So, how ya dooin’? Are you getting rich? Going stir crazy? Happier, in your isolation, than you’ve ever been? Lonely? Confused? I wish I had answers for you, but I don’t.
All the dealers I’ve talked to, mostly old timers with relatively well-established businesses, seem to have come through this first year and a half of the Pandemic pretty well. Virtual book fairs (as much as I dislike them) have proven to be effective stop gaps, providing limited buying and selling opportunities, but at a minuscule fraction of the energy, time, and money we would have expended at “live” book fairs. Nobody (with the exception of promoter Marvin Getman who came up with the dominant VBF platform) seems particularly thrilled with this new mode of commerce, but we’re making good money and keeping physical wear and tear to a minimum, so who’s complaining? Not me.
Though I have to say, after a year and a half sitting around my office staring at my computer screen, I’m beginning to feel kind of… what is it? Not tired, exactly. Aside from a few road trips, I haven’t done anything that would make me tired. No, it’s more like I’m bored. Not bored with books, you understand. Bored with these same four walls. With my desk, with my unvarying routine, with the computer screen.
So here’s what I’m gonna do. Maritime List 302 goes out this afternoon. Then I’ve got one more blog entry to write after this one – it’s going to be a report next Sunday on promoter Gary Gipstein’s courageous attempt to bring live Papermania back to the paper-loving public. This is an event and a blog entry I’m REALLY looking forward to. (Yes, I’ll be masking and doing my best to maintain social distancing.) I miss shows. I miss my colleagues. I miss the chance to make that big di$covery. I even miss poor, desolate, old Hartford. She sings such a lonely, haunting song in August, especially when the temperature is in the 90s.
After that, I’m going to do something I haven’t done in so long that I’ve almost forgotten how badly I need to do it.
I’m going to take a vacation.
Canada for a week or two, if they’ll have me. More time in Jay, VT. Maybe a week or two just loafing around the house, not even thinking about rare books and manuscripts. That way, when I get back into business mode at the end of September, I’ll be all recharged. Ready to set the world on fire!
Don’t worry. You’ll still be getting your weekly Bookman’s Log fix. Old friend Prof. Curtis Runnels has agreed to step in and do some substitute blogging over the next few weeks. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll recall his recent contribution, “Schliemann’s Wedding.” He’s just sent two more essays about books and book collecting, including his thoughts on what he charmingly refers to as, “infecting students with the Antiquarian Book Collector’s Pox.” Better than Covid, any day!
So stay tuned. Papermania next Sunday, and then a couple of columns from the Tolstoy of rare book blogging, Curtis Runnels.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of historically-important manuscripts from the rapidly disappearing stock of the former Howland and Company:
Manuscript. “Cruise of the Yacht Scout in the Summer of 1865. R.H. Howland Master.” Bound pre-lined sheets, 8 x 9 1/2 inches. Unpaginated. 28 pp. manuscript entries.
This is a journal kept by Richard Howland, brother of William D. Howland (See next entry for “Letter-press Copy Book of William D. Howland.”) between March and September, 1865, in his 22-foot yacht “Scout.” Born in 1847, Richard was a young man in 1865, and this is a young man’s account (He repeatedly spells “yacht” as “Yatch.”). Rather than extended social visits as his parents might have made on one of their cruises, Richard spent his days fishing, working on the boat, and exploring the coast with his pals. Naushon, Cuttyhunk, Newport, Wood’s Hole with Grinells, Tabers, Nyes, and other offspring of New Bedford’s elite. At the end of the 1865 journal are 10 pages of “Accounts” for the yacht, many of which mention his father Matthew, who undoubtedly bankrolled Richard’s yachting season. Bound in Half calf over marbled boards, very good condition. Clean and legible.
Manuscript. Letter-press Copy Book of William D. Howland, New Bedford, September 1876 – April 1877. Bound book of 8 1/2 x 11 inch copy paper, 65 pp. manuscript entries.
These are press copies of letters by W.D. Howland, primarily concerning the Arctic disaster of 1876 in which a dozen ships and fifty men were lost – including 3 ships owned by the Howland family. It was their second large loss in 5 years (the 1871 Arctic disaster having preceded it), and it marked the beginning of the end of the family’s leading role in the whaling trade. As might be expected, most of the letters are concerned with 1876 disaster and its insurance and commercial implications. A few snippets – written mostly to his brothers Richard and Morris, will convey the general tenor. “We were hoping for a good catch and now we have nothing to show for the years work.” William names Howland vessels – the Onward, St. George, and Clara Bell, which have been “formally abandoned” by their owners. He writes further of insurance matters, and of “Stuart the mate of the Desdemona.” “I agree with you about leaving the bowheads alone.” “If Colson will not take the Java we will send old Fish out and let him try Bristol Bay [in the Bering Sea] again.” He also gossips about other owners and captains. “Father is getting quite excited over the idea of a new ship. Swift is going to have two new done by next June and it is said that Bourne is preparing to build a new one in Mattapoisett.” And, on the heels of the Arctic disaster, “Our bark Java arrived in San Francisco yesterday after an eight months cruise with no oil and no bone quite as remarkable a voyage as we ever had.”
The other strand running through these letters is family business, and the two intertwine in a letter of November 21, 1876, in which W.D. writes his brother Dick regarding the eventual replacement of their father as head of affairs – “I feel rather blue about our affairs as a family for I feel that while father is the natural head he has not the strength to direct… I have always had a perfect terror of being at sea with no acknowledged leader… I do dread the issue of a voyage conducted by a prejudiced man entirely unfit to lead.” And, “I had made up my mind not to put any of my money into whaling…” Ultimately, William chose not to pursue the whaling trade and began the family’s long involvement with the textile industry. He also left Quaker faith and became an Episcopalian. Happily, the series ends with William, an enthusiastic yachtsman, enjoying his yacht Dolphin,which had been launched the week before. Overall, these letters provide remarkable insight into a historic moment in the whaling industry.
Both items $2750