Monday, December 23, 2013

Walter "Wally" Harris

These illustrations, my friends, are not illustrations of bibliomites. They are illustrations of an Anobium hirtum – a bookworm, and a French one at that. Sir William Osler commissioned the artist Horace Knight to draw illustrations of the specimen of a bookworm he had found burrowed in a book he bought from a French bookseller. Knight's illustrations first appeared in the Bodleian Quarterly Record in February 1917. They were later reprinted in The Collected Essays of Sir William Osler by the Classics of Medicine Library in 1985.

I have no drawings of bibliomites to display for you. But I can assure you that bibliomites were not creep-crawly things. In fact, they were normal human beings who worked in the bookstores in England. I should note, however, that the specimen I researched had a head much too large for the rest of his body. I believe this to be an individual trait, and not one associated with all bibliomites; but more on my specimen later.

The bibliomites first gathered together at the bookshop of Francis Edwards in December 1950 and formed a society that had a rather official-sounding name: The Society of Antiquarian Booksellers' Employees.

Don't let the name fool you. This society was more of a social club than a union. When they weren't working, these bibliomites got together to have fun!

They danced!

And they dined and they danced!
From the Publishers Circular and Booksellers's Record, 1951

They drank pints of beer. They competed in darts tournaments. And one bibliomite, Frank Doel, of 84 Charing Cross Road fame, umpired the annual cricket matches against the "Guvnors."

There is an excellent article by Dudley Massey and Martin Hamlin on both the ABA and the ILAB websites covering part of the History of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. And the bibliomites are mentioned several times in this article, from their first meeting in 1950, to their last Halloween dance and subsequent demise in 1974.

Google displays many snippit views about the bibliomites from various issues of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review (ABMR). A 1999 ABMR article provides details about the creation of a magazine of sorts for the bibliomites in 1953.

The British Library has a run of the first series of Biblionotes: Nos 1-13.

And in my own library, I have a book by a Walter Harris titled, Contributions to Biblionotes &C.

Walter Harris inscribed this book:
To my good friend
and colleague Mary Murray
with sincere regards
Walter Harris

I acquired Contributions to Biblionotes &C from Questor Rare Books in August 2002, a few years before its owner, John Walwyn-Jones, closed up shop and went to work for Bonham's. When I bought the book, I thought Biblionotes was one of them there British periodicals about books. I had no idea who Walter Harris was, much less Mary Murray. And if you mentioned bibliomites, I would have thought you were talking about a species of bookish creepy-crawly things.

I was going nowhere in my research for months. But fortunately, in March 2003, my London friend, Sandy Malcolm, who hails from Edinburgh, read an article by Anthony Rota in a recent issue of the Scottish Book Collector. In the article, Mr. Rota discussed the seating arrangement at an auction:
. . . then Thomas Thorp, perhaps Tom himself, with his distinctive bottle-bottom spectacles, or perhaps his first assistant, Wally Harris, his huge dome of a head crammed with book-lore;...."

I contacted Thomas Thorp Fine & Rare Books in March 2003, and was so pleased with Jim Thorp's response that I immediately ordered a book from him.

Walter "Wally" Harris had already retired before Jim Thorp joined the firm in 1962. But he met him a few times and confirmed to me that Wally Harris did indeed have an enlarged cranium. Wally Harris was the editor of Biblionotes and, as such, was the major contributor to the publication. When Wally Harris retired around 1959-60, Mary Murray replaced him as shop manager at Thorp's.

Jim Thorp believed the Bookdealer reprinted some of Wally Harris's pieces, and provided the contact information of its editor, Barry Shaw. I contacted Barry Shaw in 2003, but he could not recall if he published any of Wally Harris's pieces in the Bookdealer.

The Bookdealer, however, published Sheila Markham's series of interviews of antiquarian booksellers, one of which in particular – her interview of Richard Hatchwell, published in the December 2007 issue of the Bookdealer – provided a wealth of useful information about Walter Harris. In the interview, Richard Hatchwell recalled his early days at Thorp's:
When I joined Thorp's, the firm was about to move from Berkeley Street to larger premises in Abermarle Street, entailing much humping of boxes. A pair of young shoulders would obviously be useful –– the other staff at Thorp's were Walter Harris the manager and Ernest the packer, both in their sixties. Walter, whom I always called 'Mr. Harris', was a bookseller of the old school and had been with Thorp's under Tom's father when the business was in Bond Street. He was a specialist in nineteenth century literature and could recite all the points of Dickens in original parts without looking at a reference book. . . .

