Need urgent help with The shipbuilder


Oct 28, 2004
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Hi all,

I'm new to this list though I have been drawing upon your expertise for some time now on various research questions and book tips. I am currently selling a copy of the Olympic and Titanic "Shipbuilder" on eBay, and a bidder suggested to me that it might have been rebound.

It is a bright red cloth hardback binding with gilt letters, and a depressed winding ornament surrounding the edges of front cover. It appears to me to be a period 1911 binding, it certainly shows ageing, and the previous owner's name and date 1911 shows up on the very first otherwise empty page. Is it possible that this edition is an original binding that once had a dust jacket?

As I want to give as honest a response to the bidder as I can, and as complete an item description as I can, I beg for hints and clues as to variation bindings of this book. I want you all to know that my intention is not to promote my sale through ET, but to get help solving a problem which may force me to rethink the suggested value of this book. Any help (and the faster the better) will be greatly appreciated.

You can view pictures of the book on eBay by searching "shipbuilder titanic".

Best regards, Peter Bjorkfors
 
Nov 12, 2000
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Peter,
This binding is not the original 1911 hardcover binding. There is an outside chance that this is an alternate 1911 binding, but I have never seen or heard of one before now. To my knowledge there never was a 1911 binding with a dust jacket. The original printing came in two versions, a hardcover green cloth binding, and a color illustrated paperback binding.

It is difficult to say with any certainty from the picture, there is not enough detail, but my gut feeling is that this is more modern cloth edition. But if that were the case, it would typically state that somewhere in the book, either on the copyright page or at the end of the book. The two reprint editions I own both plainly state the reprint information. There have been several other reprints over the years though, and I don't have them all, so I can't compare bindings to determine for certain. And it is not necessarily the case that a reprint must be identified as such.

Wish I could give you a more definitive answer, but the only thing I can state with reasonable certainty is this:

The red binding is not original to the 1911 edition. It could be a rebind of the original, or it could be a more modern printing.

I think you can make that statement in all honesty. But I would go back through the book carefully and make sure there are no more modern printings listed anywhere. If there are not, you can make that statement as well, although, as I said already, that does not in of itself prove it is a true 1911 printing.

Hope that helps you somewhat.
Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
Oct 28, 2004
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Hi Michael,

And thanks. The mystery deepens. I am 100 percent certain that it is not a modern reprint or facsimile. Beside the signature of the previous owner (a name found only in Finland) appearing with the date 1911 on the first page, the book also has an "old" smell, texture and quality of paper, if you know what I mean. Also, with the location of the signature, the re-binding would have had to have been done in 1911. Today after this question arose, I took the book to two different quality antiquarian booksellers, and both of them were sure that it was a period 1911 binding, and that the binding had not been tampered with. (They also got a greedy look in their eyes =)) Could this still be an instance of "an outside chance that this is an alternate 1911 binding"?

Best, Peter
 
Nov 12, 2000
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Hi Peter,
I'm glad you took this to some local dealers who could look at the copy in person. When trying to verify authenticity, there is no substitute for holding the book in your hands.

It is possible that it is an alternate 1911 binding. Again I have never heard of one, but that doesn't mean it never existed. On the other hand, it might be an early reprint, say from 1912 after the Titanic disaster? It seems like a logical thing for the publisher to do, but I am now just speculating.

I will tell you this, to my knowledge, after the 1911 editions this book was not reprinted until 1970! I have always found that hard to believe. Is it possible this is a reprint done in 1912, or shortly thereafter?. It is a possibility, though I have to state clearly that I have no knowledge that any such edition was ever made.

I am curious about one thing, you said that with the location of the signature, the rebinding would have to have been done in 1911. Why do you say that? Where is the signature?

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
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"I will tell you this, to my knowledge, after the 1911 editions this book was not reprinted until 1970! I have always found that hard to believe."

I distinctly recall seeing this book on sale in a bookseller's window in South Castle Street, Liverpool (possibly James Laver) in the 1950s.

The area has since been bulldozed.

I seem to recall the book seeming to be much larger and thicker than the more recent editions. It was not alone - possibly the Lusitania/Mauretania version accompanied it.

I would suggest an enquiry on Patrick Stephens would elicit their antecedent copyright holder; possibly the Shipbuilder & Marine Engine Builder itself or Benn Brothers (Marine Publications) Ltd.

Of course there's the possibility they may have been originals!

Noel
 

Kalman Tanito

Member
Jul 9, 2002
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I would also venture to say that Peter's book is possibly an original 1911 softcover that disintegrated as a result of much use and it was rebound by its previous owner in the 1910s-1920s.

I wonder, though, where the signature is so that it dates the binding exactly to 1911 and not just around that time period.

Kalman
 
Oct 28, 2004
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Whilst I am still sure that the Contents are truly 1911, I have decided to notify my bidders that there is serious reason to question the authenticity of the binding, and sell the book below my initial reserve.

With regards to Kalman's suggestion that it is rebound from a disintegrated softcover, I was told that the softcover had colour illustrations while mine is all black and white.

It is hard to describe what I mean with the signature without you seeing the book.

At any rate, thank you all for your help and comments, and any future hints would be appreciated.

Best, Peter
 
Nov 12, 2000
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Hi Noel,
I suspect your latter surmise is the right one, that the copies you saw in the 1950s were original 1911 editions. I have done a lot of research on this book, including the Library of Congress, the British Library Integrated Catalogue and the British University Library database, as well as years of watching the used book sites - I have never run across any evidence of an edition between 1911 and 1970.

Kalman, I agree with you. If this is an original 1911 edition, then it was probably rebound at some point, whether in 1911 or later, hard to say.

Peter, the softcover edition had a color illustrated front cover - not color illustrations inside the book. The text and images would have been identical, just the bindings would have been different. In any event, your comments to the bidder about the possible authenticity of the binding is a fair statement.

Best of luck with your auction!
Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

Monica Miller

Member
Oct 23, 2004
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Peter,
I don't know if this will help you or not but I think I have an original shipbuilder as well. It's the green hard cover and inside, on the hard cover, left side, on the bottom right is a little pink affixed label stating "R. Robinson &Co.
Bookbinders, Printers, Lithographers Newcastle upon Tyne" Does your book have this little label inside? I tried accessing your ebay listing but since I haven't bought anything from ebay since 1997 ebay doesn't recognize my old name.
 

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