We resume after a hiatus, with plans to honor Barbara in a number of ways, including some recollections of Malice Domestic. But we begin with a post from William Joy, who has posted here before. Who is William Joy? For one answer to this question, we turned to Ray Johnson, director of the Epigraphic Survey at Luxor under the auspices of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. Ray wrote to us:
William Joy is one of the most positive, behind-the-scenes forces in Egyptology today. He is a skilled archivist and a first-rate scholar in his own right, and is unceasingly generous with his time, knowledge, and expertise, particularly in the history of some of the earliest Egyptologists. I suspect that there is no one in the world who knows more about 19th century writer and Egyptologist Amelia B. Edwards than William, or is more enthusiastic about her. His knowledge is extraordinary.
As many of you know, Amelia Edwards provided some of the inspiration for our own Amelia Peabody. Here is a picture of Edwards, along with a letter she wrote, both of which hung in Barbara’s hall for many years. Now they hang in the Barbara Mertz Bioarchaeology Lab at the British Museum.
William wrote to us about Amelia Edwards after noticing a post on Twitter by avid Amelia fan Christina Startt. He also sent the beautiful pictures of covers of Amelia Edwards’ books seen at top and bottom.
FROM WILLIAM JOY:
While I was on Twitter, I noticed a tweet by Christina Startt with a photo of her copy of Amelia B. Edwards’ “A Thousand Miles Up The Nile.” I could have said something about it, but I honestly don’t know how in the single short sentence that Twitter provides! So here is more than you probably ever wanted to know about Amelia’s most famous book.
The cover of her paperbound book is a reproduction of the second edition of Amelia’s work, which first appeared at the close of the year 1888 — just in time for Christmas of that year. These copies actually bear dates of “1889,” which was a standard practice for English publishers. They felt if the Christmas shoppers of 1888 saw a book with the date “1889,” they would know instantly that it was “new,” and therefore, be more encouraged to purchase it. Experience showed Victorian publishers that “old” books at Christmas time were never quite the big sellers that “new” ones were.
These copies of Amelia’s second edition were issued in varying base cloth colors. Christina’s is dark blue, but there were also red, green, tan, light blue… a veritable rainbow of colors. But the design was the same on each of them: patterned after one of the author’s paintings inside the book.
Years ago, when I first noticed some of these, I thought they might be similar to American books of the same time (notably titles by Mark Twain), in that printing houses, when running out of a standard color cloth for a book, would just switch to whatever other color happened to be on hand, and continue the production.
But no, that was not the case here. These books were purposely issued in variant colors — depending on the “color” and “mood” of your library, and where you were going to display the book — so the customer had a choice as to which would “look best” when they got the book home.
One other Egyptology travel book, also by a woman, was like this: “Vom Nil” by Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden, which featured her photographs taken in Egypt in 1889 and 1890. It was issued in about six different color bindings. Speaking of Sweden, I recently sent a copy of “The Painted Queen” to Carolin Johansson, a professional Egyptologist based in Uppsala, Sweden, and she loves it! Well, who doesn’t? I sure did!
One more thing regarding “A Thousand Miles Up The Nile.” The first edition appeared in 1877 as a much larger and heavier quarto-sized volume than the second edition, a smaller octavo-sized book. It had thick bevel-edged boards. Copies of the first edition were usually covered with a red cloth cover, which had black and gold stamping on the upper board and spine, in Egyptian-style designs (though a few copies are known with a cream cloth; more on those in a moment). We have a copy of the red first edition that Amelia used for editing purposes, not long before the second edition appeared. She used a pencil to cross out words and experimented by writing in synonyms; she also added footnotes along the margins.
We thought that a significant copy. But just recently I was alerted by Julian Mackenzie of Shapero Rare Books in London to something even more extraordinary. They obtained (and sold to us) another copy of the first edition, which has something no other copy has… and moreover, which no other Egyptology book of its time has, as far as we know. And that is a publisher-issued paper dust jacket, made in 1877, intended to be used for the first edition, with the printed title and author’s name on the front cover, and fold-over flaps and everything — just like a modern dust jacket. I have not made photographs of this yet, but it is real, and it is complete, and yes, we are simply astonished over it. Dust jackets, you see, are early 20th-century items; they generally don’t exist for books from the nineteenth century.
One thing, though: there is, for perhaps every 10 copies of the red first edition of Amelia’s book, one cream color copy. And as this newly discovered dust-jacketed copy is of the scarcer cream variety, it is possible that the dust jackets were made only for the cream-colored copies. Both the cream and red varieties bear the same binder’s ticket on the rear pastedown (Westleys & Company, of London).
Thank you, William, for sharing this with us!!