Walter "Wally" Harris died at the age of 88 on Feb. 20, 1982. In his obituary published in the ABMR shortly after his death, he was described "as one of the three most knowledgeable bookmen who ever lived."

To the best of my knowledge, only one of Walter Harris's twelve "Contributions to Biblionotes" has been reprinted elsewhere. In the 1960s, the old Manchester Review reprinted his piece on "Great Totham Press." There is another article by Walter Harris in the same journal, but that is not one of the pieces printed in Biblionotes.

If Walter Harris was truly one of the three most knowledgeable bookmen who ever lived, then I believe I should share his knowledge with other bookmen. Each Christmas I will post one of his "Contributions to Biblionotes" on My Sentimental Library blog. The title of the blog posts is "Twelve Blogs for Christmas: Contributions to Biblionotes." And here is a link to this year's post on Chapbooks.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Is America Lost in the Funhouse?

A funhouse is normally a place of amusement.  But for Ambrose, the main character in John Barth's story, "Lost in the Funhouse," it is a place of fear.  And for John Q. Citizen,  in the ongoing government shutdown, the House of Representatives has become a place of fear and confusion.

"Lost in the Funhouse," is more than just a story; it is a lesson in how to write a story.  Take Barth's description of a diagram called Freitag's Triangle (repetition of words in the description, not mine):

While there is no reason to regard this pattern as an absolute necessity, like many other conventions it became conventional because great numbers of people over many years learned by trial and error that it was effective; one ought not to forsake it, therefore, unless one wishes to forsake as well the effect of drama or has clear cause to feel that deliberate violation of the "normal" pattern can better can better effect that effect. ... 

There is also a pattern of introducing government funding bills through Congress that has worked  for over two hundred years.  But House Speaker John Boehner has forsaken that pattern.  Instead, he has introduced a bill to fund the government – and to defund the Affordable Care Act of 2010, President Obama's signature healthcare legislation.

House Speaker Boehner has the Constitution on his side.  Article 1, Section 7 states,
"All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. ..."

And he has the words of James Madison on his side.  In The Federalist No. 58, Madison wrote:
...The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government.  They, in a word, hold the purse. ...  This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.
You will see those words of Madison on numerous right wing websites, from the Heritage Organization, to the New American, to Freedom First.

What you will not see on those websites are Madison's words in the very next paragraph of The Federalist No. 58:
 Those who represent the dignity of their country in the eyes of other nations will be particularly sensible to every prospect of public danger, or of dishonorable stagnation in public affairs. ...  
For over two hundred years, lawmakers have debated their differing political views in the House and in the Senate.  And in many a lawmaker's mind, it was "Country first."  But when put to a vote, majority ruled.

Until now.

Here's an Oct. 04, 2013 excerpt from the Huffington Post website:

As the U.S. shutdown continues, national monuments and parks remain closed, hundreds of thousands of American workers go without pay, and federally funded social services for millions of women and children have ceased operating.  Abroad, the world is caught between laughter and confusion as a superpower is paralyzed by its inability to overcome a relentless minority of lawmakers who have put the entire government on the line to defund a health care law passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.  America's political meltdown, an international embarrassment, has compromised the country's global image and credibility.

The Tea Party is "the relentless minority" mentioned in the article above.  It is a minority faction of the Republican Party.  Yet Boehner has allowed the Tea Party to be the controlling voice of the entire Republican Party.

James Madison defines a "faction" in The Federalist No. 10:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

In the same Federalist number,  Madison provides the means to defeat the attempts of a faction, a means House Speaker Boehner thus far refuses to undertake:

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat the sinister views  by regular vote.  It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.

If House Speaker Boehner continues to decline to put "a clean CR" to a vote, Democrats are already working on a parliamentary procedure to "hijack a bill," and put the clean continuing resolution to fund the government to a vote before the House.   The Democrats want the vote because they believe the majority of Republicans believe in "Country first."

Such a vote could occur only days before the next crisis: raising the debt ceiling.  House Speaker Boehner has already said he will not schedule a vote to raise the debt ceiling unless there are negotiations beforehand with the President of the United States.   And President Obama has reiterated that he will not negotiate the debt ceiling.  Moreover, President Obama does not believe he has the  constitutional authority to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent the United States government from defaulting on its debt.

