Off the Shelf: Flannery O’Connor’s Cartoons (& Her New Stamp)

Flannery - Twas the Night

I looked up yesterday at the local Half Price Books to see a display of Flannery O’Connor’s The Cartoons. Despite being a fan of all things Flannery, somehow I had missed this volume’s release in 2012. But the remainder list is the way of (most) all books, and also the blessing to all patient bargain book shoppers.

Flannery Cartoons Cover

The cartoons were done by student Flannery O’Connor at Peabody High School and Georgia State College for Women mostly as linoleum cuts. They are funny–some more so than others, to be sure–and touch on typical student themes like the injustice of writing themes over Thanksgiving break or the joys of summer break.

Flannery - Teachers

We even find that Flannery O’Connor predicted Twitter:

Flannery - tweeet

The book contains an introduction by legendary illustrator and engraver Barry Moser and an essay by Kelly Gerald placing the illustrations into biographical context.

Published at a price of $22.99, you can buy it at Amazon for $18.16, but don’t pay even that discounted price. I bought a new copy at Half Price Books for $6.99, and the ever bountiful Hamilton Book will sell it to you for only $4.95 (plus $3.90 shipping). No Flannery fan can be without it.

Flannery stamp

As an addendum, Flannery received her own stamp last week, an event widely celebrated. Flannery youngSome have claimed the portrait of O’Connor on the stamp actually doesn’t look like Flannery O’Connor. However, the photo of a young collegiate Flannery O’Connor used in The Cartoons is clearly the photo used as a basis for the postal stamp portrait. Lovers of Flannery, Southern literature, and good writing in general shouldn’t look a gift stamp in the mouth.

‘The Well-Dressed Bookshelf’ & the Return of the Physical Book at No Man Walks Alone

Burke's Works

Books are often a topic of interest here at Pinstripe Pulpit, so it’s no surprise I might export such concerns elsewhere. You can read my new post ‘The Well-Dressed Bookshelf’ at No Man Walks Alone:

Research now suggests that we retain more from deep reading when we read from paper rather than a screen. Reading a physical book is not only visual, but also tactile. We feel the weight of the book. We turn a page. We remember a passage in relation to its placement on the page.

And if you’re going to have physical books then they at least ought to look good on the shelf. Hop over to No Man Walks Alone to read the entire post.

Off the Shelf: Wendell Berry’s ‘The Wheel: For Robert Penn Warren’

Wheel 1When collecting an author’s works one of the challenging–and thus fun–areas to collect are limited editions. Poets often have some works issued first as limited edition broadsides, larger single sheets printed on one side. Private presses, particularly letterpresses, will issue poetry broadsides in limited editions, often numbered and/or signed by the poet. The often look wonderful framed on your wall.

Broadsides have their origins in the early days of printing. They were usually announcements or advertisements, and were considered disposable. A broadside was essentially what we would call a flyer.

Wendell Berry has issued a number of his poems first in broadside form from a number of different private presses over the decades. One of his earliest broadsides is from North Carolina’s legendary Palaemon Press. Palaemon specialized in Southern authors, and its author list is a veritable who’s who. (Duke has a handy checklist of Palaemon’s publications on its website.)

Palaemon printed a folio of poems dedicated to Kentuckian and Southern legend Robert Penn Warren. Apparently outside of this collected folio was another poem dedicated to Warren, Wendell Berry’s “The Wheel.”

Wheel detail 1

Issued in an edition of 126, one hundred were numbered for sale, while 26 were lettered for private distribution. This is a common limitation size and practice by private presses. This copy is designated as “W,” which means that it was part of the 26 lettered copies, and thus is slightly more desirable than the numbered copies. Along the bottom is a deckled edge, a hallmark of handmade and mould made paper often used by letterpress printers.

Berry would later use “The Wheel” as the title poem to a palm sized 1980 collection of poems published by the late lamented North Point Press.

“The Wheel” uses the motif of dance to illustrate the themes of community, both living and generational, that are so key to Berry’s worldview. And looking back almost thirty five years, we can see that the poem speaks to Berry’s position as heir to Warren as Kentucky and the South’s great active writer.

Wheel colophon

Book Shopping in Cambridge: The Haunted Bookshop & G. David, Bookseller

Cambridge Evening

When one finds himself in Cambridge, home of higher learning for over 800 years, the sensible thing seemed to be to look for a used bookshop. With only a couple of hours to spare before a supper appointment, G. David Bookseller seemed to be the best target.

