Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November Binding of the Month Club

Welcome back club members!  And welcome to all new club members.

The selection for this month is a cover that's both seasonal and one of the more dramatic covers I've seen.  In addition, it's a fine example of the importance of condition in collecting and experiencing book cover art.  I've seen this book in less than good condition with dirty cloth and dulled gold and it makes no impression at all, other than the wish to see it as it was when issued.  Even seeing the spine of this copy gave me the feeling that something good was coming, but I wasn't prepared for the impression that a very nice copy would make.  Without further prelude, here is our November binding of the month, Elizabeth Freemantle's The One and I.

One enormous gold leaf to grab the potential reader's attention.  It works.
The book was published by George W. Jacobs of Philadelphia in 1908.  According to the book's entry in The Annual American Catalog, 1908:

"This story of a novel wooing in the Canadian northwest is told through the diary of an English girl. Her lover, who finally becomes her husband, 'the One with expectations,' is also English, a handsome, clever fellow running an adjacent ranch. They often meet, their conversations on books and music filling considerable space. The girl writes in her diary very elaborate accounts of the life and the nature around her home, which are rich in information."(1)

I haven't read the book, but the third sentence of the summary implies that a certain amount of judicious skimming might be in order.  The novel is set in the Qu'Appelle River Valley which runs through southeastern Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba. 
From Hathi Trust, University of California copy (2)

I was delighted to learn that the river runs close to the wonderfully named Saskatchewan villages/city of Eyebrow, Elbow, and Moose Jaw

Image from Wikipedia, Moose Jaw

The leaf motif runs through the book, reappearing on the title page and as chapter heading decorations.

From Hathi Trust, University of California copy
From Hathi Trust, University of California copy

The author is a bit of a mystery.  All that I've been able to find out about her is that she was born in 1873 and that Freemantle is a pseudonym, her real name being Elizabeth Rockford Covey.  Furthermore, this is the only book she seems to have written, although I'm not absolutely certain about that either.  She is also credited with a book called Comrades Two (published in 1907 by the Musson Book Company of Toronto).  Some sources say that The One and I is actually the American title and edition of Comrades Two, but there is a significant difference in pagination (246 pages in the Musson edition, 319 in the Jacobs edition).  Both publications have 4 color plates (one is shown above).  A further complication is that the Musson edition does not appear to have a date of publication printed on it.  Cataloging records all have the date bracketed with a question mark.  So the two may be the same book, with the American edition using 70 plus more pages.  The American edition may be an expanded version of the Canadian, they might have been issued simultaneously using different settings of type, or they might be different books.  I have not seen a copy of the Canadian edition--either a physical copy or an online copy--so I can't compare the texts, or see if they use the same cover design.  The page layout of the Jacobs edition does use a lot of white space at the margins and the bottom of the pages, so it's possible that Comrades Two was stretched to 319 pages.

  On the other hand, the verso (back side) of the title page has an odd copyright statement in light of what it doesn't say:

If the book was previously published in Canada, there should be some acknowledgement of Musson if the Canadian edition was published by them in 1907.  If the book was expanded for the Jacobs edition, one would likewise expect some statement to that effect either on the title page verso, or in a preliminary note or preface.  My guess is that the two titles were published simultaneously and the uncertain date in the catalog records for the Musson title are incorrect, and they should be cautiously dated 1908.  The significant difference in pagination would lead me to suspect that the type for the book had been independently set by Musson and Jacobs for their respective editions.  If I want to get some closure on this problem it looks like a trip to Interlibrary Loan is inevitable.

On a personal note, contemplating this cover design has helped to restore me to some degree of equanimity on the subject of leaves.  Specifically, leaves on our property (you know who you are!)  Over the last several weeks the tulip poplars, oaks and sweetgums have been giving of their plenty and my attitude has progressed from wonder to irritation to a sense of the hopelessness of existence. But they are all raked, bagged and happily composting somewhere and, as happens every year, I'm now missing them.  But lest I get too mellow, there are still those spiky sweetgum balls...

