“Original condition”: a few thoughts . . .

I was going to research “original condition” on Google, but after barely starting, I decided to fly by the seat of my pants, instead.

I suppose that “original condition” could mean “mint condition,” or “fine condition.”  But to me it has more of the flavor of, “it may be in poor condition, but (other than that) everything is basically the same as it was when it was new.”

I suppose that in the book-collecting world it bears on the topic of rebindings, repairs, and restorations.

For good or bad, those are not really issues that often can be connected with card-game booklets.  Edward Copisarow once sent me a photograph of Frederic Jessel’s collection at the Bodleian Library, in its location at the time the photograph was taken in 2010.  It is interesting to see the containers for various card-game booklets, which from Edward’s comments I gather are albums of some kind.  Two such items, rather thick, each say the following, or something close to it:






From what I gather, those contain most or all of the booklets by Hoffmann in Jessel’s collection.  Nearby those items is a book with the following stamped on the spine:

MON – SKAT – 1890

That is presumably Jessel’s number 1200, Rules of the Celebrated Game of Skat, with some Hints for Beginners, which is a Goodall booklet you don’t see every day.  Now maybe that is a slipcase.  I hate to think that Jessel would have had the booklet rebound.

However, David Levy, in his Hoyle blog, discusses the dismantling, apparently by Jessel, of what may well have been a collection of Hoyle works bound together and issued as such by Cogan.  I would love to hear Jessel’s side of the story.  David gives a detailed account of what in any event would have to be considered a book-collecting catastrophe, which left part of the collection “. . . in the original binding, with the front board and  . . . much of the spine flapping free where the other treatises had been.”

The dismantling of the book leads to a situation which reeks of phoniness.  But — at least there is apparently no secret as to the real status of the various volumes involved.  And I don’t think Jessel was doing anything surreptitiously.

I’m not really pointing fingers at Jessel — none of this really impacts my opinion of him.  But it just seems a little inexplicable.  However, he apparently assumed that the books in the collection were all issued separately — when from what David said they quite possibly (I guess even probably) were not.

It reminds me a little of a collection of books from John Northern Hilliard’s library which were sold by the late John McLaughlin of the Book Sail, a well-known Orange County  bookstore, now lamentably gone.  I think I have told this story before, or parts of it.  John had maybe forty or so books that had belonged to Hilliard (the primary author of Greater Magic), and many had Hilliard’s signature and annotations.  Many of the books had things inserted into them, like newspaper clippings.

Now John had promised one of the books to another collector, but other than that, he allowed me to be the first to go through the box that had nearly all the books.  And I bought quite a few, though I think I have none of them anymore.  Subsequently, he allowed another collector to remove the inserted materials from the remaining books — not sure whether he sold them, or just allowed the collector to have them.

Everyone who knew John — or most, I guess — would acknowledge that he was a collector with excellent discernment.  But I always wondered why he allowed the inserts to become separated from the books, since, to my way of thinking, they should have stayed with the books.

John McLaughlin was a very interesting character — a lot of what you may see on the internet concerning him is very misleading.  My dad and brother both knew him slightly (like me), and I think all of us shared the opinion that he was one of the good guys.

—Tom Sawyer

August 2, 2013

684 words.

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