University of Virginia Library


The books inside the three-shelf bookcase, below Joe's candlesticks, are part of my comprehensive collection of the writings of Fredson Bowers (which includes, besides pamphlets and offprints, dust-jacketed copies of the amazingly numerous books he wrote and edited). Bowers dominated the fields of bibliographical scholarship and textual criticism in the English-speaking world during the second half of the twentieth century; and through his presence at the University of Virginia and his founding of Studies in Bibliography there, Virginia came in some ways to be regarded as the center of the bibliographical world. (His influence on Virginia went beyond bibliography, for as English department chairman and dean he recruited many leading scholars; there is a section headed "The Bowers Era" in Susan Tyler Hitchcock's The University of Virginia: A Pictorial History, 1999.) Some people, it seems, assume that I was a student of his, given the nature of my work, my long association with Studies in Bibliography, and my presidency since 1992 of the bibliographical society that he helped found at Virginia in 1947. The truth is that my schooling was


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at Yale and Northwestern, and I never took a course in bibliography or editing (I do not believe there was one to be had, in any case).

My first contact with him was in 1962, when I sent him a short article on an unrecorded early appearance of Poe's "The Raven." This piece originated in my book acquisitiveness. In April 1961 the Lebanon (Indiana) Public Library (three blocks from our family house) decided to discard its holdings of bound volumes of nineteenth-century periodicals; I could not bear to see them simply thrown away, so I rescued them (several hundred volumes), placing them on the ledges along the outer walls of our basement (where they remain to this day). The lot included one volume of the New York Weekly News, dated January 25, 1845, through January 24, 1846; the number for February 8, 1845, contained a printing of "The Raven"—one that, after research, I found to be tied for fourth place among the early printings. I knew that Studies in Bibliography had previously published articles on Poe, who was one of Virginia's most famous former students, and Fredson accepted it.

The next year I sent him a more substantial article, which also grew out of my book collecting. One of the early twentieth-century American publishers that I collect—and perhaps the one I admire the most—is B. W. Huebsch, whose publications included (besides works of Joyce, Lawrence, Anderson, and Veblen) a weekly journal called The Freeman (1920–24). When I discovered that the Newberry Library possessed the set of this journal that had belonged to Helen Swift Neilson (who financed it), with the authors of most of the unsigned pieces identified, I decided to publish a record of these identifications, which included many well-known writers of the time. Huebsch was then still alive, aged 86, and when I got in touch with him to ask about certain pieces not marked in the Newberry set, he replied that he had a fully annotated set in his apartment and invited me to look at it. The next time I was in New York, therefore, in June of 1962, I went to his Central Park West apartment, where the doorman made sure I knew how to pronounce Huebsch's name ("Hibsh"). I found Huebsch to be charming and considerate, and we had many things to talk about, since I knew his early publications thoroughly and since there was a Wisconsin thread running through them. He had published the poetry of William Ellery Leonard (once a Wisconsin professor, who had lived across the street from where I then lived), as well as Zona Gale's The Neighbors, a book on theater by Thomas H. Dickinson of the Wisconsin Dramatic Society, two volumes of Wisconsin Plays, and several books with introductions by Robert M. LaFollette. Before Huebsch departed for his office (at the Viking Press, with which his firm merged in 1925) and left me to take notes on his Freeman volumes, he told me that his maid would serve me lunch—the gentrification of Columbus Avenue was far in the future, and he thought I should not venture there.


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For my third contribution to Studies, I wrote a broader article, on the materials for the history of American publishing, with advice on how to use contemporary sources for constructing lists of the output of individual firms (using the experience I had gained in doing the same thing for the publishers I was collecting). From then on, I have published an essay in every volume of Studies, amounting by this time to more than forty essays. My acquaintance with Fredson came mainly through our extensive correspondence. He was known for his long letters (which arrived in envelopes plastered with old stamps of small denominations, which were to be returned to him); and though the letters were largely on bibliographical matters, they contained a remarkable amount of personal information and reflection—as is shown by my use of them in my biography of him. We spoke on the telephone no more than two dozen times, I would guess, and my meetings with him almost certainly numbered fewer than two dozen. Many of them occurred at scholarly conferences, which I have always disliked and have attended (I believe) only on the rare occasions when I was a speaker or was chairing a session. (Indeed, I hate for professional matters to intrude on private times: the last thing I want to do in Christmas week is to attend a convention of the Modern Language Association.)

