Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Longfellow: A National Tribute in 30 Volumes

The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Company
The Riverside Press, Cambridge


Somehow, after all these years, twenty-six volumes of this extraordinary, profusely illustrated set of Longfellow’s poems have miraculously (so it seems to me) found their way into this crowded library and work space. Their condition varies. One book is missing its front cover. Several covers are loose, and a few are detached, but present. Most books are completely intact. They remain unread. The pages have not been opened (see photo, below). The books measure 9 ½ inches by 12 inches. Each volume contains 32 pages, printed on very heavy paper.


Ed Baker said...

"they remain unread"

which I think I mentioned to you a:while back

Daniel Berkeley Updike
who worked for Haughton, Mifflin & Company
wrote in his essay "Notes on the Merrymount Press" :

"Mr. Houghton and Mr. Mifflin both had a sincere desire for excellence in book-making. Mr. Houghton, the senior partner, was a Vermont man, and his character had in it much of "the strength of the hills," though I did not perceive it then. His taste typographically was of the sixties, and it was a sound taste of its kind. (etc.)."

as "they remain unread"

just maybe the content is not as important as
the container ? and, more important that either is the writer's process in the doing ?

imagine doing all of this (writing) using a quill, just-mixed ink and hand-made paper .... and then the typewriter and now this leap into virtual books and their print-on-demand physicality ....

I wonder if Updike had something to do with producing this 30-volume [ event] ?

William Michaelian said...

I knew (thought) that line would catch you.

Part of the significance in being unread is the increase in their perceived value from a collecting standpoint — which, of course, I don’t need to tell you. But who knows why this particular set is unopened. Did it ever make it into a subscriber’s hands? Did the subscriber die, leaving husband or wife to go on receiving them, unable to read them for the pain of association they caused? (Yes, never mind my mental illness. Most days, it’s all I have to go on.)

No wonder I like cemeteries.

I love paper and print, and can’t help feeling lucky that this bit of history has fallen, for next to nothing money-wise, into my hands.

They remain unread (don’t we all), I remain amazed, and seem to make, or feel like I make (or like to think I seem to feel) that quill-and-ink-and-hand-made-paper leap to plastic keyboard every day — and back.

(If I knew what I was talking about, I wouldn’t be nearly as certain.)

Thanks, Ed. Always great to read between your lines.

Ed Baker said...


what between the lines is everything else, eh

the worst thing is to keep your colors and your words and your mind-stuff always inside the "lines"

a just-don't-know attitude is a profitable way to go out from

William Michaelian said...

Yep — or to put it another way
if comments were sandwiches
we could trade my baloney
for your ham.

Ed Baker said...

and then there is that I think that
Welsh expression:

" we're one sandwich short of a picnic"

or is it Australian ?

now off to the lick-her store and then back to working on my next
unread master-piece !

Jan said...

I accept friends in all shapes, conditions and sizes...and so it is with books.

These are all lovely, William. Their flaws only add to their charm.

William Michaelian said...

In this, Jan, I find hope for their new owner....

I’m glad you dropped by to see them.