Ryder & Amies

David’s had the charming address of 16 St. Edward’s Passage, but—and this may come as a bit of a surprise—cab drivers don’t often know exactly where used bookshops are off the top of their head. Still, he got me close, and after a brief stop in Ryder & Amies, University Outfitters, I found an alleyway that seemed like the right spot.

Books signMy eye quickly caught a sign with that magical word “Books” on it. This wasn’t G. David, but a place called The Haunted Bookshop. Now with a name like that it can go one of two ways. Either it’s a kitschy unserious sort of place, or it’s filled with all kinds of awesome. The books in the window indicated awesome, indeed, awaited. A Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge? I couldn’t help but think it was the sort of shop Russell Kirk would have loved.

The Haunted Bookshop was the proverbial hole in the wall with books everywhere, double stacked on the shelves. They were heavy on children’s books, and there are few things more fun than old British children’s books.

Haunted Bookshop

Haunted Bookshop Window

I was browsing away when the proprietress asked if I was looking for anything in particular. Usually I giving a smiling “just looking around” at this point, but there was something that I had been keeping an eye open for since my trip to Charleston last year. I missed out on a cheap, albeit ex-library, copy of C.S. Forester’s Poo Poo and the Dragons at an outdoor library book sale. So now I asked, and was told, “Oh, I know it’s around here somewhere.” Thus began a search through the piles and double-stacked shelves for the Forester.

“Is the bookshop actually haunted?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. We have our own ghost.”

“Is she a happy ghost or an unhappy one?”

“She seems to be pleasant.”

“I suppose one ought to be content with one’s lot in life.”

“Or death.”

Meanwhile, I was dispatched up the narrow stairs to check the shelves there. Finally a shout of success from below. It had been on the desk all along. Having gone through all of that I felt somewhat obligated to buy it, and after my hard swallow upon seeing the price, she rang it up.

Haunted Books

Haunted Books 2

Haunted Stairs

Haunted Upstairs

It was then I turned to see the C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot volumes in a previously unexplored bookcase. It was like being a kid in a candy store, but I had to pace myself. A first edition of Lewis’s Miracles seemed like the best bet, and at a price I could stomach. Who could resist buying a Lewis first edition in Cambridge where he finally received his academic due? (Clearly I had made an unconscious decision only to buy books by authors whose first initials were “C.S.”.)

Lewis & Forester

I finally extricated myself before more pocketbook damage was done, and was pointed around the corner to G. David, my initial target. David’s stock is mostly remaindered books. And while not a bad thing—quite good in its place, actually—remaindered wasn’t what I was after. Then I found the rare book room. I looked at my watch. I wouldn’t leave until closing time.

G. David

Old leather bound volumes dominated, many from centuries ago. It was a pleasure to stroll through the shelves, examining the occasional volume. Most prices were well beyond reach for me, but far too many were just on the outer edge to where one might stretch. It was not a safe place to be. There were early editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, including leather bound versions. Affordable and tempting were volumes of the Annual Register from the 1760s back when a young Edmund Burke was associated with the publication.

Old Leaves

The area that finally caught my attention was the large island where old maps and prints were kept. I sorted through a picked over stack of leaves from a seventeenth century Bible, only £10 each. Most “popular” passages were gone, but I grabbed the opening page of Habakkuk, a favorite of mine. I added to this a small late eighteenth century map of Asia, including India from where I had just flown.

Finally closing time came. I wish I could have returned, but time and finances did not allow it. I am sure there were many more treasures to be discovered in Cambridge, but I am more than happy with the gems I uncovered.

Cambridge Dusk

Off the Shelf Redux: Wendell Berry’s ‘November 26, 1963’

Shahn illust manAfter last week’s look at the Ben Shahn/Wendell Berry book collaboration November Twenty Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three I gained some additional information from Wendell Berry.

While there is not much insight he can add, Berry writes, there are interesting tidbits about the project. He notes that his friend Denise Levertov was poetry editor at The Nation at the time. And as Shahn implies in his introduction to the volume, the project idea was the artist’s rather than Berry’s. Poet and artist never met.

Berry writes, “Most important to me is that when Ben Shahn inscribed my poem, he did not reproduce my lines as I wrote them. It seems he is not referring to a change in the text itself, but rather the calligraphic liberties Shahn took in adding multiple line breaks when Berry wrote the poem in relatively long lines of verse. Such a change can cause a difference in how one reads, and even understands, the poem. But Shahn’s was envisioning the project as a graphic whole. While Shahn did not change the words or their order, he clearly did view them as malleable, a medium with which he was free to work.

