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May 1, 2008

Numbers 6 and 7

Filed under: 150 Best Minnesota Books — Lori Williamson @ 1:56 pm

oxford.jpgcheney.jpg

In an effort to mix it up a bit here, I’m going to suggest two of Minnesota’s best 150 books that I am betting you have never seen. The books also address one of my very, very few pet peeves. The Twin Cities support a vibrant and creative book arts community. Thanks are due, in large part, to the efforts of Jim Sitter and civic visionaries such as Governor Elmer Andersen and Jay Cowles, who helped create the Minnesota Center for Book Arts twenty-five years ago. My peeve is that too many people believe that the birth of MCBA was the beginning of this important aspect of local culture. In fact, Minnesota has a long and rich history of fine presses making beautiful books.  As is often the case in history, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. We will write, discuss, and list more fine press books in upcoming posts but for now…

Arthur Upson. Octaves in an Oxford Garden. Minneapolis: E. D. Brooks, 1902.

Richard Realf. A Fragment of the Poem Symbolism. Minneapolis: Chemith Press, 1906.

The early Twentieth Century was a time of literary foment in Minnesota. Edmund Brooks and his rare bookstore were at the center of this scene, along with William C. Edgar and his literary magazine “The Bellman.” Brooks served as patron for Arthur Upson, who wrote poetry in the morning and cataloged rare books for Brooks in the afternoon. Tragically, Upson died very young [probably a suicide], drowning in Lake Bemidji. Mary Moulton Cheney was also part of this cultural growth spurt. She worked with Upson and decorated his 1904 book, The City. Her Chemith Press book, listed above, is a good example of her exquisite work. Cheney was a designer, a member of the Handicraft Guild, and head of what became the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.  For more on this era I suggest reading the 1945 U of M Press book Of Brooks and Books by Lee Grove.   As a reminder, all of these books and “The Bellman” are available for your perusal in the MHS library.  Shown below are both colophons, which should be one of the first things you look at in a fine press book, as they frequently give details about how and who put the book together. 

Patrick Coleman, Acquisitions Librarian

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7 Responses to “Numbers 6 and 7”

  1. Richard Sveum Says:

    Dear Pat,
    I thought I was the only person that collected Arthur Upson. I love the connections. If we start with Upson and sidestep Edmund Brooks we run into Richard Burton who edited The Collected Arthur Upson 1909 as well as A Midsummer Memory:An Elegy on the Death of Arthur Upson 1910. Then of course, The Arthur Upson Room 1925 edited by Ruth Shepard Phelps with four addresses including Joseph Warren Beach and Oscar W. Firkins. If we include their books we might be at 150 already.

  2. Patrick Coleman Says:

    Richard, Thanks for weighing in. I was worried that Upson wouldn’t even earn a comment today. I didn’t know you collected him. Do you have a nice jacketed copy of “Octaves…”? Have a favorite poem you would like to share with readers of this blog? I ask because we may organize a fall reading of 150 years of Minnesota poetry and Upson should have a major presence. Pat

  3. Joe Sitter Says:

    Hello, Mr.Coleman! I am enjoying the wide, wide range of selections in your Blog.

    I took your suggestion and purchased “Of Brooks & Books” from Rulon-Miller Books. It was intriguing to read this “…fascinating and little-known chapter of the state’s cultural history.” Except for Arthur Upson, I didn’t recognize the names of any of Edmund Brooks’ Minnesota contemporaries. I kept hoping for some links between this early 20th century “book fraternity of Minnesota” and later Twin Cities bibliophiles (such as Harold Kittleson, Elmer L. Andersen, or Emerson Wulling).

    In Midnight Paper Sales’ “Emerson G. Wulling Printer for Pleasure” there are two connections mentioned. 1) Wulling recounts that for him and Kittleson one Carl Jones was a friend and colleague. He was the son of Herschel Jones who Grove reported was “the Minnesota Journal Publisher who assembled and dispersed three fine libraries during his lifetime.” 2) A brief correspondence with William C. Edgar, the publisher of “The Bellman” literary magazine (1906-1919), is shared.

    I’m curious, Pat, if current members of our Ampersand Club are aware of any other more substantial ties?

  4. Juliana Jensen Says:

    I bought copy # 172 of “Octaves in an Oxford Garden” at a garage sale in Southern California in about 1969. I was in junior high, a bit of an egghead, and attracted by the odd book. The pages are uncut and I never had the heart to cut them, fearing I would somehow ruin the book. I have always been curious about this book and for some reason it came over me today to look it up on the internet. Thank you for the information. This has been a very interesting literary adventure. By the way, one very interesting thing, in addition to the paper, the lettering, and the printing of the book, is the wooden cover.

    Patrick Coleman reply on July 28th, 2010:

    Thanks Juliana. You made my day. It was a good instinct not to open the pages [I believe the bibliographic terminology is that the pages are "unopened" not "uncut" which just implies the edges are untrimmed] because the book is worth more that way. And thanks for mentioning the wooden cover. My personal copy is warping a little because of that unusual cover. Find an opened copy, read the poems, and get back to all of us with your thoughts on the text. Thanks again.

  5. Sue Fredeen Says:

    I have a copy of Octaves in an Oxford Garden #74 Edmund Brooks. I would like to sell. The spine is scuffed and a bit shaggy in spots but the title of book is still quite good. Do you have a contact that might be interested? Thank you Sue Fredeen

  6. Patrick Coleman Says:

    Sue, The Upson book is very saleable. I recommend contacting used book dealers in this area or even putting the book up on e-bay. Let me know how you make out. P



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