Second-hand signings

I brushed past John Rentoul’s recent Top Ten:

This list started when Laura McInerney‏ asked: “Has there ever been a transport secretary who once worked in transport?” I said that John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions 1997-2001, had been a steward in the Merchant Navy. Mr Memory added that Harry Gosling, Labour’s first Transport Minister in 1924, had been a waterman. 

Down at number 4 was:

James Callaghan, Chancellor 1964-67, was an Inland Revenue tax inspector. Thanks to Jon Clarke. Norman Lamont, 1990-93, is one of only two chancellors who had an economics degree (no, PPE doesn’t count). The other was Hugh Dalton, 1945-47, who lectured in economics at the London School of Economics. Hugh Gaitskell, 1950-51, lectured in economics at UCL, although his own degree was in PPE.

Years ago I set about collecting Left Book Club editions, and similar stuff that mainly came out of Gollancz.

For all of a few pre-decimal pence I thereby acquired Hugh Dalton’s signature. So he would be in my personal Top Ten, around me here on these shelves. In at number 8 of John Rentoul’s list is:

Alan Johnson, Trade and Industry Secretary 2005-06, which included the Royal Mail in its responsibilities, was a postman.

Since I have the complete (to date) Johnson memoirs, signed by the author, they must qualify. Johnson, though, is a prolific signer — so, in due course, like Ted Heath, the unsigned copies may be the ones that retain any value.

My copy of Michael Foot’s The Pen and the Sword (an original edition from 1957, at that) had a small history: it is signed by a distinguished industrial correspondent for the Daily Express (at a time when Beaverbrook’s Express was still a newspaper and a power in the land) who would have worked alongside the journalist Michael Foot. It came to me, not quite directly from him, at a time (late ’60s) I was putting myself around in Bury St Edmunds Labour Party.

Many of these inscriptions and declarations of ownership are enigmatic:

Philip Williams’ biography of Hugh Gaitskell came my way a few months back. The inscription is “To Jack. Happy Memories and our very best wishes for the future. Ben and Sheila December , 1979”. Since the book was only recently published then, I might assume somewhere in there are decent socialists. (Philip Williams was a follower of Gaitskell and the Campaign for Democratic Socialism, had dealings with Tony Crosland, and was involved in the creation of the SDP.)

Many are worth the decoding.

Just this week York’s Oxfam Books threw up David C Douglas, The Norman Achievementbut in an American edition, published by the University of California, yet “Printed in Great Britain”, and a dead ringer for the Eyre and Spottiswoode UK edition. Consider the former owner “Elizabeth Muir Tyler”, who monikered the book “June 30, 1987 Philadelphia”. Professor (another “no less”) Elizabeth Muir Tyler ended up as  a considerable ornament to literature and history at the University of York . Did Professor Tyler have it already second-hand from the (stamped) “Library of Georgianna Ziegler”? For Georgianna Ziegler was Curator at the Horace Howard Furness Shakespeare Library, University of Pennsylvania, and then a major figure at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Another one is a grandiose book-plate in That Great Lucifer, A Portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh (see right). A quick google turns up an obituary of:

Former consultant psychiatrist Manchester (b Todmorden 1912; q Manchester 1937; MA, DPM, FRCPsych), d 7 January 2003.

Northage Mather was of a generation whose careers were interrupted by war service. He was a medical officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve before taking the Diploma in Psychological Medicine in 1946. He was soon appointed consultant psychiatrist at Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester (now North Manchester General Hospital), and remained there for 30 years, building up a well known department. He had a special interest in forensic psychiatry, was involved in more than 300 murder trials, and was later a member of the Parole Board. A man of wide interests, including music and literature, he leaves a wife, Mabel, and two children.

He “was involved in more than 300 murder trials”. Say no more.

 

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