Bookplates can tell us a lot about the social life of a book.
This autographed copy of Aldous Huxley’s short story collection, Brief Candles, bears the iconic
bookplate of Arthur Leonard Ross, a well-known New York attorney and book
collector. As a frequent guest of New York literary circles, Ross was
acquainted with many of the famous literary figures of the early 20th
century, including: Bernard Shaw, Frank Harris, Theodore Dreiser, Edgar Lee
Masters, and John Steinbeck. He was also the longtime friend and legal advisor
of the anarchist and author, Emma Goldman, who called him “the most kindest and
lavish of men.”
We get a sense of Ross’s high social status and literary connections
from the design and placement of his bookplate. Covering the entire front
pastedown of the book, this unusually large, engraved bookplate mixes
traditional legal symbolism with contemporary art. At the bottom of the
bookplate is a large box with Aldous Huxley’s signature. The presence of
Huxley’s autograph, while impressive, should come as no surprise; Ross would
have certainly met Aldous Huxley socially. What is more impressive is the
presence of the autograph box itself, which suggests a wide and collegial
network of literary associates, who—if given the opportunity—might sign Ross’s
personal copies, as Huxley certainly did.
We can be sure that this copy, like its former owner, traveled in the highest literary circles of the era.
Huxley, Aldous. Brief Candles.
First edition. (Garden City, New York : Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1930)
From the Rare Book Collection, University of South Florida
Check out this fabulous first edition of The Avenging Ray from 1930. This book was published for The Crime Club, a section of Doubleday Publishing founded in 1928. The Crime Club published thousands of mystery titles over several decades. Aside from the incredible cover, my favorite part of this book is the gently worded admonishment against spoilers. A classy reminder to keep the mystery alive!
Small, J. Austin. The Avenging Ray. Published for The Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran, & Company Inc. New York: 1930. Cover by Maurer.