Saturday, December 31, 2016



H.J. Massingham (1888-1952), Letters to X (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1919), pp. 115-116:
O huckstering generation of booksellers, how long shall we suffer you? How often in the place of barter have I seen you, snuffling and rooting over your prey like jackals! Round the long green table you sit, pawing and fumbling the sacred relics, like apostate, butter-slamming grocers. The auctioneer pipes to you, and the guineas come tumbling from your mouths, like frogs from the Princess in the fairy-story, in a sinister dance of covetous sound. Are there none among you reverent stewards of the ancient treasures committed to your charge—O dragons that guard the golden apples and traffic them for a too ample consideration? It is an old tale that you will set traps for the unwary and sell him imperfect books as perfect, common books as "excessively rare"; that you will make facsimiles of first-edition title-pages and insert them into second-edition books; that you will tear a portrait out of a book and sell it for double the price of the book; that you will forge autographs and signatures; that you will tear a book limb from limb rather than let your rival have the benefit of it; that you will advertise under the heading of "Facetiae" books of bawdiness and amorous intrigue. Is it not so, cozening coney-catchers? At times, indeed, you are caught in your own dull-witted guile, O doddypoles! A bookseller once placed in his catalogue under "Facetiae" Rowe's translation of Lucan's Pharsalia, a miracle of dullness! My theory is that Master Bookseller thought Pharsalus a derivative of phallus.

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