Monday, February 04, 2019

Confessions of Two Brothers

Co-authored with Llewelyn Powys.

First edition, signed and inscribed by John Cowper Powys.

This book is blessed by a wonderful signed inscription from John Cowper Powys to Lloyd Emerson Siberell, the first bibliographer of Powys' books.

Received as a gift from Powys, Siberell inserted his intriguing bookplate, which in itself is worthy of closer inspection, on the front right hand endpaper.

The centralised inscription reads as follows, the line breaks, capitalisations and underlines being those of Powys himself.

John Cowper Powys
The Library of
Lloyd Emerson Siberell
Every line of this
Book of
as the old writers 
love to say
with memories 
of the close &
That always existed
Llewelyn & me. 
All his genius
was rooted in
his Diary
as is the case
with the greatest 
& here can be
seen the
first shoots of his
incomparable style.
Corwen. N. Wales. Feb 2 1952

Dante Thomas notes that the book was 'issued February 21, 1916 at $1.50. This book was later for sale by Knopf.

Not published in England.

John Cowper Powys contributed:
Confessions. Pp. 9-175.

Note that Llewelyn's name is consistently misspelled in this his first book publication. On page 18 lines 23-26 are botched by misalignment and improper setting of type at the beginning of each line.'

The book was published by the Manas Press, which was a publishing house operated by Claude Bragdon, a prominent member of the American Theosophical Society. It was located in Rochester, New York. The first works produced were Bragdon's pamphlets Theosophy and the Theosophical Society and A Brief Life of Mrs. Besant.

Manas Press is especially noteworthy for translating and publishing the first English-language edition of P. D. Ouspensky's Russian work Tertium Organum, and for printing Bragdon's excellent writings on Theosophy, art, and architecture.

(Thanks are due to Theosophy Wikki for the above information)

In Theosophy manas is the fifth principle in human beings. It is the intellectual faculty that allows humans to think, remember, plan, etc. It is also the origin of self-consciousness.
The endpaper illustration may be a symbolic reference to the Hindu understanding of Manas, which is one of the four parts of the antahkarana (the "internal organ"), the other three parts being buddhi (the intellect), citta (the memory) and ahamkāra (the ego).

On the back endpaper is a ticket which indicates that the book was sold at Brentano's in New York. Founded in 1853, the company traded until 1983, then as an independently branded part of Borders until 2011.

The book.

John Cowper Powys, Llewellyn Powys, Confessions of Two Brothers, The Manas Press, Rochester, New York, 1916.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


My own edition of this work is quite unremarkable, apart from its fine condition as a first edition, published in New York in 1916 by Powys’s agent, G. Arnold Shaw.

Dante Thomas does not make any reference to a dust jacket, though presumably there was one originally.

Facing the title page, within a black border, is a list of other books by John Cowper Powys and by his younger brother T. F. Powys, published by Powys’s agent G. Arnold Shaw.

Under the copyright notice is the imprint “Vail-Ballou Company Binghampton and New York”.

The dedication opposite on the next page is “to the spirit of Emily Bronte”.

The book was issued on 11th October, 1916 at $1.50

On the back endpaper is a sales label in the form of a perforated stamp. It reads Paul Elder & Co. San Francisco.  At the time of publication Paul Elder & Co. were based at 239 Grant Avenue in San Francisco.

The stamps were affixed to many of the books sold in the shop - and not just Elder’s own publications, but all the other books too.

Various stamp designs were used over the years.

The date of the stamp in my edition (type E) suggests that the book was sold at least four years after the publication date. It bears an image which is a Japanese mitsudomoe design.

The Japanese word tomoe (巴) refers to a comma-shaped symbol. There are hundreds of traditional Japanese tomoe designs. The most common variant is the three-tomoe design called mitsudomoe (三つ巴), which, according to Japanese tradition, creates the harmony of a perfect circle.

Elder first used the mitsudomoe design in 1900, which he anglicised as the word “tomoyé”, and it became a logo of sorts for him. He used it in many books and magazines over the next two decades.

