Tuesday, September 2, 2014

John Osborne observed in 1959

Reading Which of Us Two? The Story of a Love Affair (Viking, London 1990).It is the record of a 'youthful, illicit and intense' relationship between John Tasker (1933 – 1988) the theatre director and Colin Spencer (born 1933) artist and writer. Spencer uses a  collection of letters the lovers wrote to each other (his were returned after John Tasker's death) and considers the relationship and why he 'murdered its future'. Spencer makes acute and amusing comments on literary figures including John Osborne (whose library we bought last year). This entry was starred by Osborne in his copy:

 17.iii. 59. Yesterday I began drawing the great Mr Osborne, tall, thin, spectral: in black skin-tight trousers that showed a cute bottom and a huge lunch. And camp, my dear – not 'arf.  And the musical, my dear, cor that's a queer dish too, everybody changes their sex halfway through and deliciously lovely Adrienne Corri grows hair on her chest. Most peculiar: he was moving about so much, it's only the second week of rehearsals...though I did some lightning things with a brush, it just won't do so I'm going back after Easter and try some more. He has a curiously camp voice and he appears to stare at one with his teeth...

Colin Spencer says of this letter:

The John Osborne musical was of course The World of Paul Slickey, soon to become the only commercial failure of his early years. [We]admired Look Back in Anger, our generation felt that Osborne encapsulated the rage

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (1928)

Found in one of our catalogues from 2002 a very limited and exquisite edition of Djuna Barnes's The Ladies Almanack. It was found by Martin Stone in Paris and was catalogued by him for us. It sold fairly easily to a high end London dealer for £5000.

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (Privately published, Paris 1928)

Small 4to.  pp 80. Illustrated. Number 4 of  10 copies on Verge de Vidalon with illustrations hand coloured by Djuna Barnes. The  complete first edition  was 1050 copies  In full vellum wraps with highly attractive hand coloured cover. Signed on the limitation page in Djuna Barnes hand as 'A Lady of Fashion' and also on fep presented  to Lady Rothermere signed  'Djuna Barnes, Paris 1928.' Lady Rothermere was married to the press baron Viscount Rothermere (Lord Harmsworth) and was  the patron of various writers most notably T.S. Eliot who was able to give up his bank job due to her financial assistance. 'Ladies Almanack'  was printed by Darantiere in Dijon and has a curious publishing history - it was originally to be published by Edward Titus at the Black Manikin Press in Paris. However when Djuna Barnes found out how much Titus was charging her she decided to publish and distribute the book herself with financial help from Robert McAlmon. The name Edward Titus is blacked out on the title page in all copies. The ordinary edition was $10, the hand coloured one of 40  $25 and the ten hand coloured and signed copies were $50 a sizeable sum in 1928. The work, a celebration of female sexuality and a rebuke to heterosexual patriarchy, portrays in disguised form, many of the cultural and artistic elite of the Parisian avant garde of the time- epecially the Lesbian circle which was gathered around Natalie Clifford Barney - Janet Flanner, Romaine Brooks, Solita Solano, Dolly Wilde ('Doll Furious') Lady Una Troubridge ('Lady Tilly Tweed-in-Blood') and Radclyffe Hall. Janet Flanner called her 'the most important woman writer we had in Paris.' In fine  fresh condition - an exemplary copy of this beautiful expatriate book; in tirage de tete the black orchid of Lesbian literature.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Laurence Ambrose Waldron


Found in a collection of other examples, this is rather dull little bookplate, considering it came from the library of Laurence Ambrose Waldron (1858 – 1923), one of Ireland’s great and good in the first two decades of the twentieth century-- a patron of the Arts, a Nationalist politician, public benefactor, and ardent book collector with a library of several thousand volumes.

