Thursday, February 28, 2013

Schulte's Book Store Catalogue

A few years ago, I acquired a cache of old letters written to Schulte's Book Store in New York City during the 1940s to 1960s. Most of the letters were from authors, artists, and collectors of varying degrees of note, such as authors Rose Wilder Lane and Stefan Lorant, and woodcut illustrator J.J. Lankes. These are just three I've written about from the two-dozen-plus letters in the collection. 

I've been hoping to add a store catalogue to the collection to gain more insight into Schulte's stock and anything else about the business it might offer. Now I have one--Catalogue 81.

There is no date, but an online search of the phone number (Stuyvesant 2550) turns up a few Schulte references dating from 1918 to 1924. So this catalogue is probably circa 1920s, a few decades before the correspondence mentioned above.

But it does reveal on the cover some information that clearly shows Schulte's was a well-established book store long before the correspondence in my collection took place. The front cover boasts that Schulte's is the largest second-hand book store in New York and one of the largest in all of America with an inventory of more than 100,000 books. Their stock consisted of Americana, Art, Costumes, Curiosa, Facetiae, Fine Sets of Standard Authors, and miscellaneous books for the book-lover, collector, and librarian.

Additionally, the cover ad goes on to state, "we have a large outlet for fine editions, standard subscription sets and rare books." It then reiterates the size of the inventory and expands a bit on the subject matter one is likely to find there: Americana, Art, Belles Lettres, History, Philosophy  Sociology, Travel, Biography, and a separate department for Theology. Something for everyone. Inquiries and correspondence about selling books to Schulte's are encouraged.

With so much to offer, the catalogue jumps right into it with double-column listings that start immediately at the top of the inside cover page and run without a break to the bottom of the rear cover. No images, no ads--a no-frills, workman-like catalogue.

Nine-hundred and five entries comprise the 36-page catalogue, which was apparently well-read, used, and abused. This beat-up, stained, worn copy is exactly how a catalogue should look (particularly of this vintage). Had it been in fine condition, it's purpose for existing would likely have gone unfulfilled.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Revisiting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on his birthday

Today is appropriate for revisiting a 2009 post I wrote about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and a book purchase he made in 1880. Today is Longfellow's birthday.

One of America's most famous poets, Longfellow was born in 1807, 216 years ago. Below is my blog post from November 27, 2009, Longfellow's Receipt.

In 1880, the revered American poet and scholar, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), bought a book printed in Pennsylvania German from H.L. Fisher, a York, Pennsylvania lawyer and poet. Fisher evidently self-published the book and had pre-printed receipts ready for the sales.

I have in my collection the receipt he made out to Henry W. Longfellow for his purchase of a copy of 'S Alt Marik-Haus Mittes In D'r Schtadt, Un Die Alte Zeite, a centennial poem in Pennsylvania Dutch.

So what interest did Longfellow have in some obscure German language book from a Pennsylvania lawyer who liked to write? That was one question I had when trying to determine if this were really the same Longfellow (how many Henry W's could there be?).

I don't know of any specific interest in Fisher. That may be forever lost to history. But in researching Longfellow and Fisher and related people, places, and events, I discovered a bigger picture about Longfellow and his collecting and scholarly pursuits that puts his Pennyslvania German acquisition into a better perspective.

Longfellow's ability in the ancient classics, while studying at Bowdoin College in the 1820s, led the trustees to establish a new chair of Modern Languages and offer the position to Longfellow. But first, he was instructed to study in Europe to prepare himself in the langauge and culture of France, Spain, and Italy.

Before setting sail, he met with George Ticknor in Boston. Ticknor's strong recommendation that the young graduate include Germany in his itinerary sowed the seeds of Longfellow's lifelong interest in Germany and its literature.

Longfellow returned after a few years to Bowdoin College to teach and later was offered a similar position at Harvard on the condition that he travel again to Europe, at his own expense, and attain more expertise in the German language.

His love and scholarly pursuits of German were lifelong and just a few years before his death, the receipt above indicates that he was still reading and studying German. I don't know the extent of his interest in Pennsylvania German or if it were something he aspired to late in life. But he knew enough to select a title from Fisher, "whose admirable contributions to Pennsylvania-German literature easily place him among the most gifted and fertile writers in the dialect." That attribute to Fisher is from a 1902 Pennsylvania-German Society publication article, Metrical Translations from the German and English Classics and from the Irish and Scotch Dialects into Pennsylvania German, by Thomas C. Zimmerman.