(Information from the website cited 26.10.18)

The book.

John Cowper Powys, Rodmoor, G. Arnold Shaw, New York, 1916.

© John Dunn.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

One Hundred Best Books

This is the first edition from my library, published in New York in 1916 by Powys’s agent, G. Arnold Shaw.

The book was not published in England.

The large bookplate is that of Lloyd Emerson Siberell (1905-1968), collector and first bibliographer of John Cowper Powys.

The small bookplate on the front endpaper is that of F. R. Furber, city lawyer, bibliophile and author of two books on golf, A Course for Heroes A History of The Royal St. George's Golf Club, 1996 and The Moles 1911 - 2011 a Byroad in Golfing History, 2011.

(Obituary, Daily Telegraph, 9th September, 2016.)

About Powys’s approach to this book, Dante Thomas notes that ‘the game of listing the “best” books was a popular one earlier in the century, following Sir John Lubbock’s lead’. Thomas felt no compulsion to add to his comment on Lubbock, who is all but forgotten today. However, Lubbock was an important man, the MP responsible for introducing the Bank Holidays Act (1871), and as principal of the Working Men’s College in London, he gave a speech in 1886 in which he listed 100 books.

It is worth noting that, whilst safe in America from the war that was destroying others of his generation in the trenches of France, Powys spent a lot of time writing away for his friend Shaw’s publishing venture. Apart from One Hundred Best Books, 1916 also saw the publication of Wolf’s Bane Rhymes, Rodmoor, Suspended Judgments and Confessions of Two Brothers (co-authored with Llewellyn Powys).

The advertisements at the back of the book are of interest for listing the non-JCP authors published by Shaw. These were Theodore Francis Powys, Ian Campbell Hannah, I. B. Stoughton Holborn.

The book.

John Cowper Powys, One Hundred Best Books, G. Arnold Shaw, New York, 1916.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Published by Powys’s agent, G. Arnold Shaw in 1916, the example in my library retains the extremely rare and very fragile dust cover.

The cover is interesting in that the blurb on the front, no doubt written by Powys himself, sets out the intentions behind the poems in the volume, which centre on the poet’s willingness to ‘sink for their inspiration into the inalienable sorrows of the heart of man…’ These poems were written, it must be remembered, at the height of his lust, desire and longing for a woman he hardly deserved, Frances Gregg.

The quote from Shelley’s ‘Ode to a Skylark’, obscured by the damage to the dust cover, should read as follows.

We look before and after

    And pine for what is not.


Our sweetest songs are those
    That tell 
Of saddest thought.

In commenting on Wolf’s Bane, Powys’s biographer Morine Krissdottir first quotes Powys from Confessions of Two Brothers. ‘When I write a book, I never write for posterity… I write with quite definite people always before me.” She then continues:

While the poems might be taken simply as a general lament about the illusoriness of love or the desire for death, many have clue words which indicate that they are directed specifically at persons to whom he wishes to give either a ‘certain thrilling caress”’or a ‘certain malicious prod’. There are several that are obviously addressed to Llewelyn, at least seven to Frances, one to Louis, and a bitter one that refers to the ‘pond-newt’ who is ‘silky and soft and lewd’. (Descents of Memory, pp. 145-146).

The dust cover is also of interest for the list of books published by G. Arnold Shaw, the non-Powys authors being Ian C. Hannah and I. B. Stoughton Holborn.

Dante Thomas quotes Powys collector, Lloyd Emerson Siberell, who states that the ‘very first 100 copies of this book to reach the publisher had a beetle design upon the paper label; later issues of the first printing had the white paper, plain label’. I have to say that I have never yet seen one of the beetle books that Siberell claimed to exist.

The book.

John Cowper Powys, Wolf’s-Bane, G. Arnold Shaw, New York, 1916.

Not published in England.

The book first sold for $1.25. An old receipt found inside the book shows that by 1929 this volume sold for $3.

© John Dunn.