The Paradox of a Narnian Box

The Collier Books 1970 Box Set Edition

The Collier Books 1970 Box Set Edition

During the fall semester of 2013, I was lucky enough to land a spot in the ever popular course on Classic Juvenile Fantasy. A peek at the required reading list revealed that I had already read many of the texts as a kid, a discovery that understandably excited me.  Not only would I have a legitimate reason for rereading some childhood favorites during the semester (a luxury I cannot generally afford when faced with the stack of reading for my various English classes), but I also figured I could save a few dollars by borrowing most of the texts from my parents’ house. However, when I called my mom to share my thrifty plan with her, she informed me the several of the books had been donated to the local library. Oh well, thought I, it was worth a shot. My mom took it more seriously, and, on her next visit, she presented me with a used boxed set of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Like many children born after 1950 (the year in which the first chronicle, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, was published), I read most of Lewis’s adventure in Narnia and was utterly charmed by Aslan the lion. At the time, I held the not so secret hope that if I did not receive an owl that I would at least find a wardrobe into another realm. However, in 2013 when my mom handed me the boxed set, it had been years since I had even thought of Narnia. To be honest, I do not quite remember what my childhood copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe looked like. It was certainly newer than the set I now own. However, what it lacks in youth, the set makes up in character and an interesting, albeit mysterious, background.


Formerly Crowell-Collier, Collier Books was a product of a merger with the Macmillan Co. in 1960.

Released in 1970 by Collier Books, a subsidiary of the Macmillan Publishing Company, the box set is technically the fourth edition of the series to be released in America since Macmillan premiered the series between 1950 and 1956. The need for more editions indicates the ongoing popularity of the series, but it also offers an interesting reflection of the publishing business at the time. This is the only edition of TCON to be released under the Collier Books imprint, as eight years later the subsidiary would be sold to Harper & Row, concluding a relatively short business relationship between the Collier group and the Macmillan company. With the advances of printing technology, including the addition of computers in 1970, the publishing world seems to have been in a state of flux with new companies gathering steam and older companies choosing to merge to keep themselves afloat. There is an extreme ambiguity about this period that stands in sharp contrast to the material objects it produced. For instance, try as I might, I could not track down the actual printing company that assembled the box set. It is as if some distributer at Macmillan/Collier Books waved his or her arms and the set just magically appeared on book shelves everywhere.

Left side

Left side

Right side

Right side

Yet, the set is clearly the product of a material process, be it an automated procession line or human hands. After all, something had to assemble the box, arrange and print the pages, etc. The box measures roughly four by four by seven inches, about the size and shape of a lunchbox. In order to fit in the space allotted, the seven chronicles have been condensed into slim paperback form, each being no more than half an inch thick and a little less than seven inches tall. In most places, the eleven-point font crowds the page to ensure that none of the action is lost. Both the box and the books feature key scenes from the novels, rendered with dynamic colors and shapes. Exposed to the sun, the colors on the box have faded. However, the book covers stored safely inside suggest how bright they must have been.

All seven chronicles. Note that the books are numbered in order of publication rather than chronologically as they are often numbered today.

All seven chronicles. Note that the books are numbered in order of publication rather than chronologically as they are often numbered today.

The set has certainly seen better days. The box is light shelf wear, particularly noticeable on the corners. One can see from the crinkling of the spines of the books that the glue that holds the paperboard binding together is beginning to degrade. At some point during its time in my backpack during the fall semester, the front cover of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe began to fall off. I have yet to take my sticky notes back out. In spite of some patches of wear and tear, the collection as a whole is still pretty hardy. In addition, the books themselves are compact and lightweight enough that they can easily be transported to be read on a trip. One of the previous owners seems to have done exactly that, leaving a Massachusetts Bay Transportation ticket tucked in between the pages of The Horse and His Boy. It is a round trip ticket for a day trip to Boston stamped June 23. Thrilled to find another ticket, I tried to track down the exact route this anonymous reader had taken, but I honestly believe that the MBTA is even more oblique than my own murky family history.

Another ticket!

Another ticket!

Where exactly are zones 4 and 8?

Where exactly are zones 4 and 8?

Still, discovering the ticket cast the box set in a whole new light. Although I knew the set was used, I had not previously stopped to consider what the previous owners had done with it. Now on top of wondering where they came from, I am also wondering how many trips these slim little volumes have been on and what they have seen. Where did the previous owner buy them? Were they new at the time? What did they look like on his or her shelf? The only things I can be sure of is that someone else held them in their hands and carefully turned the pages.