No one is blinking.  If House Speaker Boehner blinks, he will lose his speakership.  If President Obama blinks, he will not only lose his signature legislation,  he will open the door to future demands for concessions.

If all else fails, and the government is on the brink of defaulting, there is one other alternative, but one that wiser minds than mine need to explore:  a writ of mandamus  against House Speaker Boehner, compelling him to schedule a vote on raising the debt ceiling.  Such an action would enable the House of Representatives to fulfill its ministerial duty to pay our debts, as required by the Constitution.

And that is where American stands today, Oct. 7, 2013:
still lost in the funhouse.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Well-Lobbied Government:
How the NRA Won the Battle Over the Second Amendment

In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting in December, there was talk nationwide of all sorts of gun control actions: banning assault weapons, limiting high-capacity magazines, and expanding background checks. In the months to come, after the NRA flexed its political muscles, the only thing left on the table was expanding background checks.

In April 2013, some of the parents of the slain children of Newtown walked the halls of Congress, and lobbied some of the members of Congress to expand background checks. But instead of presenting them with money for their campaign chests, the parents of the Newtown Dead presented the members of Congress with pictures of their slain children.

On April 17, 2013, the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for new gun owners. There were 54 yeas and 46 nays. But 60 votes were required to pass the bill.

Why did the bill fail to pass? Because Senators were more afraid of the NRA than they were of the parents of the Newtown Dead. Why does the right to bear arms trump the dire need for some sort of gun control? And how did the NRA get so powerful?

If you believe the hype from the NRA, any gun control measure infringes on their individual right to bear arms, a right the Founding Fathers "supposedly" gave them over 200 years ago, a right commonly known as the Second Amendment.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

The NRA wasn't always the fanatical political organization it has become. It was founded in 1871 because some of the officers in the Civil War were unhappy with the marksmanship of their troops. And so the former officers formed the National Rifle Association, and members went to the rifle range to improve their accuracy. Here is an image of the NRA's first rifle range:

Yes. Creedmoor Psychiatric Center now stands on what was once the rifle range of the NRA. I attach no historical significance to this fact other than to say that the leaders of the NRA are crazy like a fox.

In order to learn more about the Second Amendment, gun control, and the NRA, I read A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control by the historian Saul Cornell.

The book was an eye-opener. Saul Cornell notes the conflicting interpretations of the meaning of the Second Amendment: the individual rights model, which first appeared after the first gun control measures in the Jacksonian era, and the collective rights (militia) model, which appeared during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. Both models, he says, are wrong. He reasons that when the Second Amendment was written, it was a civic model containing both a right and a responsibility. The Second Amendment protected the individual's right to keep and bear arms necessary to meet his militia obligations. This civic responsibility to bear arms basically ended when the National Guard was created in the early 1900s. Which begs the question. If there no longer was a civic responsibility to bear arms, wouldn't that have made the Second Amendment moot, much like the Thirteenth Amendment made the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution moot?

Cornell notes that throughout history gun violence precipitated gun control, which further incited gun owners. The NRA didn't jump into the political arena until 1911, in response to the gun control measures of the Sullivan Law, which was precipitated by a murder-suicide near Gramercy Park in New York. Cornell pinpoints the current militant form of the NRA as a response to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was precipitated by the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. At the time Saul Cornell's book was written in 2006, the grassroots efforts of the NRA and other gun-rights organizations had won everywhere except in the courts.

The U. S. Supreme Court did not directly address the Second Amendment issue until 1876. In U.S. v Cruikshank, the Supreme Court asserted
in unambiguous terms that 'bearing arms for lawful purposes' was not identical to the right protected by the Second Amendment that linked bearing arms to participation in a well-regulated militia. In essence, the Court argued that the common law right to keep and carry arms and the right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment were legally distinct. The Second Amendment in their view was one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government. The purpose of the amendment was to guard the state militias against the danger of federal disarmament (Cornell, 194, 195).

The Supreme Court did not consider the Second Amendment issue again until 1939 in U.S. v Miller. In this case, the Court stated that the Second Amendment protected a collective right that was tied to participation in the militia.

In 2006, when A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control was published, Miller was still the law of the land. Under the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms was still a collective right that pertained solely to the preservation and efficiency of a well-trained militia. But the author Saul Cornell, well aware of the gains of gun rights advocates, saw the handwriting on the wall, and realized that Miller would soon be revisited.

