Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Skeleton Clutch; or, The Goblet of Gore

The story goes that Melbourne bookseller, John P. Quaine, issued a sale catalogue in 1931 that included two phantom titles, The Skeleton Clutch; or, The Goblet of Gore (E. Lloyd, 1841), and Sawney Beane, The Man-Eater of Midlothian (E. Lloyd, 1851). Montague Summers was taken in by the beautiful gory titles and unwittingly added them to his Gothic Bibliography. The Australian collector of Bloods, and long-time correspondent of Quaine, Stanley Larnach, revealed the prank in a review of Summers' bibliography in Biblionews in 1952, and again in The Story Paper Collector in 1955.

But was his information accurate? Larnach's scrapbook of Bloods survives in the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. Pasted into it is a letter from English bibliographer W.O.G. Lofts, dated December 1955:

"I must contradict your statement that the following “Bloods” did not exist; “Sawney Bean the Man-eater of Midlothian” and “The Skeleton Clutch, or the Goblet of Gore” as I have been in contact with a collector who bought this “Blood” in 38 nos., and then disposed it to a collector at Castle Comer Eire.

The second was seen by an author in his own right a Mr George E. Foster in the collection of the late Barry Ono. A detailed account of it was reported in the “Collectors Digest” No. 16. Mr Foster has written over 100 bound books (which are recorded in the British Museum Files) and his and the former collector’s word are 100% trustworthy. I can only suggest that Mr J.P. Quaine must have leaned over backwards in suggesting that these Bloods were invented as a joke."

The mystery of the Phantom Clutch continues...

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