Show and Tell: Literati

On a weekly basis for many months now I've been intending to participate in Mel's Show and Tell threads. I think it's a brilliant idea, I love seeing what other people have to show off, but I'm just so painfully lazy and complacent. The only reason I'm doing it now is that I'm fueled by jellybean excess and SVU immersion, and this is the next logical thing to do. Obviously.

As some of you may know, I (very) casually collect antiquarian books and ephemera like old letters, purchased off eBay. I hesitate to call it a collection as it's composed of two books, two letters, and one WWII-era scrapbook, but I'm quite proud of what I do have.

My first acquisition was an Edward Burne-Jones book which seems to be inscribed to Burne-Jones' widow, Georgiana Burne-Jones, from their son Philip in 1909. It is then noted that it was passed on to someone else by EBJ's granddaughter in 1952.

I bought this book off eBay for something ridiculous like $20 at the height of my Burne-Jones and Pre-Raphaelite mania, something which has lessened significantly as I've aged and become more cynical, but this book remains one of my favourite possessions.

The inscription reads as follows: "Mother (Georgiana Burne-Jones, widow of Edward B-J) from Phil (Philip Burne-Jones, son of E B-J and G B-J), Nov 1909". A later writer, presumably the same person who presented the book as a gift in 1952, wrote the explanations. In the final dedication he/she wrote, "and now to EMC, from CM, granddaughter of EBJ, in everlasting gratitude, Christmas 1952." CM is Clare Mackail, whose signature and writing pop up in various auctions thanks to her connections with people like JM Barrie.

The photos in the book, though yellowed from age, are gorgeous reproductions, many of which have comments written beneath them as to their origin:

This one reads, "painted from Margaret Burne-Jones, his daughter, aferwards Mrs Mackail". Margaret, as well as Philip, can be seen as children here, in this photo from the National Portrait Gallery in London. Margaret is the youngest, and the other two girls are daughters of William Morris.

My second book of note is an early edition of Vasari's Lives of the Artists. Here I was thinking it was one of the first editions of the book in English, but as it turns out, the first one was in 1685, and mine ain't that. Mine is from 1885, so it's a mere 200 years later.

The inscription on this one is very hard to read, not because of faded ink, but poor penmanship. C'mon Victorians, I expected more of you!

I can get "For dear Mary from Jack and ...." as well as 1885, which, like one of the letters, has been written over and changed to 1887. Again, Victorians - you so crazy!

Some of the illustrations:

And finally, to drag the classy down to a notch or ten, here is my Toilet Sedaris. In actuality I have a signed copy of Naked, but as I lent it to someone it is not here to photograph. Instead, you must view my copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day, referred to above as Toilet Sedaris.

This next picture isn't great, but I hope you can see the warpedness of the pages from, you know, dropping it in the toilet. Confession time - I have lent this to someone in the past and not told them of its sordid Toilet Past. Gross, I know.

Thus ends the tour of a part of my moderately unusual library. Perhaps someday I'll do a Show and Tell on my emphemera, and I hope there are some nerds out there like me who might actually give a shit.


Aunt Becky said...

You crazy reader, you.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

While the rest of the post was making me feel considerably smarter, I obviously latch onto the Toilet Sedaris not just because I love potty humour, but because my signed copy of that book was one of my first show and tells (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/2008/06/circle-time-show-and-tell-weekly-thread.html). Isn't that weird?

Magpie said...

Toilet Sedaris slays me.

Beautiful Mess said...

WOW! Those are beautiful books! Especially the last one ;o) I have a VERY old Shakespeare book. I rarely touch it because i"m so afraid it'll fall apart.

Bittermama said...

I love the book inscriptions and letters. I've got a collection of my grandfather's scrapbook and letters from WWII (he was 18 and left Georgia for the first time to spend two years in India) and copies of my husband's grandfather's letters and telegrams to his wife surrounding their elopement. I hope to one day inherit my husband's grandfather's WWII scrapbook which includes some incredibly grisly images of his immediately post-war days in Burma.

I also hope to inherit some old books my mom used to pick up in Virginia antique shops and estate sales. One of them was a schoolbook that had a one-page essay from 1903 (I think?) written by a boy on the topic of what he'd do if he had $100. Mostly he wanted to buy golf clubs and pay for greens fees.

Dora said...

Very cool! Except for the Toilet Sedaris, which I think is quite appropriate. After all the hype, I was totally underwhelmed by Me Talk Pretty One Day. The wood nymph is spectacular!

elizasmom said...

I think it's Jack and Angela.

I took a class on early printing in college. I have forgotten almost everything, unfortunately, since it occurred during my drunken and sleep-deprived semester abroad, but I loved getting my hands on those old books and I can see why you'd treasure this collection.

Lorza said...

How cool! That is an awesome post!

show and tell


Queenie. . . said...

As someone whose recent collections include vintage embroidered bed linens and ancient books on herbs, I totally dig your collection. I still kick myself for passing over at auction a framed love letter from a WWI soldier. . .love the old stuff. And Toilet Sedaris is pretty great, too!

kate said...

Oh, I love the old inscriptions in items as well (some of my favorites are old pieces of sheet music with instruction written above the staff by teachers, etc., like one that was a piece with lyrics referencing players in WWI, but had the lyrics changed in appropriate places to be germane to WWII).

And I got all excited, because I thought Toilet Sedaris was your bathroom copy for reading whilst relaxing on the john. But instead, I now know to never borrow a book from you without explicitly asking whether it has been in the toilet. Good to know, I think.

Molly said...


Those first two books make me all drooly.

nutsinmay said...

My name is May and I want to inappropriately touch your books.

Major Bedhead said...

I love this post. Books rock my socks, even toilet books. :D

I have a first edition of The Mists of Avalon (British edition) and a first British edition of one of the Harry Potter books. They'd be the 2nd thing rescued if there was a fire.