Saul Cornell noted that gun rights advocates in the legal academic community, monetarily supported by the NRA and other gun lobbies, "began churning out at an astonishing rate law review articles that supported the individual rights view of the Second Amendment (Cornell, 206)." In essence, this new modern interpretation, called the " Standard Model" of the Second Amendment, redefined what our Founding Fathers "really meant to say" when they wrote these words over two hundred years ago:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Indeed, numerous law reviews, both pro and con, are noted throughout Cornell's book, many of which can be viewed online.

In the October 1999 issue of Constitutional Commentary, Saul Cornell summarizes the Standard Model in no uncertain terms in "Commonplace or Anachronism: The Standard Model, the Second Amendment, and the Problem of History in Constitutional Theory."

The flaws in the Standard Model are emblematic of deeper problems in the way history has been used by constitutional scholars. Partisans of the Standard Model have not only read constitutional texts in an anachronistic fashion, but have also ignored important historical sources vital to understanding what Federalists and Anti-Federalists might have meant by the right to bear arms. The structure of legal scholarship has served to spread these errors rather than to contain them. Once published, these errors enter the canons of legal scholarship and are continuously recycled in article after article. Upon closer inspection, the new orthodoxy on the Second Amendment shares little with the Standard Model employed by physicists. Indeed, recent writing on the Second Amendment more closely resembles the intellectual equivalent of a check kiting scheme than it does solidly researched history.

But one of the law reviews on the Standard Model, and an exceptional one at that, "The Commonplace Second Amendment" was written be Eugene Volokh, who was law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the Supreme Court prior to joining the UCLA law school. Justice Scalia was to cite Volokh's paper in his majority opinion in Heller in June 2008.

When George W. Bush was running for President in 2000, the NRA bragged that they would work out of his office; however, Bush said that he would be his own man. When Bush was elected, he appointed John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States. And the NRA worked out of Ashcroft's office instead.

May 17, 2001: Ashcroft writes to the NRA on DOJ letterhead, stating he supports the individual right to bear arms (from the Northern Kentucky Law Review):

Ashcroft's NRA Letter and Second Amendment Interpretation Shot Full of Holes by the Violence Policy Center.

June 2001: Ashcroft suspends Brady Law Background Checks

July 3, 2001: Ethics Complaint Filed Against Ashcroft.

Dec 2001, Ashcroft bars the use of gun checks in terror inquiries after 9/11.

May 2002 Solicitor General Olson notifies the Supreme Court that "it was now the policy of the Justice Department that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms."

May 2002: Since Ashcroft and the Justice Department vocally supported the individual right to bear arms, it didn't surprise me that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court in Emerson that individuals have the Second Amendment individual right to bear arms. But the Court still ruled that the Texas gun control law did not violate the Constitution. What was disturbing to Cornell was that the Judges referred to law reviews concerning the Standard Model of the Constitution in their decision.

Here's a viewpoint from the NRA, who wanted the Supreme Court to review the case: Emerson the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court refused to review Emerson.

While Saul Cornell's book was being published, the landmark Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller was slowly working its way through the courts. Because of its high crime rate, the District of Columbia passed The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 was passed by the District of Columbia city council on September 24, 1976.[1]On June 26, 2008, in the historic case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the ban and trigger lock provision violate the Second Amendment. The law banned residents from owning handgunsautomatic firearms, or high-capacity semi-automatic firearms, as well as prohibited possession of unregistered firearms. Exceptions to the ban were allowed for police officers and guns registered before 1976. The law also required firearms kept in the home to be "unloaded, disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock or similar device";[2] this was deemed to be a prohibition on the use of firearms for self-defense in the home.
And here is Justice Scalia's 5-4 majority opinion in Heller where the majority, in referring to the Standard Model of the Second Amendment, overturned 200 years of constitutional precedent, and ruled that, under the Second Amendment, our Founding Fathers gave individuals the right to bear arms. A right the NRA believes stronger than ever, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

In closing I will refer to part of an address that Justice Scalia delivered in September 1988:

Originalism: The Lesser Evil
Let me turn next to originalism, which is also not without its warts. Its greatest defect, in my view, is the difficulty of applying it correctly. ... But what is true is that it is often exceedingly difficult to plumb the original understanding of an ancient text. Properly done, the task requires the consideration of an enormous mass of material–in the case of the Constitution and its Amendments, for example, to mention only one element, the records of the ratifying debates in all the states. Even beyond that, it requires an evaluation of the reliability of that material–many of the reports of the ratifying debates, for example, are thought to be quite unreliable. And further still, it requires immersing oneself in the political and intellectual atmosphere of the time–somehow placing out of mind knowledge that we have which an earlier age did not, and putting on beliefs, attitudes, philosophies, prejudices and loyalties that are not those of our day. It is, in short, a task sometimes better suited to the historian than the lawyer. ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Boswell Copy of Piozzi's Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson?

