Clark Rare Books is Back with more Western Americana
After over a century of bookselling, Clark Rare Books is back.
By Michael Stillman
After almost a year's absence we welcome back the new, yet very old, Clark Rare Books to the realm of book cataloguers. Clark Rare Books is the successor to the Arthur H. Clark Company, which sold and published books for over a century. Last year, the two businesses were divided, the publishing arm being taken over by the University of Oklahoma Press. They will continue publishing books under the Arthur H. Clark name. Meanwhile, the bookselling arm, which also moved from Spokane, Washington, to Norman, Oklahoma, has resumed business under the Clark Rare Books name. Both businesses will be managed by the Clarks. Despite the slight name change, the numbering sequence will remain the same, so this latest edition is numbered Catalog 930. Perhaps in another century, they will change their name yet again.
The subject of this catalogue, as with previous ones, is Americana, The West, and General. I think perhaps there is a slight shift in the ratio of titles from the Northwest to the Southwest, but Clark remains a repository of books from throughout the American West. Here are a few of the titles available in the first catalogue of 2007 from the new Clark Rare Books.
Elizabeth Custer outlived her husband George, of Last Stand fame, by 57 years. She spent most of that time preserving (and, perhaps, enhancing) his legend. For whatever their shortcomings, the two were totally devoted to each other, and Libby never remarried, though she lived to be almost 92. Tenting on the Plains or General Custer in Kansas and Texas was one of the three books she wrote that helped build her husband's legacy. It served to raise his reputation from bumbling incompetence to that of a courageous leader, fighting to the last man. Item 95 is an 1889 second edition (after the first of 1887) of Elizabeth Custer's book. Priced at $135.
There aren't many inexpensive items of Texaiana from the Republic period, but here's one: Message from the President...upon the subject of relations between the United States and the Republic of Texas. This 1842 Tyler administration document concerns trade between the U.S. and the independent republic that would become a new state in 1845. Item 244. $45.
Item 253 is a western settlers' guide that includes Texas, but from its pre-republic days. In fact, it predates even an independent Mexico. The guide is entitled Geographical Sketches on the Western Country: designed for emigrants and settlers... by Edmund Dana. The year was 1819, but this guide managed to cover areas that were far west at the time -- Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, and even "the country watered by the Columbia and its tributary streams." Even Texas is covered, though at the time it was still a colony of Spain. $950.
Clark Rare Books is Back with more Western Americana
George and Libby Custer in happier days. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Here is a most appropriate book for a Clark catalogue: The Arthur H. Clark Company: An American Century 1902-2002, by Robert Clark and Patrick Brunet. This is a signed centennial edition limited to 100 copies. It recalls both the bookselling and publishing sides of the business, the latter of which had published over 700 books at the time. Many of these are highly regarded, collectible works on the West. Item 33 is a new copy. $350.
Item 60 is a 1960 facsimile reprint of the 1889 title Bella Starr: The Bandit Queen, or the Female Jesse James. The fact that it starts out with Belle Starr's name as "Bella" is perhaps an indication of the accuracy of this book. Belle Starr's biographer, Burton Rascoe, states of it, "This narrative does not have a single essential fact correct." The book was first published in the year Belle died, shot in the saddle, which probably inspired this sensational, though inaccurate, story of her life. She grew up in Missouri and knew the James and Younger Brothers, but her husbands were seemingly more small-time crooks. There is little evidence she participated in her husbands' crimes, except for a conviction for horse-stealing, which earned her the name "Bandit Queen." Nonetheless, she was a little known figure until this fictional novel about her was written after her death. $50.
Item 134 is a suppressed Mormon item from 1910, Among the Shoshones, by Elijah Nicholas Wilson ("Uncle Nick"). This is a copy of the rare first edition. Wilson tells of his experiences as a Pony Express rider, trapper, rancher, and Indian agent, who often lived among the Shoshone. However, what got this book suppressed was his bitter account of how he lost his Mormon fiancée to a polygamist. This section was removed from subsequent editions. $2,950.
Here is a biography of a man of whom you probably never heard, but he was evidently a fine man who deserved this recognition: Dr. Eugene Charles Gehrung (1840-1924): An early Denver obstetrician and gynecologist. The author, Nolie Mumey, was a prolific writer, which is a good thing, as Dr. Gehrund would likely have been forgotten to history were it not for this book. Item 51. $45.
You may reach Clark Rare Books at (email) firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 405-307-0088.