Category Archives: American

O’Hara is toast

Amongst my legacy of two tons of books is more John O’Hara than you can shake a stick at. His works seem like they might be right up my alley, critically examining the social mores and thoughts of America in the 30’s through the 60’s, eras I love. They might be much like Barbara Pym’s or Anita Brookner’s work- not much really happens, but furious internal monologues and manners burn the pages away before I know it.

In 2005 Jonathan Yardley wrote

“In all American literary history, no writer comes to mind who fell so far and so fast. Ernest Hemingway’s reputation has tumbled, perhaps somewhat unfairly since much of the criticism is directed at books published posthumously without his authorization, and in any event readers still flock to “The Old Man and the Sea” (alas), and the early short stories are still widely assigned in literature courses. O’Hara, by contrast, is toast.”

Jonathan Yardley, “Tragedy of Manners,” Washington Post April 21 2005

Here they are, all of these first editions, worth a buck or a penny. I would like to read them, and I am reluctant to let them go, but they are using precious shelving real estate and listing them would require time a stay at home, menu planning, budget managing, house cleaning home schooling chef maid mother and small business person has.  Still. I think I will keep them. An O’Hara Renaissance, perhaps?

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A real (stamped) Mark Twain signature.

See the little red books stacked behind the cat in the last post?  Today’s pull of my favorite slot machine began with these,  Little Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor, Edited by Thomas L. Masson Volumes I – VI. They are dated Volume 1: 1904, Volume 2: 1903, Volume 3: 1903 , Volume 4: 1903,  Volume 5: 1903, Volume 6 1903.

Volume I includes Mark Twain’s signature opposite the copyright page.


So, I did a bit of googling and found the following at the Mark Twain Papers & Project .

“The Charles L. Webster & Company’s Mark Twain’s Library of Humor also has a stamped facsimile of Clemens’s handwritten “Compiler’s Apology” that reads: “Those selections in this book which are from my own works were made by my two assistant compilers, not by me. This is why there are not more. Mark Twain.” According to our correspondents, this statement also appears in a six-volume series titled Masterpieces of Humor and may be reprinted elsewhere.”

So what I have here is a very nice, hard-to-find set of these books, with no signature, alas, and a mystery as to why they added the Compiler’s Apology in the first place.

Masterpieces of Humor Spines

Masterpieces of Humor Spines

Volumes II through VI are dated 1903 on both the title and copyright pages indicating first edition for Doubleday, Page  according to Bill McBride’s 2012 Seventh Revised Edition, A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions.

Volume I is dated 1904 on the title page, but 1903 on the copyright page. The lines at the middle of the design stamped in gilt on the spine are much thinner than those same lines on the spines of the other volumes, as well. To my untrained eye the cloth of the cover of volume I looks a little different from the others.


Pages v through 4 of Volume II are sewn in crookedly and  3/8  to 1/4 inch shorter at the bottom than the rest of the pages in the book. 1/3 of page 89-90 is ripped out of Volume II. Volume IV is cracked between the back side of the half-title page and the back side of the frontispiece page.  Volume V appears not to have ever even been opened. Text blocks are dusty and pages are yellowed with age but pages are very strongly attached, as if new.

Masterpieces  of Humor top of text block and spine

Masterpieces of Humor top of text block and spine

I am asking 75 plus shipping for the set. It is difficult to find all of these volumes together  and in this very good condition and early edition.

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