Walter de la Mare in the spotlight

JOLISA copy of Walter de la Mare’s poetry book for children Peacock Pie, marked up for a new edition and accompanied by Claude Lovat Fraser’s illustrations, featured in the recent treasures volume Senate House Library, University of London. Entries for that volume were about four hundred words each. Now an article more than ten times as long about the collection to which Peacock Pie belongs is available in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 45 (2013), 168-76.

The piece by Karen Attar, “Modern Special Collections Cataloguing: A University of London Case Study”, is basically about describing books in an author collection for which differences between reprints matter: price increases; new advertisements on the wrappers; different sizes of the binding. Such features, while rarely relevant for library descriptions (how many libraries would have thirty-one copies of Peacock Pie, all different from each other but not all distinct editions?), contribute to bibliographical study. But it is impossible to discuss the description of books without saying something about the books themselves. Endearing in the collection are the inscriptions which show the bond between various De la Mare family members, most of which are noted rather than transcribed in catalogue records. The article gives some of these in full. Most evident in the collection is the close relationship between Walter de la Mare and his oldest son and publisher, Richard. But his younger son Colin edited an anthology of ghost stories, to which Walter de la Mare contributed an introduction. The book’s inscription from Colin is fulsome: “To dearest Daddy with all love from Colin. Thanking you with all my heart, for not only the present help you gave me, but also for keeping me at it! April 1931.”  So we hope that people without the remotest interest in describing books in modern special collections, at the University of London or elsewhere, might still find something to interest them.

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