APRIL 27, 1967
"DEDICATED TO -"
By A. Lawrence Marshburn
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
By way of a few preliminary remarks, first of all, concerning the
announced topic of this paper I wanted to entitle this little treatise "The Wooden
Leg" (for reasons that will soon be hopefully apparent). But, we have so recently
been enlightened by Judge Goodwin's treatise on "The Chancellor's Foot" that the
juxtaposition of two such related appendages (and titles) has seemed somewhat fraught with
peril. Not that today's meager efforts could possibly come off any worse than they will--a
"wooden foot" won't . . damage my reputation any further--but I would very much
hate for you to cite His Honor's masterpiece (in some future and enlightened discussion)
as "The Chancellor's Wooden Leg" or some other such unfortunate misnomer. So
please, in recalling sequences of notable Fortnightly papers, please don't forget that a
title (and an extremity) worth remembering concerns "The Chancellor's Foot".
And, as we recall, it wasn't wooden... 1
1. At this point we can't resist the comment that (if ever
there was such a thing) here we have a foot note.
No, the title of this paper is "Dedicated To -" I know
that this is rather a jarring title--ending as it does with a preposition--but no doubt my
audience will forgive me in consideration of the obvious subject : matter which Is to
follow. Besides (depending on who might take me to task for such grammatical sin) I just
might possibly throw down the gauntlet of Sir Winston Churchill's retort when he was taken
to task for ending a sentence with a preposition. Do you remember how the British Lion
snarled: "That's the sort of errant pedantry up~with which I will not put!"?
Treading as I will in the realm of literary matters, I am also a
bit concerned that at least some of my colleagues will realize that I am woefully
ill-equipped to venture into subject areas in which they are much more competent that I
am. I know of no way out of this fix except to ask your forgiveness in advance of my
blundering audacity, and to suggest that you might make it easier on both of us if you'll
just lean back and relax with that time-honored judgment upon those in my profession: "Well, you know how it is with these librarian fellows--poor souls. They know a
little bit about a lot of things, but really, not very much about anything!" 2
2. Apologies to a recently acquired Fortnightly member,
Librarian Elton Shell, who has advanced degrees in other disciplines and gives the lie to
such a generalization, even though it rather aptly describes the speaker.
Indeed, it is in this allusion to one of the occupational hazards
of librarianship that we come to grips with the topic at hand. Most people plunge right
into the literary meat of a book, to get at the sum -and substance of what the author
really has in mind; few folk outside the library profession are so "hooked" on
the habit of scrutinizing (yea, even relishing') every jot and Little between the Front
Cover and Page One. Such bibliographic labors do cause us to trip rather frequently over
the .. - Dedications in books. (Some of us never quite recover from the experience) In
matters of pornography, today's courts must contend with the , issue of whether or not a
questionable literary work has any "redeeming social significance", but in all
sorts of written works, entertaining and informative, I needn't tell YOU that there's many
a tome that hasn't any significance at all, unless perhaps a good Dedication has escaped
the reader's purview.
3. We can't help but recall a little couplet at this point,
in which English poet William Allingham has said, "With pen and pencil we're learning
to say Nothing, more cleverly every day.
So, while it's true that we librarians may largely be involved
with books as we acquire them and catalog them--stamp, letter, paste, and shelve
them--(and, alas, all too infrequently really read them') perhaps today's little exercise
may have one momentary and redeeming truth to uphold: IF IT WEREN'T FOR A GOOD LIVELY
DEDICATION PAGE, SOME BOOKS WOULDN'T BE WORTH READING AT ALL!
You know what a Dedication is. William Umbach's dictionary
defines what is obvious to almost everyone when it explains, that a dedication is "an
inscription in a book, etc., dedicating it to a person or a cause."
