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JAMES, M. R.

Ghost-Stories of an Antiquary.

With four illustrations by the late James McBryde.

London: Edward Arnold, 1904 Stock Code: 143512
£1,500.00
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First edition, first impression. With the publisher's adverts dated November 1904. Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was a scholar and the author of numerous ghost stories which he began writing after entering Cambridge in 1882, quickly becoming known for his candlelit readings to fellow scholars.

Several of James's ghost stories were printed in general magazines in the 1890s and in 1904 he was prevailed on by the publisher Edward Arnold to bring out the present collection of eight tales. The illustrator, James McBryde, died in June 1904 from complications following an appendix operation, leaving the illustrations for this book unfinished. Arnold suggested another illustrator, however, James, a close friend of McBryde's, was adamant that he could not be replaced and the work was published with just the four completed illustrations as a tribute to his friend. The fourth plate in the book (facing p. 222) was the last McBryde prepared before his death. He wrote excitedly to James on 6 May 1904, "I have finished the Whistle ghost... I covered yards of paper to put in the moon shadows correctly and it is certainly the best thing I have ever drawn".

"There is no question of apprenticeship here; the first story, 'Canon Alberic's Scrap Book', contains the donnish tone, the massing of verisimilitudinous detail (often of a tongue-in-cheek scholarly sort), and the using of that detail to intensify the terror when it comes that are his trademarks. The popularity of the first collection led to requests for moreamong fans were the prince of Wales and Theodore Rooseveltand (seven) More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary appeared in 1911, A Thin Ghost and other Stories (five in all) in 1919, and A Warning to the Curious (six stories) in 1925" (ODNB).

Many of the tales were used as Christmas Eve entertainments, an idea that was taken up by the BBC in 2000 when they filmed Christopher Lee reading James's stories in King's College, Cambridge, as the author himself had done years before.

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Description

Octavo. Original brown buckram, yapp edges, spine and front board lettered in black, boards double ruled in red.

Illustrations

Frontispiece with tissue-guard and 3 plates. With 16 pp. of adverts at end, dated November 1904.

Condition

Bookplate of Graham Pollard to front pastedown, ownership inscription of T. H. Soulby to front free endpaper. Spine a little browned, minor rubbing to edges, a couple of small marks to cloth, light foxing to contents, overall bright, inner hinges neatly cleaned and reinforced; a very good copy.

Bibliography

Bleiler 911.

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