The History Behind the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July! I apologize for not posting for awhile, but aside from being engaged in spring clean-up activities here at Old Scrolls Book Shop, I’ve been busy fighting a war.   I’ve just finished reading Kenneth Robert’s 836-page epic of America’s War of Independence, Oliver Wiswell.   It had me hooked from page one.

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Independence Day seems a great time to write about author Kenneth Roberts, who is most famous for his splendid historical novels covering early American history, particularly the Revolutionary war era.


Kenneth Roberts, photo from the back panel of dust jacket on his book “Boone Island.”

History is most often written by the winners; therefore we usually don’t get “the rest of the story.”

Oliver Wiswell is a thoroughly researched and well-written historical novel, telling the story of America’s war for independence from a different side– the Colonial Loyalist’s point of view.

Covering the eight years of grueling societal division and conflict, Roberts brings to light events and issues that were never exposed in your average American History class. All your standard heroes, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and others are here seen as the imperfect, three-dimensional characters they actually were. Important battles are set forth as they actually happened – often won by the Loyalist side, and yet lost by retreating British generals who had no interest in victory.

Map on front endpapers of "Oliver Wiswell"

Map on front endpapers of “Oliver Wiswell”

This was truly America’s first civil war, dividing families, friends and neighbors in a great clash between those who believed they should avoid the bloodshed and suffering of a war with Great Britain and those who wanted to engage in war at any cost to gain complete independence. Both sides were patriots who loved their country, with different ideas on the best course to follow for the future of the colonies. It was not a matter that was put up to a vote. Well respected citizens and educated people were driven out of their homes if they were believed to be Loyalists; tarred and feathered, tortured or sent into hiding by mob rule. Families, homes, farms and businesses were destroyed –neighbor against neighbor.

Rear endpapers, "Oliver Wiswell"

Rear endpapers, “Oliver Wiswell”

Not without humor, Roberts succeeds in exposing the absurdities of war, and the follies of the military leadership and troops on both the British and Colonial side. He also conveys the resilience and strength of civilian men and women who, caught in the circumstances of war through no fault of their own, suffered great loss and hardship. His well-drawn characters are appealing and his scenes descriptive as he takes us from Boston to New York to England, France, and back to the colonies as his main character, Olive Wiswell, struggles to preserve his American homeland in the best way he knows how.

To experience this time in our history from the Revolutionist side, read Kenneth Roberts’ Arundel (1929) – the American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec and Rabble in Arms (1933), where he presents the conflict from the viewpoint of the Colonial rebels who are fighting against all odds to halt the advancing British invasion. The struggles of soldiers and civilians alike are vividly brought to life, amidst the miseries of war when food and supplies are scarce because of human greed and faulty links in the chain of command.

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing - Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing – Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

All of these books are compelling reads and make for a thorough education on America’s beginnings.

The great thing about an intensely researched and well-written historical novel is this; as you become involved with the characters, you absorb the facts of history in a way that never happens when reading a textbook, and hear the story as it can never be told in a book without characters. You experience life as it happened for people of the time, in detail.   As history unfolds in this compelling way, it stimulates a hunger for further reading and research.

I came late to appreciating the writing of Kenneth Roberts. Now I know why his books have quickly left our shelves, year after year.  He was a great novelist of America’s historic past, and wrote his novels with the same dispassionate truthfulness that made him a great journalist for The Boston Post and The Saturday Evening Post in the early twentieth century.

*Key historical novels by Roberts and their topics include:

Arundel (1929) – The American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec
The Lively Lady (1931) – War of 1812
Rabble in Arms (1933) – Sequel to Arundel; the American Revolution through the Battles of Saratoga
Captain Caution (1934) – War of 1812
Northwest Passage (1937) – French and Indian War and the Carver expedition
Oliver Wiswell (1940) – The American Revolution from a Loyalist’s perspective, from the Siege of Boston to the United Empire Loyalists
Lydia Bailey (1947) – The Haitian Revolution and the First Barbary War
Boon Island (1955) – 1710 shipwreck on Boon Island, Maine

In 1957, two months before his death, Roberts received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation “for his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.”  He died, aged 71, in Kennebunkport.

*taken from Wikipedia

Collectible first editions of Kenneth Roberts works are almost always available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.



Book Scouting in Georgia

As we headed north into Georgia, our first stop was to be Books Again in Decatur, GA on Atlanta’s edge.   Usually we call ahead before arriving at a store (just to make sure the store is open and the location hasn’t changed), but we didn’t this time.  When we arrived we were sadly disappointed to find the store empty.  A call to the store owner rang but went unanswered.  Disappointing, because we had been here two years before and really enjoyed this shop!

We moved on to Atlanta Vintage Books in Chamblee, Georgia just a few miles away.

Atlanta Vintage Books, 3660 Clairmont Rd., Chamblee, GA

Atlanta Vintage Books, 3660 Clairmont Rd., Chamblee, GA

We visited this shop about two years ago and we are happy to report that this store is still thriving.  In business for over twenty years, the store has 5,000 square feet of space on two floors and over 70,000 books.  Inventory ranges from reading quality to highly collectible.

Inside Atlanta Vintage Books

Inside Atlanta Vintage Books

The folks here are always friendly and helpful! This was our second visit to Atlanta Vintage Books; we posted a blog about this store two years ago when we traveled through the area.

Proprietor Bob Roarty (Atlanta Vintage Books) with Ron

Proprietor Bob Roarty (Atlanta Vintage Books) with Ron

Moving north, we stopped for the evening in Acworth, one of our favorite Georgia towns.  We always look forward to eating at Henry’s Louisiana Grille!