Works Consulted

For A Brief Overview of the Printing Process through the Ages:

For More Information about Collier Books:

For More Information about Macmillan Publishing Co.:

For Helpful Information Regarding the Various Editions of The Chronicles of Narnia:

Totally Worth the Toll

IMG_2549I brought my copy of The Phantom Tollbooth into class on the first day, but I don’t think I adequately expressed my love for this book so I decided to dedicate a blog post on it. Even as I look at it now my heart melts. I first read it as a kid in elementary, picking up a copy in my classroom library. Though I have this odd knack for retaining a detailed memory of stories I read as a kid, I never forgot about this one, and wanted a copy of it ever since. Years go by, I would think about the study often, dying to reread it, and then just this past year I ended up at a “history of children’s books” exhibition at the New York Public Library. The Phantom Tollbooth had a spot in the show and they had copies in the bookstore at the end of the exhibit. By the time we got there the store was closing, so I ran inside and bought one.

It’s a little more than 5 inches wide and 7 and a half inches tall. It’s a paperback, with it’s iconic blue cover and illustration of Milo (the protagonist) and his companion Tock (a watchdog). It’s printed on what feels and smells like newsprint, with a thin but rough feeling to contrast it’s glossy but thicker cover. It’s a “Yearling Classic” but is published by Random House.

IMG_2552The author Norton Juster and illustrator Jules Feiffer are still alive and well. Though I haven’t met many people who have read the book they say it has a cult following. This may be true considering a small documentary just came out called Beyond Expectations which, “delves into the history of the novel and the enormous influence it has had on generations of children through today.” – The A.V. Club. I know it had an enormous influence on me, but on generations I’m not so sure. Anyhow what I have found about the history of the novel and Juster’s process as a writer is fascinating. As the trailer to this documentary points out, Juster and Feiffer were roommates, and thought he was not the original illustrator, Feiffer was involved with the novel from the very beginning; uncommon for most book illustrations. Juster would read the novel out loud to him, and at some point Feiffer started sketching, developing characters in his scratchy style which Juster must have enjoyed, for the two ended up collaborating. They remain good friends even to this day. This was one of the things that stuck out to me in the evolution of this novel because I think that illustrations and novels as independent of each other, as if the artwork is nonessential and can be deleted or replaced. However, especially in the case of this book and many other children’s books, some texts are made to be read with illustrations. This made me wonder what Shakespeare would say about his plays and the visuals; would he demand that seeing the play acted out was essential?

At the time, Juster had received a grant to write a children’s book about urban aesthetics. He did not want to write this book. Instead, he started writing The Phantom Tollbooth. To this, Juster said,I find the best things I do, I do when I’m trying to avoid doing something else I’m supposed to be doing.” However parts of his original task seeped into his work, “One was the Cities Of Illusion and Reality — the cities disappear but people don’t notice it. There were several things that came directly from things that I was either thinking about, or had done research about for the book on cities.” Juster cited many influences, more of which I will talk about soon enough, but hearing author’s comments like these gives me, relief, I guess that is the best way to put it, because – like it was said in the Shakespeare reading – for a long time I feel like it was implied that all great works were made by one man, in one room, on the stroke of genius, and it was easy, breezy perfection from start to finish. For Juster at least this is total crap:

I write in a very laborious kind of a way. I write and rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Well, the thing of course is if you’re doing it well, when you finish your 30th rewrite, or something, it should sound like you’ve just written it completely, freshly once. Because sometimes what happens when you write and rewrite and rewrite, is you suck the life out of something. It’s difficult.

I find that writing is a very bleak, and lonely, and stressful, and often unhappy occupation. And I find this is not only with me when I talk to other writers. First of all you eat it. You sleep it. You can’t get it out of your head. You wake up in the morning constantly with this idea of staring at this blank page — you’ve lost it — you’re never going to get what you know you feel. What’s most interesting is that, say that goes on for several months while you’re working. That several months’ period of time can be an absolute misery. At the same time, when you finish and you look back on that time it’s somehow a very satisfactory — if you can use the word happy, time.

IMG_2553Juster also mentions that he did not have a mission when he started writing the book, and it was much more for his personal enjoyment. He didn’t even know what demographic it was for. He would write it in pieces, sections of dialogue and scenarios; he felt as if he was eavesdropping more than constructing the story himself. At some point, he needed to tie all the pieces together, so Feiffer’s wife, Judy, told him to write a two page synopsis. The story he wrote down had nothing to do with the detailed pieces he spent so much time on. Some of the earliest ideas he had developed didn’t fit into the story until very late. Though all authors have a different process, I found some similarities between Juster’s process and the commonplace books that were present in Shakespeare’s time. I think these sort of things disprove the romanticized “instant creation theory,” showing that a lot about genius is synthesis, it’s not just a have or have not quality, like any other great achievement it is very much earned.