Nevertheless, our paths did cross—in Bloomington, Indiana, for example, in April 1976 (where he gave a remarkable extemporaneous talk at the Howells edition headquarters during a historic meeting between five American and five Russian scholarly editors), and in Lawrence, Kansas, in September 1978 (during an equally historic gathering that brought together editors from the fields of literature and history). Another event, the April 1981 conference of the Society for Textual Scholarship in New York, was the occasion for Fredson's only visit to my living room. And a conference I was delighted to participate in was the one held in Charlottesville in April 1985 to honor Fredson on his eightieth birthday. One of my longest conversations with him took place in the Howard Johnson restaurant that used to be on the edge of the University of Virginia grounds; he was a connoisseur of beer as well as wine, but we sat there drinking undistinguished beer for several hours. Fredson's general graciousness and affability made him a pleasant conversationalist. My reason for being in Charlottesville on that occasion was to examine the manuscript of one of his Stephen Crane editions on behalf of the Center for Editions of American Authors, but our talk ranged far beyond his editing. Another conversation accompanied by copious beer occurred at the pub Fredson favored across the street from the British Museum, during the only time when he and I found ourselves in London together.

Although I was not his student, he was a considerable influence on my life, both through his writings and through his hospitality to my work


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in the pages of Studies. I have criticized a few of his positions, but my disagreements with him are small in comparison to our areas of convergence, beginning with his view of bibliography as history. He was unquestionably a great scholar. His last paper, "Why Apparatus?", was written for a conference of the Society for Textual Scholarship in New York in 1991. When he did not feel up to attending, he asked me to read his paper for him. On April 11, the day of the paper, at about the time I was delivering it in New York, he died in Charlottesville.

Among the books by Fredson in the three-shelf bookcase is a perfect copy in dust-jacket of his first book, The Dog Owner's Handbook (1936), now quite a rare item, as well as a copy of the scarce 1940 reprint. (The breeding and judging of Irish wolfhounds was one of his early nonbibliographical sidelines, as stamp collecting and the reviewing of musical records were later on.) Another elusive book is the 1934 volume of the Harvard Summaries of Theses, which includes Fredson's abstract of his dissertation on Elizabethan revenge tragedy. I have J. S. G. Simmons's copy of the first paperback printing (1961) of Textual and Literary Criticism and James G. McManaway's copy of the 1970 printing of the first volume of Fredson's Dekker edition. My copy of his Bibliography and Textual Criticism (1964) is inscribed to the great Charlottesville collector of American literature, C. Waller Barrett ("For Waller—and I hope for his pleasure"). Among the many inscriptions to me, I especially like what he wrote in his 1989 Hamlet as Minister and Scourge ("For my good friend Tom") and in the pamphlet I edited to mark his eightieth birthday: "For Tom, with my warmest appreciation for his being the 'onelie begetter' of these publications." (I also have the copy of this pamphlet that he gave to John Simmons, on which he wrote "Time passes!")

The shelves also contain most of my collection of the writings of Fredson's wife, the novelist and short-story writer Nancy Hale (of the old and distinguished New England Hale family), whose work I admire and whose conversation delighted me on the few occasions when I saw her or was entertained by the Bowerses at their Charlottesville house, Woodburn. There is even a connection between her and my collection of Boni & Liveright imprints: the second of her two previous husbands was Charles Wertenbaker, whose novel Boojum! was brought out in 1928 by that firm. Besides inscribed copies of her fiction, her memoirs, and her life of Mary Cassatt, I have (thanks to David Vander Meulen) the booklets she wrote for the Learning Center in Charlottesville in 1985, including copy number 2 (of 38 copies) of a special edition of Birds in the House, printed and bound by Mary Louise Kemp at Quaternion in Charlottesville. My favorite of her books is The Life in the Studio (1969), an account of the memories stirred by the Rockport (Massachusetts) house where she and Fredson went in the summers—the house built at 358 Granite Street in


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1911 by her aunt Ellen Day Hale and then given in 1931 to her mother, Lilian Westcott Hale. Both were painters, and indeed (along with her father, Philip Leslie Hale) were among the leaders of the Boston artistic community of their time. The Bowers connection was my introduction to these painters, and I have become particularly interested in the Cape Ann artists of this period. I am especially fond of Lilian Westcott Hale's work, and on the many drives my partner and I have made to down-east Maine we have often visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, where one of her best paintings, Daffy-Down-Dilly (1908), hangs. (It was included in the 2008 exhibition marking the sixtieth anniversary of the museum.) And her fine portrait of Fredson in his World War II naval uniform dominates my recollections of the living room at Woodburn.