Henry's Louisiana Grill, Acworth, GA

Henry’s Louisiana Grill, Acworth, GA


crawfish races in Henry’s Louisiana Grill – proceeds go to charity

Crawfish boil dinner at Henry's

Crawfish boil dinner at Henry’s

After eating a superb meal at Henry’s, we wandered up the street and discovered this wonderful book store, and to our delight, it was still open…


Acworth Book Store and Coffee Shop, Acworth, Georgia

This store stocks new books, used books, local history, gifts and some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!  The store is owned by Guy W. Condra, and he is very knowledgeable about the area’s history.  He also had some interesting antiquarian books and signed local history in his store. We made some purchases, including a German WWII “cigarette stamp” book, complete with original dust jacket.


Here I am with Guy Condra, Proprietor of Acworth Bookstore & Coffee Shop – Acworth, Georgia

In the store we also had the pleasure of meeting Todd Beckett (below) enthusiastic publisher of the local newspaper, the Northside News, which serves the communities of Acworth and Kennesaw, Georgia.


Todd Beckett holding the first edition, first issue of the Northside News!

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Guy and Todd were wonderful hosts and put the crowning touch on our evening in Acworth!

Juliette Kinzie’s Wau-Bun – The Early Day in the Northwest

I have just finished reading a book which has captivated me for many successive evenings.  Now that I have closed the final chapter, I feel like I’ve said goodbye to a most interesting friend!

The book is one I picked up in the Chicago area this summer (quite appropriately, as the book is very much about the early settlement of Chicago and the regions surrounding it.)  Wau-Bun, The Early Day in the Northwest, by Mrs. John H. Kinzie, is an historical autobiography that was first published by Derby and Jackson, New York, 1856.  It has been republished multiple times since, by  J. B. Lippincott  (1873),  Rand McNally (1901),The Caxton Club  (1901), George Banta (1930), Lakeside Press (1932),  National Society of Colonial Dames in Wisconsin (1948), and others.

Here’s a link to a photo and description of the first edition (Derby and Jackson, NY, 1856) on University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections, (PBO – Publisher’s Bindings Online ).

The Rand McNally edition (1901) is an attractive decorated American trade binding, done in green cloth boards with a  brown and black illustrated background of high-rise Chicago buildings, with tee-pees and a canoe on a river in the foreground on the cover, and a small decoration on the spine.

 Here’s our 1930 Edition (George Banta Publishing Company, Menasha, WI), in its original dustjacket:

Wau-Bun - The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.

Wau-Bun – The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.)

 The endearing thing about this copy is its provenance;

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

This copy actually belonged to the Indian Agency House in  Portage, Wisconsin, about which the author wrote in the book and where she lived.   The Indian Agency House was built by the U.S. government for John Kinzie in 1832.  Kinzie was the Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk Nation (Winnebago), and he and his wife, Juliette Magill Kinzie, lived at the portage from 1832-1834.

          Image of the map printed on the front fixed endaper:

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

This edition was published in 1930 to support the effort to preserve the Agency House:

From the front panel of the dust jacket of "Wau-Bun" (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

From the front of the dust jacket of “Wau-Bun” (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

Apparently it was a successful effort, as it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and still stands today with guided tours available during summer months for a nominal fee.

 This edition also has an Introduction and is edited with notes by Louise Phelps Kellogg, which contain some corrections and additional information.

 Juliette Magill was a well-educated young woman from Connecticut when she met the dashing young John Kinsey in Boston, Massachusetts, whom she fell in love with and married in 1830.   She moved with him to Detroit and then Fort Winnebago, a new trading post at the crucial portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.  At the time, it was the western-most outpost of the American frontier forts, where her husband was an Indian sub-agent to the Ho-Chunk nation (Winnebago).

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 Juliette M. Kinzie wrote with clarity, compassion, and intelligence.  Her narrative about the times in which they lived is beautifully written, with fascinating details on what it was like to travel, communicate and subsist on the early Western frontier.   Her experiences with the Black Hawk War and the Sauk War are recounted, and details of the Chicago Massacre (Battle at Fort Dearborn) are covered as they were related to her by members of her husband’s family who lived in Chicago at the time it occurred.  Wau-Bun was not her first published work.  In 1844 Juliette Kinzie published Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and of Some Preceding Events, anonymously.  Kinzie acknowledged authorship soon after publication.

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 She was a game young woman who enjoyed being on the frontier, sometimes covering over 60 miles a day on horseback as they journeyed between posts, sleeping outdoors or in makeshift shelters or as welcome guests at isolated homesteads.  They routinely dealt with blizzards, mud, storms, mosquitoes and summer heat, and the diverse cultures and idiosyncrasies of an assortment of Native American tribes.  She possessed a positive attitude and a subtle sense of humor, along with insight and compassion into the culture of the Native American people and their plight as white settlers encroached on their homeland.  Her writing style is honest and as readable as if it were written yesterday.

 For anyone interested in the history of the Great Lakes area, early American travel, fur trading, American Indian wars, and frontier forts (including Ft. Mackinac, Ft. Winnebago, and Ft. Dearborn),  this book is not to be missed.

An image of  Chicago in 1831 from "Wau-Bun"

An image of Chicago in 1831 from “Wau-Bun”

 In addition to her non-fiction work, Kinzie published one novel Walter Ogilby (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1869), and it must be exceedingly scarce, as I have not been able to locate a single copy for sale.

A few interesting footnotes: 

According to Wikipedia, Juliette M. Kinzie died at age 64 while vacationing in Amagansett, New York, Long Island, in 1870, after a druggist accidentally substituted morphine for quinine.  (How ironic, after a life of constant danger and close calls in Indian wars and hazardous frontier travel that she should be snuffed out by a pharmacist’s error in Eastern “civilization.”)

 Juliette Kinzie’s granddaughter was Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouting in America in 1912.

