Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Christopher Morley is my Hero

There. I've said it. Hold it against me if you wish, but I can't change. I won't. Christopher Morley is one of my heroes. Not only for the Parnassus on Wheels and Haunted Bookshop, which are fantastic, nor merely for his insight into the return of a book. I keep thinking if I could get it small enough, it would make a fine bookplate. With a tasteful border, of course.

" I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend's bookcase and the bookcases of my friend's friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition. I give my hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ash tray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff. When I loaned this book, I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of a long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again. But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and it is returned again. Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books I myself have borrowed."

I truly admire the man for projects like The Book Detektive. The Book Detektive is a book shaped kit that could sit camouflaged in your bookcase and spring into action if a book were to be swept away in the moment of fool-hardy good hostmanship. That may not be a word. This is something I've had to learn how to deal with. I for one make it a point to say good-bye to books I "lend". In my experience (like Morley's), I *know* book borrowers have good intentions. Often have good intentions. Ok, it's rare... and they are deluding themselves. To the point, I've never seen one of these little kits until one crossed the counter at ebay. Well, the opening bid was somewhere around $70.00. If it had included more than one foil Book Detektive label, I would have faltered and bid to my ruin. However, I couldn't chase it past its closing price of $153 and change. Heartbroken, I browsed the venerable Bookfinder.com for a consolation copy. There seem to be two listed online. Both over $100. Only one lists the contents, and it doesn't sound as complete as the one on ebay.

Now I'll have to start that Morley collection, or start a collection of book reclamation systems. I wonder if there are others? Maybe I should market my own... Hmmm... THE EXILE BIBLIOPHILE PRESENTS....

The text of the auction for your benefit:.

THE BOOK DETEKTIVE A satirical item poking fun a people who borrow books and don’t return them!
Planned by Beach Cooke

With an admonition from Christopher Morley

Published by William Morrow & Co, NY copyright 1938. First Edition, 1st Printing.

Book shaped, folding box in a paper dust
jacket with red and black decorations and titles. The box is made of hard cardboard with a pebbled finish. The box size is 6 by 7 inches. Advertised as "A trusty one-volume book police force that will pay for itself over and over again in a few months". An unusual publication indeed. Consists of a multiple folding box with pockets for various items to help track and secure the return of loaned books.


1) an 8 page booklet "The Little Black Book" with "a most important admonition by Christopher Morley being the hitherto unpublished transcript of the Criminal Trial of Pandowdy V. Librovore";
2) A card "Confidential Instructions for using The Book Detektive";
3) A card on "luring your books back diplomatically";
4) Cards for recording loaned books (3 red & 3 green);
5) Cards with sample letters to entice borrowers to return books (11 different);

6) bookmarks (22) with Christopher Morley quote.

7) one unused pencil

8) one unused foil ‘The Book Detektive’ Book Plate (label)

Condition: The box is in Near Fine condition in a Good dust jacket. The book covers are bright and clean; with only slight edge wear. The binding is tight, one of the foldable hinges beginning to crack all others hinges are firm with no cracks. The inside items above are in like new condition. There is a neat bookstore stamp on the front cover. There are no names, markings, tears or folds. The dust jacket is bright and clean with edge wear and small closed tears.


Chris said...

First, you must have the first part made into some kind of bookplate, microscopic print if necessary. Second, the Book Detektive kit is amazing. I myself might have gone into debt to buy it had I happened across it. Happy Book Hunting!

Cris said...

I don't suppose there is a market for a 100% faiful reprinting, eh? Because, I don't have 180 bucks, but would love to see a faithful recreation. Anyone?!