And then there’s the editor. Juster said that, “I worked with a single marvelous editor at Random House. He had a million suggestions and we talked them all over. None of them really addressed the issue of simplifying or “dumbing down” the book.” Though it’s been over fifty years since the book was published, I looked at some interviews from Random House editors, in addition to trying to find information about the company’s manufacturing. The editors seemed just as kind and enthusiastic as Juster’s from fifty years ago. In a video these editors said that their mission is to make the author’s vision as clear as possible, and to do that they try to make an editing system that works for both parties; it could be edit as they go or a whole book at a time. Andy Ward the VP Executive Editor said, “…I find the relationships that I have are intense, they’re really intense, and they’re really close. A lot of the writers that I work with become some of your best friends because it’s very intimate work, and I think you develop a sort of dependency on one another.”

As far as manufacturing goes I didn’t find much. Random House is a huge force, with two warehouses, one in Illinois and one in Maryland. The total square footage of these two warehouses is about forty football fields, and ship over a million books per day between these two facilities. Though getting a book from an industrialized manufacturer is not as personal as  getting a hand bound, personalized book like the table books in “Shakespeare’s Tables,” it is these kinds of manufacturers that have made the written word so widely available and affordable. It was also specifically the grant for a book about urban aesthetics that provided Juster with the money to support himself while he wrote the novel. The book is still deeply personal to me, and I am grateful that I am able to have my own copy

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Most books I buy now are usually used. I’ve found that it isn’t too difficult to find used books in great condition – Barner Books, right in town, has a huge selection – as well as even ordering used from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I rarely buy new books now, especially if we’re talking those pesky, pricey textbooks. I love buying used because it’s nice to hold a book that could have been once cherished and is now once again up for grabs, looking for a new owner to make happy.


This particular book was purchased at Barner. It sits on my bookshelf beside my collection of other used books, and I think the last time I took it off the shelf was when it was sunny and I could lay in the grass by the pond on campus reading it. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins is one of my favorite books, which might be weird to say about a book I haven’t quite yet finished. There is a dog-eared page on page 261 and I think that’s where I left off. Creases on the corners of pages can be seen throughout the novel, indicating that I definitely took my time while reading Robbin’s writing. The book is in fairly good condition for a used book, and penciled in on the front page is the price whoever working at Barner set, a scribbled 8, which barely looks like a number and could easily fade away or be written over or erased. The novel must have been bought used by somebody before it was sold to Barner because it had a used barcode sticker on the back cover. The initial price of the book was $11.95, so I guess I didn’t save as much money as I probably could have on this used book. The binding is extremely creased and a little bit torn on the bottom. The front cover is actually missing it’s bottom right corner, almost like it was folded and then ripped off. Other than the slight tearing and creased pages, the pages aren’t too yellowed and I would still call this book “in good condition”. I will just be more careful when I decide to finish the story in hopes that the front cover doesn’t fall off.


The title page says it’s a “Bantam Trade Paperback”, and when I researched this publishing house I found out it’s entirely owned by Random House, a subsidiary of  Penguin Random House. Basically, this book was printed by an American company that is owned by a larger American company. This book also includes a “Printing History” section on it’s copyright page.  It’s printing history says that a portion of this book has appeared in the literary journal American Review in 1976, however the edition I have is from 1990. I think that from the printing history and title of the novel, as well as the tears, one can infer that this is an American tale that takes some time to read, but it’s definitely loved.   IMG_3226

The Sun Also Rises

For this blog post, I have chosen to write about my copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I read this book last semester for my Intro to American Literature class with Professor Stoneback. For me, it was definitely a challenging and enlightening class. Looking at the book is like looking at a reminder of an accomplishment I made by completing the class. I bought it used off of Amazon in pretty good condition with barely any marks on it. However, I was not shy in marking this book during class. Within it I have highlighted important sections such as the value scene with Brett, Jake and the count and famed lines such as “Isn’t it pretty to think so.” All over the book I have scribbled questions to myself and made notes of Stoneback’s remarks like how important the value scene is.

Hemingwaysun1The size of the back is about 5 x 7 inches. It is a paperback edition published in New York by Scribner an imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2003. Scribner originally published the book on 22 October 1926. The book has remained in print since it’s original publication. Hemingway used his own experiences in Spain to inspire the novel. The photo to the left is a first edition cover of the book.

