There’s something about the first of anything–a sense of witnessing, a curious feeling of participation, even if the “first” was created before we were born. I feel that way about the original, first editions of Emilie Loring’s books. They are like what she would have held–maybe did hold–their design at least partially influenced by her taste.
I have multiple, hardcover copies of some of her books, and they are not the same. Their paper differs in thickness, their covers vary in composition, binding, and color. When I find a first edition, one of my first observations is its color. “Oh, the original Here Comes the Sun! was green!”
Emilie Loring grew up in a publisher’s house. Her father reviewed manuscripts for publication and then designed the books’ interiors, illustrations, and covers. She knew what went into their creation. We can tell that she valued firsts–not only the first editions but also her first copies–by the way that she inscribed them for posterity.
First copy of We Ride the Gale! received February 6, 1934
First copy received February 5, 1937Inscriptions, We Ride the Gale! and As Long As I Live
The conventions of the book business–advance copies, advertising, reviews, book signings, and inscriptions–were second nature to her, absorbed long before she dreamt of a writing career for herself. These special editions of her father’s plays were published when Emilie was four and eight. Her father inscribed them to her Uncle Walter, who managed the family’s play publishing business, the still-extant Baker’s Plays.
This Bible was inscribed to Emilie and Victor as a wedding present from his mother.
Here’s a copy of The Trail of Conflict, Emilie Loring’s first, published novel, with the inscription:
To The Boston Authors Club with the compliments of the author
Wellesley Hills, September 5, 1922Inscription, The Trail of Conflict
Note the bookplate, “Ex libris, Boston Authors Club.” Bookplates are used to show ownership, and ex libris means “from the library,” in this case, of the Boston Authors Club, to whom this book is inscribed. Note, also, that she presented the book on September 5, 1922–her fifty-sixth birthday.
I’ve wondered about the phrase, “with the compliments of the author.” Does it simply convey good wishes, or does it indicate that the book is a gift–“complimentary?” Grant Barrett of “A Way With Words,” one of my favorite podcasts, supplied the answer: “It’s a specific meaning, dating back ~300 years, where respect is being paid via a gift, instead of via kind, flattering, or praising words in the other kind of compliment.”
Early in her career, Emilie signed books to her sons “with the compliments of the author.”
Later, she signed them more personally, like these copies to her sons and their wives.
This copy of Stars in Your Eyes acknowledged the common bond between herself and son Selden:
To “that well known author of children’s stories, Selden M. Loring”
this book is affectionately inscribed.”
Inscriptions needn’t signify a change in ownership. Some people sign all of the books in their libraries or mark them with personal bookplates. Emilie’s early first copies were simply marked as such, without her signature. Later, though, she added, “Her book.”
Published November 18, 1946Inscription, Bright Skies
Why, in 1946, did Emilie add the emphasis “Her book?” Her husband, Victor, was in the last months of his life. Did she anticipate the move that was coming, away from her Beacon Hill home of twenty years, and the assumption of her library into another’s? Did she act in awareness that her personal copies would be more valuable in the future and needed more than her signature to mark them as such?
Emilie Loring’s personal library–the books she read by other authors–was divided between her two sons, and then between her grandchildren. In the process, books were let go, so it’s hard to say how many of them she might have signed and in what ways.
She signed her name inside the front covers of the Everyman’s Library books she acquired for Stone House, then recorded and initialed the dates upon which she finished reading them on their last pages. As I wrote in Our Selves in Our Libraries, our books represent much of our thinking lives, and these notations amounted to a diary of sorts.
As I make choices for Happy Landings, I think about the idea of firsts. What color do I want the cover to be? How will the biography look alongside Emilie Loring’s first edition novels? How will it feel to finally hold the printed copy in my hand?
When the time comes, hopefully in the fall of 2022, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase signed copies from me through my website and at book signings. Unsigned copies will be available from other outlets. (I’ve told you all I know; I’ll shout details to the rooftops when I learn them.)
How will I inscribe them, to family, friends, and readers? I feel a kinship with Emilie as I anticipate the moment and its possibilities.
Happy Landings, everyone!