Category Archives: book collecting

Roger W. Smith, bibliophile

 

… I take pleasure from the fact that I can enjoy [books] when it pleases me to do so; my soul is satisfied merely with possession. I never travel without books, neither in peace nor in war. Sometimes whole days go by, even months, without my looking at them. But it might be at any moment now, or tomorrow; or whenever the mood takes me…. Books are, I find, the best provisions a man can take with him on life’s journey.”

— Michel de Montaigne

 

 

**********************************************************

 

I was watching a Ken Burns documentary the other day. There was a photo of FDR’s study in his home in Hyde Park, NY. The walls were lined with bookshelves. As often seems to be the case in such situations, the books were behind something or other: a mesh? glass?

J. P. Morgan’s library, in his residence (now a museum) on Madison Avenue in Manhattan looks just the same. Books everywhere. Many, probably all of them, priceless.

It looks, however, as if most or many of the books in such studies did not get read by their owners.

 

 

********************************************************

 

I am definitely a bibliophile, but I do not collect books solely to be able to say I own them, or for money, as an antiquarian might.

If I “adopt” a certain author — add him to my all time favorites/must read list — I find that I then want to acquire everything by or about the writer that I can lay my hands on. This includes — with respect both to the acquisition of books and actually reading them — minor as well as major works.

I have found that sometimes, indeed often, reading a writer’s early works and ones considered to be minor can be very satisfying. And, I have found that works deemed “minor” can turn out to be among the author’s best and most revealing ones.

I am interested in the man and his life as well as the works. So, I will obsessively look for works of a biographical nature and books that provide ancillary information about the writer. It might be a book by or about someone with whom the writer was closely associated or by whom the writer was influenced.

I won’t stop once I have started. Which is to say, I will acquire every book by or about that particular writer that I can find.

This often seems to bear fruit. So that acquiring books as a sort of “futures contract,” based upon the idea that you may want to get back to the writer, seems propitious. This recently happened to me, for example, in the case of a Russian-American scholar Pitirim A. Sorokin, whose work I have long been interested in. I recently got an inquiry from a visitor to this site, based in Moscow, who was interested in my posts on this site about Sorokin. I was able to go to my storehouse of Sorokin books and found much valuable, pertinent information there to share with her. Many of the books are out of print, or hard to obtain even in libraries. Some of the out of print ones are obtainable on the internet, but at what are now expensive prices.

I can remember approximately what I paid for most of my books, going far back, and where and under which circumstances I bought them.

 

******************************************************

 

I once remarked to a therapist I was seeing that I had acquired many books in the manner described in my comments above and that I was unlikely to read a majority of them. I was thinking, ruefully, that it was perhaps foolish of me to be buying so many books without the likelihood that I would ever get around to reading most of them.

The therapist, an intellectual and writer, who himself had developed a private library in similar fashion — and for the same reasons — replied by saying emphatically (in so many words), “you’ll get around to reading them eventually.” He dismissed my concerns that I was overdoing it.

His comment made me feel better and less guilty about my sometimes extravagant book buying. And, I do realize that just having certain books on one’s bookshelf makes one feel good. There is a sense of security about it. You know that certain books, especially those of your favorite authors, are there waiting to be read. It’s a nice feeling. (I have had similar experiences and feelings in compiling a classical music collection.) And, I do get around to reading many of them.

It also surprises me that I turn to books on my shelf more frequently than I would have expected, to look up something or other or to remind myself of what a writer said about something (sometimes unearthing a pertinent quote).

My therapist also made the point that there is something very pleasant and cozy about having a book lined study. I myself feel this way. It is pleasant to be able to contemplate and, indeed, to admire one’s own book collection; to view one’s bookshelves; to peruse them and think about authors and their works, as well as thinking about what one might like to read next.

I actually like to feel books, to have them in my hands.

 

******************************************************

 

I have become a shrewd book buyer over time. You have to know when to “pounce.” If you see a book that you really want, and you can afford it, I have found that you should buy it without further deliberation.

