Originally posted by David Alexander:
The copyright statement is misleading and somewhat nonsensical. The claim of copyright is made by "S.W. Erdnase," and then "Enterted at Stationers' Hall, London."
At least one British researcher has looked and found nothing there.
Then, "Entered according to the Act of the Parliament of Congress.....in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture." It says nothing about "London, Ontario."
"Parliament of Congress" is nonsense. It is either "Act of Parliament," which would be in keeping with a British copyright, or "Act of Congress," which would be appropriate to an US copyright. What it says doesn't mean anything.
This suggests either someone who didn't know what they were doing - an amateur publisher as Erdnase was - an incompetent at McKinney who typeset this after Erdnase had left and wasn't available to proof it (which also explains the technical errors in the text) - or someone trying to confuse the issue.
I hate to admit that Busby is right about something on this topic, but he was right when he pointed out that the copyright statement in the first edition of Erdnase is an unusual triple copyright statement. The first line says:
"Copyright, 1902, by S. W. Erdnase."
This is, in fact, the US Copyright statement.
Under this is a seperating line and then the statement:
"Entered at Stationer's Hall, London."
This is the British copyright statement. Under this is another seperating line, then it says:
"Entered According to the Act of Parliament of Canada in the Year One Hundred Thousand and Two, by S. W. Erdnase, in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture."
This is the Canadian Copyright statement. Even in the first edition, the word Canada is in broken type. Sometime, much, much later (possibly not till the 1930s), Frederick J. Drake and Company replaced the broken type for "Canada" with the word "Congress". This was not a mistake the author made. Whoever he was, he knew quite a bit about copyright law, as all three statements are correctly formatted. I know of no other book from the period, magic or otherwise, with this feature. He did follow through with the US Copyright (why?). He apparently did not follow through with the Canadian or British Copyrights (why not?). I think these facts tell us some important things about the author, though it is not clear exactly what.
The exact nature of the author's relationship with the printer McKinney is not known. McKinney was an alcoholic and one of his partners was a known gambler. To me it is not impossible to imagine that they undertook the project without requiring up front financing from a struggling author for a project they may have believed in themselves. We know now that they were selling copies themselves. Was this at the author's request, or to pay off his debt? We just don't know at this point. The fact that the author bothered to follow through with the US Copyright application, to me weakens his conjectured need for absolute anonymity, as does his use of the artist's true name ("M. D. Smith") on the title page. Anyone with sufficient interest in 1902 could have gotten the copyright information, tracked down McKinney, tracked down Smith, and learned a great deal that is now lost to us. Certainly we would have learned exactly what he looked like, when and how often he met the artist (he had vivid recollection only of their initial meeting, but agreed that they must have met more than once. Indeed, he claimed that after making the sketches "from life" he would go to his studio to ink them in, returning them to the author for his approval...). How much Smith was paid, what bank was used for the check, what hotel they met in, what name he was registered under there, how many illustrations he did (and how), the exact nature of the author's "relationship" to Louis Dalrymple, the political cartoonist, etc. etc. Enough I would think, for a clever detective quickly to pinpoint the author, even if the latter was dealing with McKinney and Smith under a second pseudonym (I don't happen to believe he was, but I admit I don't really know!). I really don't understand why someone demanding (as conjectured by David Alexander) total anonymity would bother with the copyright application or place Smith's true name on the title page. I happen to think the author likely did not require that high a degree of anonymity, and that a simple reversal of his true name sufficed for his purposes. Indeed, he may have been disappointed not only with poor sales on the first edition (I am guessing about 1,000 were done as they are much more common that the two hardback edition Drake put out in 1905 and were available from Chicago magic shops as late as 1911 at half the original price (which was still double Drake's hardback price, triple the Sear's catalog price!), but with the fact that no one tracked him down. I really think we won't understand all the known facts until we know for sure who the author was...
Incidentally, for those interested, the facsimile of the first edition offered by bookseller Michael Canick is finally out and is quite lovely. At $52 it is also rather expensive, but I'm happy to have one (limited to 750 copies). Copies of the 1975 Powner edition, which retains all the typographical features of the first edition, except for the title page, are still widely available for under $10 at most dealers...