The book is based off of Hemingway’s manuscript of the story. According to an article I read online from The New Yorker, it seems that the manuscript went through an intensive editorial process. Ian Crouch’s article “Hemingway’s Hidden Metafictions” details several alternatives titles and lines that had been rewritten. The final line “Isn’t it pretty to think so” was originally written, as “It’s nice as hell to think so.” There has been a new edition of the novel published that reveals alternatives from Hemingway’s early manuscripts.

Maxwell Perkins was the Scribner editor on Hemingway’s work. Perkins also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald who played a role in Hemingway’s editorial process in their correspondence as well. Fitzgerald reminded Hemingway that less is more and that the book didn’t really start until “Robert Cohn wasunnamed once middle weight boxing champion of Princeton.” Hemingway deleted the several pages of material he had written before this official opening line.

The book now sits amongst a stack of novels I am currently reading this semester and ones I read last semester. But, this book always brings me back to Stoneback’s class which was unlike any other. The front cover has Ernest Hemingway in big letters on the top and The Sun Also Rises on the bottom and in between is a blurry picture of a bull and a matador. When I look at the book, I see a text that bares the evidence of being carried from class to class. Ultimately, it looks like a student’s book to me. A student that was deeply motivated and interested in learning about the subject. However, I suppose my opinion could be a little biased on this matter.

From Dr. Sullivan’s Bookshelf: Cicero on Oratory and Orators

For this week’s blog post I decided to look at a text that lives on Dr. Pat Sullivan’s bookshelf. I thought it was be intriguing to observe one of the books she owns and keeps in her office. Dr. Sullivan is a scholar of rhetoric and focuses on gender, race and class in political rhetoric. The book she suggested to analyze is Cicero on Oratory and Orators, translated and edited by J.S. Watson and was a new edition of Cicero’s De Oratore and Brutus which was written way back when in 55 B.C.! The inside flap IMG_7766of the paper cover introduces the text as “a significant publishing event”. Ralph A. Micken, was a professor of Speech and Chairman of the Department of the Southern Illinois University,  wrote the introduction for this particular text. The back flap of the cover informed me that Micken lectured on Cicero for over 30 years and completed extensive research at the British Museum and British Universities, reviewing manuscripts of Cicero’s De Oratore. I learned that J.S. Watson prepared and published this edition of the text in 1878 and it was Micken who selected this edition for reprinting as it is considered one of the best translated versions with its textual and historical notes made by Watson. The preface to the text is by J.S. Watson from his original publication where he credits the work of George Barnes, a Barrister of the Inner Temple, whose translation of De Oratore in 1762 provided the ground for Watson’s further translation. IMG_7762

This version of the text was published in 1970 and is a part of a series called “Landmarks in Rhetoric and Public Address”. It is a hardcover book that could have been purchased for $8.50, according to the price printed on the inside flap of the jacket. It was printed using the process of “offset lithography” in the United States of America. Offset lithography is a process that uses printing plates to transfer images and text to paper and was created in 1796. It requires a chemical treatment on the plate to allow for the transferring of the specifically inked areas that utilizes the repulsion of oil and water.. I looked into the IMG_7763process online and it was rather confusing to me even though it was one of the most common ways to print materials. Looking into this facet of the book as object research was eye-opening–I had no idea how many different processes have been invented and innovated for printing materials and that a book printed in 1970 would use a process first created nearly 200 years earlier!

Most hardcover books that I own or have come across have a paper cover that has been printed with a glossy finish. The jacket of this text however looks a lot like manila paper to me! The inside flap reveals a color that would have been much closer to its original color which appears to be buff in color though the outside back, front and IMG_7764spine have certainly yellowed with age. It has this interesting design to it with that looks like fine blue marks that may have been a choice by the designer of the paper product. The book itself is a bright red color and the spine has the editors last name, Watson, the title of the text, Mickens name as well as Southern Illinois University Press all printed in gold. The book is about eight by five inches and contains over 400 pages of text. Within the pages of the text are notations written by Dr. Sullivan. She marked IMG_7761passages with a blue pen, preferring to underline sections of interest and writing key words from the text that struck her such as the phrase, “memory exercised through practice” in her familiar handwriting.

I enjoyed using the little clues within the text to determine its origin story even though I really only scratched the surface with this post! It was interesting to me to select one text off Dr. Sullivan’s bookshelf because it allowed me to take a small peak inside her academic journey, having acquired the text in 198o while she was at graduate school for a course on classical rhetoric that Pat attests to being “really intense”! A text such as Cicero’s shows that it continues to transcend time thanks to the effort of translators and the influx of interest and continued relevance in consuming such works of one of the great orators.