An example of would be Walt Whitman’s Blue Book: The 1860-61 Leaves of Grass Containing His Manuscript Additions and Revisions. This is a two-volume boxed set that was beautifully and expensively produced. It was published in 1968 by the New York Public Library. It has tipped in pages which show revisions in Whitman’s own hand that he made in a copy of his of Leaves of Grass which he kept in his desk drawer while working in a government office in Washington during the Civil War. There is extensive editorial commentary as well.

I wanted to obtain a copy of this book, but they are quite rare. I found that there were — if I remember correctly — two copies for sale on the Internet, both priced at around $300 for two volumes.

Then, I saw that the Stand Bookstore in Manhattan had a copy. I went to the Strand to check it out — it was in their rare books department — and found that it was in perfect condition. The Strand’s price for the two volumes: ninety dollars. I bought the book without hesitation.

Another example is a monograph by Thomas M. Curley: Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in The Age of Johnson. I have wanted to obtain this book for some time — I read a previous book by Curley about Samuel Johnson and was greatly impressed. The more recent book by Curley — the one about Chambers (an acquaintance of Samuel Johnson) that I have been seeking — is for some reason very hard to find. If you look for the book from on line second hand booksellers, it is egregiously priced. The available copies that are in “good” condition (which means good, but not mint, condition) are priced at around $550 to $650 — this for a one volume book published in 1998.

I saw a copy on line the other day for around $200. I ordered it. I knew that I was not likely to find the book at this price again and that, relatively speaking, $200 — while it seemed very expensive — was a good deal. I know from experience that I will not regret the purchase.

The bookseller charged me over $200 for the book plus shipping. It never came. I had great difficulty with the bookseller, but was ultimately able to get my money back through arbitration. Then, I miraculously found an online bookseller who sold me the book — a beautiful edition, in mint condition — for $100 including shipping.

It’s like the eighteen dollars I spent during my senior year in college for a beautifully produced book comprising a facsimile of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The book seemed very expensive then, but I had to have it. It was solely a question of did I have the eighteen dollars, never a question of would I purchase it. I do not regret the purchase — it seems that you can’t find this particular edition anywhere nowadays. Nor can you find other editions that are so beautifully produced with magnificent reproductions of Blake’s color plates.

And, it seems that, for cherished books that I have paid a lot for, there are many others that I was able to buy cheaply.

 

 

******************************************************

 

And, then you get lucky. On (May 7, 2017, for example, at the Strand Bookstore, I purchased An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer (1904). Forty dollars. Two volumes, illustrated. Over 1,100 pages. Nice wide margins typical of books of those days and splendid black and white illustrations — books were well produced a century ago! In very good condition. A serendipitous, unanticipated acquisition. I was looking for a different book in the social science section. It’s the sort of purchase one makes in used bookstores.

Worth reading? Will I? I’m not sure. Spencer was once a widely read and influential social scientist; his books were very popular among the general readership. I have run across books like this before and am glad of having bought them. Given the condition that the book was in and its rarity, I knew I was a good deal. But, I don’t purchase such books thinking of possibly selling them. Would not purchase if I didn’t think I might want to read them.

 

 

******************************************************

 

You have to be persistent and continually on the lookout for books you want that may become available. An example is a nine volume work by Horace Traubel (sometimes referred to as “Walt Whitman’s Boswell”): With Walt Whitman in Camden. The book was originally published in 1906 in three volumes. Then, over the years, six more volumes were published posthumously, the last one in 1996.

I bought several volumes at random at the Stand Bookstore, whenever I saw one for sale. Then I bought the first three volumes, in mint condition, from an online bookseller for three hundred dollars. It seemed a lot to pay, but I was glad to have them.

I now owned eight of the nine volumes of Traubel’s diary cum biography. I checked an online global library catalogue, WorldCat.org, and it seemed that hardly any libraries — perhaps none — owned a complete set. I was missing only Volume 4. I found that only about seven libraries in the world owned Volume 4, including just one library in New York City: the Lehman College Library in the Bronx. They had two copies!

