Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Turkey and the Turk: Ultra Rare Chesterton!

It is always a joy to acquire particularly rare or interesting items. G.K. Chesterton's The Turkey and the Turk is just one such item. There were 100 copies hand pressed by St. Dominic's Press of Ditchling (of Eric Gill fame), numbered, and signed both by the author and the illustrator (Thomas Derrick). The word on the street is that most of the rest of the edition went up in smoke. Our copy is number 44. It's inscribed on a blank preliminary leaf, "From the Reverend Kevin Scannel [sic] on behalf of The Guild of St. Joseph & St. Dominic to The Catholic Art Association 1959". Msgr. Scannell was a Chesterton expert and possessed a very fine collection of Chestertonian material. Our copy is in superb condition. It is bound in full calf, has nice marbled endpapers, and the leaves are uncut (not trimmed at the outer margins to make the leaves of perfectly uniform size) and unopened (the leaves are still joined at some outer margins, i.e. the folds from the larger sheets are still present and not cut open).
I have always found Chesterton's signature appealing.

Contact us if you are interested. I cannot say the book is cheap. I also cannot say I wouldn't like to keep it for myself! It really is quite difficult to obtain and quite beautiful. I believe most copies are held by libraries or similar institutions. A few of these libraries possess (hoard) more than one copy, though I doubt they will give one up.


  1. I wonder if Dale Ahlquist is aware that Loome's has this book? I will send him an email. I must believe that Dale, the doyen of Chestertonians, will not rest until he has it in his possession. (Or perhaps, he already owns copy #1!) And for those who cannot afford this copy (which Andrew indicates is not "cheap"), you can read it online by Googling The Turkey and the Turk.


  2. Hmmm. The copyright was never renewed on this book.

    While it would be hard to match the quality of the original editions, the pages could be photographed and a reprint could be issued.

  3. I don't believe the rumour that most of the edition was burnt - I don't think it happened at all. I did a quick scan of the internet including worldcat a few years ago and I wrote to lots of libraries to get to know their issue. I also wrote to various collectors, and I have mad notes of who among famous collectors have owned a copy and traced them. I updated the search this summer and now I have uncovered 35 issues with numbers spanning the whole scale from 1 to 100, and I know of more copies where I haven't had a reply yet. At least 10 more copies were made in addition to the 100, 8 of them marked A-H and two were Retree copies, among them the one in the British Library. I also know who owns Chesterton's own copy, he was really happy to be told so.

  4. You say you have located many copies of The Turkey & the Turk, have you located the following. The boards of the book were made of english oak, the top board was carved, the spine was leather and the whole book was in an oak case? It was a memorial to my Grandfather Mr George Maxwell, a member of the Guild of Sts. Joseph & Dominic, Ditchling. It had a memorial whirl on the inside cover by Rev. Fr. Kevin Scannel. It was on exhibition on the Queen Elizabeth ship on its (last?) journey to New York. I would like to know where it is now. I am Rev. Kevin F Gaskin of Sacred Heart Church, Mayfield Lane, Wadhurst, East Sussex. TN5 6DQ. I do not have an email address.

  5. Your comment re `most of the edition was burnt`. I was certainly present when a vast amount of material was burnt consisting of unbound print runs, odd paper printed, some imperfect some damaged. I appealed to save some but was told this could not be done. This would have been in the late 50s when I was a student.
    Rev. Kevin F Gaskin.

  6. I have now confirmed the existence of 40 copies: Two Retrees, A, D-H, 4, 15, 17-22, 24, 28-32, 42-44, 50, 57, 59, 63-66, 69, 74, 82, 88, 92-93, 96-97. I have also asked two libraries about their copies' numbers today, and in addition, numbers B and C, belonging originally to Derrick and Pepler, must be in private ownership somewhere. This means at lest 44 copies exist, and many libraries and all private collections are not available for search on the net.