Sporting Books from James Cummins Bookseller
Sporting books from James Cummins Bookseller.
By Michael Stillman
James Cummins Bookseller recently issued a catalogue of Sporting Books. There are lots of sporting books around, as attested by the over 800 items offered in this collection. Cummins has divided the catalogue into several sections: angling, hunting, Derrydale Press (a publisher of high quality mostly sporting books), and miscellaneous sports. The latter includes a few from sports with mass popularity such as baseball, basketball, golf and boxing, along with more niche events such as archery, polo, foxhunting, dueling, fencing and deer-stalking (a British form of deer hunting). Whatever your sport, Cummins probably has something for you. Here are a few examples.
Item 117 is a tale of fishing in a place far away from where most of us live: The "Fisherman" Under the Southern Cross: A Story of Adventure in New Zealand, published in 1930. Author Romer Grey is not exactly a household name, but his father was the very well known western writer Zane Grey. Zane Grey was the most popular writer of western novels, but not as well known is the fact that fishing was his other great love (along with his lady friends). He wrote several books on fishing. This was his copy of his son's book, as Romer has inscribed the copy, "To my Dad, Zane Grey, whose literary achievement has always aroused the greatest of admiration within me. I hope I shall not be a disappointment to him…" Priced at $7,500.
Item 119 is a return of the favor, Zane Gray's Robbers' Roost, published in 1937. It is inscribed by Gray "To Romer / The River Runner." $1,250.
Item 204 is another fishing story from an unexpected source: His Fish Story. Wherein is made abundantly clear for the first Time, the proper answer to that Antient & Confusing of Questions: What makes the fish bite? The author of this "fish story" was Cotton Mather, the turn of the 18th century New England Puritan minister, most remembered, unfortunately, for his involvement in the Salem witch trials. Despite his stern religion, Mather wrote on many subjects. This piece was taken from his Magnalia Christi Americana, and republished several centuries later (1934). $250.
Dogs play an important role in hunting, whether it be for chasing down foxes or picking up birds. However, once in a while a book comes along that treats dogs a bit more seriously. Such is the case with item 688: Where is My Dog? Or, Is Man Alone Immortal? The author of this 1892 work was Charles Josiah Adams. Adams was the rector of his church, and was suffering from the loss of his dog, Tip, at the time. Adams concludes that the afterlife is not reserved for humans alone. Indeed, he finds dogs often are more deserving of eternal rewards than humans. $300.
Ever see that program on the world's worst jobs? Here's a pamphlet from a man whose profession would qualify: L.V. Powers, Castrator. Powers was a traveling castrator based in New Hampshire, and you can bet the menfolk all went into hiding whenever he came to town. In this publication, he notes that he is about to start his annual trip, pointing out that he performed 250 castrations in 1891, 300 in 1892, and over 300 in 1893. It must have been a real conversation stopper at parties when people asked Mr. Powers what he did for a living. Incidentally, he performed his magic on horses. The horse-folk all went into hiding when he paid a visit to their town. Item 780. $350.
Sporting Books from James Cummins Bookseller
John Gibbon with Chief Joseph in 1889.
Here is a guide for those wishing to perfect the national pastime: Base-Ball: How to Become a Player. The hyphenation of "base-ball" tells you this book is old. It was published in the early days of professional leagues - 1888. Author John Montgomery Ward was the first President of The Brotherhood of Base Ball Players, the first players' union. Item 643. $5,000.
This is a title about some people who should have read Mr. Ward's book: Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? The Improbable Saga of the New York Mets First Year. It was written by sports and general columnist Jimmy Breslin and published in 1963. It's the story of the 1962 Mets, a motley combination of has-beens and never-weres who put together the worst record in the history of major league baseball, 40-120. This was the inaugural season for a franchise that quickly became synonymous with futility (which reputation they have recently been attempting to regain). And yet, just seven years later, the Mets won the World Series. Item 621. $300.
We will close with an amazing manuscript that describes fishing in the Cascades, but much more, including some weighty issues of American history. It is an apparently unpublished work by General John Gibbon, himself a remarkable man. Gibbon graduated from West Point in 1847, participated in the evacuation of Seminole Indians from Florida to Oklahoma during the time of the Mexican War, rose to his rank during the Civil War, being one of those who accepted the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, and later served as an Indian fighter in the West, helping to bury Custer's dead at Little Big Horn, and fighting Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Nevertheless, he later became friends with Chief Joseph and recognized that great wrongs had been inflicted on America's natives. In this manuscript, apparently intended for a book entitled The Three Sisters, Gibbon writes, "The poor Indian is always the victim until goaded to despair he turns upon his persecutors & wreaks his revenge upon any whites within his reach. The so-called treaties made with him are always manufactured by the white man, and as the Red man can neither read nor write, he is entirely dependent upon the good faith of the White Treaty Maker & the honesty & ability of the interpreter to convey to him the meaning of the documents by which he signs away his birth right…" Gibbon tells of starving Indians attempting to fish the rivers, only to have access blocked off by white men who say they signed their rights away years ago. "I am very much afraid that the treatment of the Indian by our government will be a fruitful source of reproach for ages to come." Item 107. $12,500.
James Cummins Bookseller may be reached at 212-688-6441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.jamescumminsbookseller.com.