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W. B. Yeats’s Mosada1

Colin Smythe

© Colin Smythe, CC BY 4.0

As is well known to all collectors of the works of W. B. Yeats, Mosada. A Dramatic Poem, printed by Sealy, Bryers, & Walker of Dublin in 1886, is the most sought-after and most valuable of all his works, with copies selling for many tens of thousands of pounds.2 Wade accords it the status of being Yeats’s first ‘book’,3 while yet firmly stating that it is an ‘off-print from The Dublin University Review, June 1886’ (DUR, 473–83).

Being a second use of the type, this separate publication was a reprint as far as the printers were concerned. Such is acknowledged on the front cover, which Wade uses as a facing illustration, where it is stated between rules ‘Reprinted from THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY REVIEW, while below ‘DUBLIN’: are the words ‘PRINTED [rather than PUBLISHED] BY SEALY, BRYERS, AND WALKER’, followed by their street address (see Plate 4 above, p. 16). Yeats himself stated that it was thus, but his use of such terms as ‘reprinted’ and ‘publication’ was not necessarily bibliographically exact.4 To Katharine Tynan, it was ‘privately printed’.5 It was probably available for distribution in late October or the first week of November 1886. The absence of a price on the cover could mean that it was undecided at the time of printing, but A. J. A. Symons states that it was sold for one shilling.6

The first the Dublin public knew of its appearance was a note in the November issue of the DUR:

We are glad to note the publication by MESSRS. SEALY BRYERS & WALKER of the powerful and pathetic poem, ‘Mosada’ contributed to a recent number of this REVIEW by Mr. W. B. Yeats. The reprint contains a pen-and-ink portrait of the author by Mr. J. B. Yeats—a very beautiful and characteristic piece of work admirably reproduced on zinc by a Dublin engraver, Mr. Lewis. (958)

This notice of ‘publication’ is more a mere advertisement than a review, of course, yet it mentions no price and does not seem to seek a wide sale. William M. Murphy claims that ‘[t]he volume had little sale. Papa and Willie gave copies away liberally’.7 Writing in 1939, P. S. O’Hegarty, the Dublin book collector and bibliographer (among many other things),8 stated that before he had seen A. J. A. Symons’s statement that the edition had been of 100 copies, he had believed that the number was fifty, because ‘if 100 copies had been printed I would expect rather more copies to turn up than actually have turned up, especially in Dublin’. He continued ‘[Since this [type] was set up, I have been informed by Miss E. C. Yeats that the edition was 100.]’9

This present working note provides a numbered census of known, identified, surviving copies as well as a record of copies which have passed through the sale rooms but of which the present whereabouts are unknown. It also mentions copies which have been known in the past and which may no longer exist. It further describes the varying paper types on the known items, and essays various bio-bibliographical connexions.

According to Joseph Hone’s biography of Yeats, the booklet had been brought about by John Butler Yeats, the poet’s father who, assisted by his friend Professor Edward Dowden, ‘collected a few subscribers’, the principal one being his brother, the Rev. John Dowden (1840–1910), soon to be elected Bishop of Edinburgh (a position he held till his death). ‘[O]n hearing some years later of Yeats’s rising fame and of the rarity of his early work, [the Bishop] jingled his episcopal keys and sent his daughter up to the Palace library to search for his twelve copies. Not one could be found’.10

Writing to his friend Coventry Patmore on 7 November, 1886, Gerard Manley Hopkins, then a fellow at the Jesuit-run University College, Dublin (a constituent college of the Royal, now National University of Ireland), mentioned that he had called on the young Yeats’s father, ‘by desire lately’;

he is a painter, and with some emphasis of manner he presented me with Mosada, A Dramatic Poem, by W. B. Yeats, with a portrait of the author by J. B. Yeats, himself; the young man having finely cut features, and his father being a fine draughtsman. For a young man’s pamphlet this was something too much; but you will understand a father’s feeling.11

Yeats himself was clearly embarrassed by the portrait: in March 1904 he was to inscribe a copy belonging to John Quinn12 (recently sold to a private buyer from the collection of Milton McC. Gatch13),

There was to have been a picture of some incident in the play but my father was too much of a portrait painter not to do this instead. I was alarmed at the impudence of putting a portrait in my first work, but my father was full of ancient & modern instances. (See Plates 33 and 5 above, p. 17).

And in the Roth copy now in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin, Yeats reiterated that he had had little choice in the matter:

It was my father who insisted on the portrait for he refused to consider any body’s diffidence where a portrait was concerned, it was also his insistence that kept me bearded.

Plate 33. Frontispiece portrait of W. B. Yeats by John Butler Yeats (1886) in John Quinn’s copy of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem with W. B. Yeats’s 1904 inscription. Courtesy of Maggs Bros., London.

As can be seen from the Gatch inscription however, his embarrassment did not prevent him sending copies out for review.