This blog was originally posted on my "Bibliophiles in My Library" blog on 03/12/2010.  I am transferring it to my "Biblio Researching" blog because the subject matter of the blog post more properly applies to this blog.

In lot number 2198 of the 1825 auction catalogue of the Library of James Boswell 1778-1822, there is listed this copy of Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson:

Most likely,  this is the copy in the Hyde Collection at Harvard.  However, there is no provenance evidence in the book to conclusively prove that one of the Boswells owned this copy.

In 1786, the author, Mrs. Hester Piozzi, presented  this copy of the book to Michael Lort.  When Lort died in 1791, the book was listed in lot number 2913 of the auction catalogue of his library.

 It was afterwards in the library of James Bindley.  He had another copy of this work as well.   Both copies were listed in the catalogue of his library.

I  believe that one of the Boswells, either James Boswell the Younger or Sir Alexander Boswell acquired this copy shortly after the auction in 1818.  

NOTE:  Terry Seymour, author and fellow Boswell enthusiast, has provided conclusive proof that James Boswell the Younger purchased books at the Bindley sale.  He brought  to my attention Boswell's note in lot 1262 of the 1825 Boswell auction catalogue, referring to a book by Stephen Hawes: "I bought this volume at Mr. Bindley's sale, Jan. 21, 1819 for Forty Guineas, &c. from my affectionate remembrance of its last two possessors, Mr. Bindley and Mr. Malone."

Further research of the Boswell Library catalogue reveals that  at least  five books formerly owned by Bindley had found their way into the Boswell library.  Two were presentation copies and three were bought by James Boswell at the Bindley Sales.  There were four Bindley Sales, Part I beginning on December 7, 1818, and Part II, beginning on January 11th, 1819, Part III beginning on December 7, 1819, and Part IV beginning on August 2, 1820.

This copy was bought by the bookseller Thomas Thorpe at the auction of the Boswell Library in 1825.

This copy next appears as lot 325 of the catalogue of the sale of the Library of Miss Prudentia Lonsdale in 1897:

The Sale of the Library of Miss Prudentia Lonsdale

Messrs. Sotheby and Company., November 5th and 6th, 1897

325. Johnson (Dr.). Anecdotes Of The Late Samuel Johnson, LL.D., during the last twenty years of his life, by Hester Lynch Piozzi. First edition. Original boards, uncut. 8vo. 1786. Pearson, £5   With the following inscription : " The gift of the Author to M. Lort, March 25, 1786." It also contains the autograph of James Bindley and T. Jeff". Hogg, as well as several contemporary cuttings relating to Dr. Johnson.

The bookseller, B.F. Stevens, acquired this copy from Pearson and listed it for £9 in a bookseller catalogue, which was reprinted in the 1901 edition of Book-Prices Current.  In his listing, Stevens noted that Mrs. Piozzi had given this copy to Michael Lort, and that the copy was afterwards in the Bindley and Boswell collections.  Stevens mentioned that Lort inserted a long manuscript key.  Stevens also asserted that Lort, Bindley, and Boswell "added important additions and corrections to the text of the volume."

R.B. Adam, the Johnsonian collector from Buffalo, New York, was the next owner of this copy of the book most likely acquiring it from Stevens.  Adam listed the Lort copy in his catalogue, The Catalogue of the Johnsonian Collection of R.B. Adam, Buffalo, 1921.

Donald and Mary Hyde acquired this copy when they bought R.B. Adam's Samuel Johnson Collection in September 1948.

Harvard University acquired this copy in 2003 in the bequest of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson to Harvard University's Houghton Library.

Here is a copy of the listing in the Hollis Catalog at Harvard:


Here is the listing of this copy in the catalogue of the library of James Boswell on Library Thing.