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new old letters and signs
16 August 2021

Our indolence speaks of classical books, eternal books. If only some eternal book existed, primed for our enjoyment and whims, no less inventive in the populous morning as in the secluded night, oriented toward all hours of the world. Your favorite books, reader, are like the rough drafts of that book without a final reading.

— Jorge Luis Borges, Literary Pleasure (1927)

John D. Berry and I are working out production details with the printer, the sundry preliminaries necessary to begin printing books in a few weeks. It’s exciting! At times exhausting and stressful too – a lot of balls to keep in the air at once. We have four people helping out on various hands-on aspects of project fulfillment, yet others advising and smoothing the way in essential areas. Lifesavers, all.

One of our hands-on helpers is a certain gentleman, name of John Crowley. On Wednesday, August 4th, I received an email from him, following up on a phone conversation we’d had the previous day.

“Ron –

“I pulled out the wrapped sheets and apparently I signed none of them. There are a very large number, almost all signed by Bloom and Peter Milton. There are a couple of smaller packets (in number; they are the same size) that are unsigned by anyone, and those packets are sealed by scotch tape on the edges. Counting the sheets is beyond me – if I start counting them by fives or however there's a risk of dropping them in trying to re-stack them after a counting. How many do you believe I have in these brown-paper wrappers? Each packet has a sheet of instructions taped to the wrapping paper, which urges me to read the typed instruction sheet, which so far hasn't appeared. If it's easy please email a scan or a text of this document.

“I'm assuming that I am to sign all the sheets that Harold and Peter have signed. I also assume I'll get instructions as to where on the sheet I am to sign. I haven't yet come upon the sheets I signed and wrote a bit of text for as well, but I am sure they are all in there.

“More to come.


More messages were exchanged in the following days. Everything Mr. Crowley sought was found by him or provided by me, including all of the four-page Letter sheets he had kept safe for over a decade in a drawer of the dresser next to the desk in the long narrow middle-floor room of the home where for decades he has written his novels and stories and essays. Long ago, so long ago now that however close it might seem by temporal count it feels like another world entirely, one whose very airs elude recollection, he inscribed all but two of 29 Letter sheets with their individual dedications; onto each transcribed, in his famously beautiful italic hand, an often more than 300-word passage from Little, Big chosen by the intended recipient. Each copy of the Lettered Edition will be unique – as well as one of 26 (+3).

As for the “very large number” of wrapped sheets signed by Peter Milton and Harold Bloom but not yet by John Crowley? Those are the Number sheets, still awaiting Crowley’s enumerating and inscribing hand. This coming week, among dozens of other tasks we are juggling, I will finish prepping the list of names and guidelines and send them on to John so he can finish his work.

Look for another update on or before September 15, 2021.

Ron Drummond

P.S. with music.

Nightingale String Quartet:
Vagn Holmboe, Andante quasi una giacona
from String Quartet No. 3, Opus 48 (1949)

Updated Friday, 27-Jan-2023 06:53:14 MST

Published 19 August 2021