Yeats himself kept no copy, and it would seem that none were sent to the six British Copyright libraries. Thin and flimsy as they were, they were all too easily lost. At present I know of only two copies in Ireland, that in the collection which I sold to the Dublin City Library in 1965, and the one in the National Library of Ireland, which it acquired in 2010. A third is claiming temporary residence there. In Britain I know of three, two in the Bodleian Library, and the one from the Gatch Collection described above, but all the other copies I know of are, I believe, in the USA—though, given the present secrecy of auction houses regarding their buyers, it is impossible to tell.14

My numbered census below, however, ranges beyond the fifteen copies of which I now know the whereabouts, or have recently seen, all but four of which are in institutional libraries. I begin the census with the only known review copy, because it was no doubt dispatched as soon as copies were received from the printers. Measurements are in centimetres, and in each case, the paper as described is that of the wrapper. It goes without saying that the measurements and paper types of those copies that neither I nor my informants have seen cannot be given, being unknown.

1. Milton McC. Gatch collection, ex-Quinn (sold by Maggs Bros. in 2015 to a private buyer) 21.5 × 13.8, plain paper. Front cover inscribed ‘For Review with the Author’s compliments’—circular stain on bottom half of front cover, lower extremities frayed, inner hinges restored. Inscribed to John Quinn (see above), lot 11340 in the Quinn sale, where it fetched $300.00. This, later the W. Van R. Whitall copy, was sold to Morton McMichael by mid-1935, possibly the presentation copy sold at Hodgson’s on 20/6/34, lot 62, bought by Maggs for £40.00.15 It was eventually sold to McC. Gatch at Sotheby’s New York, 17 December, 1992, lot 345, $60,000.

It seems logical to assume that other review copies could still be extant. As none of the currently ‘known but unaccounted for’ copies (see list below) has ever been described as a review copy, the following brief account of known reviews is listed below.

The DUR review copy. The notice above (p. 240) surely indicates that the DUR had itself received a copy.

The Freeman’s Journal review copy. Used to review Mosada on 27 November 1886, 5—‘When “Mosada” was first published in the Dublin University Review, we freely expressed our sense of its many excellences, and our appreciation of the promise that it gave. With sincere pleasure, therefore, we welcome its republication, and our only regret is that the author should have limited the edition to a very small number of copies’ (5).

The Graphic review copy. Used to review Mosada on 26 March 1887, ‘A very striking, though brief, dramatic sketch is “Mosada: A Dramatic Poem”’ (23).

The Manchester Guardian review copy. Although not reviewed at the time of publication, Mosada is referred to in ‘Books of the Week’ on 15 October 1888, when reviewing Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, WBY’s ‘tendency to mysticism and Orientalism, well known to those who are familiar with his striking lyrics and his more ambitious “Mosada” are real helps towards the due appreciation of the unwritten poetry of the most mystical people in Western Europe’ (7).

This copy was later in the possession of a Dublin Daily Express reviewer who, when writing on The Poems of William Blake and The Celtic Twilight on 2 January 1894, noted ‘We still possess his first published work, a poem entitled “Mosada” sent to the Man[chester Guardian] for review’ (6). Again, when writing on Poems in the same paper, evidently the same reviewer remarked:

Those acquainted with Mr. Yeats’s work will learn with sorrow that among the poems eliminated is the dramatic sketch “Mosada”, which, rightly or wrongly, we deem the high-water mark of his achievements in poetry. It is one of the few poems from his hand with a deep human interest, and in this, if not on the ground of superiority of workmanship, we regret its omission in this, his first collected volume. The first and only edition of “Mosada” sent in 1886 for review lies before us.16

The Irish Monthly review copy. Katharine Tynan reviewed Mosada in the Monthly as the first item in ‘Three Young Poets’, March, 1887 (166–68). It is not known whether she did this from a separate review copy, or from her own presentation copy, for which see next item. The review, however, states that the DUR text has been ‘reproduced’ in ‘its less perishable form’, ‘in pamphlet form, with a stiff paper cover’ (166; also CH 66–67).

2. Katharine Tynan / Beinecke Library copy, Yale University [Ip Y34 886m] 21.5 x 13.8, silurian paper, lined white. Mentioned in Tynan’s Twenty-Five Years: Reminiscences17 it is inscribed ‘Miss K Tynan from her friend and fellow worker in Irish Poetry the author’: it was sold at Sotheby’s on 1 April 1914 (lot 853) to Maggs for £6–10s. It now forms part of the Garvan Collection of Books on Ireland, set up in 1931 with funds provided by Francis P. Garvan (1875–1937) Yale Class of 1897, in memory of his parents, but there is no record of when it was purchased. It was exhibited, I believe, as item n. 1 in the Yale University Library’s 1939 exhibition of Yeats’s works, and so must have been acquired in the 1930s. Tynan had reciprocated by giving WBY a copy of her 1887 Shamrocks, now in the Smythe collection in the Dublin City Library, inscribed ‘To dear Willie Yeats, with the belief in him and the affectionate friendship of the writer, May 30th’.