Berry Nov 26 text 3

Berry points the reader to the original printing in The Nation “to see the poem as written.” On this November 26, fifty years after the original date of the poem, yes, enjoy the moving Ben Shahn interpretation, but don’t forget The Nation’s faithful rendering as Wendell Berry wrote it.

C.S. Lewis Off the Shelf: Remembering the Other Jack

“I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them
only because there wasn’t an infinite number of Narnia books to read.” – Neil Gaiman

Lewis shelf

When they both died fifty years ago today, November 22, 1963, it would have seemed an odd debate as to who would have the most impact fifty years on: the President of the United States, icon for the nation, or an Oxbridge Don, known for his children’s books and popular Christian apologetics. Today, certainly, the television coverage is dominated by the President: JFK and his legacy.

Lewis TIME coverNonetheless, Lewis is far from forgotten. His popular Narnia series still sells, and a movie version of The Silver Chair has been announced. Lewis was popular in his day, we shouldn’t forget, a popularity that led to a certain unpopularity and marginalization at Oxford that prompted his move to Cambridge. He even appeared on the cover of America’s TIME magazine. Indeed, as Jonathan Merritt notes, Lewis is now more popular than ever.

I had the great pleasure of reading Alan Jacobs’s fine biography of Lewis, The Narnian, this year. I couldn’t recommend it to you highly enough. (Don’t miss Jacobs’s Lewis inspired thoughts at Books & Culture.) The biographical insight puts Lewis in a new light. Lewis was a man who led an unorthodox personal life, to be sure, and I find it extraordinary that he was able to write as much as he did under the circumstances. Belief in God was something Lewis struggled with. The atheism of a young intellectual finally gave way to the considered reflection of belief. Aslan was on the move. Lewis had lived it.

Lewis ScrewtapeWhat to read from Lewis? It’s hard to pick. Everyone should read Narnia, of course. Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters are probably best known among his apologetics. But there is more, which shouldn’t be ignored. Lewis wrote so much worth reading he becomes a friend who stays with you decade after decade as you read, discover something new, and read again.

Of the curious fact of that Lewis and Kennedy died on the same day, along with Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, the always delightful Peter Kreeft made use in his book Between Heaven and Hell. In the imaginary dialogue “somewhere beyond death” the men discuss the meaning of life, and, of course, it is Lewis who points the way to Christ. He has done that through his books for decades now. And of those who died on this day fifty years ago, it is hard to deny that it is Lewis who is still on the move.

Lewis Narnia

Off the Shelf: Odd Volumes & the Challenges of Marriage

Pitt vol 1

While at Glover’s Bookery in Lexington, Kentucky an odd volume of George Tomline’s Life of Pitt caught my eye. (It turned out to be a serendipitous find, the significance of which will be explored in a future post.) It was the original 1821 edition, published in Philadelphia by Abraham Small in two volumes. The British edition was published in London by John Murray in three volumes.

George Tomline

George Tomline

Tomline, born George Pretyman but taking the new surname after receiving an inheritance, was William Pitt the Younger’s tutor at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Pitt, son of a prime minister, became the youngest prime minister in British history in 1783 when he was only 24 years old. (He would die at only age 46.) Tomline became Pitt’s private secretary, was appointed by Pitt as Bishop of Lincoln, and, but for George III’s lack of cooperation, would have been Archbishop of Canterbury. Tomline owed Pitt a great deal, and also had a uniquely close perspective on Pitt’s career as prime minister.

Odd volumes, of course, are orphaned books from a set or series of books. British 19th Century novels were (in)famous for being issued as “triple-deckers,” one work spread over three different volumes. Many well-known works such as Pride and Prejudice or Oliver Twist were released in that format, which was driven by for-profit lending libraries of the day. Other works–like biographies–were issued in multiple volumes, too. Over the decades and centuries things happen and volumes are separated, damaged, or destroyed, thus leading to all those odd volumes out there.

Pitt the Younger

Pitt the Younger

With my newly possessed odd volume one, I wondered if I might find an odd volume two out there in the bookverse. A search on revealed that while various copies of the British edition were available, copies of the American edition were scarce. However, there indeed was one odd volume two available. I checked the information provided, and the editions appeared to be the same, so I contacted the seller and requested pictures of the spine and title page. When pictures arrived, the title pages matched up, but the spines did not. My volume one had “Life of Pitt” on the spine while the odd volume two had “Memoirs of Pitt.”