Not very many readers may ever trouble to glance at an author's
dedication, but this seems to deter amazingly few writer= from preserving the tradition of
this trivial literary effort. From the KOJIKI, completed in the year 712, (containing a
dedication to the reigning Empress of Japan) and right down to the new books appearing
daily on the shelves of the Harris or Pickwick bookshops, few authors will fail to include
a dedication of one sort of' another. Some will inscribe their effort with perhaps no more
than a perfunctory and mysterious initial or two; others will be perhaps
uncharacteristically brief and witty, ponderous and pompous, . . saccharine or sharp;
while a few may even yet today revert to the elaborations. : Of an Elizabethan era to
produce extensive dedicatory essays, epistles or poetic form.
Elizabethan authors were really great ones for Dedications.
Records of earlier times have served to prove that dedications were bought and sold even
in the old Roman days, but sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century inscriptions
must really take the palm for such elaboration and literary flair as really are a sight to
behold--and to avoid. They were invariably aimed at a patron's vanity, sometimes that of a
noble lord, sometimes that of a king himself, and before the ink was dry on-such feverish
flattery (frequently equivalent to canonization or coronation) the thrifty author, or his
agent, had called at the patron's door to collect a sum commensurate with the dignity
Few poets of these times were proud enough to hold themselves
above taking advantage of this custom. John Dryden, for example, is reported to have
accepted his dedication fee with "graceful nonchalance".
Naturally, there were certain ungrateful souls who refused to pay
. this involuntary debt. We are told that Emperor Augustus was willing enough to send a
purse to an author whose book had pleased him; but, upon receipt of a worthless book, of
which he had been appointed the official patron, he would send back a set-of his own
writings instead of the . . expected gold! However, for every patron who objected to such
ridiculous -flattery, there were hundreds who were delighted to see their names . .
elevated and enshrined in a dedication. Naturally, such common and ill- advised vanity
inspired many an author to write books for the deliberate purpose of catching these stupid
souls and milking them of all the cash possible. A Parisian gentleman by the name of
Rangouze, as early as 1644, is said to have left the pages of his book unnumbered, so that
their order . . might be variously arranged in different copies and each person addressed
in the dedication might regard himself honored by being awarded first place. 4.
4. Carl Van Vechten tells the interesting tale of one Thomas
Jordan who invented an even more lucrative scheme. He prefixed flowery prefaces to his
works, above which, with a hand press, he printed a new name in each copy! Culling a
directory of two thousand retired tradesmen, he proceeded to print up each volume with the
singularly directed dedication already mentioned; and we are told, was in almost every
instance rewarded quite handsomely by those vain gentlemen who fell for the scheme!
The English dramatist, Thomas Dekker, in the early seventeenth
century, took especial delight in exposing these literary shenanigans-- muck-raking was
not entirely unknown even in the days of Shakespeare. A classic example of such
devastating judgments may be found in Thomas Gordon's anonymous "Dedication to a
Great Man Concerning Dedications":
I have known an author praise an earl, for twenty pages together,
though he knew nothing of him, but that he had money to spare. He made him wise, just, and
religious for no reason in the world, but in hopes to find him charitable; and gave him a
most bountiful heart because he himself had a most empty stomach.
But before we pass from our discussion of Elizabethan
dedications, (and cite a few choice examples) let us be quick to admit that it was no .
particular disgrace in that epoch to call-a man a hero for a few pieces of silver, and, on
the other hand, there were a few authors in those times who utilized their dedicatory
pages quite unselfishly.
Let's take a look at some examples of Elizabethan dedications,
albeit our glance must be at best sketchy and sweeping considering the length of some of
APPENDIX A Examples of Dedications of the
Elizabethan and Jacobean Era
Perhaps the most widely distributed of all dedicatory
statements-- and, likewise, the one most notoriously unread--is that which starts out with
these regally sonorous phrases, "To the Most High and Mighty Prince James, by the
Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,
Etc.,..." Some Sabbath day when you tire of your reverend pastor's declamation upon
the wage's of sin or the fruits . . Of righteousness, indulge yourself in a perfectly
respectable bit of Bible reading and look over the statement by which the English divines
transmitted and dedicated their translation of the so-called "King James"
Version of Holy Writ. No wonder that many lapse into the error of referring to this as the
"Saint" James version! The Heavens themselves must have trembled to hear these
ponderous and profound phrases directed to an earthly king...
