My collection was always blueprinted to be small; however, the goal of limiting it exclusively to modernist texts with significant literary or biographical associations came into sharp relief only after a number of false starts. Indeed, the decision to focus on the 20th century didn't reflect any particular prejudice. In an earlier incarnation, the collection extended almost 100 years from where it now starts. But once the ambition to acquire only books with resonant presentations was isolated from the impulse to acquire books--the last leap in the evolution of a connoisseur--it soon became apparent that the opportunities to secure unique, big-time Romantic and Victorian titles was disproportionately thin to that provided by the Modernists. All logic and experience underwrote that thesis, and to build a memorable collection one needs a regular flow of memorable books. The mournful, ancient lament of book collectors--concurrent almost with the creation of printing presses--that great copies of great books are victims of some form of bibliophilic global warming, can really only be true when juxtaposed with specific periods. When it comes to the last century, at least, this library vividly demonstrates otherwise.
The principle that guided the purchase of books was refined, after much reflection, to one that could be stated simply: significant text, significant association. Once a population of authors was posited, those two factors had to intersect to warrant a book being added. It wasn't sufficient, for example, for a copy of a lesser title to have a meaningful association; the book also needed to provide something of merit, either textually or bibliographically. Absent one or the other quality, the association deflated. That strict standard, now and again poignantly applied to the detriment of the collection, explains the absence of a number of canonical 20th-century titles. If the bar was set high, it made the game that much more difficult; but it also rendered the pleasure of success that much more satisfying. Imagine, for a moment, the delight of securing after a decade of waiting, Lolita inscribed by Nabokov to his wife.
Many of these books have never been owned by earlier collectors. The number of volumes that migrated directly from their source to this collection is noteworthy. A partial list includes: The Marble Faun presented by Faulkner to his mother and father; The Good Soldier inscribed by Ford to Graham Greene to commemorate their only meeting; all of the Evelyn Waughs with inscriptions to Greene; the copy of On the Road Kerouac presented to his lover, in which she preserved his letters about the impending publication of his masterwork; The Naked and the Dead Mailer inscribed to James Jones upon the publication of From Here to Eternity; and all of the lovingly inscribed and emended volumes Vladimir Nabokov and Ezra Pound each presented to the dominating female presence in his long, productive writing life. In addition, the collection is particularly rich in books from the libraries of the foundational collectors of modern literature: Dr. Guffey's Hemingways; James Gilvarry's Joyces, Yeatses, and Becketts; Mrs. Prescott's Houseman; L.D. Brodsky's Faulkners; Carter Burden's Henry Adamses and T.S. Eliots; and Cyril Connolly's Waughs.
The additional lots (361-375) reflect my last minute decision to include the handful of books I had originally intended to retain--the collecting urge is a difficult one to resist. In the main sequence of the catalogue, we have cross-referenced these added lots.
Books remain perpetually in motion, passing from one set of hands to another. And then, often unpredictably, they pause in transit--some, alas, never to surface in public again. Many great books temporarily nested in my library. But now, confirming the lovely dynamic of collecting, they are stirring again. Take pleasure.