Would another odd volume two show up again? No guarantees. This could, in fact, be the only one out there. It’s not a common title, particularly in the American edition. British edition volumes wouldn’t match up. I bit and ordered the book.

Pitt vol 2

And that leads us to the challenges of marrying such volumes. The edition is the same, but the difference in binding is not limited to the title. The leather on volume two is different, nicer, or at least more decorative, with the lovely marbling you sometimes find in volumes of that era. The spine decoration is slightly different, the volume height shorter.

Pitt set detail

My conclusion is that my volume two is from an entirely different binder. It was sometimes the case that books were sold without covers, or at least cheap covers, with the expectation that you would take them to the binder of your choice. The printer could also have contracted two different printers to handle the load of production and simply left the titling to the discretion of the binder. This would explain the difference in spine title altogether. Different binders chose (or were told) different titles, “Life of…” vs. “Memoirs of….”

But the set is now complete, odd volumes widowed years ago with an arranged marriage late in life. They don’t have the “perfect set” look on the shelf, but nearing two centuries of existence they have both beaten the odds to be here at all. I believe they’ll have a happy shelf life.

Pitt set


Pitt vol 2 Fredelka FormulaAddendum: I have written about my use of Fredelka Formula for leather bound books before, but I’ve taken a photo to illustrate the impact it can have, Fredelka added to the bottom half only. Some libraries today argue against using any sort of leather moisturizer, but to me the benefits are obvious. I’ve used leather moisturizer on other fine leathers, whether shoes, briefcases, or jackets, and they all benefit from it. Why wouldn’t old book leather? When I was an assistant to Russell Kirk I used an entire jar of Fredelka Formula on his old leather volumes. I was astonished how it rejuvenated the old leather (dried by centuries and Michigan’s lack of humidity). You can read about the history of Fredelka Formula here.


Off the Shelf: Allen Tate, Wendell Berry, & Sewanee’s Discarded ‘The Hidden Wound’

Hidden Wound cover

Years ago, perhaps when I was still in graduate school, I stopped at a Chattanooga used bookshop when passing through. One has a mental list of authors to check, and I happened to find an uncommon thing: a hardcover first edition of Wendell Berry’s 1970 book on race and the South, The Hidden Wound. The disappointment was that it clearly was an ex-library copy. An ex-library copy can be the ultimate disappointment–a rare book that is worthless to the collector.

Hidden Wound discardBut this first edition was different. It had been discarded by the nearby prestigious Sewanee: The University of the South, and on the front pastedown was a donor’s bookplate. It read: “This Book is placed in The Library of the University of the South by Allen Tate.” I paid whatever small price they were asking, thrilled at this unique association copy.

Allen Tate was a Kentuckian by birth, and one of the Fugitive Poets who attended Vanderbilt University in the 1920s. Several of them were later part of the The Nashville Agrarians who wrote the classic I’ll Take My Stand, a book that has had a great deal of influence on me.

During the 1940s, Tate, and his friend I’ll Take My Stand contributor Andrew Lytle, transformed the small literary journal The Sewanee Review into a national powerhouse. After a time away from the South teaching at the University of Minnesota, Tate returned to live in Sewanee, Tennessee during the 1960s.

Hidden Wound bookplateIt was during the ’60s that another Kentucky novelist, poet and essayist was rising to prominence. Wendell Berry was an authentic agrarian in a way the Nashville Agrarians had never been. Tate took favorable notice of Berry, and the two eventually began a correspondence.

I had long intended to show Wendell Berry my book as I felt like having it signed by him would bring its association full circle. But I was unsure how Berry might react. I can’t imagine one would relish finding one’s book discarded from a prominent university library. But it was the donor I thought Berry would be interested to see.

And indeed he was. When I showed the volume to Berry recently at his home he was visibly moved that Tate had seen fit to attach his name to it. Berry spoke of how he had once made a public quip about how few of the Southern Agrarians had seen fit to stay in the South. Tate, Warren, and John Crowe Ransom had all taken positions in the North. Tate had shown great patience with him, Berry said, writing to explain that they had had no choice: no university in the South had wanted them.

Berry told that Tate had felt that The Hidden Wound had been too apologetic on the race issue, although he pointed to Tate’s poem “The Swimmers” as an example of Tate himself wrestling with race and the South. In the poem, Tate tells the story of stumbling across a lynching as a young boy in Winchester, Kentucky when he and friends were on their way for a summer swim.