Great and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign,
which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England,
when first he sent Your Majesty's Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it
was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that - upon the setting of
that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable
clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land, that men should have been in
doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct
the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength,
instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists and gave unto all that were well
affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the doubted Title, and this
also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad...
And now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our
labours, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the
Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty ~ offer it to Your
Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author
of the work.
Edmund Gosse, in the lead article of the July 1902 issue of
HARPER's MONTHLY MAGAZINE, dwells quite comprehensively and capably upon the subject of
''Elizabethan Dedications of Books", introducing his article with a most provocative
There can be no doubt that to compose a dedication is one of the
primitive instincts of scribbling man.
And then warming to his subject, Gosse later claims that:
At no time, and in no community, has the dedication of books been
carried to a greater extravagance than it was at the close of the sixteenth and the
beginning of the seventeenth century in England.
Furthermore, the English essayist contends
The light thrown by the old dedications upon-the struggles, the
terrors, and the consolations of men of letters in England is very important and
interesting, and it is surprising that the historians behave so generally neglected it.
We've already noted how true this fact is as we have read the
King James Bible Dedication, but ponder also upon the overtones so obvious in some of the
The Dedication of "The Second Week of~DuBartas" (1593
by Joshuah Sulvester, also to King James I
AND MIGHTIE PRINCE
(By The Grace of God)
KING OF GREAT BRITAINE,
TRUE DEFENDER OF
THE TRUE, ANTIENT,
Lesser patrons of the literary arts were hardly less gratefully
acknowledged with elaborate dedications. A poet of 1595 referred to Robert Devereux, Earl
of Essex, as England's cedar, sprung up to preserve the humblest in all
professions with your shadow Pembroke likewise received flowery adulation--some suppose that
Shakespeare's "Sonnets" were mysteriously dedicated to him, and he shares with
his brother Montgomery the glory of "protecting" the First Folio of 1623. Ben
Jonson - : praised Pembroke in leading
forth so many good and great names to their remembrance and
Elizabethan and Jacobean poets often sought dedicatees more for
protection than money. Reynolds, in dedicating his "Dolarny's Primrose" in 1606
to Lord Aubigne, says
I seek not Ascanius' rich cloak for bravery, but covet to be
sheltered from the vulture's tyranny.
In days when the courts were liable at any moment to swoop down
upon an author, to have secured a powerful patron was of the highest importance.
The high and mighty likewise dedicated their literary
efforts--sometimes in ludicrous and grotesque degree and with appalling false humility.
The Laird of Rosecraig saw fit to dedicate his "Amorous Songs, Sonnets, and . - .
Elegies" to Queen Anne of Denmark in 1606, in such terms as these
Happy beyond the measure of my merit shall I be if I can purchase
this portion of your princely approbation as to accept and entertain these trivial toys,
where your Grace shall smell flowers to refresh, herbs to cure, and weeds to be avoided,
in the lowest degree of least favour. But, howsoever, wishing your Highness as many happy
years as there be words in my verses, and verses in my worthless volume, I am Your
Majesty's most obsequious orator, Alexander Craig. 5
5. Taken literally, incidentally, that last sentence would
have ~ doomed Queen Anne to live at least 20,000 years!
And so the dedications of the era ran--generally quite elaborate
and effusive--acknowledging patrons of a wide degree of position and influence-- to men
and women, ditty and saint--in style poetic and epistolary, waxing evermore eloquent and
sublime. Occasionally, brevity blew its refreshing breath across the literary landscape,
and who could surpass the awesome and . . uncompromising way in which William Streat, in
1654 dedicated his "The -Dividing of the Hoof" simply
APPENDIX B - Contemporary
1. To Wives
For my wife; the power behind the drone
To Carol, wife, mentor and inspiration
An Asia explorer inscribed his book:
To my wife; in memory of bullock-cart days and Irrawady nights.'