It’s a Wrap: Summary of our Midwest Book Scouting Adventure

I’m finally squeezing in some time for a summary of the trip for all who may be interested.  We’ve been back home from our Midwest book scouting adventure for just one week.

We have been doing our best to catch up with ourselves – and on gardening, housekeeping, unpacking, laundry, and friends.     Our book store cat, Osa, got really tired watching us unpack all the books…

Osa, one of our book shop cats

Osa, weary book shop cat squeezed between all our new books

 By the way, Osa is oh-so happy that we are home!

 The purpose of our book scouting trips is to find interesting, unusual, high-quality stock for our book store.  We always have our customers in mind while making purchases on these trips.  It is important to know your customer base.  Otherwise, one would lose confidence well before you’d spent your first $500.  For us, this meant we were seeking out vintage decorated bindings, scarcer Modern Library Editions in excellent condition, books with beautiful old dust jackets, important non-fiction works and author-signed literature.

 Here are photos of about 2/3 of our book booty taken while unpacking:

Some of the new inventory from our book scouting trip


 Books are everywhere, but quality older books in excellent condition which are of interest to collectors have become quite hard to find.  We do purchase books locally, but the books offered up are often not what we are seeking.  So, we ferret them out wherever we can find them.

In the past, it was common practice for booksellers to travel countrywide, even worldwide, visiting others in the trade in search of books to suit their particular customers and specialization.  It has become less common.  Without exception, all the booksellers we met were happy to see someone “from the trade” coming in to purchase books.  All were hospitable and helpful, and surprised that booksellers were still making pilgrimages, doing it the “old school” way.

Our trip began on the evening of June 1, 2013 and ended on the evening of June 15.  There were ten days of full-blown all-day (and occasional evening) book scouting; we allowed ourselves five days of pure family time in Minnesota, although we hit the large “Book Em” sale in Bloomington while we were there, and one antique shop in Lyndale, MN.

 On this trip we logged approximately 2,800 miles from Stanley, NY west to Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; then north into the Door County peninsula of Wisconsin; then west across the center of Wisconsin to the western edge of  the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area.  On our return trip we drove southeast through the Wisconsin Dells to Madison, Wisconsin and on to the Chicago area again, and headed a bit further south to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on up to Toledo, then Cleveland and back home to New York State.

We purchased approximately 300 high quality hand-picked and carefully selected books; mostly vintage first editions both fiction and non-fiction (non-fiction included travel, history, natural history, special interest); author-signed editions, decorated American trade bindings, and Modern Library Editions, plus a few important children’s books.  Now you know how picky we are in stocking our book store!  We looked at thousands of titles each day.

 We combed 16 used & rare book stores; two fund-raiser used book sales (Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and ‘Book ‘Em” sale in Bloomington, Minnesota) and at least 10 antique stores/malls.  Pretty crazy when you mix it in with all that driving!  No wonder we are dog-tired.

Book stops we made on our way West:

 Case Western Reserve University Book Sale, Cleveland, Ohio

Myopic Books, Chicago, IL

Untitled Used & Rare Books, Sturgeon Bay, WI

William Caxton, Ltd., Ellison Bay, WI

The Peninsula Bookman, Fish Creek, WI

Old Orchard Antique Mall, Egg Harbor, WI

Shenandoah Books, Appleton, WI

Blue Moon Books, Stevens Point, WI

Ottawa House Books, Eau Claire, WI

Antique Emporium, Eau Claire, WI

“Book ‘Em” Crime Prevention Association Book Sale, Richfield, MN

 Book stops we made on our return trip east:

 Antique Mall of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Dells, WI

Tomah Antique Mall, Tomah, WI

Paul’s Books, Madison, WI

Browzer’s Books, Madison, WI

Avol’s Books, Madison, WI

Howard’s Books, Evanston, IL

Amaranth Books, Evanston, IL

Bookman’s Alley, Evanston, IL

Chicago Rare Book Center, Evanston, IL

Hyde Brothers Books, Fort Wayne, IN

Every Other Book, Fort Wayne, IN

Maumee Antique Mall, Maumee, OH

 There were additional antique malls/stores we popped into along the way to look at book booths (if there were any).  Antique malls can be a terrible waste of time when book hunting, but you can’t really exclude them; we did find some interesting and collectible quality books in the ones mentioned above.  There were many others I’m not detailing here that were either bookless or just a boneyard for ragged, tired, common books.

 Our top of the list favorite was Bookman’s Alley in Evanston, Illinois.  The city of Evanston, Illinois in general is a worthy book hunting destination, with at least four quality used & rare book stores.  You don’t find clusters of books shops like this in towns and cities much anymore.

 From Bookman’s Alley:

First Edition of "Sand" in original jacket, SIGNED by Will James.

First Edition of “Sand” in original jacket, SIGNED by Will James.

Will James' signature on front free endpaper of "Sand"

Will James’ signature on front free endpaper of “Sand”

And another from Bookman’s Alley:

A Mountain Woman, by Elia W. Peattie.  First Edition (Way & Williams, Chicago, 1896).  With signed poem by author enclosed.

A Mountain Woman, by Elia W. Peattie. First Edition (Way & Williams, Chicago, 1896). With signed poem by author enclosed.

Poem by Elia W. Peattie, inscribed and signed

Poem by Elia W. Peattie, inscribed and signed, was folded into the book

We also loved Browzer’s in Madison, Wisconsin.  This was our second visit to Browzer’s over the past several years, and we were not disappointed.

 One of our many interesting purchases from Browzer’s:

Leather-bound "Photographic Souvenir - Grand Encampment of Knights Templar 26th Triennial Conclave, Boston, 1895

Leather-bound “Photographic Souvenir – Grand Encampment of Knights Templar 26th Triennial Conclave, Boston, 1895

 It’s a large, heavy book, printed on high quality glossy paper with gilt edges.

