Collecting Delaware Books

Association Copies of Delaware Books

by Thomas E. Doherty


The term "association copy" has been defined by John Carter in his book ABC for Book Collectors as a book "which once belonged to, or was annotated by, the author which once belonged to someone connected with the author, or someone of interest in his own right or again, and perhaps most interestingly, belonged to someone peculiarly associated with its contents." In my collecting of Delaware books, I especially treasure finding such association copies.

Inspired by Carter's rather broad definition, I have selected from my library an array of association copies ranging from a non-Delaware book from the library of a noted Delawarean to a Delaware author's copy of her own book. Yet, while Carter's definition is helpful, I propose to use John Sparrow's delightful essay Association Copies as the framework for this article.

Sparrow's essay opens by citing Walter Pater's definition of a true collector as one who delights "in the personal finding of a thing, in the colour an old book or print gets for him by the little accidents which attest to previous ownership." Sparrow goes on to distinguish between "marks of library provenance and marks of personal association." As did Sparrow, I will concentrate on the latter after saying something about the former.

Marks of Provenance

William S Morris bookplate
Howard Pyle bookplate from the
library of Pyle's bibliographer

"Marks of library provenance" refers to evidence that a particular book came from an individual's library: the owner's signature, bookplate, etc. I have in my collection a copy of The Best Poems of 1929 (a book which has nothing to do with Delaware) simply because it came from the library of Frank Stephens, co-founder of Arden, Delaware. He signed his name in the book and added that the book was a gift from one of the artists featured in the book. Also in my collection is a copy of the London edition of Delaware author Christopher Ward's One Little Man with the bookplate and library collection label of Willard S. Morse. I do not think there is anything significant in Morse having owned this particular title, but the bookplate adds to the Delaware interest. Morse, it should be remembered, was a bibliographer of Wilmington native Howard Pyle, and Morse's bookplate was designed by Pyle.

My copy of Forty Years — Forty Millions (another non-Delaware book) has, what would be called here, a "mark of commercial provenance." I bought the book because it has a (rather too large) bookseller's ticket from Victor Thaddeus' Little Bookshop in the Woods, Arden, Delaware. Thaddeus was himself an author, but here presented himself as a bookseller advertising his business via the very books he was selling.

Personal Association

Sparrow's second category of association copy includes those books which have "marks of personal association." Within this category, Sparrow distinguished between "autograph" association, "appropriate" association, and "instructive" association copies. He added that these distinctions are not mutually exclusive.

Autograph Association

book - mother cat

"Autograph" association copies are perhaps the most common of the books which have "marks of personal association" — books signed or even inscribed by the author, illustrator, etc. My copy of Packet Alley by Elisabeth Meg is inscribed in the two "hands" by Elisabeth Wenning Goepp and Margaret Webb Sanders to their friends "Sue and Charlie." "Charlie," by the way, would later become Nobel laureate in chemistry Charles Pedersen. My copy of Mother Cat, written and illustrated by Dotti Turkot, is inscribed to me and even "signed" (no kidding) by the title character. I have a copy of the Declaration of Independence/Constitution of the United States of America printed by the Press of Kells of Newark, Delaware, which has been signed by Everett C. Johnson, the proprietor of the press. Another "autograph" association item I have is a copy of The Poetical and Prose Writings of Dr. John Lofland, the Milford Bard which contains a special color-printed presentation leaf bearing an inscription from "The Publisher." This inscription was probably made by a clerk in the publisher's office and not by the publisher himself.

My copy of the ubiquitous book DuPont, the Autobiography of an American Enterprise rises above the ordinary by having been signed by nine members of the company's directorate at the time of publication, including Pierre S. duPont [II] and Crawford H. Greenewalt. My copy of C. A. Weslager's first book, Delaware 's Forgotten Folk, is not only signed by the author, but by the photographer, L. T. Alexander, and the illustrator, John Swientochowski.

Another sort of "autograph" association copy is the limited-edition book signed by the author or illustrator . Henry Seidel Canby's books The Age of Confidence ("The Wilmington Edition") and The Brandywine (The "Delaware" edition) were both signed by Canby and the illustrators, Albert Kruse and Andrew Wyeth, respectively. I also have a copy of Christopher L. Ward's The Delaware Continentals which was "subscribed prior to publication." These copies were bound differently from the trade edition and contain a special leaf signed by Ward which states that the special edition was limited to 395 copies. This sort of limited-edition book is perhaps the most generic of books bearing "marks of personal association." Sparrow points out that such books do not really attest to previous ownership and are hardly marks of personal association at all.

