Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sometimes It Pays to Ask the Right Questions...

I had just purchased a volume from a used book dealer when she asked what other titles were on my "want list." I gave her a copy of my current list but, as it turned out, she had none of those books in stock. Normally I would have just thanked her and moved on, but for some reason I felt compelled to ask, "Do you have anything really odd or unusual?"

She thought for a moment, then said, "Well, I do have a dummy book...."

"What's that?"

"The binding says it's called THE GIANTS OF LILLIPUTANIA, but the pages inside are blank.What makes this one interesting," she said, "is that it once belonged to Lois Lenski. She was employed by this publisher in the 1920s and used the volume as a journal of her work.""I'll take it!" I said.

The book is mostly blank, but many pages are filled with notes in Ms. Lenski's distinctive, neat handwriting.I am going to have to do some reseach on Lenski's life and career, because I'm still not clear what type of position she held at Platt and Munk publishers. Many of the pages make it seem she was selling books directly to stores such as Woolworth's, yet other pages appear to indicate she was involved in book production, with extensive notes on specific illustrations that were sent to printers, the dates they were due back, the dates proofs were received, etc.

Though I need to do a lot more research on what, exactly, these notes mean, for now I'm just satisfied reading all the titles (LITTLE SUNBEAMS BOOK, LITTLE CHUMS BOOK, ROSEBUD STORIES) Lenski painstakingly recorded, trying to decipher the meanings behind the different measurements and cost allocations scattered throughout the pages, and enjoying the notes and paper samples which are affixed to the pages not with tape or staples -- but with straight pins!

It's certainly a one-of-a-kind volume and I never would have known about it if I hadn't asked, "Do you have anything really odd or unusual?"


devil in the laptop said...

That is truly a rare and one of a kind find! I would have to say, the only thing that comes close to that in m is a 1st run printer's galley proofs of Ursula Le Guin's 1990 book Tehanu. It is great in thati it has all kinds of hand written markes all through out it and ahnd written revisions of teh text by I believe Le Guin. It is signed on the cover sheet with he origanel publisher return card! I was told from the person I bought it from that it was given as a gift from Le Guin to one of her friends who was an editor or publisher.
thanks for all your work!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm just so jealous.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

That is an amazing find, Nathan. Speaking of TEHANU, I bought a first edition upon publication and later discovered several pages in the book were completely blank! Now if only Le Guin had written in the missing text on those pages herself, I really would have had something special! Thanks for visiting my blog.


P. J. Grath said...

Talk about a thrill--and completely unexpected, as you wouldn't even have known such an item existed.