Title page from the Knights Templar Photo Souvenir Book

Title page from the Knights Templar Photo Souvenir Book



 Also, Blue Moon Books in Stevens Point, Wisconsin was a nice surprise – not huge, but it was crammed with vintage books, and we found a lot to like there.  I featured some of the fine books we found their in an earlier post on the trip.

 For those interested in scholarly titles or Americana, the trip to Door County, Wisconsin would be very worthwhile to visit both Untitled Books in Sturgeon Bay and Wm. Caxton in Ellison Bay.

 The Case Western Reserve University Book Sale was excellent; it had a higher quality of books than most library sales, and plenty of quality vintage selections.  Although we paid a $20 each entry fee to attend the early morning preview sale, it paid off for us.  There weren’t a great number of buyers at the preview, and we found a multitude of excellent books.

We spent nine nights in hotels, six nights with family or friends.  Our best chain hotel experience was with Carlson Company hotels (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites were the ones we stayed in from this hotel chain) for reasonable price with excellent cleanliness, quality and amenities.  But the best deal of all was at the independent Bridgeport Inn in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where we had a full-fledged large apartment-worthy suite on the water for $99.  Most places we stayed were $100/night or less for two adults. Gas prices hovered at approx. $3.80/gallon in most states, with a high of $4.59/gallon in the Chicago area ( fill up before you get there!).

 Here are some additional photos of some of the books we acquired on the trip:


First American Edition of “While England Slept” by Winston S. Churchill in original jacket. (ALREADY SOLD)

The Shepheard's Calender, by Edmund Spenser (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1898) Decorated binding and illustrations by Walter Crane.

The Shepheard’s Calender, by Edmund Spenser (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1898) Decorated binding and illustrations by Walter Crane.

Walter Crane's monogram, stamped on front and rear boards of "The Shepheard's Calender"

Walter Crane’s monogram, stamped on front and rear boards of “The Shepheard’s Calender”

A lovely example of a decorated binding done by the Decorative Designers (stamped with a double D)

A lovely example of a decorated binding done by the Decorative Designers (stamped with a double D)

A beautiful Margaret Armstrong binding in excellent condition

A beautiful Margaret Armstrong binding in excellent condition

Two Volumes (complete) of "Cape Cod" by Henry David Thoreau (Boston: 1899, Houghton Mifflin) with original slipcase.

Two Volumes (complete) of “Cape Cod” by Henry David Thoreau (Boston: 1899, Houghton Mifflin) with original slipcase.  Book decoration by Sarah Wyman Whitman.

Label on original cardboard case for "Cape Cod"

Label on original cardboard case for “Cape Cod”

Headlong Hall; Nightmare Abbey by T. Love Peacock (London: Macmillan, 1896)

Headlong Hall; Nightmare Abbey by T. Love Peacock (London: Macmillan, 1896)

So many fine examples, hard to choose!

Travel was pretty much trouble free, and we are grateful for that.  Although…Ron and I truly run on Dunkin’ Donuts, and we were running on empty much of the time.  Our favorite coffee is almost as hard to find as rare books, east of Ohio.   It’s the Double-D that keeps us going (Dunkin’ Donuts AND Decorative Designers!).  Hence, a few incidents of inside-out clothing and misdirection.  But we sausaged through!!  Met wonderful people, and had such fun relaying our adventures to you, our readers.

We are thrilled with the results of the trip.  Love the books we brought home, and have already sold some of them even though I have barely scratched the surface in beginning to sort and catalog them.

You can view or purchase books we gathered from this trip by going to our website at and scrolling down to “recent acquisitions” near the bottom of the page.  I will be adding more books daily (barring interruptions!) over the next several weeks.

The last word is from Osa, who says he doesn’t want to look at any more books!

Somebody stop them!  I'm trying to sleep here.

Somebody stop them! I’m trying to get some shut-eye here.

Books Cherished by Some Famous Authors

It’s always interesting to learn about the reading habits of our favorite writers, and the books that loomed large in their lives and libraries.   Last night, while reading one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (Sign of [The] Four), I was struck by this line, as Holmes says to Watson:

“Let me recommend this book – one of the most remarkable ever penned.  It is Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom of Man.

Naturally, I made a little note on my bookmark to research the title in the morning.   I discovered that the book was a groundbreaking secular history of the world from the standpoint of a 19th century free thinker.  It was a rather daring piece of work which stirred up a some controversy because of the author’s criticism of religion.  William Winwood Reade (1838 – 1875) saw most religious belief as something akin to superstition stemming from ignorance.  He felt established forms of religion were holding back progress and the advancement of science for the good of mankind.  This is not to say he did not believe in a Creator – he apparently did – just not one we could depend upon to solve our problems for us.

A. Conan Doyle’s admiration for Reade’s book casts light on the character development of Sherlock Holmes and his purely logical and scientific approach to life.

William Winwood Reade (1910)

I also learned that Martyrdom of Man is quite difficult to find in the U.S. – and that the first edition is pricey and rare.  First published by Trubner & Co., London, 1872, it is currently available at prices ranging  from about $1300 – $1440 on-line, and I could only locate two copies.   Later editions are quite low priced, but seem to be only available from book shops in the U.K. or Australia.  I checked to see if it was available at our college library, at our public library, or at the entire five-county system of libraries (no, no, and no).  Great old books are disappearing.  Of course there are some exorbitantly priced print-on-demand copies available, and you can actually download the text and read it for free on the internet.

But what fun is that, when we are talking about a book published 140 years ago that we want to dust off and put on our reading shelf?  I want to read the book as Arthur Conan Doyle read it, not on a computer screen.  So I have sent off for one.