The four authors of the PRINCIPLES OF BIOCHEMISTRY were unanimous
in their devotion to their wives. Their dedication read,
To our wives (let us hope to each one's own wife)
To Isobel-- whose absence ensured the completion of this book.
In like manner, an RKO director dedicated his fires book:
To my wife, without whose absence this could not. have been
Franklin P. Adams dedicated his book HALF A IOAF to his wife
To Esther, Who Continually Urges Me to Write More -- and
Francis Hackett wrote TEE INVISIBLE CENSOR and dedicated it
to My Wife, Signe Toksvig, Whose Lack of Interest in this book
Has Been by Constant Desperation
George Creel, caused to be printed on one of the early leaves of
IRELAND'S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
To my wife BLANCHE BATES CREEL who has long begged me to give up
controversy in favour of 'nice, unargumentative things like books,' this volume is
Coventry Patmore's THE ANGEL IN THE HOUSE:
This Poem is inscribed to the memory of Her By whom and for whom
I became a poet.
Mark Twain wrote JOAN OF ARC as a silver wedding anniversary gift
to his wife and tendered it to her with the following dedication page:
To my wife Olivia Langdon Clemens This book Is tendered on
our wedding anniversary, in grateful recognition of her twenty-fifth year of valued
service as my literary advisor and editor.
2. To Family
"To my dear sons, Michael and Nicholas, without whose school
bills this anthology would not have been made.''
Robert McAfee Brown in his SPIRIT OF PROTESTANTISM dedicates his
.FOR MY CHILDREN, Peter (11) and Mark (8), who helped me
rearrange the pages that Alison (3) had examined one morning after we had all been
awakened at a very early hour by Thomas (6 months).
To Cinda who thinks her daddy know practically everything, and
Her Mother who knows better.
This book is dedicated to my educators in the truly worthwhile
things of life -- My Father, My Mother, My Wife, My Son, My Daughter'
To My Family, especially the younger members of it, without whose
help this book would have been finished much sooner.'
The author of A TREATISE OF MANURES, or, THE PHILOSOPHY OF
MANURING wrote a preface full of poetic expressions, and here is his dedication:
To my parents who have always encouraged my scientific studies
and researches, this work is dedicated, as a token of love and respect.
Incredible as it may sound an author dedicates his book to his
mother-in-law! William I. Kauffman offers this somewhat cryptic dedication:
This book is dedicated to Esther T. Van Poznak, my mother-in-law
For my parents who are staunch Republicans and for Beatrice who
Here's a long-suffering lady author with a different approach:
This book is for E.G. and Bill and Philip whose suffering during
its writing have been long if not always silent.
How do you like this religious volume with the dedication
Every woman is a theologian, and two have taught me -my mother
and my wife.
Betty MacDonald inscribed THE EGG AND I to her sister Mary,
who has always believed I can do anything she puts her mind to
Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét dedicated A:BOOK OF AMERICANS
to their children thus:
To Stephanie, Thomas and Rachel, our other works in
3. To Friends, Colleagues, Students, etc.
To Robert P. Tristram Coffin: Friend of too few years...Mentor for as long as I may write.
To my thousands of students, from a one-teacher
school in Lipton County, Indiana, in 1910, to graduate students in the Ohio State
University where I retired from teaching in 1956.
While we might be shocked to read the opening phrase of one
To the eternal triangle
we're somewhat appeased by the full text which reads
To the eternal triangle: author, publisher, bookseller
The most deserved dedications seem to be those which are
addressed to the main 'contributor' to a particular book. This one may hide very much:
To A.W. to whom I owe so much.
An aged expert, writing about women, had all the girls of the
world in mind:
To the daughters of Eve.
Franklin P. Adams sent a copy of his book NODS AND BECKS to his
former boss, the New York POST editor, with this inscription:
To Ted Thackrey, who fired me with ambition.
The inscription in Elliott H. Paul's INDELIBLE reads thusly:
Blithely I dedicate this first of my novels to that group of
acquaintances who have, during the lean season which marks the start of a literary career,
been most solicitous for my health and hopeful for my success -- My Creditors.
