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: A Collection of Poems by many hands

As mentioned previously, April is National Poetry Month, so I’ve tried to find a few poetry volumes in the collection for our Thursdays. First up is a book that actually hasn’t been processed into the collection yet!

I was finishing up on Saturday afternoon when I realized I hadn’t set aside a book of poetry for this very post. Not having an abundance of time, I went to my office to see if there was anything of interesting hiding on the shelves among the books awaiting catalog. I found this particular work tucked gently on top of a row of books, I imagine because its incredibly fragile. For those worried about the current disposition of the book, it is safely isolated to help preserve it as best we can.

The poor thing has seen better days, to be sure. The cover is long gone, having not made its way to us, and the spine is pretty much gone as well. I was hesitant to touch it too much, so I’ve only got the one snapshot:


Take a moment to read that publication date (go ahead, I’ll wait). 1775! People, that book is older than this country. Given that New Hampshire was the first colony to establish a government separate from the Crown, it predates this state as an autonomous governing unit. It does not predate the town of Merrimack, however (Merrimack being incorporated in 1746).

Sadly this is the only volume of the 6 that we have. It was originally published in 1748 by Robert Dodsley. You’ll notice the copy we have is credited to J. Dodsley; that would be his brother James, who took over the publishing house after Robert’s death and published this particular reissue.

As to the poetry inside? Check out for all 6 volumes.

Treasures from the Library: What’s Wrong with the World.

As I was wrapping up for the day and waiting for my ride on Saturday, I indulged in a little hunting amoung the incoming books. Spoiler alert: lots of Civil War history, lots of Church history. I was on a mission, however, to find interesting books. Heraldry is nice and all, but it doesn’t necessarily merit its own write up, especially when the books are all mass market volumes.

Among the slim encyclicals and the fatter books about long fought battles, I spied the tell tale spine of an early 20th century hardback. I’ve run across so many in the last few weeks that I can spot them on sight. Not the most useful skill in the wider world but quite useful

Adding some color to spring up the place, alongside our lovely volume

in my line of work. The thing I love about books from 1890 to about 1920 is the fact that they’re so sturdy. These things stand up better than some of the books I’ve run across from the 1960’s and 1970’s. But I digress.

I was not wrong in identifying the hardback in question. The publication year was 1910, making the book in question another 1st edition Chesterton. The work in question is “What’s Wrong with the World” and no, I did not leave off the question mark at the end. The title is quite declarative. The book is said to have spawned from a letter that Chesterton wrote to a newspaper (generally considered to be The Times). The paper posed the question to a good many writers of the day “What’s Wrong with the World?” and Chesterton wrote to them: “I am.”The book spans a variety of topics, including homelessness, imperialism, and education.

The volume we have is in shockingly good condition– there are no obvious marks or dings, no underlining or marginalia, and the smallest among of shelf wear on the corners. The previous owner clearly took care of his books. Because this book was part of the incoming donations, it is not yet processed into the collection or available for checkout. We do have other copies available for checkout in, located in the Newman Room as part of the Collected Works of Chesterton. Additionally, because the book is out of copyright, there is a free eBook copy available through Project Gutenberg.

Another hallmark of the early 20th century, there’s always a fun little drawing or imprint on the title page

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.


Treasures from the Library: The Abolition of Man

This week’s Treasure is another American first edition. Invariably, we have American first editions of English authors, so the monetary value is not present so much as the enjoyment to be received from knowing that you hold in your hands one of the first copies of a work to cross the ocean and arrive on your country’s shores.

IMG_20160305_130133031C.S. Lewis presented the material that would become The Abolition of Man in a series of lectures at King’s College (University of Durham) in February 1943. The lectures were presented over the course of three nights, and the book follows suit, falling into three
sections. At its heart, the Abolition of Man is a defense of natural law– a set of beliefs and principles spanning time, religion, and geographical space across the world. Debunking such beliefs sets one up for a dystopian future. Though I doubt Lewis had The Hunger Games in mind when he wrote Abolition of Man, there certainly has been a literary trend toward the dystopian (personal favorites? The Giver by Lois Lowry; bone chillingly banal. Definitely worth a look, pay no mind to the YA label. Its good for everyone.)

A quick Google search shows that, by and large, people consider the work to be prescient when it comes to  predicting the way in which natural law has been discarded and the havoc that can wreak on society. Lewis’ own That Hideous Strength is a fictional take on the logical end of some of these ideas; Brave New World is also generally recommended in the same breath. Both can be found in the library, in the Newman Room.

The copy of The Abolition of Man that the College has, as you can see, was acquired from another institution’s deselection process. It is clearly marked as the first printing from IMG_20160305_130139403the US publisher, Macmillan. In looking around, I could not find a reason why the lectures were published almost immediately in England yet it took 5 years for them to cross the pond. I have my suspicions that the War played a hand in it, though books were certainly published during the war years– we have proof on our library shelves, special imprints and all (more on that next week!)

The copy is in good condition– a little wear on the edges, but no major defects. The circulating copies are all later editions, located in the Helm Room for those interested in checking out this work.


Treasures from the Library: Murder in the Cathedral

TS Eliot is well known to many; The Waste Land and The Four Quartets are well loved and well studied, and even those not given to poetry have at least a passing familiarity with an homage to his work in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (Fun fact: Cats is derived from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Eliot also wrote plays; Sweeney Agonistes was written in 1926, The Rock in 1934, and Murder in the Cathedral in 1935.

The Collection holds a number of Eliot’s works (sadly, or not depending on your point of view, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is not among them.) Hunting through the collection, I made a point of tracking down volumes which were listed as being produced during the publication year. This was back in the fall, when the heat had just broken and the thought of prowling around the library in search of volumes held a certain appeal, so long as one could escape to go apple picking right after.

I distinctly remember finding Murder in the Cathedral in the Newman room; it was right after I had been able to relax, knowing that an original Charles Dickens was not sitting on the shelf for all and sundry (how happy I was for the catalog to be wrong on that score!) IMG_20160206_132814908The Eliot works were newer, less than 100 years old, so there was no concern that the book would be hanging on by the threads that made up the paper. Sure enough, there on the shelf stood a slim black volume, stamped Murder in the Cathedral. It was a wholly unassuming volume, as so many are from that time. There was not detail work or embossing on the cover, nothing to make you think this book was anything other than a text book. And yet…

For those unfamiliar with the work, the titular murder is that of Thomas Becket in 1170; the Cathedral in question is Canterbury Cathedral in England. Even without being turned into a play, the incident is dramatic. Henry II, the King of England and founder of the Plantagenet dynasty clashed with his archbishop early and often once Thomas stopped being the King’s friend and started being the archbishop he was appointed to be. Famously (and inaccurately) Henry is said to have shouted “Will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest?” Some say turbulent, some say meddlesome. Edward Grim, a contemporary and witness of the assassination, is generally trusted when he records Henry’s utterance as “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” Several knights took the statement to heart, rode out, and murdered Becket within the Cathedral itself.

The play was first performed in Canterbury; not just in the town, but in the Chapter House of the Cathedral itself. It has been performed many times, as well as being made into a film and turned into an opera. Portions of the original play were scrapped in the editing process; they later became the basis for Burnt Norton, the first of The Four Quartets. Copies of Murder in the Cathedral, as well as The Four Quartets, can be found in the Newman Room.