Other famous people drew inspiration from Martyrdom of Man,  including H. G. Wells, Winston Churchill,  George Orwell, and A.A. Milne.   There is an illuminating article about William Winwood Reade HERE.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve been steered toward a book by a favorite author’s reference to a title in the text of his work.  So-–this got me thinking.  Wouldn’t it be fun to start a book collection based on books which were revered by one’s favorite authors?   For a Hemingway fan, for instance, it would be satisfying to point to one’s bookcase and say, here are Hemingway’s favorite books.  And to read them, imagining what Hemingway found exceptional about each one.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway listed the following books as his favorites in an article for Esquire Magazine in 1935 called  “Remembering Shooting-Flying: A Key West Letter.”

Anna Karenina

Far Away and Long Ago


Wuthering Heights

Madame Bovary

War and Peace

A Sportsman’s Sketches

The Brothers Karamozov

Hail and Farewell

Huckleberry Finn

Winesburg, Ohio

La Reine Margot

,La Maison Tellie

Le Rouge et le Noire

La Chartreuse de Parme


Yeats’s Autobiographies

La Condition Humaine (Man’s Fate)

Here are a few other possibilities to think about:

Agatha Christie’s favorite author was Charles Dickens (see   She particularly liked Bleak House, which she remembered her mother reading to her as a child. She even worked with MGM in writing a screenplay for Bleak House. Production was slated to start on the film in the spring of 1962, but it never materialized.

British writer Ian Fleming was a great book collector.  As he wished, his collection remained intact after his death.  It is at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.  It was purchased by the University from Fleming’s wife Anne, and is available for personal or scholarly use. To see what author Ian Fleming of 007 fame collected, click here.

Most authors are motivated and inspired by the words and thoughts of other writers.  Doesn’t this make you curious about your favorite author’s most beloved books? If you know what your favorite author (living or dead) considers cherished reading, please share in the comments section.

Last Dinner on the Titanic

Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, by Rick Archbold & Dana McCauley (Toronto: Madison Press Books, 1997)

Recently we sold a first edition of this beautiful book, The Last Dinner on the Titanic to a very nice customer in Brazil.  Talking about the book with her brought up fun memories of a dinner party we attended years ago, shortly after the book was published.  After reading the book, a friend of ours decided to host a dinner modeled after the menu, style and period dress of the Titanic and the Edwardian Era.  (There is an appendix at the rear of the book which gives great tips on hosting such a dinner party, with details on table settings, napkin folding, what to wear, and how to re-create the atmosphere.)

The book contains details on dining in First, Second, and Third Class areas of the Titanic

Each of the guests at our dinner prepared an item or two from the authentic menus and recipes presented in the book.  We all came to Anne’s lovely home dressed for dinner in period style. My son was a graphic arts student at the time, and he designed menus for us to closely match the originals pictured in the book, as well as place cards.  He also printed out the recipe for each course served, so that all could take home the recipes.

Each recipe from the dinner menu was printed for the guests

Our hostess laid out her best table linen, china and crystal, lit tall candles and even cranked up the Victrola.  After cocktails, we observed a few moments of silence and a toast to the memory of those who lost their lives on the great ocean liner.  Then we toasted our friendship and settled down at the table to enjoy an eight-course dinner, produced by all of us.

The opening quote at the start of the book makes an excellent toast before dinner.

What a brilliant evening…and what delectable culinary delights we enjoyed that night!  All of the recipes were excellent, not especially difficult to execute, and were brought mostly prepared prior to arrival at Anne’s kitchen.  These days, it can be exceptionally hard to get friends together for a dinner party, or to inspire people to “dress” for an elegant dinner.  But there is something very special about conspiring together to pull something like this off; and it made us all slow down from our harried pace and enjoy a memorable evening together in grand style.

This is the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the great ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic.   Last Dinner on the Titanic is an well-researched, accurate book filled with Edwardian character, and one which conveys just what it was like to dine aboard this most famous of ships.

We have this book available from time to time at Old Scrolls Book Shop.   Other places where you might find a copy include or



The Music of Words in the Land of Promise

Land of Promise – The Story of The Northwest Territory, by Walter Havighurst (NY: Macmillan, 1946)

Here is yet another wonderful book which we discovered on our recent book scouting trip.  An author-signed first edition, I bought it to read prior to offering it for sale, because it had me at hello with it’s lovely dust jacket illustration and it’s excellent prose.   What a pleasurable reading experience!  The book is rich in detail on the early history and settlement of the upper Midwestern United States, which in our country’s youth was known as “The “Northwest Territory.”  It is a page-turner, and kept me awake into the wee hours many a night;  had me reaching for the atlas to look up locations being discussed, even planning road trips to explore the places brought to life through the author’s words.

Endpaper maps from “Land of Promise – The Story of the Northwest Territory”

Here is a paragraph regarding the “Mound Builders” of Ohio:

“Above the wooded gorge of the Little Miami River on its way to the Ohio is Fort Ancient, the greatest military stronghold in prehistoric America.  Its grass and tree-grown walls extend four miles and enclose a hundred acres in two rudely triangular areas connected by a serpentine passageway.  Thousands of travelers have wondered at its irregular shape and some have seen clearly marked the outlines of North and South America, joined by the sinuous Isthmus of Panama.  So they credit the Mound Builders of a thousand years ago with a knowledge of geography that no European possessed until centuries later.”

Here are incredible stories from an incredible time in the history of mankind, as early explorers, missionaries, fur traders, followed by settlers moved into unknown territory from the original east coast colonies across the Alleghenies and Appalachians into the wilds of the Midwest.   There is the story of the race to claim the land by the French, the British, and the Americans, all of it long occupied by Native American Tribes.  Then the intrepid surveyors who followed with chain and compass – laying out the sections of land for settlement in places where the wolves howled at night, mosquitoes feasted on them by day, in country that was rough, isolated and difficult.  “They waited, sometimes weeks on end, for an observation of the stars to clinch their meridian.” 