What’s in a name? Would the “Bad” Quarto by any other name still be so “Bad?”

I had some fun this week with my Norton Anthology of Shakespeare’s works. Inside this 3,417 page book, each play has a preface, and every preface holds some juicy treasures. The introduction to Hamlet explains how there are such differences between the First Quarto (Q1) the Second Quarto (Q2) and the First Folio (F).


Deciphering the differences and similarities between the First Quarto and the First Folio is one of the most exciting things you can ask me to do. I love how we still have access to some of the different versions of Shakespeare’s work. Studying these variations can give us more clues to make a hypothesis of why some changes exist from play to play within different editions — or they can add to the mystery! But I absolutely love jumping into the growing unknown.

The First Quarto is also known as the “Bad” Quarto. Q1 has 2,200 lines while Q2 (printed just a year later) has 3,800 lines. What’s in a name… would this Quarto by any other name still be so “Bad?” The first thing we know is that lines are being added, which means that some sort of purposeful addition is going on.


So what exactly is going on? What is being added and why? What is being added from memory of an actor or from the writings contained in someone’s commonplace book? What is possibly more accurate in the first recording of Hamlet (Q1)? With the knowledge of the Common Place books I start to realize the “Bad” Quarto could possibly (a very quirky “possibly”) have some poignant accuracy. Q1 contains the true and raw way plays were recorded and to that there is beauty!

Scholars have proposed that Q1 is constructed from memory. Actors recited their lines to a scribe and the scribe recorded them. This method seems vulnerable to the many different interpretation a memory can have. I was under the impression that the “Bad” Quarto had some distinctiveness because Q1 was the first published and closer to the ways these plays were really recorded. Q1 may be unique; however, the First Folio is thought to more closely capture the way the play was actually performed. The First Folio is hypothesized to be constructed from promptbooks. A promptbook is a scribal transcript. The promptbook itself was probably constructed from foul papers — a soft of rough draft from the author — which editors then annotated.

Who truly knows if the foul papers of Shakespeare were annotated by editors. Who knows if the memories of his actors were picked by a scribe and recorded in the First Quarto. Who knows if Shakespeare himself had everything, nothing, or some to do with the changes between Q1, Q2, and the First Folio.

Scholars say the mystery is so complicated because Q1 and Q2 hold true to Shakespeare’s style — they both are equally authentic to truly being of Shakespeare’s own writing.

Then we get to the eighteenth century and the oxford edition breaks tradition. They hypothesized that Shakespeare did indeed hold responsibility for the changes in the foul papers in which the promptbook were composed from. That if the foul papers were different it was because they were deliberately revised by Shakespeare.

Whether from the memories of actors or from editors decisions or from Shakespeare’s own revisions, the source is not completely secure.

I chose to compare and contrast act 3 scene 2 from Hamlet in Q1 and the First Folio. It was pretty phenomenal to me because the only differences were of spelling, punctuation, and stage direction. Only a couple of revisions were made — very few words were added or deleted.

Since the message of both versions is predominantly the exact same; this shows just how important act 3 scene 2 is.

The biggest difference was the clear editing done to the clarity of stage direction. The entrances of certain characters were in slightly different places in Q1 as compared to the First Folio. In Q1 the Prologue enters after Hamlet and Ophelia are done exchanging increasingly inappropriate lines about shows and meaning. In the First Folio the Prologue enters between Hamlet and Ophelia’s lines and then delves into his plea for the audience to patiently watch the play. Q1 has Polonius enter after Hamlet is done with his monologue directed towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to understand he will not be played. In the First Folio Polonius enters and then Hamlet finishes his speech with “God bless you sir.” The stage direction of character action is more explicit in the First Folio. For example, the First Folio includes very specific direction for Hamlet to take Rosencrantz and Guildenstern aside when they come to tell him the Queen wants to see him, while Q1 does not contain this information. In Q1 all of the characters on stage say “Lights, lights, lights” while just the Courtiers say “Lights, lights, lights!” in the First Folio. The editing is focused on creating more specificity between the choreography of the characters in the sense of lines being interspersed with movement.

