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(JAMES, M. R.) McBRYDE, James.

The Story of a Troll-Hunt.

Published: Cambridge: Printed at the University Press, 1904

Stock code: 109188

Price: £975

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First edition, first impression, of a putative edition of 100 copies and decidedly uncommon: Copac lists only three locations in British and Irish institutional libraries (BL, V&A, Cambridge), OCLC adds just five more. “James McBryde was a student and friend of M. R. James (MRJ). He came up to King’s[Cambridge] in 1893 to read Natural Sciences. Although McBryde was 10 years younger than MRJ the pair became firm friends. McBryde joined MRJ’s bookish circle and was one of the select few who heard MRJ’s ghost stories by the light of a candle in a draughty set of rooms at King’s. The friendship between the two men outlived McBryde’s Cambridge career and between 1899 and 1901 they travelled each year to Denmark and Sweden. These adventures would later inspire two of MRJ’s ghost stories (‘No. 13’ and ‘Count Magnus’) and McBryde’s children’s book The Story of the Troll-Hunt. The story told of three Cambridge men who travelled to Jutland to hunt monsters to bring back to the Fitzwilliam Museum – MRJ was the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1893 to 1908. McBryde and his wife Gwendolyn settled in London in 1904 when McBryde enrolled at the Slade School of Art. Shortly after beginning his art studies, MRJ approached him with the idea of illustrating his ghost stories. McBryde, already familiar with the stories, welcomed the opportunity… Sadly… McBryde died a month later of complications following an appendix operation… It has been suggested the McBryde was the love of MRJ’s life. MRJ is known to have picked flowers from the Fellows Garden at King’s and travelled up with them on the train to McBryde’s funeral in Lancashire where he tossed them into his friend’s grave. After McBryde’s death, MRJ arranged for the publication of The Story of a Troll-Hunt with Cambridge University Press and wrote an introduction for the volume. One of its illustrations is a cartoon of MRJ, James McBryde and William Johnson Stone sitting on a bench on the Backs plotting their adventure. MRJ was named legal guardian of McBryde’s daughter Jane who was born six months after her father’s death. MRJ, the consummate Victorian bachelor, maintained a lifelong friendship with McBryde’s widow Gwendolyn and his daughter Jane. The two women became a surrogate family for him” (King’s College, Cambridge online).

Quarto. Original vellum backed grey boards, lettered in black on front cover. Illustrated throughout by James McBryde. Spotting to vellum spine, light rubbing to corners, light off setting to endpapers. A very good copy.

Bibliography: Locke, Spectrum of Fantasy, I p. 145.

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