Hidden Wound InscriptionBerry happily inscribed the book, expressing his appreciation for Allen Tate:
“I am proud of this copy/of this book for I greatly/respect the memory and/the work of Allen Tate./Wendell Berry/9/23/13”

Of all the different Wendell Berry volumes I own, this one is now the most special to me. Not only does it have such wonderful personal association value, but because of it I have the memory of the book giving Wendell such great pleasure at seeing it.

Hidden Wound endpapers

Off the Shelf: Walker Percy’s ‘The Moviegoer’

Percy pb stack

Universally hailed as one of the great novels of the 20th century, Walker Percy’s National Book Award winning The Moviegoer is a Southern classic and a highly sought after collectible first edition. True firsts from its 1961 publication can run well into four figures. I have seen estimates of 1500-3000 copies printed, which isn’t surprising considering it was Percy’s first novel. I won’t be buying one any time soon.

Percy Moviegoer spine

My copy of The Moviegoer is a recent trade paperback, which was fine for reading last year. I’m always on the lookout to upgrade to a hardcover, of course (you can read about the upgrade process with Go, Down Moses).

Moviegoer coverAs book buying fate would have it, I came across an unexpected edition of The Moviegoer at a used bookshop while browsing through the leather books. Leather editions can be nice, particularly as eye candy on the shelf, but they generally aren’t collectible in the same way a first edition might be (personally, I find Folio Society editions more interesting than the leather bound Franklin Press). This Franklin Library edition was different, however, because it was signed by Walker Percy.

This is where your smartphone comes in handy as I did a quick search on the always useful (and also dangerous) The bookstore price, while not cheap, was relatively inexpensive to the going price. I bit. The time to buy a signed Walker Percy is when you find a signed Walker Percy. I would never see one again at that price.

Percy signature

A little research shows that this was part of a series from Franklin called the Signed 60, which was issued between 1977-1982, and is one of the most sought after Franklin series. The volumes were not only beautifully bound and signed, but also were newly illustrated.

Moviegoer illustrationHow many were printed? I can’t imagine too many as they had to have an author’s signature for each one. There are only so many that Walker Percy is going to sit down and sign.

For someone who will never have the free cash to drop on a true first edition of The Moviegoer, this Signed 60 edition gives me a chance to own a beautiful and signed “first thus” edition. It’s worth checking to see if your favorite author or novel has a similar edition that might be much more accessible than an out of reach true first.


If you’re interested in Walker Percy, Rod Dreher is planning a Walker Percy Weekend in St. Francisville, Louisiana in 2014. Also see Dreher’s recent article on Walker Percy and place.

Moviegoer title page

Off the Shelf Atlanta: Patrick O’Brian & Cormac McCarthy

Atlanta McCarthyI’m an unconventional tourist. My targets when I visit a city tend to be off-beat historical sites, interesting places to eat, and thrift stores. A recent trip to Atlanta stuck to type as this, and upcoming posts, will show.

One of the places you can find remarkably good books is in a thrift store. Like with clothes, there is more junk than gems. But good books are more financially accessible than good clothes (good books cost the same as bad books, while good clothes cost considerably more than bad clothes), which means more potential donations.

The first find of interest was a pair of Patrick O’Brian novels. Now one will come across odd volumes of his Aubrey-Maturin series all along, particularly trade paperback copies. More rare are O’Brian’s other books, the ones that fall outside his naval series. About twenty years ago, at the height of Aubrey-Maturin popularity, W.W. Norton began re-issuing these other novels by O’Brian in an effort to capitalize on his overall success.

Atlanta OBrian

Testimonies was O’Brian’s first novel, a story with nothing to do with the sea. O’Brian’s The Golden Ocean is of interest as it is a naval tale written before his career-making Aubrey-Maturin series began.

Previously published, these would be considered “first-thus” editions, that is, the first printings of this re-issued edition. The price of the true firsts would be astronomical due to what certainly would have been small print runs decades ago.

Later I came across this first printing of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing, second in his Border Trilogy that began with the well-known All the Pretty Horses. One finds copies, even hardcover, of the Border Trilogy books all along, but they are invariably of a later printing. I always check the copyright page just in case, and this time, indeed, it was a first printing.

So check the books when you’re at the thrift store. One never knows what can turn up. And sometimes one also may be rewarded with a valuable find in the DVD section. Narf!

Atlanta Book Stack