Finally, in June 2017, after several years of looking, I found Volume 4 for sale on line! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This completed my set of all nine volumes of With Walt Whitman in Camden. Probably some Whitman scholar has them, but I doubt that a library anywhere does.

 

 

***************************************************

 

An opinion I have long held is that books are a cheap commodity, comparatively speaking. When you consider how much pleasure you can get from them — their “entertainment value,” so to speak, compared to other things like movies — and how long that pleasure lasts (you can keep the book, you can reread it, often with profit and pleasure), they seem like an awfully good way to spend one’s money.

When you think of all the expense and effort involved in producing a book — research, writing, editorial, production, and so on — it seems remarkable to me that they are priced as low as they are. Yes, “expensive” books fifty years ago cost five or six dollars; now they cost thirty or thirty-five dollars, perhaps. But, when you consider their relative value, and how much prices have risen in other areas, the cost doesn’t seem prohibitive.

 

 

 

– Roger W. Smith

   June 2017

 

 

**********************************************************

 

 

 

 

Addendum — Booksellers:

 

I have always had a nose for books and have made many serendipitous acquisitions. Among my best places to find books, currently, I would include:

(1) The Strand Bookstore at Broadway and 12th Street in Manhattan. I have been going there since the late 1960’s. It seems to be one of the few used bookstores left in Manhattan. I keep making finds there. Everything is reasonably pieced — underpriced (almost always) compared to the online used book market; this includes books just off the press. The books they carry are in excellent condition — they don’t seem to acquire books that are not. A great thing about the Strand is that the books are very well organized, alphabetically by author.

You have to get a feel for their system, to know what section to look in. For example, if you were looking for a biography of Walt Whitman by Justin Kaplan, you have to know to look under “Whitman,” not “Kaplan,” and you would have to know that it would be in the literary nonfiction section. Books are rarely where they should not be. Plus, the Strand now had an excellent web site so that one can buy books from them on line. I often order on line from them. You don’t have to worry about getting a worn, beat up book delivered to you.

(2) Amazon.com is good for most book buying. I find their reviews quite helpful — I have written quite a few myself. Their books are reasonably priced, often at a discount. They seem to have most books that are in print. I find them less useful for used books. I would say, avoid buying (on Amazon) from secondary sellers.

(3) abebooks.com is, in my opinion, the best site by far for finding used books, especially out of print ones. If it’s available and for sale, the book will be there, or not at all.

The search engine is great. Just now, I was looking for a paperback edition of Platero and I, , a book by one of my favorite poets, Juan Ramón Jiménez. An English translation was published in paperback in 1962; it is virtually unobtainable now. It happens to be an edition I like because of the translation (among other things). I couldn’t find it anywhere until I went to abebooks.com. There were several editions available on the site. Quite a few were expensive. But, there was one in excellent condition that was reasonably priced.

You can sort the search results by price, date published, condition, etc. The booksellers are very accurate in describing a book’s condition.

I do not like to buy a book with a torn or tattered cover, underlining, crumbling pages, etc. — I don’t want someone else’s beat up book. I am willing to pay more to get a book that is in mint condition.

 

*****************************************************

 

Addendum:

 

Posts re books in my private library are on this site at:
https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/02/11/roger-w-smith-my-treasured-books/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/06/23/roger-w-smith-my-walt-whitman-book-collection/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/06/23/roger-w-smith-my-book-collection-of-samuel-johnson-and-james-boswell/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/09/23/inventory-of-dreiserana-books-etc-by-and-about-theodore-dreiser-in-roger-w-smiths-private-library/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/06/24/my-blake-books/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/06/24/my-henry-miller-books/

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/06/24/my-sorokin-books/

 

 

DSCN1420.JPG

Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, New York, NY

 

 

 

Curley, 'Sir Robert Chambers' - book cover.jpg

Thomas M. Curley, “Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in the Age of Johnson” (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)

 

 

 

'Songs of Innocence and Experience' - Orion Press.jpg

William Blake, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (The Orion Press, New York, in association with The Trianon Press, Paris, 1967)

 

 

'Platero and I' (paperback) - cover.jpg

Juan Ramón Jiménez, “Platero and I,” Signet  Classic

Roger W. Smith, “my treasured books”

 

 

 

An acquaintance asked me the other day what were some of my favorite, most treasured books. This spurred me on to make an “inventory,” as it were.

