[ModLib] Plates and Paper

Roger Lathbury lathbury at gmu.edu
Thu Feb 25 14:01:50 EST 2010

In line with Barry's remarks about printing plates in _Theory of the Leisure Class,__ I thought it might interest this group--whose posts I read regularly but who are more expert about many details than I ever will be--that many Modern Library titles are printed from plates from the first or early printings and can have bibliographical interest.

I teach English, among other activities, and sometimes use Modern Library texts to teach from. They provide a base text that I can annotate for bibliographical and scholarly reasons. I guess I commit the sin of writing in the books. One lives only once, though, and I am more of a reader than a collector.

The most remarkable such Modern Library edition I have is what looks to me to be a 1984 or so Modern Library edition of _Sister Carrie_ printed letterpress from the much battered 1900 plates used for the first Doubleday edition. The very wear and distortions seem proof of the enduring qualities of _Sister Carrie._ Some pages have been reset, and the original first edition has a passage that Dreiser plagiarized and was consequently changed in the second (B. Dodge 1907) printing, but it's pleasant to work from this hard-to-read but vintage setting of the novel. It's fun to compare these pages with a mid 1920's Boni and Liveright _Sister Carrie,_ to trace the wear on the plates. Dreiser, as you may know, bought them from Doubleday. He owned them for most all of his life.

_Winesburg, Ohio_ and _The Catcher in the Rye_ and _The Great Gatsby_ and _The Sun Also Rises_ and _A Farewell to Arms_ and _The Naked and the Dead_ plus a host other titles use original plates and are all printed letterpress (I think _The Naked and the Dead_ is offset--and done from a later 1948 Rinehart printing as p. 33 has been reset).

Offset printing requires a harder surface sheet and is harder to make notes on than letterpress paper. It seems less authentic to me, in some way. (Running my own small press, I notice these details).

Roger Lathbury
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