Necrophilia for Beginners Part 3

Back again, had some time away from bookshops, discovered I can’t do that for very long without getting the shakes. Sad really.

Travelled across the oceans to attend the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair. Always a very friendly fair, loads of interest, managed to meet up with our old friends from Bauman Rare Books, Between The Covers and Peter Stern, not to mention Mr. Lux Mentis, fairblogger extraordinaire. Peter Stern had a first edition of Dorian Gray IN A DUSTWRAPPER, something it is difficult to forgive a man for. It’s a bit like if the kid next door when I was a child had ridden to school on his own real, live dinosaur. The type of jealousy I normally only experience when my wife looks at firefighter calendars.

I bought some very nice books, including an inscribed Wilde item, that I will gloat about later. Ahem.

To continue:

The publication of Polidori’s “The Vampyre” was a controversial process. First appearing in Colburn’s New monthly Magazine and Universal Register in April 1819 as “The Vampyre: A Tale by Lord Byron”, it was an instant success.

Fairly obviously it was an instant success due to having the word ‘Byron’ attached to it rather than through any other criteria. Melodramatic, bitchy and entertainingly purple it was already causing controversy before any member of the public had a chance to get their sweaty hands on it.

Colburn, a man who by all accounts ought to have wandered London sporting an eye patch and a parrot, already knowing that the tale wasn’t actually written by Byron decided just to go ahead and keep his name on the title page anyway. Admittedly this is a potted account but this move prompted his scandalised editor (remember this is 1819, gentlemen had honour where now we have salaries) an upright fellow entertainingly named Alaric Watts to resign his position in an effort to distance himself from what he saw as a shameful liberty.

Colburn was unabashed (which is a nice way of saying he didn’t actually give a toss) and popped off the same day to Stationers Hall to register his copyright.

It then gets horribly complicated in a bibliographical fashion with two issues under Colburn’s publishing imprint in book form:

1st Colburn issue with Byron cited as author. No copies known to exist.

2nd Colburn Issue with Byron mentioned as having related the tale to Polidori on the title page. 2 copies known to exist.


First Sherwood, Neely and Jones issue with Byron as author. 1 copy definitely known to have been sold a few years back, rarer than an actual vampire.

Sherwood, Neely Jones 2nd Issue. No author cited on title page. Under usual circumstances this is the one the serious collector gets to own. You can find the magazine issue, but it is very, very rare, you can’t find any of the preceding issues unless you attempt to plunder either Harvard College Library or the British Library (good luck with that, librarians fight like rats when cornered), and the third issue is actually fairly easy to get your hands on, as are any subsequent printings like the John Miller ‘opportunist’ edition, which is actually the first one anybody bothered to proof read.

Now, this is all bookdealer noodling and probably not of interest to anyone other than me (especially not Monica Bellucci, I asked her and she said no more dates unless I stopped talking about issue points…women!), but there’s is one question I would like answered (this is extremely geeky…really, you might want to look away or read a Deep Space Nine novelisation or work on your Death Note costume for comic con or anything less geeky than this):

2nd Issue Colburn and first issue Sherwood title are both printed on paper watermarked 1818 G

2nd Issue Sherwood is printed on different paper, no watermark, and it bulks thinner.

3rd Issue Sherwood is back on 1818 G watermarked paper.

What does this mean?

Answers for attention of: The Man Who Needs A Life Very Badly.




About bibliodeviant

This is the journal of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities, and all who sail in her. Information, updates, rantings, musings and pretty pictures related (loosely I would imagine) to the world of rare and antiquarian books will be brought to you by a number of different personalities, some of whom cohabit in the same person's head. We welcome queries, comments and contributions of virtually any description, and in return we will attempt to rein in our multitudinous personality disorders and deliver wonders and joys beyond compare. At least that's the plan. View all posts by bibliodeviant

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