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Fly-Leaves And End-Papers
( Originally Published 1913 )
Many people collect old bindings; a few people collect books with painted edges, or with edges that are both gilt and embossed. " End-papers " is rather a new line in collecting; there are old books with ornamental end-papers, and some fine modern specimens have been published of late. End-papers are those which, half pasted on the inside of the cover and half loose, come immediately at the beginning and close of the book proper.
Next to the front end-paper comes the fly-leaf, and then what booksellers call the " title," or title-page. A special and increasingly popular branch of this " line " consists of books with endorsements on the end-paper, fly-leaf, or title-page.
The endorsement must be by a famous hand. Signatures of the unknown in these places depreciate the value of a book. But a famous signature or other endorsement, by a renowned or notorious person, enhances value greatly. Let us see how and why.
"Association Books."-A book which contains the signature or other autograph endorsement of some very well-known person is called an " association book " ; it has been associated with some one of great repute, who was the donor or the owner. " Look, this was Cardinal Newman's copy of 'The Christian Year'-here is Keble's autograph presenting it," a friend of mine likes to say to people who peep into his Sheraton book-cases. " It would sell for perhaps twenty pounds, and it cost me sixteen shillings." There is a great demand for Association books in New York.
That the owner's should be a famous name as well as the donor's is not necessary for this purpose. Matthew Arnold sent me a copy of his " Prose Passages " in the year 1879, but, unluckily for me, forgot to endorse it. A first edition copy of his " Strayed Reveller and other Poems" was recently on sale at ninety-five shillings; the fly-leaf bears merely the words, " From the author," in the author's hand. Without those words the value would be one-third of ninety-five shillings. But an " association" may have nothing to do with the author of a book. A fifth volume of a common old edition of Moliere, rubbed calf binding, with E. C. K. on the end-paper, and " Ellis Cornelia Knight " on the title-page, would not tempt a shilling out of one's pocket in the Charing Cross Road, if that were all. You might wonder for a moment what life Ellis Cornelia Knight lived in her day-as you often do, don't you? I do-when you come upon the signatures of the undistinguished dead? There is pathos as well as curiosity in such wonder. But look inside this particular relic, and read this memorandum, written and signed on the fly-leaf by Nelson's beautiful vulgar lady-love: " Given to me by Miss Knight, who I thought good and sincere, we succoured, cherished, and protected her and her mother, Lady Knight, and brought them off from Naples to Sicily, and when Ly. K. died, my dear mother took Miss K. to our Home, Sir Wm. and self being there at the retaking of Naples with Nelson. We gave shelter to Miss K. for near 2 years, we brought her free of expense to England, what has she done in Return, ingratitude, God forgive her, for although she is clever and learned, she is dirty, ill-bred, ungrateful, bad-mannered, false, and deceiving. But my heart takes a nobler vengeance, I forgive her.-EMMa HAMILTON."
Which is perhaps the weakest attestation of forgiveness ever made. What an action for defamation would lie, were " Miss K." alive, against the seller of this book! Had she made eyes at Nelson, one wonders ? At any rate, that libel on the fly-leaf makes the price of the book £5.
Examine the Fly-leaves,-It daily becomes more difficult to pick up great bargains in books; of all dealers in rariora the second-hand bookseller is the one who knows his business most ; though it is true I bought a fine Baxter book in Charing Cross Road two years ago for half a crown. But the number of bookhunters looking for association books is as yet comparatively few. Never pick up an old book without searching it for associations. You must have a memory for names, and even for initials; you must be versed in biography; you must know, for instance, that Ellen Nussey was Charlotte Bronte's friend, her only title to importance; a Bronte book with, " Ellen Nussey " written in it, or even "E. N.," would be a find. You must also be able to decipher the most crabbed of " fists." Then you may successfully turn over even the most unpromising odd lot of volumes ever seen on a broker's barrow, and soon in that part of your book-case where you keep treasures have quite a shelf of " association books."
Comparative Values.--How slight a connection with permanent fame can enhance a book's pecuniary value is seen in a copy of the " Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum," published in 1640, which would be worth a few shillings only if the fly-leaf was blank. But a copy of it containing the inscription, "Ex dono D. Jo. Milton, T.Y.D.D.," is priced at twenty guineas, for this copy was given by John Milton to Dr. Thomas Young, his tutor in London. Even that cannot make the book cost more than half the price of the Lady Hamilton association book, you observe.
On the other hand, Swinburne's " Tale of Balen," bearing the autograph of the late Mrs. Craigie-" John Oliver Hobbes "-has been on sale for three halfcrowns. Of course, the " Tale of Balen " was one of Swinburne's failures, and the renown of " John Oliver Hobbes " is fleeting, and already almost gone. I have lately seen whole shelves of books which belonged to F. Marion Crawford, the very popular novelist, waiting for purchasers at a shilling or two.
In any case, however, for keeping, if not for selling always, books with associations are a delightful hobby. And you may stumble upon a treasure of the kind almost any day. In Launceston market-place I bought for threepence a first edition of Charles Wesley's Hymns.