Friday, August 8, 2014

Bookplate on the fly

You've been given a new book and you're all out of bookplates. What to do?

No worry, just write your own ex libris.

That's what one recipient did below in his copy of Will and Ariel Durant's The Age of Louis XIV.

He also indicated the gift givers.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

President Johnson and the problems in the world

It's 1968 and you want a clear understanding of the problems in the world. All you have to do is read No Retreat from Tomorrow: President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1967 Messages to the 90th Congress.

At least, that's what a Jamestown, Tennessee grandfather thought when he read this book and passed it onto his grandchildren with the following inscription inside the front cover:
Today I received this book from President Johnson and I wanted you to have it.
Read it carefully and I am sure you will have a better understanding of all the problems in the world today.  

What isn't clearly understood from these words is whether that "clear understanding" results from Johnson's articulation of the world's pressing issues or from his policies that may be contributing to them.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Gambler's Caveat and Gratitude

Here are a couple of unusual reader inscriptions found within a few pages of each other. 

In a copy of The Greatest Gamblers: An Epic of American Oil Exploration, by Ruth Sheldon Knowles (McGraw-Hill, 1959), the book's owner first felt it necessary write a brief inscription to the borrower, reminding him that the book was expected back.

To: Dr. Hood (but not for keeps), Jim

I've never seen a book with a "loan note" in it like this. Was there something implicit in the book's title that rendered the loan a gamble? Was there a precedent for this with Dr. Hood? Or was Jim merely eliminating any ambiguity associated with presenting his book to Dr. Hood?

Regardless, this reader inscription  tells us that Jim valued this book and wanted it to stay in his collection.

The owner of the book, Jim, soon reveals that he is one of the gamblers in the title and contents of the book. About three pages later, the author's dedication reads as follows:

To all the unsuccessful explorers who
have drilled America's 300,000 dry holes
and whose failures have guided others 
to the discovery of an abundance of oil, 
I dedicate this book with gratitude 
and admiration for their courage, venture-
someness, faith, persistence, and optimism.

Underneath the dedication, it appears that Jim has written his own expression of gratitude for the author's recognition. His reply reads simply, Thank you, JGS.

I've never seen this before, either--a reader's written response to a book's dedication. One could (and probably should) assume that a sarcastic thanks is inferred, given the context of the dedication and further assumption that Jim was one of the wildcatters who drilled a dry hole or two.

Perhaps this gambler was just hedging his bet when he loaned this book to his friend or colleague, Dr. Hood, with the caveat "not for keeps" to ensure it was returned.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jimmy's Grandfather and Lou Gehrig

There's a precedent for my acquiring this kind of book--a biography of Lou Gehrig with an inscription inside indicating how much the Yankee slugger was admired by the book's owner. See Book Shrine to a Baseball Hero.

In this case, the book's owner apparently didn't own the book all that long as it was given to his grandson.

But it's what went with the book that is the real treat in the written message--a baseball bat signed by Lou Gehrig and other Yankees!

Here's the inscription from a grandfather to his grandson:

Click on the image to enlarge it.

In these few lines penned in the upper corner inside the front cover, an old man reveals a wonderful bit of history about himself as a kid and his love of baseball, the Yankees, and, in particular, Lou Gehrig. And those larger-than-life heroes of the diamond didn't sign just any bat. They signed a bat that Grandfather Jim made himself when he was a boy.

This cherished souvenir from the boy's hero would sadly grow all the more important to him, as we know that Gehrig's career and ultimately his life were cut far too short.

At age 36, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS for short, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," as it has been more commonly known for decades. A few weeks shy of his 38th birthday, the man nicknamed the Iron Horse for his durability, succumbed to the cruel disease.

I can only guess when young Jim got his homemade bat signed. As Babe Ruth's name is not mentioned, it's quite possible the bat was signed after Ruth was gone, 1934, and before the early part of the 1938 season when Gehrig could no longer play ball.

How crushed must Jim have been to see his hero mysteriously fall so fast from his high performance standards. And how devastating it must have been to learn of his disease and slowly realize he would never play again. And then the heartbreaking, inevitable conclusion to his rapid decline--death on June 2, 1941.

That Jim would buy this book some 60 years after meeting Lou Gehrig and acquiring his signature along with some of his teammates' signatures gives testimony to the fact that he remained a lifelong fan of his childhood idol.

I can't understand how the book, with that wonderful inscription, wound up in a resale shop, knowing how much Gehrig meant to the grandfather. But there's a number reasons that could have happened.  I can only hope the bat didn't suffer the same fate!