Angling, Sports, and More from James Cummins Bookseller
James Cummins' Catalogue 94, with image on cover from The Ristigouche.
By Michael Stillman
James Cummins Booksellers' latest catalogue, number 94, is divided into three sections: angling, Derrydale Press, and general sporting and natural history. This is essentially a sporting catalogue, with angling receiving its own separate heading because 40% of the 468 items are in this specific field. However, the final section offers titles in a great many other sports. The Derrydale Press, established in New York in 1927, published primarily outdoor and sporting titles in extraordinarily high quality editions. Their work is highly valued and collectible today.
It is one of the oldest of sports, and its devotees are among the most passionate of any. Angling (fishing to the uninitiated) may not fill sports bars with boisterous fans like football, nor have a strident National Fishingpole Association comparable to the NRA with guns, but anglers are no less ardent than other sports fans. Indeed, one can only feel sympathy for wives of men who are both anglers and book collectors, as having two such fanatical obsessions could hardly leave time for any other interests. For those who are not aficionados of this sport, all of these treatises on flies and lures and such probably appear mundane. As someone who has never hooked anything larger than a finger or an ear, I will have to admit that I don't quite get it. That doesn't matter. If you are an angler, you need no explanation of its appeal from me. You are already hooked. All you need is a copy of this catalogue so you can feed frenzy on these titles. Here are a few for the angler.
The folio first edition of The Ristigouche and Its Salmon Fishing by Dean Sage is one of the most highly sought of angling titles. Just 105 copies were published in 1888 (this is number 19) of this exquisite book. The Ristigouche (or Restigouche) is a river which runs though the northwestern portion of Canada's New Brunswick province, and then forms the border between New Brunswick and Quebec. French colonial ambitions in the New World came to an end in the Battle of the Ristigouche in 1760. It was the last naval battle of the French and Indian War. Today, fish are the major adversaries. Item 131. $20,000
Item 115 is William Milnor Jr.'s An Authentic Historical Memoir of the Schuylkill Fishing Company...from 1830. The Schuylkill Fishing Company, founded in 1732, is America's oldest angling organization, and Milnor served for a while as its secretary. He would also serve as a member of Congress from 1812-1820 and as Mayor of Philadelphia from 1829-1830. This book is bound together with his second title, Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club... This was the nation's first fox hunting club, a sport that did not catch on so well in America. The two books are filled with anecdotes, illustrations, and other information about these early sporting clubs. $1,000.
Angling, Sports, and More from James Cummins Bookseller
American Bison or Buffalo from Audubon's Quadrupeds.
Frederick Halford was one of the more notable anglers of the late 19th, early 20th centuries, an advocate of the dry fly, or floating fly, as opposed to the sunken fly. This is an esoteric debate to outsiders, but was a raging controversy among anglers. Regardless of your position, it can be safely said that Halford left a lasting impression on the face of fly fishing. Item 65 is Halford's manuscript for An Angler's Autobiography. It consists of 244 pages of easily legible handwritten text signed by Halford, plus the nine-page manuscript for William Senior's introduction, and comments Senior made on the main text. Evidently Senior was less an advocate of the dry fly, at least in certain locations, than was Halford. $30,000.
Halford kept a scrapbook of press releases and reviews of his books. Item 71 is the scrapbook he kept for three of his works published between 1897 and 1910. Some of these reviews cover the dispute between Halford and G.E.M. Skues, advocate of the wet fly. One writer labeled Halford "the Autocrat of the River-Side." Halford became increasingly dogmatic in his views as he grew older. $6,000. Item 72 is a second collection of newspaper articles about Halford, but he did not keep this one. It is headed In Memoriam F.M.H. 1914, and it is a compilation of obituaries and recollections prepared for his family after the famed angler died of pneumonia on board a ship off the English coast. $9,000.
Dame Juliana Berners was evidently an accomplished angler, but her spelling wasn't so good. Item 12 is an 1827 edition of her book, The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle. $300. She actually lived many centuries earlier, which may explain her strange spelling. I know nothing about The Deep Sea and Coast Fisheries of Ireland... but its author had a most uncommon name - Wallop Brabazon. Item 22. $650.
Turning to natural history, item 269 is a second octavo edition of John James Audubon and Rev. John Bachman's The Quadrupeds of North America. Audubon is better remembered for his birds, but this follow up book is another masterpiece. Unfortunately, Audubon died before the octavo edition was published, but his sons and Rev. Bachman saw it through to completion. The second edition was published in 1856, five years after Audubon died. $15,000.
Item 273 is one of only four known copies of the earliest college baseball broadsheet. It describes the July 1, 1859, meeting between teams from Amherst and Williams, held in neutral Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Using rules that allowed for 13 players per team, Amherst walloped Williams 73-32 in 26 innings. However, Williams was not content to just play baseball, so they also challenged Amherst to a chess match, to afford a "trial of the mind as well as muscle." What were those minds thinking? Amherst beat them at chess too. The Amherst chess team was greeted with a storm of cheers by their fellow students on return, and was taken with bands playing by their fellows to the President's house. Sort of like what happens to collegiate chess teams today. $20,000.
Item 283 is Basketball. Its Origins and Development, by James Naismith. Naismith was the instructor at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, who set up two peach baskets one day and invented the game. This book was published in 1941, the fiftieth anniversary of his invention, two years after Naismith died. $2,500.
For football fans (American football, that is), what could be better than The Autobiography of Knute K. Rockne? This is the 1931 Notre Dame edition of the famed Notre Dame coach's biography, number 1,928 of 2,400 copies and signed by Mrs. Rockne. Rockne tragically died that year in a plane crash. The film version of Rockne's biography helped establish the acting career of Ronald Reagan. Item 350. $800.
James Cummins Bookseller is located on the internet at www.jamescumminsbookseller.com. Telephone number 212- 688-6441.