the book) who, led by the charismatic Simon Bransdon ( a thinly disguised version of Joseph Conrad) settle in cottages on land belonging to a Tory squire. Here they engage in the usual alternative pursuits of vegetarianism, abstemiousness, weaving, maypole dancing and homeopathy, while they investigate such paranormal phenomena as telepathy and thought transference. This idyllic existence begins to implode when one of the more fervent supporters of the utopian philosophy leaves the colony for university and returns as a Thoreau-like critic of the leader’s achievements, while the colony’s administrator is first revealed as a peculator and then is shown abandoning  the colony to set up his own garden city in East Croydon.
In the end the settlement is destroyed by fire—an appropriately symbolic end for a social experiment that carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

The Simple Life Limited is interesting from a historical perspective. While it was being written physically threatening anarchist activity (such as the Sydney Street Siege) was continuing in London side by side with the peaceful Garden City movement, which, initiated principally by the Quaker Ebenezer Howard, had borne its first fruit with the establishment in 1903 of Letchworth Garden City. Ford could hardly have been unaware of the ideals of Howard and his disciples and if he visited Letchworth may have noticed that these principles when turned into bricks and mortar did not always benefit those who most deserved to be rewarded. Today, it is ironic to discover that  some of the ‘ early ‘houses in ‘ the World’s First Garden City ‘,though originally built as ‘ affordable ‘ alternatives to the insalubrious terraces of  industrial cities, are now  among the most expensive homes in Hertfordshire, and as such  well beyond the pockets of today’s simple-lifer .

The recent TV-induced surge in the popularity of Ford doesn’t seem to have affected his online values much, if at all. Most firsts, of his many works in fiction and non-fiction come in at under £20, some at under £15. Such low prices are probably a reflection of his high productivity and the necessarily uneven quality of his output, which amounted to, on average, a book a year. Even early editions of the Parades End tetrology aren’t expensive. The exceptions are his ‘masterpiece‘, the Good Soldier (1915), which is online at £2,500, and the two satires, The Simple Life Limited and The New Humpty Dumpty—the latter being of particular interest to those studying the history of socialism and environmentalism.

I would to thank Nathan Waddell of the University of Nottingham for allowing me to see the whole of his article on The Simple Life Limited. [R. M. Healey]

Many thanks Robin. £300 might be cautious for a very sharp copy and in a d/j it would be thrice that. 'Good Soldier' - his masterpiece and a Connolly 100 is, as we have noted, a £10000 book in a jacket. I enjoyed the recent Hueffer fest on the BBC - there are some echoes of 'Simple Life' in the Wannup family. The late Peter Howard had a bunch of early jacketed FMF's he would take to fairs for many a year, oddly they were not subject to his usual very deep discounts...

Above is Ford with Joyce and Pound, the unassuming party on the right is John Quinn, lawyer to the Modernists. His literature collection, sold in 1924 was probably the most desirable of the last 100 years. He owned most of Joseph Conrad’s major manuscripts,  the manuscript of Joyce’s 'Ulysses', Synge’s manuscript of 'The Playboy of the Western World', Eliot’s 'Waste Land' and much of Yeats’ best work in manuscript. Those lawyers...

01 September 2012

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell, Principles of Mathematics, Cambridge University Press. Volume one (all published), 1903

Current selling price   £2,000+

‘ With the beginning of October (1900 )I sat down to write The Principles of Mathematics, at which I had already made a number of unsuccessful attempts . Parts III, IV,V and VI  of the book as published  were written that autumn. I wrote also parts I , II and VII at that time, but had to rewrite them later, so that the book was not finished in its final form until May 1902. Every day throughout  October, November and December, I wrote my ten pages, and finished the MS on the last day of the century, in time to write a boastful letter to Helen Thomas about the 200,000 words that I had just completed …’

Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, volume one, 1967.

Russell, arguably the greatest British philosopher of the twentieth century was just 28 when he undertook this astonishing feat. The title page indicates that a second volume which would be a ‘symbolic account of the assimilation of mathematics to logic ‘was to follow, but Russell later discovered that Alfred North Whitehead was preparing a work along similar lines, and so he decided to collaborate with him on a larger work that would be published as  Principia Mathematica in 1910 – 13. Both books are sought after, but the earlier work is perhaps more in demand from purists. Oddly, it was not even Russell’s first book. German Social Democracy, which appeared in 1896, when Russell was 24, now fetches over $2,500. It is astonishing to think that this was penned when Gladstone was still alive and radio communication and powered flight had not yet been perfected. Russell, of course, lived to see the first men on the moon. Maybe because he was such a presence in intellectual circles for so very, very long, that he is so revered, despite his persistent womanising, for which, oddly enough Albert Einstein is excused. Both men, incidentally, have been retrospectively diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, with Russell being labelled as the more extreme case.

In Principles of Mathematics Russell particularly acknowledged the influence of the logician Peano on his ideas, arguing that mathematics and logic are identical. Indeed, some reviewers felt the book to be of greater interest to philosophers than to mathematicians. It consisted of 59 chapters and was divided into seven parts---indefinables in mathematics, number, quantity and order, infinity and continuity, space, matter and motion. Interestingly, considering that Einstein was working on relativity at the time, Russell anticipates this theory, though he rejected   it. G.H Hardy, who reviewed the book, called Russell’s ‘firm belief in absolute space and time’ old –fashioned. Hardy also felt that although it was 534 pages long, the book was too short. In his view some chapters were too compressed to deal with important issues lucidly.

In 1904 the mathematician Edwin Bidwell Wilson lauded Principles as ‘a monument to patience, perseverance, and thoroughness’. So in demand was it that it went through several editions in Russell’s lifetime and beyond. Today, though it has had its critics, it is still seen as a landmark in philosophy. To Jules Vuillemin writing in 1968 it:

 ‘inaugurated contemporary philosophy…It is serious and its wealth perseveres…it locates itself again today in the eyes of all those that believe that contemporary science has modified our representation of the universe and through this representation, our relation to ourselves and to others .’

Today, first editions of Principles of Mathematics are in great demand, but hard to come by. Presently, ABE has 8 copies available. Even the cheapest, which is rebound, is selling at £387, while those in the original binding, but without jackets, are going for well over £2,000.The print-run must have been pretty small. Russell was not an established name, and even had he been one, new theories in philosophy and mathematics, by their very nature, are only in demand from University departments in these disciplines. Some idea of the risk any publisher took with such a book in this period may be gathered from the problems described by Russell that beset the follow-up, Principia Mathematica (three volumes, 1910 - 13. Apparently, the Cambridge University Press estimated that there would be a £600 loss on the book. The syndics agreed to bear a loss of £300 and the Royal Society donated £200. The remaining £100 had to be found by Russell and Whitehead.

As the author wryly remarked in his Autobiography, 'We thus earned minus £50 each by ten years’ work. This beats the record of Paradise Lost.' [R.M. Healey]

Many thanks Robin. How many dealers have found this book and thought it was just an odd volume? There are quite a few  books like this ('all published') - right now I can only think of a fairly modest Vita Sackille West and Alfred Marshall's Principles of Economics (1890) usually exchangeable for a $1000 bill. As for blameless womanisers you might add Gandhi and JFK! H.G. Wells was something of a satyr but not quite so illustrious...The copy above is for sale at £2000 during next week's York Book Fair (York Modern Books) - a decent looking example with the ownership inscription of A. D. Lindsay Master of Balliol College, Oxford to the front end paper.