3. Frederick J. Gregg’s copy. 21.6 × 13.7, silurian paper, lined white. Gregg (1864–1927) had been a contemporary of WBY’s at the Erasmus Smith High School and in late 1886 was living at 6 Eccles St., Dublin. He published poems in the Irish Monthly and two were later in Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland (1888). However, ‘El Greggo’ (as John Quinn later termed him, emigrated to the U.S. in 1891 where he became a journalist on the New York Evening Sun: see CL1 7–8 esp n. 1. This copy was purchased by Alfred Tennyson DeLury (1864–1951) from C. Gerhadt & Co. Rare Books, New York, in May 1916 for $25.00.18 DeLury was Dean of Arts at the University of Toronto and was an avid collector of works by Irish Literary Renaissance writers, as well becoming as a friend of the Yeats family. On his death his collection was donated to the University, which created the Alfred Tennyson DeLury Collection in the Fisher Rare Book Library. It would appear that his family kept back Mosada when they donated his remarkable collection to the University. A century with one family—no wonder no one heard of it for so long! Its recent reappearance—it was recently exhibited for sale at the 2016 London Olympia Book Fair—offers the hope that further copies will turn up. Gregg’s copy is inscribed in an early hand ‘To F. Gregg from his friend the Author’. It is also the original of the facsimile edition (Plate 34).19

Plate 34. Yeats’s inscription in his presentation copy to Frederick J. Gregg of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem. © Colin Smythe and courtesy of private collection. All rights reserved.

4. Edward Dowden / Robert P. Esty & Frederic Dannay20 copy. Present whereabouts unknown to me. Inscribed ‘Prof. Dowden with the author’s compts’. ‘Messrs. Hodgson in London yesterday concluded the sale of the first and modern portion of the library of the late Professor Dowden’ (Daily Express, Dublin, 8/11/1913, 5), in which was doubtless included this copy of Mosada. Dowden had died on 4 April 1913. It formed the last lot in the sale of the collection of Robert Pegram Esty (1877–1958), of Philadelphia, at the Parke-Bernet Galleries on 22 October 1963 (lot 411) with an estimated price of $2,500–2,750, but selling for $3,750. It was resold through Parke Bernet New York as part of Frederic Dannay’s collection on 16 December 1983 (lot 397), to ‘Lyon’ for $30,000 (estimate $12,000–15,000). Given the number that Bishop John Dowden received for his generous subscription (see next item), it is almost certain that Edward Dowden must also have had more than one copy.

5. Bishop John Dowden’s 12 copies, as described above, also n. 9 above. Present whereabouts of all these is unknown, further searches in Edinburgh this year were—not surprisingly—also fruitless. One hopes, nevertheless.

6. Gerard Manley Hopkins copy. Present whereabouts unknown. Presentation copy from John Butler Yeats mentioned in letter from GMH to Patmore, 7 November, 1886, probably no more than two days after their meeting in JBY’s studio.21 See also above, pp. 145-17 and 242 n. 10.

7. ‘Miss Veasey’ / Buhler. Present whereabouts unknown. The copy in the C. Walter Buhler sale at Parke-Bernet Gallery (1/5/41 lot 130, $190) was inscribed ‘Miss Veasey with good wishes for the New Year from her friend the author’. This was probably Ethel Mary Veasey (1863–1905) the elder sister of Harley [not Charles] Cyril Veasey (1865–1926), who protected the thirteen-year-old WBY from bullying at the Godolphin School (Life 1, 26). Their father Robert G. Veasey (1834–1912), was a clerk at the Bank of England. Ethel was a friend of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, and is mentioned by name in a letter from ECY to Katharine Tynan, 29 Dec 1889 (Southern Illinois) quoted in CLI 203, n. 4. She had given a Christmas present in 1889 to ECY (a Spanish fan). Perhaps ECY encouraged her brother to reciprocate for the New Year with this copy of Mosada?

8. T. W. Rolleston copy seen by Wade in 1908. Its subsequent ownership history and present whereabouts unknown. T. W. Rolleston owned a copy which he lent to Allan Wade for examination when he was compiling his 1908 bibliography. It is reasonable to assume that it would have been signed by WBY.