Other than the spelling revisions, the editing of the sentences were very subtle. One example of change is Hamlet’s line to Ophelia about husbands. In Q1 he says “so you mistake husbands” and in the First Folio he says “so you mistake your husbands.” I think the addition of the word “your” makes the line more direct and gives it more attitude. At the end of the scene Hamlet has a brilliant monologue directed towards Guildenstern. Hamlet lets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know how acutely aware he is that they are playing him. The message is so fully the same in Q1 and the First Folio, but there are some small changes to word choice. In Q1 Hamlet says “… there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it.” In the First Folio Hamlet says “… there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak.” I think that this again is a change for the purpose of clarity. The addition of the word “speak” helps the audience understand Hamlet is comparing himself to a musical instrument. This particular section has one more word change — in Q1 Hamlet questions Rosencrantz and Guildenstern directly and says “Why do you think that I am easier to be played on than a pipe?” and in the First Folio Hamlet says “ ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?” So what is the meaning of the difference? Is there a meaning? Is it to use the vernacular of the people? I think there is a slight transition from being less overtly obvious to more clearly clever.

I believe punctuation to be very important because punctuation conveys voice. Punctuation helps the actors know the tone and in turn helps the audience get the message. Question marks and exclamation points were added to sentences in the First Folio. Examples include two of Hamlet’s lines; one being “If she should break now!” and the other “Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!” This addition makes the ability to understand the meaning a lot easier.

It was a bit humorous to read that Q1 was so much shorter, yet the scene I picked had almost no difference to the First Folio. I am thankful for the changes to spelling and punctuation in the First Folio as compared to Q1. I understand why the characters enter when they do in the First Folio rather than Q1. The timing is more natural. In Q1 it seemed too staged to have one person done talking and the next person enter. Instead the flow from people talking to people entering mesh as one organic movement.

The differences were minimal, but with minimal change comes a greater meaning. The tempering of Q1 to Q2 to the First Folio was for greater clarity. The spelling, punctuation, slight syntax revision, and the stage direction changes were all for the purpose of making the scene more of a masterpiece. More — because it already was.

Shakespeare Quartos Project
The comparison of act 3 scene 2 in Q1 and the First Folio was so impressive to me because with the chance to revise this scene, very little was actually changed. To me this shows how incredible this scene already was. It shows how much work went into this piece at the beginning of its creation.

The Chronicles of Narnia collection

For this week, I chose to write about my copy of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.


Additional proof of its age can be found on the back cover, which sports a price tag of $19.99. Mom had the good sense to buy this back when books were fairly cheap.

My copy is a paperback anthology of all seven books. I don’t remember when I received it–I seem to have always had it with me–but I know for certain that my mother (a devout Christian and a fan of Lewis’s works) was the one who purchased it, probably for her own reading pleasure before it was given to me. I also know that I must have taken it to school at some point, because on the title page is written my name, scrawled in her practiced busy-mom handwriting.DSCN0293

This copy of the text, if you couldn’t already tell, is quite old. Despite having been treated carefully, it shows signs of age and wear that signify its having been owned by loving readers. The pages are slightly worn at the edges. The plastic film on the cover is beginning to peel away, and (as you can see from the photograph) there are little stains on the pages from the dust, fingerprints, errant (unwelcome) insects, and yellowing from age that mar the clean, white surfaces. Although I never dog-eared a page in that book (a lesson driven into me by my elementary-school librarian), the bottom corners of some of the pages have folded and crumpled slightly from being inserted and taken out of bookshelves and other convenient spaces–carefully by my mother, less so by the then-seven-year-old me.

This collection of The Chronicles of Narnia is a special edition, published in 2001. The opening page of each book, as well as the title page for each chapter, has been paired with an original illustration by Pauline Baynes.


Lovingly detailed and quite intricate, not uncommon for a collector’s edition

Interestingly, the books are not arranged in publication order in this volume. Rather, Lewis himself arranged them in his “preferred order”–presumably chronological order. Although this book was published years before the fandom culture really took off, I would still assume that this arrangement, illustrations included, would have meant little to the novice or casual reader (who would likely not notice the difference between the original and anthology editions), but would have elicited strong feelings–both good and bad–among the community of avid Narnia readers, and perhaps also been an incentive for them to purchase this copy even if they had read or owned previous editions. This, in fact is the first and only time I’ve ever heard of this kind of rearrangement being done to a book series. Clearly, this is an edition meant to be collected and read by serious lovers of the series or, at the very least, by collectors of famous literary works.

As a child, I only ever read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember that the coexistence of fantasy and religious symbolism fascinated me, but also that I unfortunately lost interest in it after discovering that the order of the books in the anthology wasn’t the “correct” (that is, publication) order. I didn’t have access to a computer at that time, and wasn’t going to be bothered looking up and arranging copyright dates; alas, the book remained untouched in my room until recently, when I decided to read the series as a whole. As a fan of fantasy literature, and as someone who appreciates Lewis’ works, I’m certain that I’ll get the most out of this special edition copy (or, at the very least, be able to enjoy it in the way that it was meant to be).