Appropriate Association

The second type of mark of personal association is the "appropriate" association copy. Whereas the autograph association copy is separated from the ordinary copy, the "appropriate" association copy has a significance unique to itself. Sparrow refers to the "'rightness' of the relation between the donor and the donee or the owner of the copy and the author of the book." Sparrow adds that this is "something that has to be felt rather than understood." My aforementioned copy of Packet Alley owned by Charles Pedersen is not "appropriate" for our purposes. However, I do also have Pedersen's copy of P. J. Wingate's The Colorful Du Pont Company. Pedersen did his Nobel Prize-winning research as an employee of the Du Pont Company, and so the connection between the two, Pedersen and the Du Pont Company, is "appropriate." It should be added, however, That Pedersen is not mentioned in the book. I have Walter R. Hope's copy of Charles E. Arnold, Sr.'s My Remembrances of the Du Pont Experimental Station. Hope was one of the pioneer engineers at the "Station" when it was located in Breck's Mill in Christiana Hundred. Hope is mentioned in this book.

One of the best "appropriate" association copies to own is the author's copy of his or her own book. I own Christopher Ward's copy of his book Gentleman into Goose. His bookplate identifies the book as being from his library. My copy of St. John's Parish, Wilmington, Delaware by William P. "Bill" Frank was purchased at the auction of the books from his library. (More about this book later.) I have Bessie Gardner du Pont's copy of her book E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company, A History 1802-1902. This book not only contains her bookplate but was specially bound in the Du Pont Company's "Fabrikoid" material and was presented to her by the company's Fabrikoid Division.

Copies of Delaware books inscribed by the author to the illustrator, publisher, or another author is another example of an "appropriate" association copy. My copy of George B. Hynson's Down Yan and Thereabout is inscribed by Hynson to his co-publisher. My copy of Elisabeth Lee's All Summer to Play is inscribed to the illustrator of the frontispiece, Delawarean Katharine Pyle. My copy of May du Pont Saulsbury's The Summer of 1919 is inscribed to fellow author Bessie Gardner du Pont, and my copy of the London edition of John Biggs' Seven Days Whipping is inscribed to poet Frank Stephens, mentioned earlier.

Another Frank Stephens "appropriate" association copy in my library relates to Henry George's book Progress and Poverty. Stephens was a follower of George's economic theory of the "single tax," and Stephens put these theories into practice in his establishment of the village of Arden, Delaware. My copy of Progress and Poverty is inscribed by Stephens to a friend. The inscription contains an appropriate motto: "We are more certain that we see a star when we know another sees it also." Henry George himself was influenced by earlier economic theorists, including short-time Delaware resident Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours to whom George co-dedicated his book Protection or Free Trade. My copy of this book contains the bookplate and signature of Alexis I. du Pont, great-grandson of du Pont de Nemours.

I also own several "appropriate" association copies which belonged to journalist, Thespian, and amateur historian Bill Frank. Philip Crosland inscribed a copy of his history of the Playhouse theater The Playhouse to Frank "who has contributed more to Delaware theater as actor, director, and critic than anyone else." Historian and archaeologist C. A. Weslager inscribed a paperback copy of his book Magic Medicine of the Indians to Frank — "Delaware's only journalist!" Another journalist and amateur historian, Charles Lee Reese, Jr ., inscribed an offprint copy of the Autobiography of Christopher L. Ward, (1868-1943), which Reese edited, to Frank "an esteemed friend and colleague for nearly half a century with admiration and affection from a fellow amateur historian."

I especially prize a group of three books I have from the library of R. R. M. "Bob" Carpenter, Jr., the late promotor and booster of University of Delaware football, the man in whose memory the new University of Delaware sports complex will be dedicated. All three are examples of "appropriate" association copies, and their "rightness" is clearly evident. My copy of Tubby by University of Delaware head coach Harold R. "Tubby" Raymond and Al Cartwright bears inscriptions from both authors. Raymond's inscription reads in part "no one has meant more to us than you." Elbert Chance's The Blue Hen Chronicles has an inscription, not from Chance, but from Raymond to Carpenter "without whose help there never would have been 'Delaware Football."' The third book is Raymond and Ted Kempski's The Delaware Wing-T signed by both authors and presented to Carpenter .