It is also a story of riches found and quickly depleted by man…rich soil, bountiful fur, game, timber, iron and copper.   Here were expansive waterways–broad rivers and Great Lakes, at first mistaken for oceans and a route to the riches of the Orient…which in time became great shipping lanes for American commerce.

And then there are tales like this one, which make you want to grab a shovel and map and set out on a quest:

As a political maneuver In 1749, Celeron de Blainville was sent to reaffirm the authority of France in the upper Ohio Valley…

“In his canoe was an article of baggage which had added to the toil of the portages.  A box, sturdily built and surprisingly heavy for its size, was packed with lead plates, on each of which was printed a declaration of possession “…of said river Ohio, and of all those that therein empty; and of all the land on both sides of said river.”  At the mouth of each important tributary to the Ohio the party moored their canoes, drew up in military ranks on the shore and buried a lead plate in the soft soil.  Then to a nearby sycamore or willow trunk Celeron nailed a tin plaque bearing the arms of France and giving the location of the buried plate and repeating its inscription.

Years after the French claim to that country was forgotten, two of the buried plates were found.  At the mouth of the Muskingum a group of Marietta boys dug a heavy lead slab from an eroded place on the river bank.  They cut off a corner to make rifle bullets, but the remainder of that plate is now in the museum of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, Massachusetts.  Another plate, removed from the mouth of the Great Kanawha, is now in possession of the Virginia Historical Society at Richmond.  The rest are still buried at the river mouths.” 

The route to the new lands was first by canoe, raft or sailing ship, or on foot; later by wagons or coaches over rough roads…and then by steam powered ships and boats.  Canals were built to link lakes and communities; then the trains came.   This history of the development of America’s heartland is filled with little known facts about astounding yet little known people, as well as details on the lives of those who became legends, like Jonathan Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed.

The growth of cities, with their destinies determined by waterways, railroads and sometimes pure chance, is brought forth in detail and peppered with many intriguing facts.   Chicago (not expected to grow large) was built upon sloppy marshland; in the 1850’s, a huge project ensued where most of the city’s buildings and roads had to be raised 4 to 8 feet.  In 1858, the Tremont House, a big brick four-story hotel, was one of the last buildings to remain at the old level.  No one had mustered the courage to lift it out of the mud.  George Pullman (later of Pullman railroad car fame), tackled the job and completed it in seven weeks with twelve hundred men.

Walter Havighurst wrote many fine books, including The Long Ships Passing – The Story of the Great Lakes.   His first book, Pier 17  (Macmillan, 1935), was a novel about a waterfront strike on the west coast, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

The Long Ships Passing – The Story of the Great Lakes, by Walter Havighurst

His biography and bibliography is available here.

Havighurst died in 1994.  In his Eulogy, Philip R. Shriver wrote:  “Through the years, Walter gained a mastery of the English language equaled by few. He possessed a rare talent for using words, finding through their combinations melody, harmony, and tone. L. Scott Bailey, a 1948 Miami graduate, once said of Walter that “he could set my soul humming with the music of words.”

This book set my soul humming and filled me with wonder.  It is a fine example of the author’s talent.  A signed first-edition of Land of Promise, and a signed revised enlarged edition of The Long Ships Passing,  are currently available at Old Scrolls Book Shop.

Landmark Books – First-Rate History Series for Readers and Collectors

“One of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling children’s book series ever published.” – The New York Times

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde, by Harold Lamb (NY: Random House, 1954) World Landmark Series

I doubt you hold affectionate feelings for any history textbook that you read during your school years, or that you have any brilliant memories of what you learned from its pages.   But if, while growing up, you were lucky enough to read the vividly written history books in the Landmark series, what you read there may still be burned into your memory; you may even still have the books.

George Washington - Frontier Colonel, by Sterling North (NY: Random House, 1957) American Landmark Series


The Story of Atomic Energy, by Laura Fermi (NY: Random House, 1961) World Landmark Series

The original Landmark series of children’s books are high quality non-fiction, hardcover books that focus on the legendary people and events in American history.  They were written for children and young adults, generally ages 10-15.  Children enjoy reading these books.  Because the content is rich and they are expertly written, many adults enjoy reading and collecting them as well.  They are very popular with home-schoolers.  It’s been said that if a student were to read all of these books through their years at school that they would have a better history education than 95% of all high school seniors.

Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, by Margaret Cousins (NY: Random House, 1952) American Landmark Series

The books were the brainchild of a thinktank at Random House and were published between 1950 and 1970, utilizing the best authors they could recruit.  Many were award-winning authors, or people who had expertise or first-hand experience in the subject matter.  The series included writers such as Sterling North, Pearl S. Buck, John Gunther, Quentin Reynolds, Van Wyck Mason and C.S. Forrester.

Random House issued the first 103 titles in the Landmark book collection in illustrated dust jackets and offered these trade editions for sale in department stores and at retail booksellers.   Random House also offered the first 103 titles in the collection as book club editions, issued from the same print runs as the trade editions. The book club editions were issued monthly for $ 1.50 plus shipping, and can be identified by the “Young Readers of America Selection” notation on the front inside flap of the dust jacket.  The book club editions can occasionally be found with the “letter from the author” which was included. Keep in mind that the signatures on the letters are facsimile signatures; they are not actually hand-signed by the authors.  First Printings will have a “First Printing” statement on the copyright page, and a price on the dustjacket flap (if jacketed).

Young Readers of America Selection (Book Club statement at top inside front flap)

In 1963, with the publication of volume #104, Random House began to issue the Landmark books in pictorial cover format which featured cover art printed directly on the boards of the book, and were no longer issued with dust jackets. First printings of volumes #104 through #122, and later reprints of the earlier 103 titles, were issued in the pictoral board format.  The books were illustrated either with two-color drawings or clear photographs.

