Thursday, July 18, 2019

Further on the Grill/Binkin Lovecraft Collection

Back in March, I wrote on the Lovecraft Collection of Jack Grill and (later) of Irving Binkin.  It's posted here

This is a follow-up, bringing the story to the present as far as I am able. 

The original blog post received the following comment from someone who signed their name only as JohnK:
Quite a few pieces of the Grill Collection wound up in the 'Undead' Book Sail (John McLaughlin) catalog 1984. McLaughlin also had the Cats Of Ulthar manuscript for sale in the early 90's as I recall. McLaughlin was eccentric to say the least, he had a shop in Orange Ca. that was hardly ever open to the public and was loaded with weird collector's items that he really wasn't interested in selling.
After McLaughlin passed away many of his treasures were auctioned off by Heritage, including the mostly unsold Lovecraft Grill collection. McLaughlin's dream like many collectors was to have a museum devoted to his collections. His family had other ideas. I actually looked at that Dracula script at his shop one time, it was stashed in a pile of other equally rare stuff.”
I remember that catalog primarily for its long six-page description of the typescript of Dracula (originally titled "The Undead"), and the fact that the package in which it was sent was marked: "Open with Care, Contents UNDEAD." I'd completely forgotten that the catalog included HPL and Weird Tales materials. The catalog itself is dated 1984, but my copy wasn't mailed until February 28th, 1985.

And sure enough, among all of the Lovecraftiana are listings for the manuscripts of “The Cats of Ulthar” and “Some Dutch Footprints in New England,” as well as Lovecraft's Astronomical Notebook, 1909-1915, among many other items. The Lovecraft material is quite extensive, and runs some forty-six heavily descriptive pages, covering items 355 through 468. Additionally, there are many photographs of the various items.

Cover to the 1984 Undead Book Sail catalog
The catalog itself is a lavish production. Most copies were done in trade paperback, with a new color cover by Rowena Morrill, and new materials by Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and others. The print run was evidently fairly large, as the colophon notes that the edition consisted of 1,400 numbered copies, of which one thousand were bound in wrappers, and four hundred bound as deluxe hardcovers (with extra material, and the signatures of the contributors). On top of the 1,400 copies, another one hundred fifty were made for the publisher's use, including fifty copies bound in half-leather for presentation to contributors. The copies were hand-numbered with an ink compound that contained actual human blood. (To add to the absurdity, the inserted errata slip, correcting only one item's price, has a notation that “This errata is limited to 1500 copies.” Presumably the contributor copies were given out without this photocopied errata slip.)

The catalog is subtitled the “16th Anniversary Catalogue” of the Book Sail out of Orange, California. It was edited and catalogued by Bruce Francis, and published and coordinated by John McLaughlin. It is probably fair to call the whole enterprise eccentric, for, basically, it's a kind of vanity publication to show off the materials that McLaughlin had collected and which he really didn't want to sell. (The high prices alone are evidence of a desire not to sell the materials.) And the catalogue itself was sold to inquiring customers. I don't remember the price, but it wasn't cheap, and one was really paying for the privilege to read the often lengthy descriptions of rare and unique items, of which the Stoker manuscript was the prized example.

The proprietor of the Book Sail must also be described as eccentric. John Kevin McLaughlin (1942-2005) was the only child of an IBM executive and his wife. He grew up in Endicott, New York, and graduated from high school there, after which he attended college at World Campus, which was a float that went around the world. He married (and divorced) twice, and was survived by two sons from his first marriage. He founded the Book Sail in Anaheim in 1968, and moved it to a larger location in Orange in 1975. Meanwhile he amassed a legendary collection of antiquarian books, vintage comics, pulp magazine, and movie scripts and memorabilia. He must have purchased the Grill/Binkin collection of Lovecraft manuscripts in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

McLaughlin was reportedly given lavish amounts of money by his father, and thereby was able to build his collections. His parents died in Endicott in the early 1990s, and McLaughlin died there at the age of 63 in June 2005. In August 2006, major chunks of his collections, including it seems much of the Lovecraftiana, was auctioned by Heritage Auction Galleries and Diamond International Galleries. Some of McLaughlin's collection—this looks mostly to be movie ephemera (posters, scripts, photos, contracts, etc.)— ended up in "The John McLaughlin Collection of Popular Culture" in Special Collections at Binghamton University.

Thus, through the auction of McLaughlin's collections, much of what had been the Grill/Binkin collection of Lovecraftiana re-entered the market, and was apparently completely dispersed. Many of these materials are probably still out there somewhere, though individual items are not easily located, and it appears that most of it did not end up in institutions or libraries.

At least the collection per se did not end up in a dumpster.

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