What follows is by no means a complete list, but, for my own sake, as a follow up to my friend’s query, I took a look at my bookshelves.

 

 

*****************************************************************

 

 

Alexander Gilchrist, “Life of William Blake”; 2 volumes (1880). My parents bought me a beautiful reprint edition of this work as a birthday present in 1972. It cost $35 then, which seemed expensive.

Adrian Van Sinderen, “Blake: The Mystic Genius” (1949). My friend John Ferris bought this book in a used bookstore in the 1960’s. I had a keen desire to own my own copy, but could never find one. Then, a few years ago, I finally found an inexpensive copy in the Strand Bookstore.

Blake, “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” (Orion Press) with Blake’s original illustrations (plates). This is a gorgeous edition; the printing and colors are fantastic. It doesn’t seem to be available anymore. I bought in 1968, just published, in a bookstore in Copley Square for $18. That seemed expensive then.

Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” A beautiful illustrated edition with introduction and commentary by Sir Geoffrey Keynes, published by Oxford University Press; purchased at the Strand Bookstore for $15.00.

Blake, “Poetical Sketches.” A slender facsimile edition, published in 1927, in good condition. I bought it for $7.50.

“William Blake: Poet, Printer, Prophet” by Sir Geoffrey Keynes (Orion Press, 1964); priced at $15.00.

“William Blake’s Illustrations to the Grave.” A fragile oversized paperback which I bought in the 1970’s that I have had trouble finding shelf space for and which I am almost afraid to handle. It was not expensive and has marvelous monochrome illustrations.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., “Innocence and Experience.” Criticism on William Blake, published in the 1960’s; one of the best and most interesting works of criticism I have read. I bought this book in paperback in 1968 when a senior in college. I lost it on a streetcar in Boston. I managed to find a hardcover edition in the Strand Bookstore a little while later. It cost me $3.50.

Horace Traubel, “With Walt Whitman in Camden.” I have eight of the nine volumes that exist; six of these nine volumes were published posthumously. (I have read all nine.) I believe I have one of the most complete sets that any person or institution, including libraries, has. I have been unable to find and purchase Volume 4.

Walt Whitman, the complete correspondence; seven volumes. I had a very hard time finding a couple of the earlier volumes to complete my collection, but finally succeeded in obtaining them.

“Walt Whitman’s Blue Book.” A facsimile edition of “Leaves of Grass” with Whitman’s own edits in his handwriting (with tipped in pages, very costly from a book production standpoint). This exquisite two volume book, published in the 1960’s, is very hard to find now. A priceless book with excellent commentary and textual material. On the Internet, there are a couple of editions available priced at around $300. I recently got it at the Strand Bookstore for $90, which I considered a coup.

“The Diary of Samuel Sewall.” A Capricorn Giant paperback priced at $1.95.

Herman Melville. “Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile.” Hardcover published in Boston in 1925; in excellent condition; bought used for $5.

Herman Melville. “Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile.” Paperback published by Sagamore Press in the American Century Series, with an introduction by Lewis Leary; bought used for 75 cents.

Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter”; Modern Library edition.

Theodore Dreiser, “An American Tragedy.” A first edition (two volumes) given to me by a friend whom I was visiting in Paris. The gift took me totally by surprise.

“A Sister Carrie Portfolio” by James L. W. West III (University Press of Virginia, 1985).

Floyd Dell, “Moon-Calf.” A Sagamore Press paperback in the American Century Series, published in 1957.

Walter Duranty, “The Curious Lottery and Other Tales of Russian Justice” (1929) in a reprint edition.

