One plus one equals one

March 15, 2019

Or, Why I Have So Blasted Many Books, part 1

With a title like The Beauties of Sentiment; or, An Original Collection of Moral Anecdotes for the Young, the little (physically; really:  it’s listed as a “miniature” book in every library that lists it) book had to be mine, even if it is missing about 10 pages.  Published in 1831 and printed in that font that reminds you that you’re getting older, it’s plump full of anecdotes of the kind reprinted often in early American periodicals for children–and with the moral readers were expected to get!  (I cannot emphasize enough how delightful this is for someone who studies early American literature for children.)

The missing pages weren’t a problem until I decided to transcribe it.  Because this little book is very little known:  WorldCat lists 2 copies; American Antiquarian Society has one; google books hasn’t digitized it, so it isn’t available anywhere online; and I mentioned the missing pages in my copy.

Book dealer to the rescue (and there went a week’s worth of groceries, gas, medication, etc., but old books are always a good cause—or maybe that’s just me).  And I made plans to keep the incomplete copy because you don’t just trash a copy of a little book this difficult to find.

Then I got the book.  Oh, John Punchard, how did you let this copy get out?  (And what must the other copy look like? because I’m sure there’s a copy missing—  Well, read the next paragraph.)

This copy goes: title page, page 8; page iii, page iv; page iii, page iv; title page, page 8; page 9, page 16; page 13, page 12; page 13, page 12; page 9, page 16; page 17-page 116 (thank goodness!).  So what we actually have are page 8 printed on the reverse of the title page, and page 16 printed on the reverse of page 9 (twice!), and pages 12 and 13 somehow flipped; and I’m not really sure just how drunk you’d have to be to mess something up this badly.  Because my first incomplete copy sedately goes from title page to page 20 and then has lost some pages (or not:  the binding is pretty tight) and then saunters on to page 98, where there’s some other pages missing (but, again, tight binding).  No page 8 printed on the back of the title page; page 9 has page 10 on its reverse—just a usual, boring book.

What happened to the second incomplete copy will haunt me.  I can see a sheet going into the press wrong (thus page 8 printed on the back of the title page, and page 16 having the back of page 9); but just how do you end up binding the pages in such disorder?  And, yes, is there a copy out there missing pages iii and iv, and possibly 12 and 13, and surely not the title page!?!

So, here, one copy plus one copy equals (I’m happy to discover), one copy.

And I have one word of advice for the bookseller who overpriced this book:  COLLATE.