While waiting for a flight out of McCarran airport with her husband back in 1999, Beverly Rogers did her usual perusing of Hudson Books for a good airplane read. A copy of Used and Rare by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone drew her attention. It’s the story of a married couple whose interest in rare books grew from an innocent challenge: to limit spending on gifts for each other.
“By the time the plane landed, I was hooked,” Rogers said. “The Goldstones have written two sequels. Get them. It’s the only way to understand how the fever begins.”
Rogers has established a $5 million endowment to support a rare books curator in the UNLV Libraries and will donate her collection of 1,300 books, manuscripts, and letters to the university’s Special Collections and Archives.
Here Rogers, UNLV's Alumna of the Year, offers some insight on the connections between several of the authors featured in her collection.
The Mill on The Floss by George Eliot (1860)
I found this work at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in February 2014, while perusing Jonkers Rare Books (Henley-on-Thames), one of over 200 stalls at the Pasadena Convention Center.
I was drawn to this three-volume first edition of George Eliot’s The Mill on The Floss in a very pretty half calf binding. I have no idea why — I already owned a first edition, first issue of the title in original cloth binding.
Proprietor Christiaan Jonkers, whom I had not met, handed me a magnifying glass and said, “Take a closer look at the top of the title page.” Albeit a bit stained and worn, the blind stamped monogram W.M.T., the owner’s initials, revealed itself clearly. This is the copy from the library of William Makepeace Thackeray.
It was common practice during much of the 19th and early 20th centuries for those with means to bind their books to match. That binding I had admired was Thackeray’s personal choice. He bound most of his library in it.
As I walked away from the booth, books in hand, several book dealers I passed (some I knew, some I didn’t) said, “Wow! That’s Thackeray’s binding!”
As far as we know, Eliot and Thackery never met. Thackeray and Dickens were public admirers of Eliot’s first book, Scenes of Clerical Life, and Eliot outwardly called Thackeray “the greatest living novelist.” She had her publisher send presentation copies of Scenes of Clerical Life and Adam Bede to Thackeray, but not this title. It appears he purchased it — a measure of his esteem for her.
John Donne’s Collected Poems (1633)
My longest and closest bookman relationship is with Ed Lake of Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, London. He has visited my library a couple of times over the years, has given me excellent advice, and even helped me to negotiate with other dealers at a book fair. We correspond almost weekly.
One of the most fun experiences of my book collecting career is to participate in auctions. I’ve yet to attend one in person and am sure it will be a heart-pounding, “dangerous” experience. But I’ve made a few purchases via phone, with Ed on the line bidding for me and whispering about where the price stands and who’s in the room. Given that these auctions are in the United Kingdom, I’ve been known to brew a pot of coffee at 3 a.m. in preparation for the fun. It’s worth it to hear the auctioneer in the background and know precisely where the hammer falls.
At a Bonham’s London sale in June 2018, I made the winning bid on a first edition of John Donne’s Collected Poems in the original calf sides. It is a fine copy and an early “state.” Nice enough, right? Well, sometimes the provenance becomes even more important than the item. This copy originally belonged to a chaplain. From there it passed to the library of William Smith (1756-1835), a member of parliament, and then to Smith’s great-granddaughter, Barbara Leigh-Smith (1827-1891), who later became Mademoiselle Bodichon. It carries the book label of her library at Scalands, Robertsbridge, Sussex.
Bodichon was a pioneer of education for women and co-founder of Girton College in Cambridge. She also worked toward the reform and repeal of slavery in America. A 19th century feminist force, her Scalands home became a refuge for guests who attended her salons — guests like Dante and Gabriel Rossetti, and the woman who became one of her closest friends: George Eliot.
This copy of Donne’s poems is the same one read and used at Scalands by Eliot. On the blank leaf before the title, her characteristic handwriting lists the 10 poems she most admired. The history of Bodichon and Eliot’s friendship is profound and engrossing, and I am thrilled that UNLV will eventually become a part of the provenance of the book and the story it carries.
A Cigarette-Maker’s Romance by F. Marion Crawford
I bought this for its ugliness. It is a fine example of a well-read specimen obtained by subscription from Mudie’s Circulating Library. Bound in original cheap boards with library’s iconic label — large enough to deter thieves, while also advertising the library —this book represents the most prolific form of publishing practice. More than half of novels, commonly known as three-deckers or three-volume novels, were sold by publishers directly to the libraries in unbound sheets. The librarians would bind and label the books themselves.
The history of Charles Mudie, a hymn writer and censor, and his influence over public taste and publishers, offers an interesting perspective on literature of the day.
Jane Eyre: An Autobiography by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Dressed in her original cloth binding, this Jane Eyre owns bragging rights as a first edition, first issue (pre-reviews and corrections) as one of only 500 copies. What makes owning her so special?
Jane Eyre is a scarce title on the market, and this edition is in fine condition. The first issue contains all the ads one would typically find in such a volume. Beyond that, Bronte is a giant in the canon, and this has been considered a literary masterpiece since its publication that will be read and studied forever.
The Shadow Line by Joseph Conrad (1919)
This edition of Conrad’s short novel is a reprint, not a first edition. I already had a first edition, first issue of this title when this came up for auction at Sotheby’s in London in 2015. The book is dedicated to Conrad’s son, “BORYS AND ALL OTHERS who like himself have crossed in early youth the shadow-line of their generation WITH LOVE.”
The signed inscription across the dedication reads:
To my dearest boy
to replace his own 1st edition copy lost
in March 1918 on the Somme front
efforts to save it from the fire.
For what’s known in the collector’s world as an association copy, it doesn’t get any closer than this.
The book once lived in the libraries of renowned American collectors John A. Spoor and Stanley J. Seeger. It now graces my shelves, and I am proud that one day Lied Special Collections will be a part of its provenance.
The Importance of Being Ernest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by the Author of Lady Windemere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
This is No. 40 of 100 large paper copies, signed. In its original pale purple cloth with gilt lettering and design, the book’s costume seems to announce its bold and artistic commentary on the dramatic genre in which Wilde had had such success.
The play opened Valentine’s Day 1895 but was closed after Wilde’s failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest and imprisonment. The book was not published until his release in 1899. The final “e” of his signature, unlike that in other signed works, takes a long, rather sad downward slant.
I had picked up a couple of Wilde’s books, along with other authors who were representative of the 1890s decadent movement. Since this one, I’ve been more serious about finding interesting copies of Wilde’s material.