Langston Hughes, “The Big Sea” and “I Wonder as I Wander.” Two fine paperback editions published by Hill and Wang; priced at $12.95 and $14.00, respectively.

The complete O’Neill-O’Flaherty novels (five books) by James T Farrell, published by the University of Illinois Press in fine paperback editions.

Djuna Barnes, “Nightwood,” in hardback.

Henry Miller, “The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud”; a New Directions paperback, priced at $1.40, which I bought in the 1960’s.

Henry Miller, “Letters to Emil,” edited by George Wickes. A New Directions paperback priced at $12.95.

Alfred Perles, “My Friend Henry Miller” (1956). A rare book.

The novels of Richard Yates in fine Vintage paperback editions.

Charles Pierre, “Green Vistas” (Northpoint Press, 1981). A book of poems by a former friend who gave me two copies of the book upon publication.

Samuel Johnson, the complete essays, three volumes; published by Yale University Press.

“Johnsonian Gleanings,” 11 volumes. A collection of biographical miscellanies about Samuel Johnson. Hard to come by. I purchased it over the Internet at a very reasonable price.

Samuel Johnson, “The Lives of the Poets”; 3 volumes. I have been intending to read this work, but tried it recently and found it hard going. Still, I am very glad to own it. A new edition was published recently for something like $300. I got this edition, a very good one published in the 1960’s by Octagon Press, from the Strand Bookstore recently for around $60.

Penguin paperbacks of Shakespeare’s plays, published in the 1960’s. They cost 65 cents back then.

Shakespeare, “As You Like It,” in a Folger Library edition (Washington Square Press); priced at 35 cents. I have three or four Folger Library paperbacks of Shakespeare. I treasure them, love the cover art.

Daniel Defoe, “A Journal of the Plague Year.” A Signet Classic paperback from my high school days that was priced at 50 cents.

William Wordsworth, “The Prelude or Growth of a Poet’s Mind” (text of 1805). Bought used in hardback; published by Oxford University Press.

Charles Dickens, “David Copperfield.” A nice edition with big print that was reasonably priced. I bought it in the early 1980’s in a now defunct bookstore on the Upper East Side, where I was living at the time. (I hate small print.)

Edgar Johnson, “Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph.” A two-volume biography that I bought in a Manhattan used bookstore for something like $3, in perfect condition.

Novels of George Gissing. Victorian novelist who should be better known. I have about eight or so of his novels in Harvest Press quality paperback editions which I treasure; they were hard to find and relatively expensive. I bought them one by one via the Internet.

Robert Louis Stevenson, “Treasure Island” (Everyman’s Library paperback); priced at $1.95.

D. H. Lawrence, “Sons and Lovers.” Modern Library edition from my college days.

W. Somerset Maugham, “Cakes and Ale.” A Penguin paperback priced at $9.95.

Malcolm Muggeridge, “Winter in Moscow” (1934).

“Lyrics of the French Renaissance.” A beautiful bilingual edition published by Yale University Press that I purchased recently.

George Orwell, “A Collection of Essays.” A Doubleday Anchor Book priced at $1.45. It was required in my freshman composition course.

Arthurian Legends by Chrétien de Troyes, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline. From the 12th century. I have all five of the paperback books of Chrétien’s poems in Cline’s magnificent translations.

Marcel Proust, “Jean Santeuil.” A precursor novel to “Remembrance of Things Past.” I got this real nice edition (English translation) in some used bookstore in Manhattan. I haven’t read it in its entirety, but am very glad to own it.

Marcel Proust, “Pleasures and Regrets.” Picked up by me in a used bookstore.

Marcel Proust, “On Reading.”

“Platero and I.” An old battered 1960’s paperback of mine of this prose poem by the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jiménez, translated by William H. and Mary M. Roberts. The best translation, I believe; hard to come by now.

Francisco Garfias, “Juan Ramon Jiménez.” A biography in Spanish. I bought it in a Latin American bookstore in Manhattan in the mid-1970’s for $2.75.

Knut Hamsun, “On Overgrown Paths.” Picked up by me in a used bookstore.