Landmark books are the American history series.  There are 122 titles in all and they were published from 1950 to 1970.  The American Landmark books have a small banner-like logo with the series number in the upper right corner on the front of the dust jacket.

World Landmark books are the world history series and there are 63 titles, published from 1953 to 1968.  The World Landmark books have a circular logo with the series number in the upper right corner of the front of dustjacket.

The F.B.I., by Quentin Reynolds (NY: Random House, 1963) American Landmark Series

The original Landmark series books are out of print but most are readily available at reasonable prices through used book stores.     Prices are quite reasonable on Landmark books—generally $10-$20 or less, depending on edition and condition.  As in any book series, some titles are going to be much harder to find than others, and the rarer ones can be higher-priced – even in to the three figure range.  The Mysterious Voyage of Captain Kidd by Whipple is considered the rarest of all – it is Volume No. 122 – the last in the series.  The first book in the American Landmark series (#1) was The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, by Armstrong Perry.

Here is an alphabetical list of all the titles in the original American Landmark and World Landmark series (185 in all):

 Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House by Sterling North
 The Adventures & Discoveries of Marco Polo by Richard J. Walsh
 The Adventures of Ulysses by Gerald Gottlieb
 The Alaska Gold Rush by May McNeer
 Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr by Anna & Russell Crouse
 Alexander the Great by John Gunther
 The American Revolution by Bruce Bliven Jr.
 Americans into Orbit: The Story of Project Mercury by Gene Gurney
 America's First World War: General Pershing by Henry Castor
 Andrew Carnegie & the Age of Steel by Katherine B. Shippen
 Balboa: Swordsman & Conquistador by Felix Riesenberg
 The Barbary Pirates by C. S. Forester
 The Battle for Iwo Jima by Robert Leckie
 The Battle for the Atlantic by Jay Williams
 The Battle of Britain by Quentin Reynolds
 The Battle of the Bulge by John Toland
 Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia by Margaret Cousins
 Ben-Gurion and the Birth of Israel by Joan Comay
 Betsy Ross & the Flag by Jane Mayer
 Buffalo Bill's Great Wild West Show by Walter Havighurst
 The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad by Adele Nathan
 The California Gold Rush by May McNeer
 Captain Cook Explores the South Seas by Armstrong Sperry
 Captain Cortes Conquers Mexico by William Johnson
 Catherine the Great by Katherine Scherman
Chief of the Cossacks by Harold Lamb
 Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross by Helen Boylston
 Cleopatra of Egypt by Leonora Hornblow
 Clipper Ship Days by John Jennings
 Combat Nurses of World War II by Wyatt Blassingame
 The Coming of the Mormons by Jim Kjelgaard
 The Commandos of World War II by Hodding Carter
 Commodore Perry & the Opening of Japan by Ferdinand Kuhn
 The Conquest of the North & South Poles by Russell Owen
 The Copper Kings of Montana by Marian T. Place
 The Crusades by Anthony West
 Custer's Last Stand by Quentin Reynolds
 Daniel Boone and the Opening of the Wilderness Road by John Mason Brown
 Davy Crockett by Stewart H. Holbrook
 Disaster at Johnstown: the Great Flood by Hildegarde Dolson
 The Doctors Who Conquered Yellow Fever by Ralph Nading Hill
 Dolly Madison by Jane Mayer
 Dwight D. Eisenhower by Malcom Moos
 The Early Days of Automobiles in America by Elizabeth Janeway
 The Erie Canal by Samuel Hopkins Adams
 Ethan Allen & the Green Mountain Boys by Slater Brown
 Evangeline & the Acadians by Robert Tallant
 The Exploits of Xenophon by Geoffrey Household
 The Explorations of Pere Marquette by Jim Kjelgaard
 Exploring the Himalaya by William O. Douglas
 The F.B.I. by Quentin Reynolds
 The Fall of Constantinople by Bernadine Kielty
 Famous Pirates of the New World by A. B. C. Whipple
 Ferdinand Magellan: Master Mariner by Seymour Gates Pond
 The First Men in the World by Anne Terry White
 The First Overland Mail by Robert Pinkerton
 The First Transatlantic Cable by Adele Gutman Nathan
 Flat Tops by Edmund Castillo
 The Flight and Adventures of Charles II by Charles Norman
 Florence Nightingale by Ruth Fox Hume
 The Flying Aces of World War I by Gene Gurney
 The Flying Tigers by John Toland
 The French Foreign Legion by Wyatt Blassingame
 From Casablanca to Berlin by Bruce Bliven, Jr.
 From Pearl Harbor To Okinawa by Bruce Bliven Jr.
 Garibaldi: Father of Modern Italy by Marcia Davenport
 General Brock and Niagara Falls by Samuel Hopkins Adams
 Genghis Kahn & the Mongol Horde by Harold Lamb
 George Washington Carver by Anne Terry White
 George Washington: Frontier Colonel by Sterling North
 Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath by Ralph Moody
 Gettysburg by MacKinlay Kantor
 The Golden Age of Railroads by Stewart H. Holbrook
 Great American Fighter Pilots of World War II by Robert D. Loomis
 Great Men of Medicine by Ruth Fox Hume
 Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis
 Hawaii, Gem of the Pacific by Oscar Lewis
 Hero of Trafalgar by A. B. C. Whipple
 Heroines of the Early West by Nancy Wilson Ross
 Hudson's Bay Company by Richard Morenus
 Jesus of Nazareth by Harry Emerson Fosdick
 Joan of Arc by Nancy Wilson Ross³
 John F. Kennedy & PT 109 by Richard Tregaskis
 John James Audubon by Margaret & John Kieran
 John Paul Jones, Fighting Sailor by Armstrong Sperry
 Julius Caesar by John Gunther
 King Arthur & His Knights by Mabel Louise Robinson
