Monday, July 25, 2022

1911's "The Isle of Wight," its provenance and Joseph Sadony

Today we're taking a look at The Isle of Wight — "pictured by Ernest Haslehust" (E.W. Haslehust on the title page) and "described by Edward Thomas." It's interesting that illustrator Haslehust gets a higher credit on the cover than poet/author Thomas, who was killed in action in World War I in 1917.

There's no date of publication printed inside the book. According to WorldCat, which keeps a database of institutional library collections, it was published in 1911. Other online listings state 1915, 1915[?] and "circa 1920." There's a lot of sloppiness and misinformation on the internet, of course. I think we should go with WorldCat. Additionally, a previous bookseller has written "1911 1st ED" on one of the first pages of this copy.
The 64-page hardcover book was published by Blackie and Son Limited of London, Glasgow and Bombay. Wikipedia tells us that this publishing house was in business from 1809 to 1991. Some of the series it published over the decades include Beautiful England, Beautiful Ireland, Beautiful Scotland and Beautiful Switzerland. The Isle of Wight is part of the Beautiful England series, which was originally published from about 1910 through the 1925, but apparently saw reprints through the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, Haslehust was the illustrator for the approximately three dozen volumes.
Moving to the inside front cover, there are some inscriptions of provenance:
I'm not sure what/which Blenheim is referred to in the first inscription. That's the name of at least two places in the United Kingdom. Newport and Carisbrooke are located on the Isle of Wight, a 148-square-mile island off the southern coast of England.

At first I thought The Cedars might be a neighborhood within Carisbrooke. There's no mention of it as such in Wightpedia (the wiki of Wight history) or elsewhere that I can find. But The Cedars is the name of a cozy pub on the Isle of Wight that looks like it could easily date back more than 100 years and could have also served as a residence. A 1903 church directory lists a Mr. A. Kemp at The Cedars in Carisbrooke, for what that's worth.

Then we have the bookseller's label for A.G. Bird, Bookseller, Newport, I.W. I found an obituary for Archibald Gaydon Bird that was published by Isle of Wight County Press on October 10, 1959. It states, "Mr. Bird was a native of Barnstable, where his father was a wine and spirit merchant. He spent some time in business at Croydon before coming to the Island, and in 1908 he purchased the old-established business of bookseller and stationer hitherto carried on by the Gubbins family at premises in High Street, Newport. The business has since become well known all over the Island under the style of A. G. Bird, and has now been carried on unbrokenly for well over a century."
Also in terms of provenance, there's an embossed stamp from a previous owner on the title page. It states "JOSEPH A. SADONY" and "PRIVATE." I have on my shelves another book with his stamp, Swedish Life in Town and Country (1904). Assuming I have the correct Joseph A. Sadony, he lived from 1877 to 1960 and was quite an intriguing figure. Buckle up.

First up, the Michigan estate he lived at was called The Mouth. The website features Sadony's 1960 obituary from the Muskegon Chronicle. An excerpt:
Joseph A. Sadony, enigmatic sage of the Valley of the Pines in White River Township, died Friday evening at Hackleys Hospital, Muskegon. He was 83 years old.

"One of the best known and least understood men in Michigan," that was the opening statement of an article on Mr. Sadony in the Muskegon Chronicle on his 83rd birthday anniversary last Feb 22.

Mr. Sadony, in his cloistered life on his estate at The Mouth, devoted his years to the study and development of his theories as to the physical sciences, his theories as to the working of the human mind, and his theories as to the spiritual side of man. The insatiable curiosity of his unusual mind ran the gamut of all facets of human existence.

It was in the realm of mental phenomena that Mr. Sadony aroused the greatest curiosity and interest as to his theories. He was considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the subject of mental phenomena. It was this phase of his work which sometimes led to a misconception of the man. Mr. Sadony contended his theories of mental phenomena were based on sound psychological grounds, that there was nothing of the "clairvoyant" or "supernatural" about his mental capacities.
Sadony was the author of several books. Perhaps the most notable was his 1948 autobiography, Gates of the Mind. A review of the book at the website offers this conclusion: "What was Sadony's overall purpose for writing Gates of the Mind? He wanted to 'rescue the truth,' as he puts it, by exposing the charlatans and psychic racketeers who deceive us with tricks. He diligently demystified clairvoyance, extrasensory perception, precognition, telepathy, etc. by explaining and illustrating such phenomena in ordinary terms, and through personal examples in his life. Most of all, he wanted to show that inspiration and feeling compose the core of our heart, without which humanity would be but uninspired automatons with no purpose."

Meanwhile, there's also part of the estate called Mouth Cemetery. Jennifer Jones writes on The Dead History website that the ruins of Sadony's laboratory are visible from the cemetery. (Now this is sounding like a James Whale film.) Jones' post gets into all kinds of weirdness that goes beyond what I've already presented here, and is a fun read.

This is really only the tip of the iceberg on Sadony, who's a bit of a cult figure in certain circles. There's a website called The Valley of the Pines, The Official Joseph A. Sadony Website! (The exclamation point is theirs, not mine.) It's the official website of Sadony's estate, which is said to include "thousands upon thousands of pages of letters, books, photographs, scrap books, articles [and] journals." But it's not clear that anything new has been posted to the website in over a half-decade. There are some interesting photos, past and present, of the shops, barns, chapel, laboratory, cabins and more that are part of the estate. I'm not sure when the 30,000+ volumes from his library began trickling into the public sphere for sale as used books, but it's kind of neat that two of them have found their way to my shelves. 

Well, we've veered all the way from picturesque, century-old views of the Isle of Wight to cemeteries and psychics in Michigan, but that's what can happen when you investigate an old book's provenance. Let's finish by returning to one of Ernest Haslehust's bucolic illustrations.


  1. In the first inscription Blenheim could be name of a house - Mrs. Paterson's Mrs. Mitchell's - in Newport. In local directories it may just be recorded under the street number, which would make it difficult to identify.

    1. Oh, good point! I often forget about the idea of house names and elaborate, multilayered addresses in the United Kingdom.