Instructive Association

The third and final type of mark of personal association is the "instructive" association copy. Through these copies, one actually learns something about the book, the author, or something else that might not have been known otherwise. To quote Sparrow: "while the 'appropriate' association depends for its appeal upon something we already know … the 'instructive' association owes its interest and value to the fact that it tells us something new."

I have in my collection a copy of Preparation et Meditation pour la Profession with the bookplate of the "Convent of the Visitation, Wilmington, Delaware." This copy bears the inscription in French saying that this book is from the Second Monastery of the Visitation in Paris. The word "Paris" has been scratched out and underneath is written "Keokuk, Iowa" and underneath this "Wilmington, Library of the Directress." The Wilmington Monastery indeed traces its roots back through Iowa to Montluel, France. The group of religious sister who came to America in 1853 stayed at the Second Monastery in Paris for two weeks before coming to America. This fact is recorded in the history of the Wilmington monastery, but through my book can be learned that the Second Monastery in Paris helped provide the sisters with books for their new foundation's library. I have another similarly inscribed, and their are without a doubt others.

Inscription from Victor Thaddeus book
Instructive inscription from
a Victor Thaddeus book

Inscriptions are often helpful in dating some event in an author's life. From inscriptions in my copy of Christopher Ward's novel Starling, published in 1929, one learns that Ward spent several weeks at the MacDowell writers' colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1926 while writing this book. My copy is inscribed to Mrs. MacDowell thanking her for her hospitality at the colony. The inscription in my copy of the Blue Ribbon Books edition of Victor Thaddeus' book Voltaire, Genius of Mockery helps to approximately date the origin of Thaddeus' Arden book shop. Thaddeus wrote the following inscription in the front of the book: "One of the first 100 books sold at/ Victor Thaddeus' / Little Book shop in the woods/ Victor Thaddeus/ Arden, Delaware/ Dec. 10th — 1935."

Sometimes a copy of a book has laid into it a letter from the author presenting the book to his or her friend, and often the letters are instructive. My copy of the second printing of Virginia Cullen's History of Lewes, Delaware and Vicinity had laid into it a letter describing all the corrections and changes made for the second printing. The letter also informs us that the first printing was limited to 1000 copies. I have in my collection a copy of Delaware Becomes a State by John A. Munroe and illustrated by Albert Kruse. This particular copy, from the library of Harriet Curtis Reese, has laid into it a letter to Reese from Munroe. He writes: "You suggested we get Albert Kruse to illustrate it — & you see we did!"

Another sort of "instructive" association copy I own are those books whose author is not known except through an inscription. I previously mentioned Bill Frank's own copy of his' book St. John's Parish … .The printed book does not identify the author, but Frank wrote in his own copy "written by Wm. P. Frank." Copies of St. Andrew's Church, Wilmington do not identify the author either, but my copy bears the inscription "Compliments of A. O. H. Grier, the author." Perhaps authors of church histories are supposed to show an appropriate degree of humility by way of not identifying themselves in print. Frank and Grier, both newspapermen, however, must have felt that a byline was justified at least in a few copies.

My final example of an "instructive" association copy is very interesting. I bought at Bill Frank's library auction his own specially bound copy of Lafayette in Delaware, which he co-authored with Leon DeValinger, Jr. On the table of contents page Frank identifies which author wrote each section. This sort of information is oftentimes not provided in a co-authored book. Frank indicates he wrote about 60 per cent of the text.

The collecting of Delaware books is often made more interesting by the acquisition of association copies. There is almost an infinite variety of association copies with their attendant "marks of library provenance and marks of personal association."The finding of "appropriate" association copies is especially enjoyable. Association copies do not always announce themselves and often lay hidden waiting to be discovered. Knowledge of one's collecting interests, whatever the subject, is key to forming a library. This knowledge certainly leads to the acquisition of association copies, which, in turn, leads to still more knowledge and so on. Happy hunting!

Back to Articles List

Back to home page

Contact John P. Reid