Foreword to William Loring Andrews Bibliography
Lawrence H. Conklin
I have long been fascinated by those most interesting and exquisitely produced books, the publications of William Loring Andrews, as well as by the gentleman himself. Now I find that I have, unknowingly, and in a very small way, emulated him. I collected, as he did, early views of New York City; I became a member of the Saint Nicholas Society of New York a century later than he and also joined his beloved Grolier Club; and it was his influence that led me to produce the limited, signed edition of my own book Notes and Commentaries on Letters to George Frederick Kunz, 1986.
It was a William Loring Andrews volume that became my very first “rare book” acquisition, back in the 1950’s, long before I had even heard of him.
The book was purchased by my late wife, Halina, as a gift for me, from The Bookshop of James J. Kane, that tiny, but amazing, hole-in-the-wall, street-level store, that existed for a while on 34th Street, just off Lexington Avenue, in New York City. Mr. Kane and his partner Mrs. Neiman assured my wife that I would like it and indeed, I did. Later on, Andrews titles came from booksellers James F. Drake, Lathrop C. Harper, Goodspeed's and Philip Duschnes. Today they come from Thomas Boss, James Cummins, Robert Fleck and David Block.
From the 1950’s through the 1980’s I collected Andrews casually; then, around 1989, my interest became serious and I began acquiring more of his books and examining them closely. I regretted the lack of a definitive Andrews bibliography and decided to do something to remedy that deficiency. I had noticed, early on, that W.L.A. left tantalizing (at least to me) bibliographical puzzles for future readers and collectors to ponder.
Some people, who needed an Andrews reference number for cataloguing, employed a bookseller’s publication— Fine Binding, Fine Printing... Complete List of William Loring Andrews Publications. Catalogue Number 122 of Philip C. Duschnes, New York, issued about the year 1956. This catalogue is useful as far as it goes and as a collector’s item is fascinating for the offering of what is almost certainly the greatest number of books by William Loring Andrews ever for sale at one time. However, it is not complete despite its title, contains no collations and was never intended by its publisher to be a bibliography.
William Loring Andrews’ books were more actively collected during his lifetime than after and his books brought relatively higher prices in his day than they do today, even when one adjusts for inflation. For instance, Gossip About Book Collecting, one of 125 copies, issued in 1900 for $17, was offered for sale by Dodd, Mead & Company in their Catalogue 73 of November, 1904 (only four years after publication), for $75; a copy had brought $70 in the Appleton Sale the previous year. In 1997 one might have paid around $400 for a fine copy. The fifty dollars necessary to buy a copy of the Japan paper issue of New Amsterdam, New Orange, New York was a significant sum in 1897.
William Gilliss (one of Andrews’ printers) of the Gilliss Press, wrote about the Andrews productions in 1920:
It is believed to be a fact that the price at which his books were issued, aggregated more than the value of a set of the works of any other author who ever lived, [italics added] although his books were not made for profit, but to exemplify an appropriate method of making each book.
It has been suggested that Andrews produced just enough copies of his works as could readily be absorbed by his circle of friends and acquaintances (especially so in the case of the extra-limited issues), but those friends were, for the most part, discriminating bibliophiles and probably would not have continued to purchase had the books not actually pleased them. However, he was dearly loved by all those around him and he enjoyed making gifts of his publications. In 1896 he commissioned a special engraved bookplate from Edwin Davis French for just that purpose. In at least one instance known to me, a presentation-copy from him was a copy of a book of extra-limited issue.
Charles Goodspeed, in his Catalogue 250 of 1935, remarked:
William Loring Andrews in 1865 began the publication of a noted series of books distinctive for their taste in type, paper, illustrations, and binding. From 1865 up to 1908, thirty-six volumes appeared of which ten were from his own pen. Many of these have become important reference works and all of them are distinguished by the beauty of their format.
A few of W.L.A.’s books are considered today to be important works. Some are respected as pioneering efforts and are eagerly sought by those interested in the subject concerned. His books-about-books, especially bookbinding (Bibliopegy in the United States was the first book ever published on that particular subject and has recently been reprinted), are still in demand. It has been said that New Amsterdam, New Orange, New York, wherein Andrews assembled “a chronologically arranged account of engraved views of the city [of New York] from the first picture published in mcdli until the year mdccc,” inspired Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes to compile his monumental Iconography of Manhattan Island, New York, 1915-1928, in six volumes; and R. T. Haines Halsey, to write his Pictures of Early New York on Dark-Blue Staffordshire Pottery in 1899. Copies of Andrews’ other works about early New York City are currently collected. One work that combined two of Andrews’ favorite subjects The Old Booksellers of New York, And Other Papers, New York 1895, is quite popular today.
Another way in which Andrews’ works were paid respect was in the manner which many of them were bound by their owners. His volumes were the recipients of some of the finest quality bindings by the best craftsmen of the time. The Birdsall Bindery, Bradstreet’s, The Club Bindery, Chambolle-Duru, S. David & Domont, The Doves Bindery, The French Binders, Leon Gruel, Lortic, Charles Meunier, Oldash Co., Pomey, R.W. Smith & F. Mansell and Henry Stikeman produced fine bindings for copies of Andrews books that are currently in my library. Five Andrews publications in fine binding were illustrated in a book by Henri Pčne du Bois in 1903, American Bookbindings in the Library of Henry William Poor.
William Loring Andrews’ publications are, because of their limited issue, “rare books,” but since they are not popularly collected today, complete first edition title collections are still achievable and without major capital outlay; yet very few bibliophiles today attempt completeness.
In my opinion William Loring Andrews and his books represent the best of the golden age of book collecting. Andrews was born in 1837 and lived in a time of increasing prosperity in America. He died, in 1920, before the Wall Street crash, the ensuing Great Depression and oppressive income taxes. After an early retirement from his family business in 1875 he was free to pursue his hobbies and personal interests which, as the record shows, he did splendidly.
Lawrence H. Conklin.
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