 Kit Carson & the Wild Frontier by Ralph Moody
 The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
 Lawrence of Arabia by Alistair MacLean
 Lee and Grant at Appomattox by MacKinlay Kantor
 Leonardo da Vinci by Emily Hahn
 The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Richard L. Neuberger
 The Life of Saint Patrick by Quentin Reynolds
 The Life of Saint Paul by Harry Emerson Fosdick
 Lincoln & Douglas: The Years of Decision by Regina Z. Kelly
 The Louisiana Purchase by Robert Tallant
 The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
 The Man Who Changed China: The Story of Sun Yat-sen by Pearl S. Buck
 Marie Antoinette by Bernadine Kielty
 Marquis de Lafayette: Bright Sword of Freedom by Hodding Carter
 Martin Luther by Harry Emerson Fosdick
 Mary, Queen of Scots by Emily Hahn
 Medal of Honor Heroes by Colonel Red Reeder
 Medical Corps Heros of World War II by Wyatt Blassingame
 Midway, Battle for the Pacific by Edmund L. Castillo
 The Mississippi Bubble by Thomas B. Costain
 The Moniter and the Merrimac by Fletcher Pratt
 Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone by Katherine B. Shippen
 The Mysterious Voyage of Captain Kidd by ABC Whipple 
 Napoleon & the Battle of Waterloo by Frances Winwar
 Old Ironsides, the Fighting Constitution by Harry Hansen
 Our Independence and the Constitution by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
 The Panama Canal by Bob Considine
 Paul Revere & the Minute Men by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
 Peter Stuyvesant of Old New York by Anna & Russell Crouse
 The Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne
 The Pirate Lafitte & the Battle of New Orleans by Robert Tallant
 Pocahontas & Captain John Smith by Marie Lawson
 The Pony Express by Samuel Hopkins Adams
 Prehistoric America by Anne Terry White
 Queen Elizabeth & the Spanish Armada by Frances Winwar
 Queen Victoria by Noel Streatfeild
 Remember the Alamo! by Robert Penn Warren
 The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler by William L. Shirer
 Robert E. Lee & the Road of Honor by Hodding Carter
 Robert Fulton & the Steamboat by Ralph Nading Hill
 Rogers' Rangers & the French & Indian War by Bradford Smith
 The Royal Canadian Mounted Police by Richard L. Neuberger
 Sam Houston, the Tallest Texan by William Johnson
 The Santa Fe Trail by Samuel Hopkins Adams
 The Seabees of World War II by Edmund Castillo
 Sequoyah: Leader of the Cherokees by Alice Marriott
 Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator by Arnold Whitridge
 The Sinking of the Bismarck by William L. Shirer
 The Slave Who Freed Haiti: The Story of Toussaint Louverture by Katherine Scherman
 Stonewall Jackson by Jonathan Daniels
 The Story of Albert Schweitzer by Anita Daniel
 The Story of Atomic Energy by Laura Fermi
 The Story of Australia by A. Grove Day
 The Story of D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Bruce Bliven Jr.
 The Story of Oklahoma by Lon Tinkle
 The Story of San Francisco by Charlotte Jackson
 The Story of Scotland Yard by Laurence Thompson
 The Story of Submarines by George Weller
 The Story of the Air Force by Robert Loomis
 The Story of the Naval Academy by Felix Riesenberg Jr.
 The Story of the Paratroops by George Weller
 The Story of the Secret Service by Ferdinand Kuhn
 The Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Clifford Lindsey Alderman
 The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard by Eugene Rachlis
 The Story of the U.S. Marines by George Hunt
 The Story of Thomas Alva Edison by Margaret Cousins
 The Swamp Fox of the Revolution by Stewart H. Holbrook
 Teddy Roosevelt & the Rough Riders by Henry Castor
 The Texas Rangers by Will Henry
 Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson & Bob Considine
 Thomas Jefferson, Father of Democracy by Vincent Sheean
 Tippecanoe & Tyler, Too! by Stanley Young
 To California by Covered Wagon by George R. Stewart
 Trappers & Traders of the Far West by James Daugherty
 The United Nations in War and Peace by T. R. Fehrenback
 The U.S. Border Patrol by Clement Hellyer
 The U.S. Frogmen of World War II by Wyatt Blassingame
 Up the Trail From Texas by J. Frank Dobie
 The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway
 The Voyages of Christopher Columbus by Armstrong Sperry
 The Voyages of Henry Hudson by Eugene Rachlis
 Walk in Space: the Story of Project Gemini by Gene Gurney
 Walter Raleigh by Henrietta Buckmaster
 The War Chief of the Seminoles by May McNeer
 The War in Korea: 1950 - 1953 by Robert Leckie
 The West Point Story by Col. Red Reeder & Nardi Reeder Campion
 Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West by Stewart H. Holbrook
 Will Shakespeare and the Globe Theater by Anne Terry White
 William Penn: Quaker Hero by Hildegarde Dolson
 William the Conqueror by Thomas B. Costain
 Winston Churchill by Quentin Reynolds
 The Winter at Valley Forge by Van Wyck Mason
 The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson
 Women of Courage by Dorothy Nathan
 The World's Greatest Showman: P.T. Barnum by J. Bryan III
 The Wright Brothers by Quentin Reynolds
 Wyatt Earp: U.S. Marshall by Stewart H. Holbrook
 Young Mark Twain & the Mississippi by Harnett T. Kane

The outstanding children’s books of this half century….  without parallel in the field of children’s literature.

–Rev. Dr. Leo J. McCormick, Supt. of Schools, Archdiocese of Baltimore

Any pre-adolescent who has not feasted on them has been cheated.

–Dr. Henry F. Graff, Associate Professor of History, Columbia University

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