Life of Michelangelo

Sat Jun 15 21:02:13 EDT 2002

This is the first of two or three postings in response to 
issues raised by John and Pete.

John's copy of Symonds' LIFE OF MICHELANGELO in 
the "transitional" balloon cloth binding isn't a first.  
LIFE OF MICHELANGELO was published in October 1928 in the 
imitation leather binding.  The "transitional" binding was 
used for three months from January through March 1929.  The 
jacket is Henry's Dj 4 (p. 178) with a fall 1928 list 
(includes Apuleius, Golden Ass but not Dostoyevsky, Brothers 
SCHOPENHAUER (both published October 1928) were the first 
titles to use the newly designed typographic jacket.  It's 
possible that John has a first printing bound in a later 
binding, but for most collectors, that doesn't count as a 
full-fledged "first."

LIFE OF MICHELANGELO was also available in a special binding 
and jacket as part of the 1928 Christmas gift box sold 
mainly in department stores.  The yellowish green binding is 
stamped in a diamond-shaped pattern and the reddish orange 
jacket features a drawing of Michelangelo's "Moses."  The 
book has a fall 1928 list at the end of the volume; the 
jacket has a spring 1928 list (includes Dumas, Three 
Musketeers but not Apuleius).  I wrote about the gift boxes 
in a recent issue of ML COLLECTOR.  I assume that jackets 
for copies sold as part of the gift box were printed in 
summer 1928 so that the gift boxes could be shipped to 
department stores well in advance of the Christmas season.  
Pete's copy with the spring 1928 jacket sounds like the 
pictorial jacket from the gift box on a copy in the standard 
imitation leather binding.

LIFE OF MICHELANGELO is one of many titles in which 
the "First ML" statement appears on more than one 
printing.  "First" statements were generally removed from 
the plates after the first printing.  Sometimes through an 
oversight they weren't removed.  I've seen a few titles in 
which the "First" statement was retained through several 
printings.  Usually this was the result of carelessness.  It 
wasn't the result of malicious intent to confuse 21st-
century collectors and booksellers.  I have noticed, 
however, that whenever the ML committed a major blunder, 
like omitting Dewey's introduction (pp. 1-13) from the first 
printing of HUMAN NATURE AND CONDUCT, the corrected second 
printing almost always retains the "First" statement.  In 
such cases I guess it means "the first ML edition the way it 
was supposed to be."

I've identified two printings of LIFE OF MICHELANGELO 
with "First" statements.  These can be distinguished by the 
publisher's note facing the title page.  One has a 7-line 
publisher's note stating that the publishers will be pleased 
to send, upon request, an illustrated ML catalogue.  The 
other has a 3-line note reading, "Turn to the end of this 
volume for a complete list of titles in the Modern 
Library."  Both printings have fall 1928 lists at the end of 
the volume.  My copy in the imitation leather binding and 
Henry's Dj 4 has the 7-line publisher's note.  My copy in 
the gift box binding and jacket has the 3-line publisher's 
note.  I have no idea which came first.  The 7-line 
publisher's note was usually used on ML books without a list 
of titles at the end.  It's possible that copies with the 7-
line note were printed first, and the second printing 
substitued the more appropriate 3-line note.  It's possible 
that copies earmarked for the gift box were printed first.  
It's also possible that a portion of each printing was bound 
up in the imitation leather binding and a portion in the 
gift box binding.

I'd be interested in hearing from other collectors with 
stated firsts of LIFE OF MICHELANGELO with fall 1928 lists 
at the end whether they have copies with the 7-line or 3-
line publisher's note, and which binding they have 
(imitation leather, gift box, or transitional balloon cloth).

I'll post separate messages to the list giving more 
information about the transitional binding and Dostoyevsky's 


Gordon B. Neavill
Associate Professor
Library and Information Science Program
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48202
aa3401 at 

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