The Elements of Style is sometimes called the best little book on writing. But some of its early editions have the worst bibliographic records, particularly the Thrift Press edition. I intended to travel to Ithaca, New York, locate the archives of the Thrift Press, and identify the date of publication of the Thrift Press edition. I never got to Ithaca. I never located the Thrift Press archives. And I never wrote my book.
There is, however, still a need to correct the bibliographic records of the early editions of The Elements of Style. And it is my reason for publishing My Handlist of the Early Editions of The Elements of Style online. Strunkians and non-Strunkians who were hoping to read my book can now say, "Jerry Morris never got to Ithaca, so all we got to read for Christmas is his lousy handlist!"
THE EARLY EDITIONS
THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE
2018 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the first publication of William Strunk's little book, The Elements of Style. To commemorate this event, I have created my handlist of the early editions of The Elements of Style : those editions which were published before the 1959 edition.
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. Ithaca N.Y. Priv. Print.: W. F. Humphrey, Geneva N.Y. 1918.
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. Ithaca N.Y. Priv. Print.: W. F. Humphrey, Geneva N.Y. 1919.
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920.
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, .
Strunk, William, Jr. and Edward A. Tenney. The Elements of Style. Revised Edition. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, c1934.
Strunk, William, Jr. and Edward A. Tenney. The Elements and Practice of Composition. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1935.*
Strunk, William, Jr. and Edward A. Tenney. The Elements and Practice of Composition. N.Y. Harcourt, Brace, 1936.
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. N.Y.: Thrift Press, c.1943.
Up until September, 2009, the bibliographic records of the Library of Congress (LOC), Cornell University Library, and even Bartleby.com listed W. P. Humphrey as the printer of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style. All three bibliographic records were incorrect. The printer of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style is W. F. Humphrey.
In the summer of 2009, I acquired a copy of the 1919 edition of The Elements of Style. I was befuddled when I saw the name of the printer in the printer's statement near the bottom of the copyright page. Its extremely small type appeared to read "W. F. HUMPHREY."
And when I enlarged a photo of the printer's statement, it clearly read "W. F. Humphrey."
I thought it had to be a typo because even the Catalogue of Copyright Entries for both the 1918 and 1919 editions at the LOC listed W. P. HUMPHREY as the printer.
Nevertheless, I researched W. P. Humphrey and W. F Humphrey online. W. P. Humphrey did not exist. There was no printer by that name in Geneva, New York in the early 1900s. As for W. F. Humphrey, I found a wealth of information about him and his printing press.
The Press of W. F. Humphrey had been in the printing business in Geneva, New York since the late 1890s. In 1896, its place of business was 30 Linden Street. In 1917, its place of business was 300 Pulteney Street. William Francis Humphrey was the proprietor of the W. F. Humphrey Press. While a student at Hobart College in Geneva, he was an editor of the Hobart College Herald. His firm later became the printer of the Herald. His firm also printed the Cornell Law Quarterly. W. F. Humphrey was very active in the community. He was a member of the Elks, the Masons, Trinity Church, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rod and Gun Club, the Geneva Country Club, and the United Typothetae of America. W. F. Humphrey died of pneumonia in 1934.
Just to be sure of my findings, I queried Cornell University Library, presented my findings, and asked them to examine the printer's name on the copyright pages of the 1918 and 1919 editions (I did not have a copy of the 1918 edition to examine myself). Patrick J. Stevens, Curator of the Fiske Collection, examined both the 1918 and 1919 editions at the Cornell University Library and determined that a poor impression of the printer's statement was to blame for W. P. Humphrey receiving credit as the printer of the 1918 and 1919 editions.
I wrote up my findings in a blog post, added Patrick Stevens's confirmation, and on Sept 21, 2009, I notified the LOC of the errors in its Copyright and Bibliographic Records. The LOC corrected the errors in its bibliographic record on Sep 28. 2009. To date, however, there are still a few libraries that list W. P. Humphrey as the printer of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style in their bibliographic records.
I have Royal Books of Baltimore, Maryland to thank for identifying the errors concerning the 1920 and 1921 editions. Item six of Royal Books Catalogue Thirty-One contains 1919, 1920, and 1921 editions of The Elements of Style, and also a Thrift Press Edition whose publication date Royal Books cites as c1945.
As for the bibliographic records, the LOC lists just the Harcourt, Brace and Howe edition, with a date published of c1920. The Cornell University Library lists just the Harcourt, Brace and Company edition, with a date published of c1920 as well. A correct RDA/AACR2 listing might be:
Strunk, William, Jr. The Elements of Style. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace [Originally Harcourt, Brace and Howe], c1920.
I say this because there is no source document to prove that the Harcourt, Brace and Company edition was published in 1921. And if you check the book search engines, you will find most copies of the 1921 Harcourt, Brace and Company edition listed as the 1920 edition––and even sometimes as "the first trade edition." Clearly, there needs to be a difference in the bibliographic records of the Harcourt, Brace, and Howe edition and the Harcourt, Brace and Company edition.
There is a 1934 revised edition of The Elements of Style that was reportedly revised by both William Strunk and Edward A. Tenney. It bears hardly any resemblance to a Strunk-only edition. And when practice leaves were included in the 1935 and 1936 editions, along with additional revisions, Tenney changed the title to The Elements and Practice of Composition (Strunk was busy in Hollywood as an adviser for the MGM production of Romeo and Juliet). There appears to be no errors in the bibliographic records of the 1934, 1935, and 1936 editions. The LOC lists the 1934 and 1935 editions. Cornell University Library lists the 1935 and 1936 editions. The 1936 edition is a reprint of the 1935 edition.
Royal Books cited c1945 as the publication date of the Thrift Press edition. I cite c1943 as the publication date. The Thrift Press edition is an updated version of the 1920 edition. I believe Strunk updated it and intended to have his students use the Thrift Press edition when he returned to Cornell to teach in November 1943 due to the shortage of teachers during WWII. Strunk took ill and lasted only three weeks. Other English professors, however, had their students use the Thrift Press edition. And it was still being used when E. B. White wrote his New Yorker article about the Elements of Style in 1957.
Cornell University Library lists 1958 as the date of publication of the Thrift Press edition in its bibliographic record. That date is incorrect. In a previous post (Nov 24, 2014), I identified a student who used the Thrift Press edition of The Elements of Style while attending classes at Cornell in the 1940s. Moreover, the wording on the title page of the Thrift Press edition helps narrow down its date of publication. Strunk is listed on the title page as "Professor of English, Emeritus," meaning he was a retired professor who retained the title as an honor. Strunk retired in 1937, and he died in 1946. That means the Thrift Press edition was published during or after 1937, but before or during 1946. If the Thrift Press edition were published in 1958, the word "Emeritus" would not be on the title page.
And that concludes this post. Most of the information contained in this post is from six previous posts about William Strunk, his books, or my Elements of Style Collection that I have written in the last ten years:
May 19, 2009: My Elements of Style Collection.
May 25, 2009: William Strunk's Other Books in My Library.
Sep 21, 2009: A Correction to the Copyright and Bibliographic Records of The Elements of Style.
Apr 9, 2010: Stylized and the Forgotten Edition of Strunk's The Elements of Style.
Nov 24, 2014: The Early Editions of The Elements of Style.
Mar 20, 2018: One That Got Away, One I Gave Away, and One That Headed My Way....