July 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The First Book of the Authors Club

Liber Scriptorum-Heritage copy.jpgThe Authors Club, an association for literary-minded gentlemen, was formed in New York City in 1882. In an effort to raise funds for a permanent clubhouse, its members published Liber Scriptorum, a collection of original work, in 1893. Contributors included Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, William Dean Howells, Andrew Carnegie, and printer Theodore Low De Vinne, who ensured the production of a beautiful book, featuring hand-made paper, wood-block engravings, and fine typography bound in blind- and gilt-tooled brown morocco. Incredibly, each of the 109 writers who submitted a story signed his respective work in each volume, e.g. Twain placed his signature just below his "A Californian's Tale," and Roosevelt under his "A Shot at Bull Elk." The edition ran to 251 copies, each selling for $100. In the meantime, Carnegie had donated a suite a rooms at 57th St. & Seventh Ave. to the club, so the Liber profits were used to decorate the rooms instead.  

Liber Scriptorum; The First Book of the Authors Club. New York-3-1 copy.jpgA copy of Liber Scriptorum (#58 in the edition) goes to auction next week at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. As a relic of this bygone circle of New York's turn-of-the-century literati, as a fine production by De Vinne, or as the first appearance--and signed--of a Twain short story, it is a 'textbook' example of a collectible book. The estimate is $4,000, but bidding starts at $2,000. Proxy bidding ends on August 4, and the live auction happens the following day.

Images: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.