January 14

It was possible upon this date in 1920 for a fortunate bibliophile with an interest in printing to purchase at auction any of the more than two thousand books from the library of the great American printer, Theodore Low De Vinne which were then being offered for realized just over twenty-four thousand dollars, and the printing historian Henry L. Bullen remarks that this was about forty percent more than De Vinne had paid for them, since he was a “careful buyer.”

The Newberry Library of Chicago was the most notable purchaser at the auction, having fortunately received a short time before a bequest which was to be used for the acquisition of books about typography.

Another purchaser present at the auction, but with somewhat fewer cash reserves (a situation perhaps mitigated by a lively sense of humor), was the Printer to Yale University, Carl Purington Rollins.

While others who witnessed the sale spent a great deal of time lauding the great American printer whose library was being liquidated, Mr. Rollins went home to New Haven and composed a sonnet, which he entitled “On Buying at Auction a Book Once in the Library of Theodore Low De Vinne.

O scholar-printer! Ripe with all the lore
Which appertains to printing and to type,
And, as becomes a man with learning ripe,
A bookman with an ever growing store.
From out their teeming pages you distilled
The essence which you freely gave to us
Who followed in your footsteps, envious
To know it all, albeit far less skilled.

Your learning oft my ignorance has vexed,
But, Master, now you have me sore perplexed
(although nil nisi bonum one believes):
This book which so much pleases, also grieves,
For when I open it to read the text
I find that you had never cut the leaves.

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