Sunday, August 25, 2013

Montana Copper Transformed Into California Biblio-Gold

William Andrews Clark, Jr.

It’s a long stretch from 18th century England to early 20th century California but for a bibliophile the journey is an easy one.  A recent serendipitous purchase on Ebay spanned the time and distance in short order.  The book bought was a 1925 edition of Thomas Gray’s An Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard printed by John Henry Nash of San Francisco for collector William Andrews Clark, Jr. of Los Angeles and Butte, Montana.  It is an elegant production limited to 200 copies and designed as a Christmas gift for friends of Clark. Clark fortified his biblio-eggnog with a lengthy foreword tracing the history of the work’s publication.  He writes, “Having in my library the first eleven separate editions of the Elegy, it may be of interest to note herewith the changes in the text as they successively appeared compared with the text of the first edition.”  No light sing-along caroling here for friends—this was a serious bookman at work.  For good measure he provided a separate facsimile of his copy of the first edition of 1751.
            I acquired the book because it was described as having not only the printed presentation slip normally encountered but also a personalized inscription from Clark.  The limitation statement indicated that this was copy no. 1.  Clark inscriptions in the wild are quite uncommon and this example showed promise for my association collection.
Clark inscription in Gray's Elegy