Wednesday, July 23, 2014

156. A Summer Miscellany of Mistakes (4)

The comedy of errors that we know as bibliography is played with gusto in auction catalogues. Here we find Vale Press books ascribed to the Eragny Press, or vice versa, and ghosts are created, even if a catalogue has been prepared with the utmost care. And of course, after the sale, descriptions will not be corrected or adapted. Library catalogues also may contain mistakes, - they certainly do, although usually it is the absence of information that confuses the reader, - but, given time and devoted bibliographers, their omissions and errors will one day be adapted.

The Library of John Quinn, Part Three [I-Morley]. New York, The Anderson Galleries, 1924
In 1923 and 1924 The Anderson Galleries in New York sold the collection of John Quinn, owner of a series of manuscripts of Joseph Conrad, and, famously, the manuscript of James Joyce's Ulysses. The sale was in the hands of Michael Kennerley, started in November 1923, and ended after five monthly sales in March 1924. More than 1000 pages of catalogue descriptions were produced, almost 13.000 books and manuscripts were disposed of to make up for the lack of storage room. Quinn's rented New York apartment at 58 Central Park West had been sold, and he had to vacate it. He died the following July. 

The catalogue was printed by William Edwin Rudge, renowned for his fine printing. The notes were written by John Quinn in collaboration with Vincent O'Sullivan, and Charles Vale added biographies of important authors and printers. But even in this catalogue, errors slipped in.

The Library of John Quinn, Part Three [I-Morley]. New York, The Anderson Galleries, 1924, page 493 (detail)
A page long biographical sketch introduced seventeen editions of works by John Keats, published between 1895 and 1922, some of them by private presses such as The Daniel Press, The Doves Press, The Mosher Press, and the Eragny Press. In 1898 the Vale Press published a two-volume edition of Poems. Keats was one of Ricketts's favourite poets. If he had seen the catalogue - I do not presume he did - it would have pained him to read that these volumes were now seen as Eragny Press publications.

A mistake that is more difficult to understand entered the catalogue on page 593, where only four editions of Christopher Marlowe were described (items 6046, 6047, 6047a, 6048), including the Vale Press edition of Doctor Faustus (1903). The last item described an edition of Hero and Leander, published in Edinburgh in 1909.

The Library of John Quinn, Part Three [I-Morley]. New York, The Anderson Galleries, 1924, page 593 (detail)
The annotation stated that this was 'one of 500 copies' and that the book had been 'designed by and printed under the direction of Charles Ricketts'.

This concerns an edition of Hero and Leander printed by Ballantyne in Edinburgh. Ricketts and Shannon illustrated another edition of this book almost twenty years earlier, in 1894. The 1909 edition was, of course, not designed by Ricketts. It formed the first part of the Renaissance Library issued by Joseph M. Dent, and it was Dent who had designed the type for it, as the colophon explained.

Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander (London, Joseph M. Dent, 1909)
Obviously, some notes must have been in disorder, otherwise this ghost of a book would not have been advertised.