(CCLaP is now selling rare and unusual books through the main website, shipped to customers through USPS Priority Mail and with full refunds always guaranteed. To see the latest full list of volumes for sale, please click here).
Van Bibber and Others
By Richard Harding Davis (1892)
First Edition, First Printing
DESCRIPTION: The Victorian Age is littered with fascinating people who have now been mostly forgotten by the public at large; take for a good example Richard Harding Davis, who had just as interesting a life as, say, his buddy Theodore Roosevelt, but is remembered by only a fraction of people who know the latter. A Philadelphia native who is credited with founding the football team at Lehigh University, Davis unfortunately didn't last there very long because of partying too much as an undergraduate; and when his dad finally pulled some strings and got him a job as a journalist, he used the opportunity to become one of the era's first sensationalist reporters, writing regularly about such subjects as abortion and suicide and becoming the first journalist to do a report about the first electrocution execution in history. This led to him becoming a managing editor at the influential Harper's Weekly, and it's there (along with his time at Scribner's Magazine as well) where he really had his most influence over the development of the new "periodicals" industry in the United States, becoming a widely admired war correspondent who traveled extensively through Africa, Japan, Central America, the Caribbean and more, and eventually being one of the "yellow journalists" who was accused by the public of fabricating the Spanish-American War on behalf of William Randolph Hearst (an accusation that Davis vehemently denied throughout his life, and frankly with there being a lot of evidence to support the theory that Davis and Hearst in fact hated each other). And in the meanwhile, Davis almost singlehandedly established the reputation of Roosevelt's "Rough Riders," was an accomplished novelist and playwright, was one of the first authors to have a successful adaptation career in the nascent Hollywood film industry, and was married to famed Vaudeville performer Bessie "Yama Yama Man" McCoy to boot.
Today's book being auctioned is a lesser-known one from Davis's career, and one of the first he ever published, a delightfully self-righteous collection of short stories concerning a haughty aristocrat named Van Bibber and all the moral pronouncements he makes concerning the ethically weak idiots he's surrounded by in a late-Victorian New York City. (For an amusingly dark example of the book's entire tone, see the story "The Hungry Man Was Fed," in which Van Bibber literally takes a homeless man to dinner with him at a fancy restaurant, to prove that the man doesn't really want food in the first place with the money he's been begging for, then forces the man to pay for the meal with the surprisingly large chunk of panhandling change that he kept insisting he didn't actually have.) Of much greater interest with this book than the actual stories, though, is that it contains four original (uncredited) illustrations by a young Charles Dana Gibson, a friend of Davis's who would eventually become the most famous illustrator of the early 20th century, whose archetypal "Gibson Girl" largely helped define the looser look and style of young proto-feminist "suffragettes" around the turn of the century. (And in fact, the artist's equally famous "Gibson Man," which helped usher in the national craze for clean-shaven gentlemen in these same years, was modeled directly after Davis himself, as can plainly be seen by comparing photos of the author at the time with the illustrations that Gibson was pumping out by the dozens in those days.) Being offered today at an affordable price in order to encourage an actual sale, this is a wonderfully odd artifact for any fan of Gibson, Davis, or just late Victorian literature in general, and one of those perfect holiday gifts that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.
CONDITION: Very Good Minus (VG-). In general still in great shape for its 124-year-old age, and with completely clean inner covers, although with a bit of fraying along its spine, a few stains on the front and back outer covers, and with a few cracks in the glue between the various folios found within (although please note with the spine still nice and tight). Issued without a dust jacket. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to the Identification of First Editions, an agreement in date on the book's title page and copyright page marks this as a first edition, and a lack of additional printing notices makes this a first printing as well.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Printers Row Book Fair, June 2014, Chicago.