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Old 05-20-2009, 09:07 PM   #1
Eric Ladner
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Default Early Edna St. Vincent Millay; what American publishers USED to do

I've been engaged in the painful task of trying to reduce the home library. In an ideal world, I would never part with any book, but, in this real world, all the shelves are double stacked, the piles on the floor are starting to topple, and the significant other is asking where SHE can have a little shelf space. And, honestly, I have to admit that some books that I've hauled with us through multiple moves for over thirty years are unlikely ever to be opened again.

I'm going to donate them to the Friends of the Library; that makes me feel a little better about it.

Anyway, I just came across two little books I will be keeping, from my mother's poetry collection: "Wine From These Grapes" and "Conversation at Midnight," by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Both are identified as "First Edition." I know that there first editions and first editions, but they are certainly very early, published in 1935 and 1937. One has an inscription from my mother's brother, from Christmas 1937. (I just typed 1397; Mama would rise up and clobber me for that!)

These are amazingly elegant books, but do not appear to have been aimed at the "fine books" collector. They were published by "Harper and Brothers," which I assume to have been the progenitor of all the later Harper variations. If they are examples of what main-stream American publishing used to be capable of, then we have fallen a long, long way.

I've uploaded a few scans here:


I'm pretty sure they are printed letterpress, since especially on the title pages you can feel the texture of the type. And I wonder who the designer was; it seems to me there must have been a master hand in control.
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Old 05-21-2009, 06:24 AM   #2
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Those are lovely. I would keep them too.

Of course, I am no judge, as I am in the same straits as you are, with books crawling around my ankles, stacked high on the couch I put in my office for a place to sit and think, on shelves, sometimes in double rows. And the cookbooks, which got their own 8 feet by 84 inches of shelves in the dining room, are almost as frisky.

My problem (there are many, including a tendency to procrastinate) is that once I decide a book can go, I open it up and find something that makes me want to keep it. One solution would be to avoid opening them up, but I blithely sold a bunch of books cheaply at a tag sale in 1982 and am still in mourning. Hopeless case.

I’ll root for you, though. Good luck with it. And do tell us how it goes.

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Old 05-21-2009, 09:35 AM   #3
Hugh Wyn Griffith
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Amazing the background Google can pull up on books if you put in enough detail!

I checked my father's name once and it pulled up one republished edition I did not know about!

There was a time when all books were as elegant as those you show <s>


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Old 05-21-2009, 10:27 AM   #4
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eric: Anyway, I just came across two little books I will be keeping, from my mother's poetry collection: "Wine From These Grapes" and "Conversation at Midnight," by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Those are really lovely books!

I had a flood in my place a few years ago--broken pipe for the master water heater for 5 condo buildings in my complex--and I had to pack up my entire place because the condo's master policy covered replacing all of my carpeting and I ruthlessly went through all of my books donating probaby 1/4 to 1/3 of them to the library.

However, over the following years, I have added back to my collection--not quite as many as before but getting close...'-}}

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