F.P. Adams again, in his book OVERSET, made a dedication
To Herbert Bayard Swope, Without Those Friendly Aid Every Line in
this Book Was - Written.
Philip Moeller's graceful dedication to SOPHIE:
To Carl Van Vechten who first gave me the key to Sophie's
dressing room and to Emily Stevens who was waiting when the knob was turned.
Christopher Morely, in PIPEFUIS, gives this dedication
This book is dedicated
to three men
William Rose Benét
Because if I mentioned only
one of them, I would have to
to inscribe to the other two
.Conan Doyle lapses into the familiar epistolary style on the
dedication page of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES:
My Dear Robinson: It was your account of a west country legend
which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind. For this and for the help
which you gave me in its evolution all thanks.
4. To Causes and Institutions
Morris Ryskind wrote, for his dedication of UNACCUSTOMED AS I AM:
To the Great American Democracy__ May It Bring Me Royalty
'A chemistry professor, in his book THE PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY OF
ELECTROLYTIC S0LUTIONS has dedicated his efforts to (no he is neither a professor nor a
student at the UR!)
To those institutions which have fostered free inquiry through
these troubled times, this book is is gratefully dedicated.
Thomas Shaw's CL0VE.RS is quite scientifically oriented and quite
nobly dedicated :
To all persons who are or may be interest in the Growing of
Clovers This work is most respectfully dedicated by the author.
The Rev. Buckley, author of THE PERIL AND WRONG OF WOMAN
SUFFRAGE, dedicates it
To Man and Women Who Look Before They Leap
5. To Pets
Dan Beard's ANIMAL BOOK is dedicated:
To my son, Daniel Bartlett Beard, the most enjoyable
pet and interesting specimen I have ever been fortunate enough to possess.
Oliver Herford dedicated A KITTEN'S GANDER OF VERSES
to his celebrated Persian cat, Hafiz
Agnes Repplier, in like manner, dedicated her FIRESIDE SPHINX
to her Agrippina
W.L. George's cat Rallikrates shares with Mrs. George the
dedication to BLIND ALLEY
Carl Van Doren's TIGER IN THE HOUSE presents a dual dedication,
to Edna Kenton and
to his own Feathers
Ouida's PUCK, purporting to be the autobiography of a dog, is
dedicated to a Newfoundland
To A faithful friend and A gallant gentleman; Sulla Felix.
6. To Initials
The most familiar dedication in all literature is undoubtedly
that which Thomas Thorpe prefixed to Shakespeare's Sonnets (1609):
TO THE ONLIE BEGETTER OF
THESE INSUING SONNETS
MR. W.H. ALL HAPPINESSE
AND THAT ETERNITIE
OUR EVER-LIVING POET
WISHETH THE WELL-WISHING
The controversy that has raged around this innocent inscription
could probably be bound in several thick tomes, for, with the passing of the centuries it
has become a matter of considerable importance to discover the identity of Mr. W. H. All
the Shakespearean commentators and a few others, notably Oscar Wilde, have tried their
wits at solving this baffling problem .
7 . Proposed
To My Daughters, Spenda and Blown,
But for Whose Extravagant Idleness
I Should Not Have Had to Write this
To Certain Schools and Colleges, in
the Hope that the Royalties on this
Book Will be Enough to Defray What I
Still Owe The Four Institutions
I hurl at you this lovely book;
At your unbrainful head I shy it
For, oh you parsimonious crook,
You'd never buy it.
To William Shakespeare, from whose
Attorneys I Am Unlikely to Hear in the Morning.
