Treasures from the Library: Wells vs. Belloc

Treasures from the Library: Wells vs. Belloc

First, if you haven’t read last week’s collection highlight, Mr. Belloc Objects to the Outline of History, go read up on the back and forth between Hilaire Belloc and HG Wells.


Here’s the published back and forth we mentioned last week. Clockwise from the upper right we have the initial work, HG Wells Outline of History, Belloc’s Objection, and Wells’ objection to the objection.

IMG_20160525_212139038.jpgThe first set of Wells books are not anywhere close to first (or second, or third…) editions. These were published in 1961 and are in excellent condition. The Belloc is original, as is the second Wells.

What I appreciate about these books are the fact that we have the entire published dialogue available; not one side over the other, but both in a back and forth. That is not to say that the whole thing was civil; by all account both men were antagonistic toward each other and did not appreciate the effort of the other to discredit them. I can’t imagine how their mutual friends dealt with it. Laughter, I assume, though I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Treasures from the Library: Mr. Belloc Objects…

Those who follow over on Instagram are probably familiar with this little volume; I was too amused not to share it right away. The volume is slender, showing wear along the spine, and was tucked up high, almost against the ceiling. I doubt it had been taken down anytime recently, which means its still in pretty good condition.

Often, we lament the slings and arrows of outrageous media in our day; personalities and politicians and everyone with an internet connection feels entitled to defend, attack, and otherwise yell on their digital soapbox. ‘Oh, for the old days!’ — a lament I’m sure you all have heard. There’s this image that we have of the past, sepia toned and quiet, where everyone was always well behaved and no one ever disagreed. How we manage to maintain this image in light of, you know, history boggles the mind.

The advantage, or disadvantage, of the past was that not everyone had a metaphorical soap box (the actual soap boxes were, of course, easier to come by and pitch in a park). Those who ran publishing houses and newspapers chose the voices they magnified. It meant that you had to have enough consequence to be able to have your words published for the masses. Hilaire Belloc certainly possessed that consequence, as did HG Wells.


Behold, a first edition HG Wells. Not one of great monetary value, perhaps, but isn’t that a cool sentence to be able to type? This particular work is entitled “Mr. Belloc Objects to the Outline of History.” Again, as with most of these that I’ve been able to find, we possess the less illustrious American copy. Clocking in at 96 pages, this book was the result of a battle in the press between Mr. Wells and Mr. Belloc. Wells had published his “Outline of History“; Belloc took umbrage to it and published a series of articles that would become “A Companion to Mr. Wells’s Outline of History”. Wells took umbrage with Belloc’s umbrage, and there you are.

As it happens, we have all three books in the catalog– this one just happened to be the first one based on call number. I’ll be hunting down the other two, never you fear. They may or may not be from the same time period, but its nice to have the whole picture. “Outline of History” is available online and linked above, “A Companion to Mr. Wells’s Outline of History” is not.

Treasures from the Library: Hilaire Belloc’s The Crusades

The plus side of spending hours in the stacks is the ability to scope out the shelves– a third of the collection sits at my fingertips, and among it are a few delightful, interesting, and odd finds. This week’s highlighted volume is Hilaire Belloc’s The Crusades: The World’s Debate.

Hilaire Belloc, as you may know, was an Anglo-Frenchman and a contemporary of GK Chesterton. He was a prolific writer, with works spanning history, politics, and verse. There are a number of his works in the collection, though not Cautionary Tales for Children (I detect a theme between the absence of this work and Old Possum…) I am, admittedly, poorly read when it comes to Belloc’s works– his Characters of the Reformation is currently on my shelf but that is it so far.

IMG_20160316_201604966Have you ever had that feeling, as you visually scan a shelf, that you’ve found something
interesting? I was taking a short break on Saturday, walking down the row of books and trying to avoid the temptation to ready my way through World War I when I was stopped by this one. The spine is so interesting, banner standing proud and proclaiming itself The Crusades.

Our copy of The Crusades: The World’s Debate was published in 1937, a first edition. In the work, Belloc discusses the history of the Crusades as well as reviewing the reasons why they ultimately failed. Despite the fact that this  book has resided in the stacks for a reasonably long period of time, and resided in another library prior (the stamp is faintly visible below our own), it is in good condition. The cloth on the spine is thin, but not yet broken, and the pages are browned but not overly brittle. The biggest draw back is the remnants of cellophane tape used to hold the first few pages in– not because the tape is failing, but because we need to decide how to address it. The tape did not hold the pages quite where they should have been, and there is wear on the edges as well.

Still, a handsome edition to the collection. The Crusades is currently held for review (remember the tape?) but other Belloc historical works are available in the Stacks. Verse and fiction can be found in the Newman Room.