“Poems of The Elder Edda” (University of Pennsylvania Press). Old Norse poetry in splendid translations.

Tolstoy, “War and Peace,” unabridged, 4 volumes, in Russian. I bought it in The Four Continents Bookstore, a Russian bookstore on lower Fifth Avenue. At that time, Soviet books were cheap.

Tolstoy, “Resurrection.” In Russian. One of my all time favorite novels. Also bought at the Four Continents Bookstore.

Tolstoy, “Master and Man and Other Parables and Tales” (Everyman’s Library). A friend borrowed this book from me and carried it around for a few days, ruining the dust jacket, which annoyed me considerably.

“Leo Tolstoy,” introduction by Michel-R. Hofmann. An album published as a slim volume in 1969 in Geneva and reissued in English translation. My younger brother gave me the book as a gift from his personal library.

Dostoyevsky, “Poor Folk and The Gambler” (Everyman’s Library).

Dostoyevsky, “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions” (Criterion Books, 1955), with a foreword by Saul Bellow. Bought at the Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan for $5.00.

“Anton Chekhov’s Life and Thought: Selected Letters and Commentary” (1974) by Simon Karlinsky. Bought at a discount at the Columbia University Bookstore. A book which absolutely engrossed me, both Chekhov and the editorial commentary.

Chekhov, “Late Blooming Flowers.” A novella in paperback. Made into a fine Soviet film.

Chekhov’s stories in Russian. Another cheap Soviet edition from the Four Continents Bookstore.

Pushkin, poetry in Russian. Ditto.

Walter Arndt, “Pushkin Threefold.” Published in the UK in 1972. I bought it at the Strand Bookstore for $4.95.

“Fables of Aesop,” edited by Joseph Jacobs (Mayflower Books, 1979). A little book which I bought at Scribner’s Bookstore in Manhattan for $2.98.

Peter Abelard, “The Story of My Misfortunes.” I consider myself lucky to own this fine hardcover book. I can’t recall where I bought it. It was probably at the Strand Bookstore. I first learned about Abelard in a medieval history course with the great Norman F. Cantor.

“The Gospel According to Thomas” (Harper & Row, 1959). I bought this Gnostic gospel in the Harper & Row bookstore on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street using my employee discount.

Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D. “Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible.” A treasured book with color illustrations that Mrs. Shedd, my Sunday School teacher in the sixth grade, introduced me to and which I have owned since boyhood.

“Meister Eckhart.” A collection of his writings in a translation by Raymond B. Blakney in a Harper & Row paperback; sadly, not read by me yet.

“The Journal of George Fox,” edited by Rufus M. Jones. Paperback published by Friends United Press.

Albert Schweitzer, “Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography.” Paperback priced at $12.95.

Dorothy Day, “The Long Loneliness: An Autobiography.” Paperback published by Harper & Row; priced at $7.95.

Aldous Huxley, “The Perennial Philosophy.” An ink stained paperback given to me by my friend Bill Dalzell, a printer. The book, which was sort of a Bible for my friend Bill, is a compendium of excerpts from the works of mystical writers.

Walter Ciszek, S.J. with Daniel L. Flaherty, S.J. “With God in Russia.” A paperback in the Image Books series of Doubleday; priced at $2.45. This book bowled me over; I couldn’t put it down.

Jean Paul Sartre, “Anti-Semite and Jew.” A hardback that I bought at Salter’s book store in the Columbia University neighborhood.

“The Hours of Etienne Chevalier” by Jean Fouquet.” A gorgeous art book. One doesn’t seem to be able to find it anymore. I bought it as a Christmas present for my mother in the early 1970’s for the price of around twelve of thirteen dollars, which seemed expensive to me then.

Halsey Stevens, “The Life and Music of Bela Bartók.” A paperback which I purchased in the 1980’s for $4.50 and enjoyed reading very much.

“Little Pictures of Japan” (1925) and “Nursery Friends From France” (1927). Two treasured children’s books, inherited from my parents’ collection; edited by Olive Beaupré Miller.

