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Association Copy #1 - A Gentle Jehu in Japan

· Fine Book Collecting,Ethel L McLean,Douglas C McMurtrie,Frederic Goudy,Typography Design

As I did earlier with Found Novelists, I thought that I would do some Association Copies. Let’s start with the definition of an association copy. I have mentioned the great bookman, John Carter, author of many books about books in previous musings so let us use his definition. He defines “Provenance” (in his classic reference guide ABC for Book Collectors) as “The pedigree of a book’s previous ownership.” While it’s not necessary for a book to have had distinguished previous owners to be rare or valuable, volumes that enter the realm of “Association Copy” because of a previous owner’s connections to the author are very highly prized. The degree of association can vary, with a "Presentation Copy" given by the author to a friend or contemporary and inscribed with a note from the author, at the top of the heap. Carter defines the association copy thusly;

"a copy which once belonged to, or was annotated by the author; or which once belonged to someone connected to the author or someone of interest in his own right; or again, and perhaps most interestingly, belonging to someone peculiarly associated with its contents."

Since we have been unable to visit interesting places around the globe, I thought that I would start with a travel book A Gentle Jehu in Japan published by Douglas C. McMurtrie, New York, 1912. Little is known about the author, Ethel L. McLean, except that her journey began in New York and judging by the details of her trip and the production of this marvelous book, she was obviously well to-do. The book is considered a bit of a classic and it has recently been re- printed. But there were only 60 copies of the original edition and they were published by a master book designer.

Douglas Crawford McMurtrie (1888 – 1944) was an American typeface designer, graphic designer, historian and bibliographer of printing. Early in his career, he served as printing manager of the Columbia University Printing Office, the Arbor Press, and Condé Nast Press.


During this period McMurtrie designed two type faces and helped design the format of the New Yorker magazine. He was instrumental in forming the Continental Type Founders Association, which imported types from Europe, serving as the company’s first vice-president. He also imported several faces from Europe on his own, including Cochin and Didot. During 1925/26, he succeeded Frederic Goudy as editor of the prestigious Ars Typographica magazine. He was the author of a seminal book The Book: the Story of Printing & Bookmaking. Having established himself as one of the most important bibliographers of printing, McMurtrie was appointed to head up the Works Progress Administration’s American Imprints Inventory. This project resulted in thirty-five publications as well as more than fifteen million documents being deposited in the Library of Congress.


The author certainly knew what she was doing when she had McMurtrie design and publish this book for her. The chosen binding (not on all 60 copies), the type font, the extra wide margins and the beautiful tipped in photos that grace this book all contribute to a lasting tribute to a trip taken to a fascinating and mysterious country, well before the dark days of the mid-twentieth century.


So, you might be wondering what the wonderful association is? This copy #10 of 60 was presented by the author back to McMurtrie! How fabulous is that? The inscription reads “For Mr & Mrs (?) McMurtrie with love & Merry Christmas from Ethel L. McLean”.

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