Friday, December 04, 2009

Good wishes from Richmal Crompton

One of my favorite books this year has been Richmal Crompton's Family Roundabout, which I read on vacation at the beach back in July. Persephone brought back Family Roundabout, originally published in 1948, a few years ago; 40 additional Crompton adult novels, written between 1923 and 1960, remain out of print and difficult to come by, particularly in the U.S.

I managed to acquire a copy of Frost at Morning that wasn't too pricey nonetheless, and realized that beyond that I'd have to content myself with an occasional ILL.

Elaine's post last month on her Crompton collection and her link to an article on Crompton prompted me to put in an ILL request sooner rather than later, and I now have--for a very brief time--the one and only U.S. library copy of Richmal Crompton's 1957 novel Blind Man's Buff. I was sure my request would be turned down and I'd have to find a novel that wasn't as scarce as this one before a library would be willing to part with it, so I was quite gratified to find it lying on my desk chair when I went in to work yesterday.

And I was thrilled to open the book and discover Richmal Crompton's signature within.

And on top of that, a quick google told me that Fred Bason, the book's former owner, was no person of inconsequential import himslf. "[B]loody bookworm" Fred Bason sold books, and collected autographs in order to sell them, and published his diaries detailing the process:

Had lunch with John Drinkwater today and he autographed five of his books which I've had in stock three or four years. I put it to him squarely: they "won't sell unsigned, but if you'll autograph them I can sell them in New York next week. Like a good pal he obliged, and a nice lunch thrown in as well . . .

Why do I feel as if I've hit the jackpot?


  1. If I look at books as objects, some my favorites have been Inter-Library Loans like this one. There are so many little treasure out there on the back shelves of libraries.

    Hope you enjoy the book.

  2. Oh, how cool! I loved Family Roundabout, too. I also read Frost at Morning and have a copy of Linden Tree (??? or something like that anyway) as well. I'm not having much luck with my own ILL requests--I'm waiting and waiting on one book that only libraries who charge are willing to send. I had no idea that libraries had started to charge for loaning books (maybe it's been that way for a while now?). At this rate I won't have them for winter, very nice to get the one copy that happens to be in a US library!

  3. C.B., as far as I'm concerned, this book is such a little jewel I'm surprised it's not kept in a rare book room and not loaned out to riff raff like me. :)

    Danielle, I really don't understand all the ins and outs of ILL, but I was under the impression that the books were never loaned without it costing someone, and by someone I mean either the institution requesting it or the individual, if the institution didn't have adequate funds/didn't want to provide the service. One of the ILL staffers here told me requests usually average out to about $25 an item; before Amazon cut off associates fees in NC I used to ask myself if I could purchase an item for less, if so, I wouldn't try to get it through ILL. Now I don't worry so much that the state is picking up the tab. ;)

  4. I'm not all that clear on ILL either, but I thought it was essentially free with the exception of postage (which our university also picks up). However I was talking to our ILL person and she said some insitutions will loan free of charge and we go to those first and others charge a fee. We don't charge anything, but she said we might begin charging those who charge us. It sounds sort of complicated. The book I am waiting for is one published in the UK, which would only cost abot $12.00 for me to buy it, only I am trying (very hard) not to use my credit card. I've been waiting for weeks now, though, and if we have to pay for it (they'll let me know as this charge is passed on to the patron), I'll just break down and order it. Actually I'm almost to that point anyway. $25 a book is really sort of steep considering how many books are ILL'd! Considering the economy and the situation most public universities are in with their bad budgets I shouldn't be surprised about this and no doubt it will happen more and more.

  5. I miss having access to a university library.

  6. There's nothing better than a university library. One of the reasons I won't mind moving next year (if we do) is that I'll be close enough to use my alma mater's library. Whether or not they'll let me use ILL free of charge, most of the obscure or British titles I'm interested in will be available on the shelves. They even buy most of the Perspehones!

  7. Er. I meant to type Persephones, obviously.

  8. How wonderful! I hope that other borrowers who encounter that gem are as trustworthy as you!

    I noted down Crompton's name after reading about Family Roundabout on Danielle's blog but, alas, neither my public nor my university library has any of the adult books. But now your Blind Man's Bluff excerpt has clinched it--I must track down some of Crompton's work somehow. I don't know what ILL services are available to me, but I'll certainly order the Persephone title pronto.

  9. Is the picture of the page from Family Roundabout or from Blind Man's Buff (Bluff?)?

  10. It's from Blind Man's Buff. Family Roundabout is much the superior book, so anyone who can't get a library copy of a Crompton should definitely go for Roundabout before deciding to spend a lot of money on an out-of-print title. (And maybe that will encourage Persephone to bring more Cromptons back into print. . .)

  11. Richmal Crompton of 'William' fame!? Brings back such memories. My favorites books growing up...about a pugnacious kid's daily adventures. Yes very hard to come by in the US as well as the Chalet School series, Elinor Brent-Dyer..have never come across Crompton's adult works but will look for now, thanks!


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