Anna Sewall, “Black Beauty.” A nice Grosset & Dunlap edition.

“Medieval History” by my former professor Norman F. Cantor.

“Feudalism” by F. L. Ganshoff. A college history book of mine; priced at $1.65.

“The Making of the Middle Ages” by R. W. Southern; priced at $1.95.

“The Carolingian Empire” by Heinrich Fichtenau; priced at $1.45.

“The Barbarian West” by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill; priced at $1.25.

“The Historian’s Craft” by Marc Bloch. An old paperback of mine, a book I have read several times and underlined profusely.

Emanuel Le Roy Ladurie, “The Peasants of Languedoc.” An English translation in hardback, purchased by me in the early 1980’s when I was writing an article about the author. I consider myself fortunate to possess this interesting and innovative book.

A. J. P. Taylor, “English History 1914-1945” (Oxford University Press).

Cecil Woodham-Smith, “The Great Hunger.” This book was going out of print in the late 1970’s when I was employed by Harper & Row, its U.S. publisher. An Irish-American friend had recommended it to me. We had an employee discount of fifty percent on books in the Harper & Row bookstore. I was about to buy “The Great Hunger” and went to the register to pay, but the sales lady in charge would not sell it to me. She said this was because they had only three copies left in stock. I was always casing out books in the store during lunch hours, and this woman did not seem to like me. I was very disappointed, but was able to buy the book later when it went back into print.

Francis Parkman, the complete works (13 volumes). Beautiful old books in splendid condition. I bought this set at Argosy Books on East 59th Street in Manhattan. A very nice woman bookseller there who knew I loved Parkman made a point of contacting me about the set when it became available. The price was $250, expensive for me in the 1980’s. She lowered it to $175 because she said she wanted me to have the set.

“The Education of Henry Adams.” A Sentry Edition paperback priced at $2.45.

“The Oxford History of the American People” by Samuel Eliot Morison. Given to me as a Christmas gift by my older brother and his wife. On the inside cover, they wrote an inscription to me: “To the effervescent pedant.”

“Builders of the Bay Colony” by Samuel Eliot Morison. A beautiful paperback edition (Sentry Edition). Mine got ruined, the cover torn. I was able to obtain a replacement edition over the Internet.

Perry Miller, “Errand Into the Wilderness.” Purchased for a colonial history course that I took with David Hackett Fischer; priced at $1.60. A Harper Torchbooks paperback.

Edmund S. Morgan, “Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea.” A paperback from my college days; priced at $1.45.

Edmund S. Morgan,” The Puritan Family.” A Harper Torchbooks paperback; priced at $1.95.

David Hackett Fischer (my former history professor), “Albion’s Seed.”

David Hackett Fischer, “Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought.”

Richard C. Wade, “The Urban Frontier: Pioneer Life in Early Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington, Louisville, and St. Louis” (1959). A Phoenix Books paperback published by the University of Chicago Press which I purchased in college; priced at $2.45.

Lewis Henry Morgan, “League of the Iroquois.” First published in 1851 and republished in paperback in 1962. I consider myself very fortunate to have this book in the paperback edition, which retains the original illustrations. It was priced at $8.95.

E. Douglas Branch, “The Hunting of the Buffalo.” A Bison Book paperback published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “A Long Journey.” Autobiography of the Russian-born Harvard sociologist who was one of my early heroes.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “Leaves from a Russian Diary.” About Sorokin’s experiences during the Russian Revolution. A book I couldn’t put down.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “Social and Cultural Mobility.” A big quality paperback, priced at $2.95; long out of print.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs.” A posthumously published book that is hard to find. I have never liked Barnes & Noble, but I found this book in the Barnes & Noble store on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, priced at $10. A book I treasure.

Jane Jacobs, “The Life and Death of Great American Cities.” A Vintage Book paperback priced at $8.95.

Tété-Michel Kpomassie, “An African in Greenland” (1983). A cheap paperback edition; priced at $4.95.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, “Greenland: (Doubleday Doran & Company, 1944). Bought used by me in excellent condition for $6.

