"THIS IS, I BELIEVE, THE FIRST ENDEAVOR TO SET DOWN THE WHOLE AND TRUE STORY OF THE MOTION PICTURE": ONE OF ONLY 327 COPIES SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR AND THOMAS EDISON, A RARE ASSOCIATION COPY FROM THE PERSONAL COLLECTION OF FAMED CINEMA BIBLIOPHILE SPENCER BERGER, HOLLYWOOD’S "RENOWNED EXPERT ON THE BARRYMORE FAMILY"
(EDISON, Thomas Alva) RAMSAYE, Terry. A Million and One Nights. A History of the Motion Picture. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1926. Two volumes. Thick octavo, original half brown pigskin and Japanese patterned paper boards, top edges gilt. $10,500.
Signed limited first edition of one of the most important histories of cinema, number 8 of only 327 sets signed by Ramsaye and Thomas Edison, an exceptional association copy containing a laid-in typed letter by award-winning film scholar and author Dr. Donald Crafton, this rare copy a gift to him from "film aficionado and collector… Spencer Berger." With over 100 illustrations, a splendid copy in publisher’s leather and Japanese patterned paper boards.
At a time when only Columbia University offered lectures on film, and when the Museum of Modern Art kept quiet plans for a film archive because it was considered "highly unusual to consider films as art or as a medium worth preserving," Terry Ramsaye spent five years researching this landmark two-volume film history (MoMA, 1984, 18). The "acknowledged… dean of film historians," Ramsaye also founded two newsreels, the Screen Telegram and Kinograms, and was an editor at Pathe News and The Motion Picture Herald (New York Times). Much of the first volume is devoted to Thomas Edison, specifically his "kinetograph" camera and "Black Maria," the structure he designed to rotate in alignment with the sun. Ramsaye then examines the impact of innovators such as Muybridge, Edwin S. Porter, Méliès and Griffith, continuing on through contemporaries such as David O. Selznick and Charlie Chaplin.
This memorable association copy contains a laid-in typed letter signed by Donald Crafton on letterhead of the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Crafton, recipient of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Distinguished Career Achievement Award, taught at Yale before he became the "first endowed professor in film studies at the University of Notre Dame." He also served as chairperson of the Dept. of Film and Theatre Research, directed the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research, and was the author of influential books on cinema history.In his letter Dr. Crafton writes in part: "This two-volume work has been deaccessioned from my personal library… It was given to me as a gift from my friend, film aficionado and collector, and businessman, Spencer Berger."
Berger "was a renowned expert on the Barrymore family… actors John, Lionel, and Ethel Barrymore, and an enthusiast of Ted Lewis and Leopold Stokowski," as well as a longtime correspondent with Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle. Berger was so well known in Hollywood that in 1940, when Bette Davis was lobbying for John Barrymore in film adaptation of The Man Who Came to Dinner, she "took it upon herself to write Spencer Berger, the Barrymore family's factotum," noting: "this one would be excellent" for Barrymore. While he did not get the lead, Bette Davis won the role of Maggie Cutler in the 1942 film. Copies are more frequently found in blue cloth; this copy is in the more deluxe original half pigskin with Japanese patterned paper boards.
Interior pristine and beautiful, original leather and paper boards with a hint of rubbing, Volume Ii spine head with just a bit of loss. Binding much nicer than usually found, near-fine.