In the Palm of Your Hand: Thoughts on a 1907 Prayer Book

After reading Darnton’s The History of Books, I was inspired to further investigate prayer books and the role of the publisher.  After my research on my great-grandmother’s French prayer book from 1937, my interest for these books grew intensely. The book I chose to focus on this week is a prayer book from my great-grandmother Mary Egan Ward. Mary Ward was the mother of my grandfather John J. Ward, Jr. who was married to Marguerite Ward. My earlier blog posts focused on the prayer book on my grandmother’s side, Marguerite. This prayer book belonged to my great grandmother Mary Egan Ward, on my grandfather’s side.

IMG_6193The prayer book is titled “Key of Heaven: A Manual of Prayers and Instructions for Catholics.” The book is so small it’s hard to believe. The book measures roughly four inches long, and fits perfectly into the palm of the hand. The book shows extreme wear. The black cover has scotch tape on it, to hold together a rip. Yet in the extremely small book, there is an engraving on the front of Mary in full color. When the book is opened, the first page is extremely ornate. The front  cover has stitching around a cross and crucifix, with the adjacent page revealing beautiful script in gold lettering. I found the book in my grandfather’s apartment in White Plains, NY. My grandfather passed away this past December at the age of 101. My research into the 1937 French prayer book on his wife’s mother, remained in the back of my head as a I went through his belongings. Lo and behold, in my grandfather’s bedroom I found this small prayer book. I couldn’t believe its small size and the how old it was. The book contains a plethora of prayers and poems to be utilized both in the Church and at home.

IMG_6428yes Inside the book there is a note, written in my late grandfather’s handwriting, that says “When Mary Egan got married in 1907 (then Mrs. Ward) she received this prayer book from her mother, Margaret Brennan Egan.” The small prayer book was a wedding gift to my great-grandmother, by my great-great grandmother. In 1907, Mary married John James Ward in Pittsburgh, PA.  They had five children, including my grandfather, John. In the early 1920s, my grandfather contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized for several weeks. Shortly after the ambulance took my grandfather to the hospital, the ambulance came for his mother. I recall my grandfather telling me the story of how he had given his mother pneumonia and how he felt incredible guilty for that.  She died in the hospital and my grandfather survived.

IMG_9366meThe history of my great-grandmother is important to understanding the sentiment of the prayer book. My grandfather kept the little prayer book with him up until his death in 2014. I wish I knew when my grandfather acquired the prayer book. Maybe he obtained the book at a young age to remember his mother when she passed in Pittsburgh. Or maybe he found the book as he was cleaning out his father’s apartment after his father’s death in 1970. I cannot know that history but what I do know, is this small prayer book survived one hundred and five years. It is not a stretch to infer the importance of the book to my grandfather. He revered his mother greatly and after losing her at such a young age, I can only imagine the pain and suffering he himself felt. What tangible evidence I do have of the book, is the history of the publisher and printing.  My research in to this 1907 prayer book proved to be much more successful than my history into the publisher of the 1937 French prayer book. I’m sure the language barrier has something to do with that.

Industries and Wealth of Pittsburgh, 1890

Industries and Wealth of Pittsburgh, 1890

The publisher listed on the prayer book is F.M. Kirnerfrom  Pittsburgh PA. Online, I found a PDF of an illustrated book published in 1890 titled “Industries and Wealth of Pittsburgh and Environs.” The introduction states the book’s purpose as  “….portraying the efforts of those who have so ably assisted nature in the process of making Western Pennsylvania the most remarkable portion of the American continent.” The illustrated text provides mini histories on several industries and merchants in Pittsburgh. It is in this book where I find information on the prayer book’s publisher, F.M. Kirner. The history is written in an extremely close and humanistic touch. FM Kirner is listed as “Dealer in Church and School Supplies, Corner Thirty-seventh and Butler Streets.”  The description of F.M. Kirner from this history text is so fascinating. The text continues to describe the goods in the store,

” These goods have been imported direct from Europe by Mr. Kirner, and selected with great care and excellent judgment.The array of goods presented here Is a most interesting and attractive one, and the house Is the headquarters in its line in Pittsburgh for church and school furnishings of every description, and tbe trade, which is both wholesale and retail. Is spread over the whole of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, Western Virgina, etc. Mr. Kirner is a native of the city and a gentleman of fine business tact and of the highest repute.” 

