Bibliomania is the love of books. It is NOT a disease. Quite unlike the fond appellation put to those fuzzy book-lovers who devour cheap paperbacks and unwanted bin books: The Bookworm. These hunched creatures collect (collect!) beastly remainders and self-published “novels” while breaking the spines and creasing the pages with indelicate paws and indiscriminate habits. The Bookworm pursues the gross content found upon the deflowered pages of such dog-eared ephemera. Imagine! The Bibliophile isn’t interested in such defilement. The Bibliophile is an aesthete. He is an admirer. It is of no concern to the Bibliophile that, upon release from captivity, there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Jupiter in Shelley’s four-act lyrical drama. The bibliophile is an admirer from afar. What is of concern are the points. The points! Oh, it is much too difficult to describe to the low-brow masses the delicate and subtle beauty of the points. Attempt to describe the sunset on your last day of existence, and you will know the difficulty of describing the criteria demanded of a First Edition, First Issue. It must be sufficient, then, to simply list a series of words, much like Shelley attempting to locate two words that rhyme, ending in “theus” … Octavo … 19th Century Full-Brown Calf … “Misellaneous” (Shelley!) misspelled on the Table of Contents! Raised Bands! Marbled Endpapers! Such are the points of the rare First Edition, First Issue (c.1820) of “Prometheus Unbound.” But you wouldn’t understand.
Perhaps the ultimate second-hand book on Bibliophilia to find its way into a second-hand bookshop, complete with the Bibliophile’s idiosyncratic points to distinguish this particular copy as a First Edition, First State, is A. Edward Newton’s “The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections.” A copy happened into the Russian Hill Bookstore this past week, and I happened upon it. Using my left thumb, and holding the title open at a proper ninety-degree angle, I “thumbed” through the beauty of the points, as it were. I daresay I had to request a tissue from the proprietor as my hands began to perspire with each passing particularity. A fever-dream indeed. And as I thumbed, so shall we now count, in reverse order of import, the points, thus:
- Tan cloth covered spine.
- Colored caricature of Dickens and Thackeray as frontis, with tissue guard opposite!
- The exclusion of an index found in later printings!
- The word “Piccadilly” found on page 268 – line 3, where the author mistakenly located the Carlton Hotel. In later printings this error was corrected to “the corner of Pall Mall and the Haymarket.”
- Scarce erratat slip tipped-in between pages 268-269!