j b krygier jbkrygie at
Sat Jun 8 16:25:20 EDT 2002

Jack Maclean wrote:

>> In doing this collecting I have been thinking that the ML group and 
>> its interests would be a very good subject for an exhibition.
>> This exhibition could answer the following questions;
>> 1. WHO ARE YOU?
>> 3. WHY?

List members have been rather quiet about this project!  I
suspect that some of the subscribers to this list don't feel
they know enough or have enough rare and spectacular ML
editions to be able to get involved in the proposed exhibit.

While the rare and spectacular are important, it seems like
there should be more to this exhibit.

Anyone who has signed up to this group and has any ML
editions probably has a reason or reasons they started to
pick up MLs and continue to do so.  It probably did not
initially have to do with rare Boni and Liveright editions,
or the Great Gatsby or the Illustrated Alice.

One approach is to try and recover how MLs initially grabbed
your attention.  As I have thought about this, I come back
to a plain old 1950s edition of Maugham's "Of Human Bondage"
(binding 8, no DJ) which I bought because I liked the way
the book looked.  I bought many more over several years
before I realized MLs had DJs!  When I found copies with DJs
I would take off the DJs and store them, as they covered up
the cool looking book.  While I now restrict myself to
copies with DJs (and leave the DJs on), I will unashamedly
admit that there is still something about the look of plain
old everyday MLs from the 'classic' period (1939-63),
without their DJs, that is very appealing: they have a
simple yet amazingly distinctive and functional book design
that defines what the ML is to me.

Another approach is to ponder things you learned in the
process of collecting the ML.  Irving Fineman?  Ouida?  Lion
Feuchtwanger?  Four (?!) titles by Gabriele D'Annunzio? What
could shake one's faith in the canon of great literature
more than seeing such authors in a series of the "Best of
the World's Best Books"?

What about Stendahl's Charterhouse of Parma? Discontinued
due to very poor sales in the early 40s (I think I read this
in Cerf's memoirs), its removal sparked an outcry among
literary types who still seem to see it as one of the best
novels of all time.  But it didn't sell.

So, the "canon" of great literature is dynamic rather than
static, and even highly respected authors get bumped off the

Even if you can't remember why you collect MLs, and haven't
learned much about particular authors, all of us have
particular DJs or bindings or formats (regular, giant,
illustrated, flex, leatherette) that are more appealing than
others.  I am sure there would be room for many of peoples
favorite DJ designs, and some of the very best are on very
common MLs.

While it would be easy to get the experts on the list to
draw up a list of key bindings, eras, important rarities,
etc., I think the exhibit would really benefit from input
from all sorts of ML collectors.

I am very curious to see what people come up with.  I am
keeping in mind that the ML and other similar series were
meant to be good books for common folks.  It seems important
that this philosophy underlie the exhibit, and that we don't
get overly fixated on the spectacular and rare.  Indeed
mixing the spectacular and rare with the common and
'classic' MLs would be a really nice representation of what
the ML series is, and why it appeals to those who spend $5
and those who spend $500 for the books they collect.

So...howabout a few titles?

John K.

j   b   k r y g i e r

a s s i s t a n t  p r o f e s s o r  o f  g e o g r a p h y
o h i o  w e s l e y a n  u n i v e r s i t y
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