Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lost Books, Cervantes and Dali

Friend of mine at work has been reading. This is dangerous enough, but he's been reading old books. He's asked for recommendations of 19th Century American fiction. Reading old books can be downright alarming. I've been thinking about readers and their books the last few days, as I've added a personally coveted edition of Don Quixote to my collection. It's the Illustrated Modern Library edition with illustrations by Dali. Just fantastic stuff. I also recently found a bookseller trade card advertising a specific title. I don't see these types of cards as often as trade cards only advertising the merchant, and the title of the book was completely new to me.

According to WorldCat, 59 libraries carry copies of We Von Arldens, which was actually written by Clara Louise Burnham, not a "Miss Douglas". It was originally published by Henry A. Sumner, in Chicago in 1881. There also seems to have been another printing in 1882. I'm not familiar with any of Burnham's work, but according to bookfinder she did write a lot of novels. It was interesting that although there are hefty library holdings, there are no copies of this novel for sale online. At least none I could find. Has anyone read any books by Clara Louise Burnham, and more importantly, can you recommend any?

One thing I can recommend to anyone wanting to start a book collection, but not sure where to begin, is the Modern Library series. Did you know some people *collect* the Modern Library series? Yes, I'm one of them, and there is a great website that collectors have built up over several years which is really worth a look. If you've seen it before and have lost the link, it was formerly called, but the domain name was sold and it is now So, why collect the Modern Library? Well, there is a lot of great writing, both fiction and non, poetry, philosophy. The books are readable, handy, uniform size and look good on the shelf.

Many titles feature original dust jacket art by some fantastic artists, like Rockwell Kent and E. McKnight Kauffer. There were also several editions that received new introductions by the author and in many cases, these editions were the only time these intros were printed. Folks like CS Forester (African Queen, which includes a final chapter the original publisher omitted), F Scott Fitzgerald (Great Gatsby), Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Dashiell Hammett (Maltese Falcon) , and many many more. The best part about collecting the Modern Library series is that it is quite affordable. You can make it quite expensive (try finding an illustrated Alice in Wonderland!), but it doesn't have to be. For instance, I currently own 6 London imprint Modern Library books, including one in dust jacket, but these were all found using tenacity, not spreading dough. Go visit for more.

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