October 2012 Archives

1601.Connett.jpg

In 1882, on the ‘Academie Presse’ at West Point, there was printed the first authorized edition of Mark Twain’s satiric Elizabethan ribald confection [1601] Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors. In the following decades, the saucy text became steady meat for bibliophiles eager to consume privately printed editions. During the 1920s, each annum averaged about two editions. A bibliography published in 1939 lists 44 privately printed editions, and, according to one expert, “there had undoubtedly been many more.”

Recently, among the ‘many more,’ a twin pair of editions have become better known. The two are the work of a member of Princeton’s class of 1912, Eugene V. Connett III. Prior to founding his own imprint, The Derrydale Press, Connett did commission design and book production for well-heeled Eastern bibliophiles like himself.

For some years, it’s been known that Connett produced in 1925 a 100 copy edition of 1601. [Title page illustrated above.] This edition is well described in the standard bibliography of the Derrydale Press, compiled by Henry Siegel and Isaac Oelgart. [It’s entry A on page 34.] Furthermore, Connett also produced in 1925 a 30 copy edition, less typographically complex than the 100 copy edition.

Even though Connett’s involvement with these productions is known, it was always a mystery as to who commissioned him. The 100 copy edition clearly states “printed for H.D.W.”

Who was “H.D.W.”?

We now have an answer. In the course of preparing a bookseller’s color-printed catalogue of the Derrydale Press, Princeton Class of 1983 member Henry Wessells discovered who “H.D.W.” was. He did so by following up a note written by Connett and tucked into a copy of 1601 that appeared in a New England auction a number of years ago. This direct evidence from Connett, Wessells learned, is also confirmed by circumstantial evidence found in the Derrydale Papers.

“H.D.W.” was Henry Devereux Whiton (1871-1930). H.D.W, according to Wessells, “was an industrialist with interests in the sulfur industry, a sportsman, and a philanthropist. During the 1920s he lived in Long Island and was a member of the Piping Rock Club and the Bellport Yacht Club. No doubt it it was through such associations that he came to know Connett.” Whiton’s obituary published in the New York Times, November 1, 1930, mentions many achievements but is totally silent on his paying for an edition of 1601. This comes as no surprise, for in 1906 its very author, Mark Twain, wrote “I hasten to assure you that it is not printed in my published writings.”

❧ [Mark Twain] [1601] Being a fireside conversation in ye tyme of ye goode Queene Bess Done into a privately emprynted booke, 1926. Call number: (EX) 3679.7.386.12. Gift of Eugene V. Connett III, Class of 1912

❧ With thanks to Henry Wessells for providing many details.

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