IMG_5388The popularity of the F.M. Kirner’s prayer collections and books is evident from the array of editions I found online. My great-great grandmother, also a native of Pittsburgh must have visited Kirner’s shop and picked up the book for her daughter, my great- grandmother Mary. When the book is opened, in script at the top of the book reads “Holy Ghost.” Honestly, I have no idea who wrote that in the book. It could have been the book’s owner, my great-grandmother, or it could also have been my grandfather. The fact that the book was given to my great-grandmother  by her mother on her wedding day in 1907 is very important . The gift of mother to daughter on her wedding day, is an important one. The fact that a prayer book was given reveals the values and faith of my  great-grandmother.I’m sure my great-grandmother used this prayer book at church and in the home. And the intimacy of the small object shows how personal this text was intended to be to its owner. The prayer book, in its small form, was fashioned to be for the individual. This is not a text that would be passed around or shared between many individuals. “Key of Heaven” was meant to be a key to the individual.

I am extremely warmed by the fact that I could further research into this book and in the process, find out more about my great-grandmother. The exploration into this 1907 prayer book is, my own small way of honoring my grandfather’s legacy whom was an extremely important figure in my life.


The book I chose to write about this week, is a collection of short stories compiled by Alfred Hitchcock, “Portraits of Murder”. As I thoroughly enjoy anything to do with Hitchcock, when I saw this book on Amazon for three dollars I jumped at the chance to add it to my collection. Along with this edition I also have “Tales of Terror”, another compilation of stories chosen by Hitchcock himself. “Tales of Terror” was a gift given to me by my brother, as he knew of my love for Hitchcock. I’ve never shuddered so much, while reading a work of fiction as when reading “Tales of Terror”. Each story is wickedly crafted, as the authors spin tales of mysterious people, who at first glance could be the person next door. And, as most of these stories were written in the 60’s, you get a glimpse into the everyday life during that time period. Another cool aspect to these collections. Needless to say, my expectations for this book were high. And, it most definitely did not disappoint.

This particular edition I have of “Portraits of Murder” has a copyright date of 1988 under the publishing company, Galahad Books in New York. I couldn’t find much on Galahad books, besides that it’s based in New York. However I would guess it was probably named for Sir Galahad, a Knight of King Arthur’s round table. Although the book was published in the 80’s the stories were written between the mid-50’s ad the late 70’s. The stories are from various authors, who gave Hitchcock permission to publish their stories once again. Originally these stories were featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which through research, I discovered is still being published. The magazine was founded in 1956 and is based in New York, although the magazine has changed hands over the years. The premise of the magazine is to share original short stories that discuss crime or mystery fiction. The stories that Hitchcock chose for each of these collections, were some of his favorites from the magazine over the years. The magazine itself has won many awards for mystery, including the “Edgar Award” for best short story.

The book contains 47 short stories spanning over 503 pages. As given away in the title, all the stories are enveloped in murder. When I purchased this book, and took it out of the amazon box, there was a black sleeve. Although at present it seems I’ve misplaced it. At the center of the sleeve is the classic silhouette of Hitchcock he used on his show. The title is printed in white lettering on the top, although the word “murder” is capitalized in green lettering. Without the sleeve, the book has block coloring of black while the spine is a light gray. On the front cover, there are dents in the book. I can’t tell if they’re a fault of my own or whether it came like that. If I had to guess, it was probably me. On the spine in shiny green letters, it reads Alfred Hitchcock, “Portraits of Murder”, with Galahad books written on the very bottom.  The bottom edges of the cover are a little tattered. Probably due to the fact that when reading large books, the bottom is usually resting on my stomach or a table. Inside the book, the off-white pages look very new. There are no tatters or folds. I can’t remember if I bought this book used or not, but from the looks of it I’m the first owner. Although it seems like an odd observation, the pages seem thicker than some of the other books I own. Perhaps it speaks to the quality of the materials used to make them. As is my way, I tend not to alter the books I own. I rarely fold over the tops of the page or write along the margins. Although as I’m always drinking coffee, more often than not, there are brown stains covering most ever paper in my possession. This book has evaded by clumsy coffee drinking habits, and is in fairly good condition.


There isn’t much to the book as far as alterations go. Just the occasional tattered edge and the dents on the front cover. But the contents of these pages are haunting and a rather exciting read. It’s also cool for me, to read these stories that Hitchcock hand picked. I may be a little biased, based off of my love for his work, but if the Master of Suspense deems these as worthy, I’ll take his word for it.