Bullpen Book Description Contest – entry

submitted by Scott Brown @ Fine Books Magazine

Andom, R. [pseudonym of Alfred Walter Barrett] The Magic Bowl and The Blue-Stone Ring: Oriental Tales with Occi(or Acci)dental Fittings. With 61 illustrations by C[lydon] Harrison. London: Jarrold & Sons, 11 & 12, Warwick Street, W.C. 1, 1903. First edition, first state binding; Needless state A. Two novellas inspired by the author’s travels in the East in 1899. Barrett published eight books based on short stories that he cut up and randomly rearranged (hence the pseudonym RAndom). He frequently introduced fantastic or supernatural elements to connect plot points that made no sense out of order. His work anticipates Burroughs’ cut-up technique as well as Narayan’s “novel-writing machine.” Small crown octavo. Wire stitched. Vignette on title and numerous illustrations in the text. Slip of cream paper, blank on recto, verso printed with an advertisement for the author’s preceding book, Martha and I, bound in after the “List of Illustrations.” Pagination: Pp. 286+[ii] 2pp. Integral advertisements at end, followed by 4pp. publisher’s advertisements on text paper, and 32pp. on slightly thicker paper, all unnumbered; Binding Valencia-orange rough buckram, blocked pictorially in black, lettered in black and crimson on front cover and spine. Buckram just a trifle dusty, red blocking on spine slightly faded, but an unusually nice copy nonetheless. The probable first binding, the book being also sometimes seen in a light apple-green, fawn, and dove-gray linen-patterned fine buckram and in light cerise cotton buckram, similarly blocked and lettered. Copies in the Valencia-orange binding often lack the inserted advertisement slip, while it is always present in the later bindings. Bieler, agreeing with Stokes & Haye, assumed that the earliest copies lacked the slip of cream paper, though recent studies of the publisher’s records by Needless and Booker suggest that a binder’s error late in the production process caused copies to be bound without it. We side with Needless and believe that this is an early copy of the first state binding. The combination of thick stiff paper with wire stitching makes this a book that seldom survives well in any binding. This title not in Locke or Wolff; Bieler (1957), p.22 and Bieler (1962), p. 32, both listing 16 pages of ads on text paper. Not in Streeter or Sabin. Howes A-45 (b). Lende 1203, but his copy lacking the advertisement slip. Title story first published serially in Puck, but in very different form, with four Harrison illustrations. Memorably filmed in 1921 as Three Men in a Van, starring Johnny Butt as Troddles. $15.00

[With apologies to Robert Temple, Thomas Tanselle, and Tom Congalton].

The Bibliophile Bullpen Department of Silly Listings is presenting the Bullpen Book Description Contest. If the Bulwer-Lytton Contest can do it for embarrassing fiction, I say we can surely pull it off for embarrassing books descriptions.

Please submit the silliest or worst book description you can invent.

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