9. Zena Powell / Dr F. S. Bourke. Present whereabouts unknown. 3/12/1962, Sotheby’s, to Wright, £580.00. Inscribed to ‘Miss Zena Powell from her friend the Author’. In 1956 loaned by Dr F. S. Bourke to the Trinity College Dublin Library for the exhibition (‘lower wrapper missing’). It was offered for sale by Mrs M. Whitley ‘from the collection of the late Dr F. S. Bourke’. From the marked-up sale catalogue retained by Sotheby’s there is a suggestion that the reserve was £700 and the copy was bought in. Nevertheless, the published listing of prices and buyers for the sale notes a figure of £580 sold to ‘Wright’. It is likely that the copy in the ‘private collection in Dublin’ mentioned in the 1951 and 1958 editions of Wade (Wade 1 and Wade 2) was Dr Bourke’s, and that obviously Brig. Gen. Alspach had not been aware of its subsequent history when editing Wade 3. The type of p. 18 of Wade 2 and Wade 3, which entirely relates to owners of Mosada, had no changes made to it between the editions. Sotheby’s records give no idea as to its subsequent fate. The repeated catalogue description of the torn condition of the back cover makes it likely that this is the same copy sold at Hodgson’s on 7 December 1933 (lot 426) to Lee for £27–10–0, and again by them on 17 July 1935 (lot 167) to Radcliff for £19–0–0, the drop in value perhaps indicating a further deterioration of the back cover, later lost in its entirety.

10. John O’Leary / John Quinn / Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox & Tilden Foundations. 22.00 × 13.9, silurian 85% red, 15% blue, lined white. Lot 11339 in Quinn’s sale catalogue, this too is an early presentation copy, inscribed ‘Mr J O’Leary from his disciple and friend the Author W B Yeats’. (Plate 35). Sold for $260.00. At the time of the sale, and at the time of its acquisition by the Berg Collection, it was accompanied by a wrapper addressed to Quinn, postmarked 24 April 1903.

Plate 35. Yeats’s inscription in his presentation copy to John O’Leary of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem. © the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, and the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations,
New York Public Library. All rights reserved.

11. Henrietta Alma Pollexfen / William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California. 21.6 × 13.9 silurian, red threads, lined white (without checking the entire cover with a strong magnifier the non-existence of blue is not a certainty). It is inscribed ‘H.A. Pollexfen from W. B. Yeats’, which hardly indicates warmth (Plate 36). On the inside back cover there is the label of E[dward] W. Titus, who had bought this copy at Sotheby’s on 19 December 1924 for £46. He published books at the Sign of the Black Manikin Press, 4 rue Delambre, Paris (14e), between 1927 and 1932.22 Henrietta Alma Johnstone married WBY’s uncle Frederick Henry Pollexfen (1852–1933) in 1881, they having eight, possibly nine, children before he filed for divorce in 1899, on the grounds of her adultery with Roland Edward Bennison. Following the divorce Frederick sued an unnamed borrower (Bennison?) for the loss of this copy which he had obviously kept, with some other books, an event mentioned in Clement Shorter’s ‘literary letter’ in the 21 December 1901 issue of the Sphere. WBY, when writing a sympathetic valuation for the defendant, said he considered Mosada of no worth at this time, giving as his reason that there was no demand for it, but Frederick, the ‘shabby relation’ mentioned in WBY’s letter to Lady Gregory of 22 December 1901, got Elkin Mathews to value it at £10. He was awarded £6–10s for the lot, with Mosada valued at £5 (CL3 139). This copy was later sold by the Parke-Bernet Gallery on 9 October 1951 (lot 707) for $390.

Plate 36. Henrietta Alma Pollexfen’s copy of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem. © the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles. All rights reserved.

12. Thomas Edwin Butler Yeats / Grace Butler Yeats / National Library of Ireland. 21.5 × 13.8, silurian paper, coloured fibres, lined white, lacking small piece at bottom of front cover, which has been repaired as has the damage to the back cover. Grace B. Yeats’s copy, left to her by her father, and sold at Sotheby’s, 13/7/2000, lot 78, £42,000; with a letter from her to her mother, October 1925, discussing the family and mentioning this copy of Mosada. It was later offered for sale by Bloomsbury New York, 21/4/2010, lot 105, $60,000, unsold at the auction, but bought later. Grace Butler Yeats was WBY’s second cousin once removed. A Canadian, she called to see him in Dublin, 13 October 1925: see John Kelly, A W. B. Yeats Chronology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 243. In a letter of 7 October [1925], WBY sets up the appointment for their meeting at 4.30 pm in 82 Merrion Square, remarking that ‘I remember your father well & his father Matt Yeats—that old life is all very vivid to me’ (CL InteLex, 4784). In her letter to her mother Grace writes: ‘…Tell Dad to hold on tight to his Mosada. The value is going up. Lolly has a lot of first copies of W.B’.s but not that. She says one of it was sold recently in London for £30. A friend of hers sold it for £6 and it was sold later for £30. So that 1/- was not a bad investment of Dad’s…’ (Plate 37).

Plate 37. Grace Yeats’s copy of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem. © the National Library of Ireland. All rights reserved.

13. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin TX [HRHRC] / William M. Roth copy, 21.5 × 14.0 plain. Sold at New York’s Anderson Galleries in 1926, offered by Scribner Booksellers, NYC, in their 1948 and 1949 catalogues for US$500, bought by William M. Roth, and sold (at cost) to The Harry Ransom Center, Austin TX, had been inscribed by Yeats when in Dublin, ‘The first copy that I have seen for many years. The play was published in the Dublin University Review & from that reprinted in the present form & had of course no success of any kind. It was my father who insisted on the portrait for he refused to consider any body’s diffidence where a portrait was concerned, it was also his insistence that kept me bearded. WB Yeats Nov 10, 1923’. He added, on page 11, ‘I read this through for the first time since it was first published. I wrote it when I was twenty one & think rather sadly that if a young man of that age sent in like work I [would] not be able to foresee his future or his talent. W B Yeats’.

William Roth had set up the exhibition of Yeats’s works ‘held in the Yale University Library beginning May 13, 1939’ and written the catalogue / bibliography that accompanied it. He wrote to me in June 1982:

‘In answer to your question—the bibliography came from a number of sources: the books shown at the Yale Library were their own plus mine—mostly the latter. I had put together a fairly complete collection plus letters, proof copies and manuscripts in days when buying both in shops in London and New York and at auction was fairly easy and inexpensive (corrected proofs of Countess Kathleen at $40). I also used a small collection at Mills College near San Francisco, the Harvard Library and the New York Public Library. The Quinn catalogue was, of course, helpful as was the excellent collection of James A. Healy in New York (I have no idea what ever became of his books).23 Miss24 Yeats was helpful, too.

After the war when I was working in the oil fields in Texas, it seemed to me the collection should be in safe keeping so I sold it to the University of Texas at cost—and regretted it ever since. Perhaps, however, it was just as well’.

14. Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1 [Don. D. 85] 21.7 × 13.7 bound in thick, darker, pinker, paper, unlined, almost card. As a result cover is printed more solidly. Came via the Friends of the Bodleian from the family of the late Mr. J. G. Legge in 1940.

15. Bodleian Library, Oxford, 2 [Arch. AA e 79] 21.7 × 13.8 silurian, 85% red, 15% blue, lined white (lighter colour than the text paper). Donated to the Library in 1957, but no information as to the donor.

16. Dublin City Library’s Colin Smythe collection. 21.7 × 13.8, silurian red/blue. Bought at Sotheby’s by Bernard Quaritch acting for Colin Smythe, 11 May 1964 £650. The front and back covers had separated and were stuck together with adhesive tape, which had degraded, before being repaired by its new owner. Some staining from the tape remains. It formed part of his collection sold to the Dublin City Library in 1965. Earlier provenance unknown (Plate 38).

Plate 38. Dublin City Library copy of Mosada: A Dramatic Poem. © Colin Smythe. All rights reserved.

17. Boston College, via Bradley Martin (d. 23/4/88) Brian Leeming: 21.5 × 13.7 silurian, lined. Original cover, minor fraying at extremities, vertical crease where formerly folded—bought by Bradley Martin in 198625—Sotheby’s New York, 1/5/90, lot 3340, $85,000.

18. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Boston, MA. 21.6 × 13.7 plain paper lined white. Provenance and date of acquisition unknown.

19. University of N. Carolina, Chapel Hill, via George Mills Harper. Yeats PR5904.M67 1886. 21.6 x 13.6, original wraps, some spotting, has a pale ochre/light brown thick paper cover, unlined, without the silurian flecks in the paper. Cyril I. Nelson (New York)Anthony HobsonSotheby’s, 28/6/96, lot 283, £42,000 ($64,680).

20. Oliver Brett, 3rd Viscount Esher / Stuart Rose. 21.5 × 13.7, plain paper. Esher sale 20 November 1946, bought by C.J. Sawyer on behalf of Lord Berwick for £54–0–0, exhibited National Book League, London, 1947. The title page of this copy was reproduced in the second edition of the NBL’s catalogue of the exhibition, in which it appeared as n. 294. Lord EsherLord BerwickJames GilvarryGarden, Ltd [Haven O’More26/Michael Davis] James O. EdwardsStuart Rose (by private treaty, April 2006). Phillips, Son & Neale 17/9/63 lot 289, £750 to House of Books, for a client, presumably James P. Gilvarry;27 New York, Christie’s New York, 7/2/86, lot 464, $33,000; Sotheby’s New York, 10/11/89, lot 200, $80,000.

More inscribed copies may well turn up: who knows what may be sitting in some wealthy family’s library? And, in addition to, or perhaps including those described or postulated above as ‘present whereabouts unknown’, I have yet to discover the present whereabouts of the following:

21. Paul Lemperley Estate. Sold at Parke Burnet Galleries, 5/1/40 (lot 1035) for $175.00.

22. Arthur Barnette Spingarn’s copy, with his bookplate. Sold by Sotheby’s London on 19/6/62, on behalf of ‘a gentleman resident in New York’, to The House of El Dieff [i.e., Lew D. Feldman] £820. In 1940 Spingarn (1878–1971) succeeded his brother Joel Elias Spingarn (1875–1939), a civil rights activist who was the second President (1930–39) of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in the USA, holding the Presidency until 1965. In 1948 he sold his vast collection of material relating to the African-American experience to Howard University, and in 1966 he sold his art collections at the Parke-Bernet Galleries. The vendor of this copy also sold Maud Gonne’s copy of The Book of the Rhymer’s Club (lot 68) and Shaw’s copy of the 1903 Where There is Nothing (lot 71).

