Today, I’ll be describing one of the books I picked up in Charlottesville, VA during Rare Book School’s Bookseller’s Night. I found this edition at Daedalus Books, a gem of a bookshop with stacks and stacks of books in every available space. I highly recommend it.
I became aware of British author L.T. Meade during the height of my Sherlock Holmes craze in highschool. Several of her stories from The Sorceress of the Strand series are included in an anthology titled The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.
Studying those stories for my current exam, I discovered the L.T. Meade wrote stories and novels for girls, invented the medical mystery genre, and created characters who rivalled Sherlock Holmes in popularity. She was a contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle’s.
My edition of A Bunch of Cherries, which appears to be what the Victorians would have called a girls’ book, doesn’t include a date. The original edition was published in 1900. This edition was published by Grosset & Dunlap sometime in or after 1909. How do I know? We’ll get to that in a moment.
The book is cased in a faintly greenish khaki-colored cloth, which has been decorated but not stamped. (This is a place where my vocabulary bumps up against its limits. Is this considered blocking? Or is blocking just another word for stamping? I’ll figure it out eventually and let you know). I *think* the front cover/spine design is chromolithography. It’s got a bit of shine to it when I move it around under the light, but there isn’t an impression like there would be with stamping.
At any rate, it’s a nice green flower-and-vine border design surrounding an onlay color halftone image of a young girl amid boughs of cherry blossoms. At the bottom left of the image, the words ” [unintelligible] 1909 by R.L. Rayner & Co.” On the bottom right hand, a signature appears. I believe it’s the signature of Alice Morse, a highly regarded cover designer in the period. However, as you’ll see in the image below, there’s a gouge in the middle of the signature, so I am not entirely sure about this assessment. What’s more, I’ve been unable to find a verified signature with which to compare this.
Beneath the cover image, we find the title and the author’s name (she’s listed as Mrs. L.T. Meade, here, as opposed to the simple L.T. Meade of her more sensational adult stories), which is part of the lithographic cover design.
The spine has been decorated in the same method, with the title and author’s name at the top, surrounded by floral elements, and, at the bottom, the publisher surrounded by floral elements.
The back cover is not decorated.
Inside, the end papers are unremarkable. There is an inscription (see below) that marks this particular copy as a prize book, given between 1912-1913. So, between the date on the cover onlay and this date we know it had to have been printed within a small timeframe of about five years.
The paper is wove. It shows a little bit of foxing.
There is no half-title page. The title spread starts with a full page illustration by W.S. Storey. Part of me thinks this is a wood engraving, due to the predominance of parallel lines (copper plate would have more cross hatching, theoretically). But the background’s jaunty disconnected lines and sparsity make me wonder if something else is going on here. (Although a copper plate might explain this, as copper plate engravings could be produced by a mix of hand and chemical engraving). I’m reminded of Tenniel’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland, which makes me suspect this might be a photographically developed wood-block illustration. (Good news: I’ve just ordered Bamber Gascoigne’s How to Identify Prints, Second Edition, so in future I should be able to identify these with more precision).
The title page itself is fairly plain, with a simple line borders between the title, the author and her other noted works, and the publisher. There’s a small woodcut decoration included here, and one more on the final page of the novel. Other than these, the book is text-only.
The other thing to note about this edition is that it has clearly been printed from plates rather than typeset or produced by Monotype or Linotype. There’s a significant pattern of wear on the bottom line of many of the pages (see some examples below) that marks this as stereotyped.