I consulted two biographies of Longfellow to learn more about him and attempt to find any connection he had to Pennsylvania German literature: New Light on Longfellow, with Special Reference to His Relations to Germany, by James Taft Hatfield (Houghton Mifflin, 1933) and Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life, by Charles Calhoun (Beacon Press, 2004).

I wound up reading both and recommend them, as well as Harvard's Houghton Library site, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 for anyone interested in his life. There's a lot more to the man than Hiawatha and other anthologized relics from an immense, albeit faded (in popularity), American literary legacy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Philip Greely Brown ex libris

Scouting books in a second-hand shop a few months ago, I pulled from a shelf this copy of Uncle Bernac, by A. Conan Doyle, better known as Arthur Conan Doyle and as the author of the Sherlock Holmes books.

As I customarily do with older books, I checked the endpapers for a bookseller's label, or ticket, and a bookplate. Uncle Bernac had no labels from previous book shops where the book had resided during its life, but I found something more interesting--a book plate that introduced me to a fairly well-known book collector from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century--Philip Greely Brown.

The provenance of the book begins with Brown. Above his bookplate in the upper-left corner are his initials and the date June 97, which is the publication date for this copy of Uncle Bernac. That makes sense--a bibliophile would want to purchase first editions.

Then in 1951, somebody named Dave bought the book and presented it to his father for a Christmas present. Fast forward to 2013, more than a hundred years since Greely installed his ownership marks, I have the book. Looks like Dave's dad and whomever else might have owned it took pretty good care of it.

I wanted to learn more about Greely and his books and barely a month later I found and acquired a catalog for the sale of his library: 
The Library of the Late Philip Greely Brown, Portland, Maine, to be Dispersed at Public Sale by Order of National Bank of Commerce of Portland, Executor, Tuesday and Wednesday October 15 and 16, at 2:15 p.m.


Philip Greely Brown was born about 1855. An entry in the In Memoriam section of the The Diamond of Psi Upsilon, Volume 21, Issue 2, 1935 states that he died December 18, 1934 in Portland, Maine in the house he was born in. Further, he was graduated from Bowdoin in 1877, which helps estimate his birth year, assuming he was about 22 years of age when he left Bowdoin. Years later, he would establish and provide the funding for a composition prize at his alma mater in memory of his father--The Philip Henry Brown Prize at Bowdoin College in Portland, which is still awarding two annual prizes to members of the senior class for excellence in extemporaneous English composition.

A successful businessman and leader in the community, Brown became President of the First National Bank of Portland and of the Board of Directors of the Portland Public Library. He also inherited and managed real estate holdings from his grandfather's estate. All this would indicate a man with the means to collect fine books, though that escapes mention in the fraternity journal. 

The auction catalog for Brown's library offers no biographical information, unless you consider a man's library a portal into his character or personality. Scanning the titles, his collection was heavy in history, Americana, and literature. No estimated values or starting bids are given.

I can find no mention of a wife and children nor any other heirs, which would help explain why his library was auctioned by order of a Portland bank. But I did find an image of Brown from 1877, presumably a graduation photo. Below is the image, shared courtesy of the Bowdoin Library Archives Image Gallery:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday: A 1944 Remembrance

Today, February 12th, is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Here's a 1944 press photo from the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, Illinois, which I wrote about on this blog three years ago today. Enough time has gone by now and this seemed a good time to repost it, given all the attention Lincoln has gotten recently in books and film.

The back of the photo has a typed sheet of paper that appears to be dated 2-8-44. Other notation, for the record: A-37690 and Wide World. The title of the release is "Lincoln's Words Live On."

Here's the press release transcribed from the typed sheet (typos and errant punctuation intact):
CHICAGO, ILL.-To the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, started on Abraham Lincoln's Birthday 11 years ago by Ralph Newman come writers, ans (SIC) scholars bent on research, and everyday people of all sorts to who the great statesman is still an inspiration. Carl Sandburg used the shop when he was writing his "Life of Lincoln". Four years ago 25 of its patrons started an informal organization the Civil War Round Table, which meets monthly for discussions of the period. members range from a street-car conductor to a judge. There reading an old book of the Lincoln Period are: Walter S. Holden, Chicago Attorney holding the book, and (left to right)Dr. George Truman Carl, Chicago Pastor; Joseph Eisendrath, Jr., manufacturer; John Hamer, Assistant Manager of an oil company; and Newton C. Farr, a real estate man.
The old book shop is still around at 357 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago. It was established in 1938, so was a mere six years old when this photo was taken. I doubt they allow cigar smoking in the shop now (the man holding the book has a lit stogie!). Click on this link to see the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop today.

And here are a few links for Lincolniana:

Lincolniana at Brown University

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress


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