23. Thomas Rice Henn’s copy seen by me c.1970. This copy would have formed part of his Estate at the time of his death in December 1974, unless he had sold it after he showed it to me. In his Will he had stated that he had marked those books he wanted to go to St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, and to the Sligo Museum, but neither have it. Following his death in December 1974, the residue of his books were sold on his widow’s behalf by Deighton Bell Booksellers, of Cambridge, who no longer exist, nor do its records for this period. Could this have been the copy (lot 573) sold at Sotheby’s to El Dieff for £1,400 on 6 July 1971, and whose present owner is unknown? Mere guesswork, but the sale of a treasured possession might not be something one would talk about.

If we assume that every one of the ‘unknowns’ recorded is not one of the ‘knowns’, or the same one appearing a number of times, we are still left with approximately a fifth of those printed.28 I have looked through all volumes of Book Auction Records from 1902 until they ceased publication in the 1990s, and have found about thirty copies offered for sale by auction (a couple of which failed to sell). Of these, eight lack any distinguishing marks, but the rest I have identified with absolute, or reasonable, certainty. One pricing oddity stands out: in 1989, when named copies were selling in New York for a minimum of $30,000, Mealy’s of Dublin sold one unnamed copy for a mere £1,200 (22/3/89, lot 345).29

I have also very recently been studying the cover paper variants used on those extant copies of Mosada I have been able to see, not because they have any impact on value or give any indication of order of printing or any other reason, but purely out of curiosity, to provide additional information to what is known about the surviving copies and what little can be learned of the production process. I wish I had thought to do this when I accepted Oxford University Press’s commission to complete the bibliography in 1980 as I could then have taken closer note of those copies that passed through the major British auction houses since then. Being unaware of the variants, the auctioneers never thought to be at all precise about the ‘wraps’, apart from noting their condition.

All the copies I have seen or know of can roughly be described as being bound in buff / light brown wrappers, and I saw seven copies in the latter half of 2013 alone. There are four cover-paper variants that I know of, listed below with their owners:

A. plain paper:

Gatch [review copy/ex Quinn] (Plate 4, p. 16)

HRHRC [ex Roth]

Stuart Rose [Lord Esher copy]

B. plain paper thicker/heavier than that used for the text:

Bodleian 1

George Harper UNC Chapel Hill

C. plain paper, inner surface white, termed ‘lined white’:

Houghton, Harvard

D. Silurian [granite] with c.85% red and 15% blue fibres, lined white:

Bodleian 2

Beinecke, Yale

Berg, NYPL

Boston College

William Andrews Clark

Dublin City Library [CPS]

The Frederick Gregg copy

National Library of Ireland [Grace Yeats: see Plate 37, p. 253]

The dimensions vary: the height 21.5 or 21.7 cm for the height of all the copies but one, and the widths between 13.6 and 14 cm. Wade gave it as 5¼”—13.4 cm—but all those I’ve seen are 13.6 cm or wider, hence my calling in the aid of the present owners. It is very likely that in using inches, Allan Wade approximated, choosing the nearer quarter inch. I have not seen or had reported to me any copy with the exact width given by him.

Dimensions: Height/width/paper type [Wade’s 8½” × 5¼” converts to cm 21.6 × 13.4]

21.5 cm

Stuart Rose

× 13.7



× 13.8



× 14.0


Beinecke Yale

× 13.8


Boston College

× 13.7



× 13.8


21.6 cm


× 13.7


F. Gregg

× 13.7


UNC Harper

× 13.6



× 13.9


21.7 cm

Bodleian 1

× 13.7


Bodleian 2

× 13.8


DCL Smythe

× 13.8


22.0 cm


× 13.9


As to the paper covers, the printers must have used up whatever paper they had to hand that was the right general buff colour, so there would probably be a minimum of six to eight copies of each variant, depending on sheet size, but, from the predominance of silurian/granite paper copies, it is likely that these made up the largest number.

The provenance of any book can be a fascinating insight into its history—or perhaps ‘career’—since it was sold or was a gift from the author. Often, they are enhanced by bookplates, offering an insight into their owners, while the speed with which they are resold can reflect how said owners may look on them, occasionally, it would appear, as mere financial investments, soon to be disposed of at a hoped-for profit, not always realised. The study of the last century’s sales has convinced me that missing copies will be found in the next decade or so: books for which one has paid tens of thousands of pounds/dollars do not get lost. Death tends to put a halt on a collector’s intentions, but when a book, such as Frederick J. Gregg’s copy, has been in the possession of one family for an entire century, for three generations, one has to recognise a very different—and rare—attitude towards it, and be amazed.

