[Obelisk Press] PRESTON, William

Journal In Mexico

Paris: N.p. [Obelisk Press], N.d. [?1931]

Large 8vo., pp. 40. 2 pp. note on the career of William Preston bound in to preliminaries (present in all copies examined). Rebound in leather, original pale blue paper wrappers bound in. Some wear to the binding's edges and extremities, but contents perfectly preserved.

First edition.

In 2007, after four years of what felt like pretty meticulous research, I delivered to my publishers my book about Jack Kahane and his scandalous Paris publishing house of the 1930s, the Obelisk Press. Two months later, this book showed up for the first time...
In my defence, the Kahane association is very well hidden. The book is rare in any case, with only a few copies scattered around institutional libraries, and even when you've located one it doesn't give up its secrets easily: no publishing information appears on the title-page, and only in the imprimerie at the very back of the text is the publisher's name to be found.

How Kahane came to publish the book, and exactly when, remains a mystery. William Preston (1816-1887) was from Kentucky, served as U. S. Minister to Spain, and was the Confederacy's representative to Mexico City during the reign of Maximilian. He saw no combat during the Mexican-American War, but was assigned to logistics units throughout. Kahane, who himself served with distinction in the Great War, published two memoirs of the conflict under the Obelisk imprint: Squadron 95 [Pearson:A-21] and For The Duration Or...?[A-26]. These were contemporary accounts of a war Kahane fought in, and were probably written by friends. But Journal In Mexico?

Neither the Obelisk name nor logo appear anywhere in the book. This dates it to somewhere between 1929, when Kahane first began publishing, and January 1932, when Gold and Silver [A-11] the first book carrying the Obelisk name, was published. The logo on the title-page narrows things down still further: the design is that of Herbert Clarke, owner of the Imprimerie Vendôme and the man with whom Kahane was going to go into partnership before Clarke's sudden death. Kahane had collaborated with Clarke on the publication of Kahane's own novel Daffodil [A-8] in the summer of 1931: it seems likely that Journal In Mexico was published around this time.

Since the unearthing of that first copy, I've had the opportunity to examine three others. All have been rebound in extravagant leather bindings, all of which differ from one another. This suggests a) a tiny print run, and b) that the copies might have been produced in order to be given as gifts. This was the case with Kahane's edition of Milton's poem Lycidas[A-24], issued in just 25 copies, each one carrying a printed dedication to a different friend or associate.

Very scarce. And not in Pearson....

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