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:

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