I am most grateful to Stuart Rose for describing his copy for me, and the following for their assistance in giving me descriptions of the copies of Mosada held in their libraries: Dr Isaac Gevirtz, Curator of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of the New York Public Library; Richard W. Oram, Associate Director of the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin; Nina M. Schneider, Head Cataloguer at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles; and Karen Spicher, Archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. I’m also very grateful to Dr Philip Errington of Sotheby’s London for all his assistance, and to Gretchen Hause of Christies, New York, for finding catalogue entries of half a century ago.

1 Further information may have been gathered since this article was prepared for publication. If you would like to find out if any further information has been discovered that may help your own research, why not write to the author at Quite apart from anything else, feedback is always welcomed.

2 In Yeats: The McC. Gatch Collection Maggs Catalogue 1492 (London: Maggs Bros., 2015), item 162, Mosada is described as ‘one of the black roses of modern literature’ (46).

3 See Allan Wade: A Bibliography of the Writings of W. B. Yeats (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1951), n. 1, an attribution followed in Wade (1968), 19; John Hayward: English Poetry. A Catalogue of First & Early Editions of the English Poets from Chaucer to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, for the National Book League, 1947), n. 294. In this article I refer to Wade’s bibliographies as Wade (1908), and the three editions published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1951, 1958 and 1968 as Wade 1, Wade 2 and Wade 3.

4 See below, his 1923 inscription in item 13.

5 See her Twenty-Five Years: Reminiscences (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1913). It is here that she declares Mosada ‘privately printed… a far cry from that to a limited edition at six guineas. Possibly Mosada made me sure of what he was. It has beautiful passages’ and at the time of writing Tynan still had it, ‘somewhere’ (256).

6 A. J. A. Symons, A Bibliography of the First Editions of Books by William Butler Yeats (London: The First Edition Club, 1924), 1.

7 See William M. Murphy, Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1839–1922) (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978), 146–47.

8 Apart from being a bibliophile, P. S. O’Hegarty (1879–1955) joined the Post Office in Cork in 1897, from which he resigned in 1918 following his refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance, was a member of the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and was editor of its publication, Irish Freedom (from 1910 until its suppression in 1914), and was Secretary to the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs from 1922 to 1945. He was elected to the Irish Academy of Letters in 1954. His son Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh founded the Irish language publisher Sáirséal agus Dill, and his daughter, Gráinne, married WBY’s son, Michael. His book collection was acquired in 1955 by the Kenneth Spencer Research Library of Kansas University, Lawrence, KA. See also Wayne K. Chapman, ‘P. S. O’Hegarty and the Yeats collection at the University of Kansas’, YA10 221–38 and Plates 5–7.

9 P. S. O’Hegarty, ‘Notes on the Bibliography of W. B. Yeats, I.—Notes on, and supplemental to, the existing bibliographies by Mr. Allan Wade and Mr. A. J. A. Symons, 1886–1922’, The Dublin Magazine 14:4 (October-December 1939), 61–65.

10 Joseph Hone, W. B. Yeats, 1865–1939 (London: Macmillan, 1942), 49–50; (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 52–53.

11 See Claude Colleer Abbott (ed.), Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins Including his Correspondence with Coventry Patmore (London: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 1956), 373–74.

12 Lot 11340, sold for $300 at Anderson Galleries’ auction of John Quinn’s book collection on 20 March 1924, the last day of the sale, which had started on 12 November the previous year. This would have been £50.0.0 at the conversion rates prevailing at the time.

13 See also Yeats: The McC. Gatch Collection (London: Maggs Bros., Ltd., 2015), lot 162, 46–47.

14 At the time I was collecting in the 1960s, it was normal for firms like Sotheby’s to issue a list of auction prices with the buyers’ names—though these of course would often have been pseudonyms.

15 In an ALS to Morton McMichael of 27 June, 1935, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats asks him where he obtained the copy and how much he had paid for it: ‘If you care to tell me, I will not repeat it to anyone else if you wish, but I am immensely curious to know—none of the family have a copy’. See item 471, in the Maggs catalogue 1492, Yeats: The McC. Gatch Collection (London: 2015), 117.

16 8 November 1895, 6. Possibly the reviewer was Ramsay Colles (see CL1 128), whose In Castle and Courthouse: Being Reminiscences of 30 Years in Ireland (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1911) opens with a sketch of the 1886 literary ‘set’ during Sunday pilgrimages to old Andrew Tynan’s farmhouse, Whitehall, Clondalkin, at the foot of the Dublin mountains. For Colles, 1886 marks the beginning of the Irish Literary Movement, and writers of and for The Irish Fireside, the newly revived Dublin University Magazine (in which had appeared ‘Mr. Yeats’s… finest dramatic poem, Mosada’, and The Irish Monthly would cycle or walk out four miles to gather around Katharine Tynan who held court for such figures as Yeats, Frederick Gregg (see item 3), Fr. Matthew Russell, Douglas Hyde, Richard Ashe-King, and George Russell (20–27). This was the group, clearly, in which Mosada initially circulated.