Please feel free to send your own suggestions on a cover design you'd like to see featured.  Our collection can be seen at American Publishers' Trade Bindings, and we'd love to hear from you.
Until next month.

(1) Annual American Catalog, 1908: Full Title Entries, p. 124.
(2) All images except cover are from the Hathi Trust Digital Library scan of a copy from the University of California, Davis.$b798901
Image of sweetgum "balls" are from the Garden Naturally blog at:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Marion Louise Peabody

I always get excited when I discover something new--well, new to me anyway. I was looking around for information on Marion L. Peabody a few months back. We have several books designed by her in our collection, which you can view here. She was a very talented artist who knew how to provoke a response from her art work. I think my personal favorite of her designs appeared on The up grade by Wilder Goodwin (Toronto: Musson Book Company, 1910). The art nouveau cover design was used on the original 1910 Little, Brown and Company edition also.

I was looking for information on Marion Peabody because I was trying to complete her authority record while cataloging a book that had one of her designs. An authority record is set up by library catalogers to establish a standardized form of name that is used for all works by an author or other creator (in this case an artist). We do this so someone searching for a particular person does not have to search all the possible names that she might have used, but can find all her works under the standardized form.(1) The authorized form of her name currently is Peabody, Marion L., 1869-. I was looking around for her death date to add to this authorized form of her name. One of my go to places to find out dates for people is I cannot recommend this site enough. It's free, easy to use, and mostly correct. I would still verify some of the information because part of this information is entered by people like you and me off the street, but when you have scanned documents (like in the case I'm about to discuss), it's hard to dispute the accuracy. 

When I was looking for her death date, I came across her passport application from 1921. You can imagine my excitement if you know anything about passport applications from the 1920s! This document is detailed AND it has a photograph of the artist herself. Nothing makes binding designers more real to me than when I see a photograph of them, or a handwritten letter or something along those lines. 

Looking at her passport application(2) I can verify that she was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 19, 1869. Her father (who was not living at the time of the passport application) was named Charles K. Peabody and was born in Peabody, Massachusetts. Marion had been living in Italy from April 1912 until October 1920. By the time the passport application was filled out in 1921 she was living at 192 Brattle Street (which is still standing) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She last got a passport from the U.S. Embassy in Rome on July 31, 1920 which was surrendered and cancelled. She was attempting to return to Italy for "family business" and to "study," and she wanted to set sail on a ship named the Critic on May 12, 1921.

I love how descriptive (or non-descriptive) these passport applications were. In addition to a photograph you were supposed to have a written description. Marion Peabody was listed as:

Age: 52 years
Stature: 5 feet 5.5 inches
Forehead: high
Eyes: Brown
Nose: Straight
Mouth: Medium
Chin: Prominent
Hair: Reddish-brown
Complexion: Fair
Face: Oval
Distinguishing marks: none listed. 

This is the photograph that appeared in the application (thanks to the FamilySearch site for making all this information available):

This is not how I imagined that Marion Peabody looked, but then again I'm not quite sure what I had envisioned. I can almost picture her leaning over a table creating the above binding design.

Once you start researching, you never know what you will dig up. Again, I say, thank goodness for technology and digitization efforts. Without people taking the time to make this information available online, I would have never been able to find this image or know about her living in Italy for so long without a lot of research in print resources.

I still haven't found her death date, but I haven't given up. It will take a little more digging and possibly some time for someone to digitize something that will point me to this date. In the meantime, I'll be content with finding cool clues along the way about Marion L. Peabody and the person she was. 

1. If you're interested in this subject, the Library of Congress has prepared a booklet describing the data format catalogers use and the kinds of records we create. You can find it at:
2. "United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 18 November 2015), Marion L Peabody, 1921; citing Passport Application, Massachusetts, United States, source certificate #17243, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925, 1561, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,666,802.