Farley Mowat, “People of the Deer.” I read this book avidly, then lent it foolishly to a woman I was trying to get to know better; she never returned it. I was able to eventually obtain a replacement copy priced at $13.95. The book is about Mowat’s experiences living with Inuit people in 1946-47.

Paul Bergman with Henry Fitts, “I Begged for Bread in Russia: An Autobiography” (1976). I found this book by serendipity in a barn like used bookstore somewhere in New England. It was priced at $1.95. The book held my interest.

Jeffrey Tayler, “Siberian Dawn: A Journey across the New Russia” (1999). A paperback priced at $16.00. One of the best travel books I have ever read.

Thomas S. Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” A paperback which I purchased in college for $1.50. Kuhn’s theories are said by some critics to have not stood the test of time.

Ralph Colp, Jr., M.D., “To Be an Invalid: The Illness of Charles Darwin.” I think this book is better than the sequel (see below).

Ralph Colp, Jr., M.D., “Darwin’s Illness.”

“The Fireside Book of Baseball” and “The Second Fireside Book of Baseball.” From the 1950’s; gifts from my parents. Books that I devoured in my preadolescent years.

“The Long Season” by Jim Brosnan. A book that Brosnan, a Major League pitcher, actually wrote himself. I have an old battered paperback copy from the 1960’s, which I treasure. It was priced at 50 cents.

Peter Gammons, “Beyond the Sixth Game” (1985). I finally found this book in paperback (price, $5.95) after a long hunt. It had already gone out of print, but a bookstore in Manhattan still had a copy on their shelves. It’s mainly about the Boston Red Sox, but it also provides illuminating coverage of changes that were occurring in the game in the 1980’s.

John Thorn, “Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game” (2011). My younger brother gave me this book as a birthday gift, lifting me out of a temporary state of depression during which I hadn’t been reading at all.

“Official Major League Fact Book, 1998 Edition.” Published by The Sporting News, this book turned out to be very useful. It is crammed with historical facts about teams and players. It was priced at $19.95.

“An Encyclopedia of World History” by William Langer. Given to me as a gift by neighbors in Canton, Massachusetts upon my graduation from high school.

“Words into Type.” The all time greatest style manual by far. Leaves “The Chicago Manual of Style” far in its rear. I bought this book in the mid-1970’s, for about twelve dollars, on the recommendation of a publishing executive, an editor at Doubleday, who was teaching an adult education course on editing which I took at Hunter College. It is an indispensable book.

William Zinsser, “On Writing Well,” Second Edition. I wrote advertising copy for this book while working at Harper & Row, Publishers in the 1970’s.

Bill Walsh, “Lapsing into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print — and How to Avoid Them.” A very cleverly written style guide by the Copy Desk Chief on the Washington Post Business Desk. My older brother, who was living in a Washington suburb, gave me the book as a gift. Otherwise, I would have never heard of it.

“Webster’s New World Dictionary.” The best, in my opinion. I have used it long (since the late 1960’s) and have purchased several editions, with previous ones becoming worn out from use. With it, one does not need an unabridged dictionary.

“Webster’s Biographical Dictionary.” Given to me as a going away present by my boss, a dean at Columbia University.

“Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary.”

“The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary.”

The Learner’s Russian-English and English-Russian Dictionaries (two volumes in paperback; MIT Press). Purchased at the Columbia University Bookstore.

Amsco’s French Dictionary. An inexpensive paperback dictionary for use in schools that I have found very useful and that has become worn from use. I have found that, for my purposes, it supersedes other French-English, English-French dictionaries that I have owned or consulted in the past.

Mario Pei, “The Story of Latin and the Romance Languages.” Published in 1976.

“Soviet Prison Camp Speech.” A bilingual glossary of Russian words and phrases, many obscene, used in novels such as those of Solzhenitsyn. I purchased this unusual book at the Strand Bookstore. It’s a fun book to browse.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      February 2016