[F. G. Gordon and the Oxford University Press.] Correspondence with John Johnson, Humphrey Milford, Sir John Forsdyke, S. R. K. Glanville, Sir G. F. Hill, and others, about his book 'Through Basque to Minoan'. With corrected manuscripts, proofs, etc.

Frank Gordon Gordon [né Straube] (1874-1968), classical scholar with theory on Minoan Linear A [John Johnson; Humphrey Milford; Oxford University Press; Sir John Forsdyke; S. R. K. Glanville]
Publication details: 
Letters from various locations (including the British Museum), between 1930 and 1932. [The book published by Oxford University Press, 1931.]
SKU: 16312

The collection is in good overall condition, with light signs of age and wear. As the following description indicates, much care was taken by OUP with the production of the book, the Press even going so far as to produce new type for it (examples of which are accompany a letter by the printer John Johnson). Unfortunately the book was not well received - a savage review [by Sir P. J. Dixon] in the Times Literary Supplement, 12 March 1931, drawing forth a pained response from the author, 19 March 1931 - and although Linear A remains undeciphered, the book's premise of a connection between the language of the Basques and that of the Minoans has never been seriously entertained. The present collection gives an interesting insight into the preparation and production of a scholarly work by the 1930s Oxford University Press, with a small selection of correspondence giving a taste of the academic response to it. The following description is divided into eight numbered sections, as follows: ONE. 12 Typed Letters Signed to Gordon from John Johnson (1882-1956), Printer to the University of Oxford, between 23 June and 6 December 1930, and all on his University Press letterhead. In the first letter Johnson informs Gordon that his 'friend, Dr. H. R. Hall, has told me confidentially about your enterprise, and I should be very happy to discuss it with you at any time tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, or at such other time as you may determine. I shall make my convenience yours.' The correspondence proceeds in the same urbane style. On 14 July he writes that he has 'had a good deal of bother with your Minoan book in getting things quite right. For instance as far as possible your lines I think must not overrun, and there are all sorts of minor complications of the fount &c. which we have had to surmount'. He sends a specimen page, which satisfies Gordon, but writes on 27 August 1930: 'I expect you will be regarding me as a man of bad promises. But I can assure you that I am not. | All your text is in type and has only been awaiting certain Minoan letters which I have had to manufacture. | So that your eyes may believe, I enclose a proof of the letters which have only just come to me from the Engravers.' (A leaf, with 59 examples of letters, is attached.) He concludes the letter by stating that the 'more I think of it the more I like your alternative title'. On 17 October he states that he is 'proposing to print 500 copies of your Monograph as an insurance against the chance of your circle of interest widening beyond the philologists, and I think a price of 10/- would be adequate. | It is rather thin to bear a higher price.' On 4 December he explains that he has made a statement in Gordon's prospectus 'a little less definite [...] It is important to let the reader think that he also has a part in the discovery, by the corroboration of your views.' Two days later (6 December) he begins his last letter by stating that he had also 'spotted that weakness and had been seized with paralysis in the curious way one is and had found myself powerless to alter it'. He continues: 'You have been the ideal customer throughout, never too proud to accept a Printer's humble suggestions, and I am sure if ever I wished a book well I wish this book well.' He suggests binding copies 'for your own Christmas presentation', and the alteration of the date of publication to 1931, as it is 'never wise to plunge anything into the period which lies between now and the New Year'. Four autograph drafts and copies of letters by Gordon to Johnson, all from 1930, are also present, dealing with advertising, print run, binding, price. On 18 September he enquires whether 'as I am an unknown quantity, it might not be advisable to put in my qualifications as indicated on the proof. | I am still a member of St. John's and was formerly a scholar. I merely mention this in case it is usual to refer to such facts. I have no wishes in the matter except to do what is customary.' And on 18 October he writes: '10/- is no doubt an adequate price for the book, which, as you say, is not long. I could have increased the size if I had dealt with the seals, but for various reasons it seemed to be best to treat them separately. If the present volume succeeds it might be possible to produce something further on that subject.' In his final letter to Johnson, he states that 'If a good appearance can command success, it is assured.' TWO. One Typed Letter Signed from Humphrey Milford (1877-1952), Publisher to the University, 2 December 1930, setting out the terms for publication (cost of production; price; author's share; advertising; review copies) over 2pp., 4to; with an additional page carrying a 'suggested list of papers to receive review copies'. Also present are a further four Typed Letters, Signed on Milford's behalf, by 'H. P.' (3) and Gerard Hopkins, between 29 October 1930 to 14 January 1931. . (A second letter from Hopkins, not written on Milford's behalf, is also present, dated 31 October 1930.) On 29 October 1930 Hopkins writes that Milford is 'anxious to make an announcement in The Times and elsewhere' and that Gordon should 'draft something for me to use. Where books of this kind are concerned it is so important that the uninformed, however enthusiastic, should not make inaccurate statements'. A letter of 16 January 1931 from 'H. P.' discusses presentation copies, copies 'supplied to the Privileged Libraries including the British Museum', and cuttings of 'all reviews that reach us from English papers'. Three printed cards from the Press to Gordon, acknowledging the receipt of proofs, are