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Texana Classics | Two

Texana Classics II
Books that Matter in Editions That Inspire

Sallie Reynolds Matthews.
Interwoven, A Pioneer Chronicle.
New edition. El Paso: Carl Hartzog, 1958. Adds photograph of the author in 1938, drawings by E. M. “Buck” Schiwetz, and an introduction by Robert Nail. Deletes the Will James introduction.

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Who, in his right mind, would pay big bucks for a copy of a book that he already owns?

Well, a book collector.

Those with a passion for the printed page call it “upgrading” and recently I have been doing it a lot. For years, I have owned the University of Texas Press 1974 “Third Edition.” It is a perfectly serviceable volume, which features the following “Publisher’s Note”:

Interwoven was first published in 1936 and republished in 1958 in a beautiful limited edition by Carl Hertzog of El Paso.

The University of Texas Press takes pleasure in presenting this third edition, whose design is largely derived from the Hertzog edition, in order to make this fine book available to a wider audience. J. Frank Dobie wrote of it: “Interwoven, more than any other ranch chronicle that I know, reveals the family life of old-time ranches.

The “Third Edition” may have been “largely derived” from the Hertzog edition but it wasn’t the 1958 edition—which, for book collectors, is a “Holy Grail” item.

For years, I sought to acquire that edition. The sad fact was that it was so rare I could rarely locate a copy for sale and even when I did its price far exceed the wherewithal of a humble professor. Gee, Steve, what makes it so special?

So glad you asked.

More than most, it embodies the subtitle of this series. The text makes it a “book that matters.” As bibliophile John H. Jenkins observed, “This is the best book on Texas ranch life from a woman’s perspective.” In his Introduction to the 1958 edition, Robert Nail argued that the volume “is so filled with the details of pioneer living that it creates much the same impression as a Dutch painting: it is a factual and charming view into the past. It is also—and not secondarily—a view into the person of an extraordinary woman.” Since 1992, I have taught Texas History at the college level. I require that my students read selections from Jenkins’s Basic Texas Books and then write an analysis. During that time, several of my female students have asked me to recommend a book that offers a woman’s perspective. I always suggest Interwoven and have never yet had one who did not absolutely love the book. Not simply like and admire, mind you, but love it. The narrative is powerful.

But who was Hertzog and why is he such a big deal?

Again, glad you asked.

Jean Carl Hertzog, Sr. (1902-1984) was the “Father of Texas Fine Press Printing” and arguably the designer of the state’s most beautiful and admired books. Authority and connoisseur Al Lowman explained the essence of Hertzog’s greatness: “As a designer Hertzog believed that printing should be both subtle and imaginative. Effective printing, he held, should help the reader focus on the content; it should never call attention to itself. He carefully selected the size and shape of the book, paper color and texture, style of type, and binding to suit the subject matter. Once the type was set he would rework it to avoid bad spacing and breaks at the end of lines and pages. Finally he would check the press run for variations in inking, all for the sake of enhancing the appearance of the printed page. He campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of and appreciation for printing.”

(This is not the place for a full biography of this great artist, but those wishing additional information may follow this link. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hertzog-jean-carl-sr)

The Hertzog Interwoven is manifestly an edition that inspires. Simply stated, it is an exemplar of the printer’s art and among the most exquisite of all Texas books. In his magisterial Printing Arts in Texas (Jenkins Publishing Company, 1975), Lowman said this about it:

Perhaps the printer’s personal favorite of his books is Sallie Reynolds Matthew’s Interwoven, first published in 1936. When it reappeared under Herzog’s imprint in 1958, Frank Dobie judged it “another instance of the last edition being more desirable than the first.” Set in 12-point Caledonia—with large initial letters in Centaur Roman and chapter heads in Arrighi Italic—Hertzog captured the historical flavor of this classic narrative of the west Texas frontier using dusty, rough textured paper, untrimmed. The three-piece binding consists of natural cloth covers printed with a pattern of Reynolds and Matthews monograms and cattle brands, an attractive title label on the front cover, and a pyroxylin cloth spine. Giving added fillip are the beautifully executed pencil drawings of the families’ pioneer homes by the estimable Buck Schiwetz, an artist widely respected for his ability to give new life to early Texas architecture.

I should probably say something about Dobie’s observation that the 1958 edition was “more desirable than the first.” Normally, book collectors covet first editions since they represent the earliest form and are closest to the act of creation. In his wonderful book, A Gentle Madness:  Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (Henry Holt and Company, 1995), Nicholas Basbanes explains the mystique of first editions: “To handle a first edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species or Newton’s Principia Mathematica is to touch ideas that changed the way people live.”

Heady stuff, that!

The 1936 Anson Jones Press first edition of Interwoven certainly remains collectable, but Dobie was correct. It will never be the “best” or “most desirable” edition. It can never match Hertzog’s combination of text, craft, and taste.

Maggie Lambeth, the esteemed bookseller of Blanco, Texas, offered a copy of the 1958 edition in her 2020 fall catalog—but I tarried too long. By the time I called Maggie, another dealer had already snapped it up. Therefore, I was excited and surprised when later that year Buckingham Books of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, offered a copy in its “Texas” catalog. The entry included the following note: “Fine copy in the original transparent, protective dust jacket. One of the nicest copies that we’ve handled in recent years.” That clinched it.  I determined that I would not let this one get away and phoned Nancy Anderson at Buckingham Books the instant I read the E-mail.

Lo and behold, Nancy still had the copy and I whipped out my credit card faster than my outlaw ancestor ever pulled his six-shooter. So, finally, I have my own copy of the Hertzog Interwoven—a book I have craved for most of my adult life. It was worth the wait. At the age of sixty-seven, I appreciate it more that I would have at thirty-seven. Taste is an acquisition of old age (so is money).

My thanks to Buckingham Book and Nancy Anderson for her knowledge, professionalism, and good cheer.

The Hertzog Interwoven is now one of the jewels of my Basic Texas Books collection. It provides a feast for the eye, heart, and mind. Moreover, it meets Stanley Marcus’s definition of a fine book: “a work of art which, by the subtle and harmonious combination of a good text and a pleasing format, can provide hours of pleasure in the appreciation of quiet beauty.”

That it does—in spades!