17 See above, n. 4.

18 The relative values of pounds and dollars have of course varied much over the years with the dollar almost constantly gaining ground. Before World War I the conversion rate was in the region of US$6 to £1 sterling. It dropped almost continuously until when I started collecting in the 1960s it was $2.80 to the pound, soon to drop to $2.40, and since then, in the mid-1980s, they almost achieved parity, before the pound picked up. A very useful site for historical currency conversions is In 1916 $25 would be worth $511 now, while £14 would be worth $1,221. Thus in that year $25 would have converted to about £5–17s. Such was the slump in sterling during the War, that same £14 in 1913 would have been worth $1758.75 now, so it had dropped by about a third against the dollar in three years.

19 Wade is incorrect in stating that the inscription was under the portrait: it is on the inside front cover. It would appear to have become detached and during otherwise careful restoration of the book evidently in DeLury’s lifetime, and has been pasted back so that it now faces the first page of text. Given that Alfred Tennyson DeLury lived in Toronto, it would seem reasonable to assume that he arranged for the facsimile edition, and the ‘few facsimile copies’ seen by Pádraig Ó Broin must have been in the owner’s possession. He probably saw the original and was bound to silence on the point of ownership. This note appeared in Wade 1. The only copy I have seen was in the collection of James F. Gallagher of New York, and had been dated 15 December 1949. It was not included in the Sotheby’s sale of his collection on 11 July 1986. It is now in the Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS, call number Yeats Y67, The photostats were printed on Vandyke paper on one side only, and stitched inside plain light brown kraft paper covers, with page 12 cut out, leaving a half-inch stub. They were trimmed to match the dimensions of the original.

20 As well as an avid book collector, Frederic Dannay (1905–82) collaborated with his cousin, Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky (1905–71), who was professionally known as Manfred Bennington Lee, in writing detective stories under the joint pseudonym ‘Ellery Queen’.

21 According to William M. Murphy, Gerard Manley Hopkins already had a copy of Mosada when he was presented with this one: see Murphy, op.cit., 146–47. All that is known, however, is that Hopkins had sent her three books by Robert Bridges instead of a single book, the implication being that KT had given a book to GMH. If so, it is more likely to have been her Louise de la Vallière (1885) than Mosada. Murphy also claims Hopkins went to call on JBY at KT’s insistence. It seems likely that she was present in JBY’s studio, but left before the end of the conversation, because she wonders how GMH ‘and Mr Yeats finished the discussion on finish or non-finish’: see KT to GMH [Sat.], 6 November in Abbott, op. cit., 430, a letter which strongly suggests the meeting with JBY had taken place in the previous few days.

22 ‘Editor’s Gossip’, The Irish Book Lover 15:4 (October 1925), reports the appearance of this sale in the current number of Book Auction Records as an ‘interesting fact… an inscribed copy… published less than forty years fetched the handsome sum of £46’ (54–55).

23 Healy gave them in 1948 to the Library of Colby College, Waterville, Maine, where they are located in the John and Catherine Healy Memorial Room [named after his parents] in Special Collections. He also created a collection of modern Irish history at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University, and added to the libraries of Boston College, Villanova, Cornell, Kansas University and the library of the American Historical Society, New York, as well as to the National Library of Ireland. For further details, see

24 The Catalogue states that this was Elizabeth Corbet Yeats.

25 See Stephen Weissman’s obituary of Henry Bradley Martin in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 98:2 (October 1988), 216.

26 There had been speculation as to whether this was his real name or whether it was a modification of ‘Have No More’. In his New York Times review (20 August 1995) of Nicholas A. Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness. Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (New York: Henry Holt, 1995), Philip Kopper summarises what is known about him: ‘Another fabulous character is Haven O’More, who engaged in ‘high-spot’ collecting (buying the rarest, priciest books) while cloaking himself in mystery. It turns out that this high-living autodidact persuaded a rich young man [Michael Davis] to furnish $17 million for his lavish pastime. Mr. Basbanes proudly reports that his Freedom of Information Act request uncovered military records for a Haven Moore, who, he contends, is the same person. Haven Moore was a North Carolina farm boy who signed his name with an X during a World War II Army hitch—an extraordinary beginning for “this strange man who wanted so keenly to be proclaimed the world’s greatest book collector”’.

27 See ‘Commentary’, The Book Collector, 12:4 (Winter 1963), 437–38.

28 When I attempted to get descriptions of copies of Eight Poems (1916, Wade 114) for my article in YA12, I was able to track down only a similar percentage of each of the official Italian and Japan paper copies sold through the Poetry Bookshop, these being mostly in institutional collections.

29 BAR does omit items—the Esher sale of Mosada in 1946 is missing, as are the two Quinn sale copies, and the 1927 Anderson Galleries copy eventually bought by Roth.