Home > Oak Knoll Press > “I was a collector before I was a bibliographer” The story behind Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography

“I was a collector before I was a bibliographer” The story behind Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography

Dave Richards, author of Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliography, explains how his interest in Kipling developed from an original fascination with “soldier poets” of World War I. Read to see how he developed the largest-known Kipling collection.

Dave Richards

Like all bibliographers of Kipling who preceded me, I was a collector before I was a bibliographer. And it didn’t start with Kipling. While a student at Cambridge University, with my first intensive study of World War I, I became fascinated by the phenomenon of the “soldier poets” and their contrast of life in the trenches with their pre-war existence, and much later in life began collecting first editions of Sassoon, Graves, and Owen. A complete collection of Wilfred Owen, however, is something like six volumes, and the collector’s itch cannot be so frequently scratched.

Those years of study in England also included my first academic instruction in the history of the modern British Empire, and it belatedly came to me that, if I collected Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), I would be acquiring works that spanned from the glory days of the British Raj, through and past World War I, where Kipling lost his older son–and there were so many first edition titles to collect, British and American and Indian and Canadian and French (even, I discovered, Australian and Chilean).

From my collection, eventually the largest assemblage of Rudyard Kipling books and manuscripts collection ever assembled anywhere, and from consulting the old bibliographies in building it and discovering their omissions and mistakes, came the impetus to write the first new Kipling bibliography in fifty years. His first serious bibliographer, E. W. Martindell, wrote the second, Flora Livingston in 1923, “I do not think it possible, even with his aid, for there ever to be a complete bibliography of his writings in prose and verse.”  Maybe not, but I have tried, and keep supplementing that effort with my “Additions and Corrections” feature on the Oak Knoll website (perhaps a unique feature among modern bibliographies, for which I thank Oak Knoll, so no one can say “Not in Richards” once I learn of the new facts!).  My final feeling is that of the author himself: as Kipling wrote in Some Aspects of Travel in 1914:

“Forgive me, ladies and gentlemen! I will not go on with the catalogue, although I feel like the commercial traveler in the story, who said: ‘If you don’t care to look at my samples, d’you mind my having a look at ’em?  It’s been so long since I’ve seen them.'”

Thank you for sharing, Dave! Click here to find out more about Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography.

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  1. Loreta
    April 23, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Hi, Im a huge Kipling fan and I am desperately looking for a manuscript of the poem “if” by Kipling. I would so much appreciate if you could tell me where I could find one of the manuscripts.
    Thank u so much in advance!

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