Hogarth proposed to publish a HISTORY OF THE ACTS as a supplement
to the ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY and he composed the following amusing dedication for it:
The No-Dedication; not dedicated to any prince in Christendom,
for fear it might be thought an idle piece of arrogance; not dedicated to any mark of
quality, for fear it might be thought too assuming; not dedicated to any learned body of
men, as either of the Universities or the Royal Society, for fear it might be thought an
uncommon piece of vanity; nor dedicated to any particular friend, for fear of offending
another; therefore dedicated to nobody; but for once we may suppose nobody to be
everybody, as everybody is often said to be nobody, then this work is dedicated to
Among those dedications flavoured with the spice of mystery is
the inscription in Lord Beachnfield's VIVIAN GREY (1828)
To The Best and Greatest of Men I dedicate these volumes. He for
whom it was intended, will accept and appreciate the compliment; Those, for whom it was
not intended, will -- do the same.
Kipling inscribed his PLAIN TALES PROM THE HILLS
To The Wittiest Woman India
'Alfred Allendale's THE MAN OF SORROW,
To The Prettiest Gil in England
H.. Dennis Bradley's NOT FOR. FOOLS is dedicated:
To The Inarticulate, Splendid Nameless
But possibly the most Mysterious inscription of all is that in
Grant Overton's THE ISLAND OF THE INNOCENT
Colley Cibber's daughter, Charlotte Clarke, dedicated her
George Wither had printed in the front of his abuses STRIPT AND
WHIPT (1628) the following sentiment:
To himselfo G. W. wisheth all happinesse,
The biographer of Samuel Johnson inscribed his anonymously
published ODE TO TRAGEDY:
To James BOSWELL, Esq.
The wittiest of the self-dedications is surely that created by
Oliver Herford for the BASHFUL EARTHQUAKE:
TO THE ILLUSTRATOR In grateful acknowledgment of his amiable
condescension in lending his exquisitely delicate art to the embellishment of these poor
verses from his sincerest admirer. THE AUTHOR
Would you believe that there is a small but rather lively army of
individuals who collect unique book dedications? During, and subsequent to, : : the Second
World War many have taken up this pursuit as a full-fledged hobby, like accumulating
limericks and graveyard epitaphs. Devotees of this fad scour libraries, bookstores,
cellars, attics and literary archives for volumes with unusual dedications. The practice
is to photostat the inscription, mount it in an album, and swap facsimiles with other
As late as 1955, probably the dean of dedication-hunters was
Julius Schwartz of Glen Oaks, New York. In two decades, Mr. Schwartz amassed photostats of
more than 23,000 different dedications.
With such ha vast field for selection, most collectors soon
specialize in a particular category of dedication. Usually the subject is influenced by
their vocation. A New London, Connecticut minister, the Rev. John Wiley, saves only
tributes dedicated to Biblical characters. A Chicago University language professor
restricts his specimens to dedications written in Latin. A Long Island pediatrician, Dr.
Leonard Ehrlich, has an album of more than seventy fly-leaves dedicated to infants. Prize
of his collection is a book by Inez McEwen dedicated
To William Craig,
my infant grandson,
the only gent on whom I've been
able to pin anything
Well, that's a pretty good one, and we're tempted to run on and
on, endlessly sharing more delightful gems. But right at the moment we've got another
problem of some special gravity and pertinence:
To whom or what or how should we dedicate this frail paper?
Surely . we could not conclude these remarks (wind up our book, so to speak) without
giving some thought to the same sort of fitting and appropriate dedications about which we
have been talking!
Let me see... Properly, perhaps, we ought to dedicate this
To My Esteemed Associates
Fortnightly Club of Redlands
but, frankly, this author rather shies away from that kind of
stuffy pompousness no matter how appropriate
We're tempted to get a bit mysterious and risqué with the use of
some well-known initials, bowing to one of our prominent colleagues in this fashion
Who Twice Nine Months Ago
Got Me Into the Fix In
Which I Labor Today.
But, discretion and honesty should above all prevail, and we have
the feeling that we ought to conclude on the sort of note mentioned by a Maryland
librarian in an issue of the LIBRARY JOURNAL almost ten years ago. In keeping with his
suggestion we hereby conclude with this Dedicatory . postscript:
I have stolen so much from Edmund Gosse, Maurice Hewlett, and the
late Carl Van Yechten that the least I can do is dedicate this paper to them.