also present. THREE. Fourteen letters to Gordon from six individuals, mainly giving their responses to his book: SIR JOHN FORSDYKE (1883-1979), Director of the British Museum, 1936-1950. ALS, on letterhead of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum. 12 January 1931. Acknowledging receipt of the book he writes: 'We (the rest of us) view these efforts with awe rather than suspicion: it is frankly beyond me, and I think that while you cannot all be right, someone may hit on the proper clue some day, and I hope that you have done so. But I think too you must understand that you will have to test as well as devise your key - I mean that nobody else will do it for you. The experts in the field seem to me to be devoted each to his own theory, [...] I have always thought that the successful reading of one tablet must read the whole lot, and I await that happy result.' He refers to the only 'worker in the subject' known to him, Professor Axel Persson of Uppsala, and gives the names of others in the field. STEPHEN RANULPH KINGDON GLANVILLE (1900-1956), Egyptologist. Two ALsS, both on British Museum letterheads. In the first letter (26 December 1930) he writes that he does not 'deserve' his copy of the book, as he finds it 'too good to -be true: for instance one doesn't expect hexameters from a non-Aryan language. But I admit, as one who has a marked leaning towards Pragmatism, that you have made it work. I admit too that your translation of the Phaiston Disk is exceedingly attractive, in fact, & there I feel is the rub. You have merely given us too much out of a very little material.' In the second letter (2 January 1931) he concedes that Gordon has made 'a good case against both points of my criticism. And yet I am sceptical. It may be partly that I cannot accept your statement that the values you give the signs are not arbitrary. For though it is true that once you decide what the Minoan signs represent your values for them are practically fixed, yet your interpretation of them in the first place is a matter entirely of your own choice. [...]' After a further objection he concludes by stating that 'in spite of my scepticism I shall certainly try your method if and when another example of S.M. turns up'. ALFRED BRADLEY GOUGH (1872-1939), Oxford linguist. 2 ALsS, totalling 8pp., 12mo, in small type, mainly devoted to a discussion of the book's contents. He begins the first letter (22 March 1931) by discussing 'the unfavourable review in the T.L.S. and your reply the following week': 'though I can't pretend to know anything about the subject, I could see that the review was very prejudiced and unfair. I am afraid this is the usual way the professional pundits treat those whom they regard as amateurs and interlopers.' In the rest of the letter he discusses the book itself, finding Gordon's 'interpretation of the Phaistos disk [...] exciting'. In the second letter (13 May 1931) he states that he was 'quite fascinated' by Gordon's book, 'and greatly impressed by your amazing ingenuity'. He concludes the letter by stating his opinion that the book 'ought to open a new era in Minoan studies'. SIR GEORGE FRANCIS HILL (1867-1948), Director of the British Museum, 1931-1936. ALS on British Museum letterhead. In thanking him for the 'interesting Christmas present' he states that 'Hall had told me you were working on this, and a few months ago Johnson showed me, under pledge of secrecy, the proof-sheets'. He is 'not competent to judge', but looks on with interest 'while you & Miss Stawell [Florence Melian Stawell (1869-1936)] (not to mention others) produce rival readings of the Phaistos disk. She is going to bring out a revised version quite soon.' DR ALEXANDER SHEWAN (1851-1941), Scottish classicist. ALS and ANS, both on letterheads of Seagate, St Andrews, Fife. In the letter (20 February 1931) he writes that he has read the book but is 'much puzzled - it is no doubt stupidity on my part - by your references under the initials S.M. I have supposed they stand for "Scripta Minoa", i.e. Sir Arthur Evans's work with that title, but I can make nothing of the figures after these initials'. GERALD AVERY WAINWRIGHT (1879-1964), Near Eastern archaeologist. Four TLsS and two ALsS, the four former on letterheads of 17 Stanhope Gardens, London, SW7. Between 30 May 1931 and 2 July 1932. In the first letter he states that he is 'extremely interested in your proposed division of the rest of the syllables. I presume that they convey something to you & are words from one of the Asiatic languages. But of course I am quite ignorant.' The rest of the correspondence concerns his 'Keftiuan studies', and an article he writing 'on the allied question of the origin of the Philistines', with reference to the Etruscans, Cappadocia, 'the Shawabty vase', and Bossert. Also present are: an ALS from '' of Bromley; an ACS from C. O. of Bledlow; an ALS from Dunstan of Baldon; a TLS from K. Judelson of the International Press-Cutting Bureau; a printed form of acknowledgement of the book by H. S. Kingsford, Assistant-Secretary, the Society of Antiquaries of London; and a telegram (24 January 1931) to Gordon from 'Lonallen' in Cambridge ('Warmest loving congraggers | declining faculties seem still polishable'). FOUR. Notebook containing a heavily-revised Autograph Manuscript of the book, under the title 'The Key to the Minoan Sccript?' 150pp., 4to. With ownership inscription of 'F. G. Gordon | 180, Birchanger Road | Woodside | S.E.25 [London]'. With numerous emendations and interpolations, often in red ink. FIVE. 63pp., 4to, of assorted Autograph Notes for the book, on loose leaves, with headings including 'Sword Tablet', 'The Cup Tablet S.M.28', 'Chariot Wheel Tablet. S.M.24'. SIX. Five proofs of pages of the book (pp.1-8, 9-16, 18-19, 49-56, 57-64), the first two with purple oval OUP stamp, dated 29 August 1930; together with proof of the title-page, dated 1930. SEVEN. Packet of assorted loose leaves of transliterations of letter shapes of Linear A script, often tabulated, in Gordon's autograph. EIGHT. Packet of assorted miscellaneous autograph notes, including drafts of letters to unnamed individuals, illustrations of Egyptian subjects, and drafts of a synopsis of the book, and of its introduction.