A. E. Housman pp 167-187 | Cite as

The First Edition of A Shropshire Lad in Bookshop and Auction Room

  • P. G. Naiditch


Do the varying prices paid for the first edition of A Shropshire Lad reflect Housman’s popularity at large?


Title Page Private Collection Blue Book Bryn Mawr Book Price 
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  1. 1.
    The book was of course not originally titled A Shropshire Lad. The earlier version, called Poems by Terence Hearsay consisted of 66 poems, commencing with ASL III and concluding with ASL LXII. See Naiditch, Problems in the Life and Writings of A. E. Housman (Beverly Hills, CA: Krown and Spellman, 1995) (henceforth, PLW/AEH) pp. 92–3. For confirmation of Carter and Sparrow’s ordering of the labels, see PLW/ AEH pp. 113–16. The so-called Label C and, in all probability, the missing Label D et similia have no bibliographical authority. The copy with Label C had been entirely rebound: see ibid., pp. 116–17. One copy of Lane’s edition carries Label A.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    L. Housman, A. E. H. (London: Jonathan Cape, 1937) p. 81; cf. ibid., p. 180.Google Scholar
  3. See also Richards, Housman: 1897–1936 (London: OUP, Humphrey Milford, 1941) p. 16 n. 1: ‘it is… likely that his final six copies were what are known in the trade as “overs” — for the paper for a book never gives exactly the number ordered. There are always a few copies in excess, and unless an undertaking to sell only a certain number has been given these “overs” can properly be disposed of in the ordinary manner’: ’always’ should of course be ’often’: both the University College London and the Los Angeles printings of Housman’s light verse are scarcer than their imprints allow.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    For reasons for Housman’s fall from popularity, see PLW/AEH p. 214; Naiditch, — The Slashing Style that All Know and Few Applaud: the Invective of A. E. Housman’, Aspects of Nineteenth The First Edition of ASL in Bookshop and Auction Room 181 Century British Classical Scholarship ed. H. D. Jocelyn (Liverpool, 1996) p. 140; and Randy Lynn Meyer, A. E. Housman and the Critics Dissertation, University of Toledo (Ohio), 1994 (summarized DAI-A55108), Feb. 1995, p. 2407 [CD-ROM]. See too Timothy Steele, Missing Measures: Modern Poetry and the Revolt against Meter (Fayetteville/London: University of Arkansas Press, 1990). Since 1990, a change may have taken placeGoogle Scholar
  5. Humphrey Clucas, Through Time and Place to Roam: Essays on A. E. Housman (University of Salzburg, 1995) p. 2: ’[Housman] did not move with the times; Last Poems famously, was published in the same year as The Waste Land. Yet that jibe does not have quite the force it once did. The whole modernist movement — Eliot, Pound, David Jones — increasingly looks like a dried-up backwater; the main stream has run quietly on through the likes of Hardy, Housman, Edward Thomas… poets who use traditional forms and traditional means of discourse.’Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See Fritz de Marez Oyens and Paul Needham, The Estelle Doheny Collection Part I (New York: Christie, Manson and Woods, 1987) no. 1, pp. 23–6 (census: no. 18 has been broken up); the price is reported, for example, in American Book Prices Current 94, 1988, 313. For the size of the original edition: Aeneas Silvius, who saw the work on sale at Frankfurt in October 1454, reports that it consisted either of 158 or 180 copies (P Needham, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 79, 1985, 308–10, brought to my attention by Sue A. Kaplan). The rarity of the Gutenberg Bible is enhanced because all save one of the known copies are now in institutional collections. (Individual leaves, which can fetch, for example, £8500, of course turn up on the market almost every year.) For A. E. H. W. WGoogle Scholar
  7. W. White, A. E. Housman: a Bibliography (Godalming: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1982) no. 17. Of the dozen copies of the edition, six are known to survive. Four are in institutional collections (Lilly; Princeton; St John’s College, Sparrow Collection; and University of Virginia, Charlottesville). The fifth is in a private collection, probably to be donated to an institution; the sixth was on the market and, I am told, may have been acquired by an institution (Zeitlin and Ver Brugge cat. 265, 1982, no. 56 = Black Sun Books cat. 79, 1988, no. 448 ($225)).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Seymour Adelman, Help front Heaven (New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll (Bird and Bull Press), 1984) (scroll). The New York dealer was Lew D. Feldman of the eponymous House of El Dieff (cf. ‘Prices and Buyers’ Names’, Sotheby and Co. 8–9 July 1968). The collection belonged to Housman’s great-nephew Robert E. Symons (cf. Housman Society Journal 9, 1983, 21–2). For book collectingGoogle Scholar
  9. John Carter, Taste and Technique in Book Collecting, 1970 (London: Private Libraries Association, 1977);Google Scholar
  10. 182.
    P. G. Naiditch for auctions, for example, Frank Hermann, Sotheby’s: Portrait of an Auction House (London: Chatto and Windus, 1980)Google Scholar
  11. Arthur Freeman and Janet Eng Freeman, Anatomy of an Auction (London: The Book Collector, 1990), and Property of n Gentlemen: the Formation, Organisation and Dispersal of the Private Library 1620–1920 eds Robin Myers and Michael Harris (Winchester: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1991); and, less well knownGoogle Scholar
  12. Charles F. Heartman, Twenty-Five Years in the Auction Business and What Now? (privately printed, 1938), and Drif Field, Not 84 Charing Cross Road (London: Drif Field Guides, 1994) (cf. Paul Minet, Antiquarian Book Monthly Review July 1994, 30: I am grateful to Charles Mohr for bringing Field and the late Samuel W. Katz for bringing Minet to my attention). The modern book trade is less well served by historians and writers: see, for exampleGoogle Scholar
  13. Andrew Block, A Short History of the Principal London Antiquarian Booksellers and Book-Auctioneers (London: D. Archer, 1993)Google Scholar
  14. A.L. P. Norrington, Blackwell’s 1879–1979: the History of a Family Firm (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983)Google Scholar
  15. B. Madeleine B. Stern, Antiquarian Bookselling in the United States: a History from the Origins to the 1940s (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    See Robert W. Stallman, ‘Annotated Bibliography of A. E. Housman: a Critical Study’, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 60 (1945) 463–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Abdul-Wahid Lnlna, A. E. Housman: Critical Reputation, 1896–1962 Dissertation [Case] Western Reserve University, 1962Google Scholar
  18. Christopher Ricks, A. E. Housman, a Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968)Google Scholar
  19. Ghussan R. Greene, The Public Reception of A. E. Housman’s Poetry in England and America Dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1978 (not seen)Google Scholar
  20. G. R. Greene, ‘Housman since 1936 — Popular Responses and Professional Revaluations in America’, Housman Society Journal 12 (1986) 30–46Google Scholar
  21. Philip Gardner, A. E. Housman: the Critical Heritage (London/ New York: Routledge, 1992)Google Scholar
  22. Randy Lynn Meyer, A. E. Housman and the Critics, Dissertation, University of Toledo (Ohio), 1994. The chief scholars to go beyond the ‘critical heritage’ are William White and Tom Burns Haber.Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    W. White, A. E. Housman: a Bibliography (Godalming: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1982) p. 10 n. 2.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • P. G. Naiditch

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