Ephemera, Part II

Last week we discussed how book collectors often “stray” into other areas of collecting, whether they are completists who want everything about “their guy” or who just like a little ephemera to add color to their collection, to personalize it and to distinguish it from the collection of others.  This week let’s look at a few ephemeral or secondary items that I believe are essential to any John Steinbeck collection.

1. Goldstone, Adrian H. and John R. Payne, John Steinbeck Bibliography, University of Texas, 1974, a hardcover issued with clear plastic dust jacket.

2. Morrow, Bradford, John Steinbeck, A Collection of Books & Manuscripts, Bradford Morrow Bookseller Catalogue 8, 1980, issued both in wrappers and as a limited hardcover with dust jacket.

3. Harmon, Robert B., The Collectible John Steinbeck, McFarland, 1986, a hardcover issued without jacket.

These three books are the best reference works available for Steinbeck and as such they are indispensable to a Steinbeck collector. Each lists a great deal of Steinbeckiana in addition to primary firsts. Two are scarce.  It usually takes the death of a collector and the sale of his library before a copy is dispersed to the marketplace. Goldstone and Payne, which is the only useful Steinbeck bibliography ever published, is a rare book itself. Only 1,200 copies were produced, and many of those went to libraries. And while the University of Texas at one time contemplated reprinting the book, it eventually demurred. When the Morrow catalogue was issued in September 1980, listing its whopping and impressive 700 items, the prices were shocking. Today, they seem tame, although the variety of items in the catalogue and its breadth are still amazing. The Morrow catalogue is the easiest to find of these three items. The Harmon book is filled with useful pieces of information such as print runs and is a good substitute for Goldstone & Payne.

4. El Gabilan 1919, Salinas High School Yearbook, illustrated wrappers.

5. The Gifts of Iban, “The Smoker’s Companion,” March 1927, written under the pseudonym of John Stern.

6. His Father, “Reader’s Digest,” September 1949, first appearance of this story.

7. A Model T Named ‘It,’ “Ford Times,” July 1953, first appearance of this story.

8. Uncollected Stories of John Steinbeck, edited by Kiyoshi Nakayama, Tokyo: Nan’un-do, 1986, softcover with dust jacket.

El Gabilan 1919 is Steinbeck’s high school yearbook. It includes several contributions by him and photos of the author. There is no hard information about how many copies were printed, but there were only 24 members in Steinbeck’s graduating class at Salinas High School. The yearbook was recorded by Goldstone & Payne as C1, C2 and C3, although this item wasn’t in the Goldstone collection. It was cited via a photocopy from the Salinas Public Library. C1 records “The How, When and Where of The High School” on page 19 of the yearbook. C2 records Steinbeck’s portion of the Class Will on page 36. C3 records “Woodwork” on page 50. However, there are a number of other appearances by Steinbeck which aren’t recorded. For example, Steinbeck is listed as a staff member of El Gabilan in charge of  “departments & organization,” on page 4. He is pictured as senior class president, page 9. He is mentioned as a preacher in the class prophecy, page 38. He contributes Student Body, page 43. He is mentioned in senior notes, page 46. He is mentioned in the “military” section, page 54. He is listed as character “Justin Rawson” in the senior class play, page 63. He is pictured in the boy’s basketball team photo, page 72 and again with the boy’s track team photo, page 76. Steinbeck is also pictured in a photo of “dignified senior officers,” page 80. The massive Morrow catalogue did not locate a copy of this very scarce item.

Number 8, Uncollected Stories of John Steinbeck, collects items 5 through 7–“The Gifts of Iban,” “His Father,”  “A  Model T Named ‘It'”–and five other stories for the first time. All of these stories were first published in the periodical listed and were not collected until the Nakayama-edited book was published. Since Steinbeck was a master of the short story, his stories were usually anthologized. Thus, finding a story that wasn’t collected can be a challenge, especially if the periodical was early or obscure. Although published in Japan, Uncollected Stories reproduces the stories in English as they originally were in their periodical appearances. (There are notes in Japanese at the end. Steinbeck has a large following in Japan.)  Although the demise of bookstores in this country has been steady, back issue magazine dealers have nearly been wiped out. Thus, it has become increasingly difficult to find the issues in which most of these stories first appeared. Finding the March 1927 issue of The Smoker’s Companion may well be impossible. I have never seen one listed for sale. Goldstone & Payne cited this item as C8, but Goldstone himself did not have a copy. It was cited via a photo copy from the New York Public Library.

Next week?  More on  Steinbeck ephemera.


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