Bibliographic Byways I: The Cambridge Greek and Latin Book Club

Among the Persïana on my shelves, one of the least often consulted contained an interesting document when it arrived from an on-line bookseller. The book is . . . well, it will be quicker to provide a picture of the front cover than to quote it:

This is what I found tucked inside:

Here is a brief account of the book club, from the BMCR review of Christopher Stray (ed.), Classics in 19th and 20th Century Cambridge: Curriculum, Culture and Community. Cambridge Philological Society, Suppl. 24. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 1998, which I really need to buy now:

The collection closes with a light-hearted account, by John Crook and Joyce Reynolds, of the Cambridge Greek and Latin Book Club, which flourished from about 1909 till 1993. Members of this amiable society recommended books, which were then acquired on credit from a local bookseller. Each book was circulated round all the members. Eventually, it was auctioned off at a club meeting. Only then was the bookseller, whose patience must often have been sorely tried, finally paid. To American readers at least, this Cambridge institution, though only recently defunct, must seem infinitely more remote than the nineteenth-century squabbles over the curriculum.

I thought for a moment I had A. E. Housman’s autograph signature, but then realized that his name must have been written by Mr. Rattenbury, who sent the book to him, while he must have written the name of Prof. Robertson, to whom he passed it on. I like the handwriting of Housman’s ‘heterograph’ very much.

It appears that Rev. Angus (as he is called in the “ordered by”) or Mr. Angus (as he is called elsewhere) got to look at the book for two weeks in January and another week in June, but either lost interest or was outbid when the book was auctioned off the following February: the name and date inside the front cover are “A. L. [or C.?] Peck” and “Feb. 8th 1932″. I assume this is the “Dr. Peck” who had it for a week in April. It’s in tolerably good shape for a book that had been handled by twenty-four different people, one of them twice, over the course of five months and four days. With only twelve pages of introductory matter, and eight of notes, to accompany the translation, I doubt it has spent a lot of time off the shelf in the ensuing eighty-five years.

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