The conventional design of the bookplate is even more bewildering when we consider that Waldron was such an Arts and Crafts enthusiast, that in the early 1900s he built a mansion, which he christened ‘Marino’ in this style at Ballybrack, just outside Dublin. He later commissioned the Beardsley-influenced cult illustrator Harry Clarke to create nine exquisite stained glass illustration of Synge’s Queens (below) for his new library there. In 1998, after having not been seen since 1928, these were sold by Christies for over £300,000.

The only possible explanation seems to be that Waldron had the bookplate printed some time before his enthusiasm for Arts and Crafts and Clarke took off. As he succeeded his much more conservative father (also called Laurence) at the age of 17  in 1875, the design was probably made between this date and the building of ‘Marino’. [RH]



An emblematic title page fully explained


Found - this emblematic title page by John Droeshout in TRUTH BROUGHT TO LIGHT AND DISCOVERED BY TIME, or, A discourse and Historicall Narration of the first XIIII yeares of King James Reigne.[London, Printed for Richard Cotes and are to be Sold by Michaell Sparke at the Blew Bible in Green Arber, 1651.]

 The book relates the history of the early years of the reign of James the First,the history of the divorce of the Earl and Countess of Essex, the divisions between the Scottish and the English, 'the lascivious courses at court' the arraignment of Sir Jervase Yelvis and an account of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. It also "reckons the revenue of the crown, gifts, pensions, disbursements ; and contains the commissions and warrants for the burning of two heretics." The 1870 catalogue of the Prints and drawings at the British Museum describes the title - page thus:

The print represents Truth, a naked female, who tramples on the body of a person with a crutch ; and Time, who tramples on a skeleton, drawing back curtains so as to show James the First seated, as if sleeping, on a throne beneath a canopy of state, his right hand on a skull.

Visitor's Book for Calcot Park


In about 2007 we acquired  a collection of books from the estate a kinsman of the Heber-Percy family in a cottage close to the country house of the eccentric musical composer Lord Berners at Faringdon near Oxford. In the collection was this visitor's book (which later sold on the web for a low four figure sum..)

 VISITOR'S BOOK FOR CALCOT PARK AND HUNGER HILL (EARL OF ROSSLYN 1914-1935). Oblong 4to (13" x 10"). Handsome red grained full leather binding with coat of arms in gilt on cover, slightly rubbed and slightly stained but sound VG. About 60 leaves. The visitor's book from 2 country houses owned by the Earl of Rosslyn (1869-1939)- Calcot Park and Hunger Hill. 3 photographs of these imposing houses pasted to first page. The first part, at Calcot, runs from 1914-1918. The second, larger part at Hunger Hill from 1925-1935. Signatures from Calcot include Diana Wyndham, Lord Wemyss, Countess Sutherland, Blanche Somerset, Arthur Balfour, Joseph Joffre, Admiral Jelicoe, Dame Nellie Melba, George Robey, Horation Bottomley, J. M. Barrie, Raymond Poincare, Douglas Haig, Herbert Asquith, Eleanor Glyn, George Vth and Queen Mary (the last 13 all appear to have stayed over one weekend in the summer of 1916). The visitors to Hunger Hall combine the old grand Rosslyn friends and the Bright Young Things crowd of their son Hamish St. Clair Erskine (Erskine had been at Eton with Robert Byron and James Lees-Milne and was leader of a "thoroughly irresponsible set." His name cropped up in a Home Office report on the greatest Eton scandal of the day when the actress Tallulah Bankhead was rumoured to have held an orgy with Hamish and his friends in a hotel at Bray.) Erskine, a "reckless charmer", was engaged to Nancy Mitford- this came to nothing; he was the first of a series of unavailable men that she fell in love with. Visitors during this time included Lady Rosslyn's great friend and mentor R. H Bruce Lockhart almost every weekend, Tom Mitford, John Betjeman (seven times, sometimes with Penelope Chetwode), Alan Pryce Jones (4), Peter Watson (3), Robert Byron, Nancy Mitford (3), Nancy Beaton (5), James Lees-Milne and Alvilde Bridges (5), Randolph Churchill, Peggy Evans (4), David Tennant, Victor Rothschild (3), Honor Guinness, Anthony Blunt, Henry Yorke (ie Henry Green). Calcot Park is now a Golf club.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Show me the Money, Coutts



Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pemmican pemmicanised

Found in this comprehensive work aimed at serious travellers, explorers and survivalists - a letter about pemmican. The book is a two volume work, seemingly not transcribed at Google books, although it went through many editions: Hints to travellers: Organisation and equipment, scientific observations, health, sickness and injury. Edward Ayearst Reeves. (Royal Geographical Society, London, 1938.) 


The typed letter headed What is pemmican? was a response to 'Questions & Answers' at the magazine Geographical of September 1998. It was sent in by one Alan Gurney from the  Isle of Islay.


Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820), the first European to cross the full width of North America, described pemmican as the food used by North American Indians on their travels. It was made from dried and pounded caribou meat mixed with an equal proportion of melted caribou fat. The resulting mixture was then packed into bags, eaten, uncooked, on the march. This high calorie convenience food was adopted by the North American fur traders on their long cross country travels. Pemmican -- made from beef rather than caribou -- heated in a Nansen cooked former the famous "hoosh" of Arctic and Antarctic explorers. The Bovril company made a man-pemmican (about half protein and half fat) and a dog pemmican (two thirds protein and a third fat).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Baedeker advises on tipping at the Blue Grotto



Found in an 1889 edition of Badeker's Southern Italy this description of the Blue Grotto at Capri:

Blue Grotto. — A visit to the Blue Grotto from the Marina at Capri, where suitable light boats will be found, occupies 1 3/4 to 2hrs. The best light is between 10 and 12 o'clock. The authorised fare for the trip (there and back) is 1 1/4 fr. for each person, but almost no boatman will undertake it without an additional fee of 1-2 fr. The skiffs are not allowed to take more than three passengers. If the wind blows strongly from 
the E. or N. access to the grotto is impossible.The Blue Grotto is situated on the N. side of the island, about l 1/4 m. from the landing-place of Capri. 


The row along the base of the precipitous rocky shore is exceedingly beautiful. The sea swarms with gaily coloured sea-stars and jelly-fish, many of which float on the surface of the water. In 1/4 hr - we reach the ruins of the Baths of Tiberius, where a fragment of an ancient wall and part of a column in the water are to be seen, and in 1/2 hr. more we arrive at the entrance of the **Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), which is scarcely 3 ft. in height. Visitors must lie down in the boat on entering. In the interior the roof rises to a height of 41 ft.;the water is 8 fathoms deep. Length of the grotto 175 ft., greatest width 100 ft. The effect of the blue refraction of the light on every object is indescribable, and at first completely dazzles the eye. Objects in the water assume a beautiful silvery appearance. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tales from the Second Hand Book Trade 6


There is a variant British version of the last tale from America...

A small provincial bookseller is called to a substantial mansion on the edge of town, full of valuable books. The new owner has inherited the collection and is selling the house and trying to sell all the contents, including the books. The bookseller is overwhelmed by the sight of rows of pristine signed Rackhams in limpid vellum, rare bound books of 18th century travel, 19th century literature fine in the original cloth, even the odd 20th century classic like a first signed Ulysses and a wrappered Gatsby and  many 1930s first editions almost fine in dust jackets (Greene, Hemingway, Tolkien, Orwell etc.,) And then are the rows of exquisitely bound classic works including a superb Jane Austen set... He decides the collection is far too rich for his blood and and, as they now say, 'above his pay grade' - so he puts the collection on to a prestigious West End shop for a 10% finder's fee.


Later that week the London dealer swings by his local side street shop in a bloody great long wheel base Merc van full of boxes of books and hands him a £1000 in cash. Somewhat put out, the local bookseller asks what happened. 'I asked the chap if he had a figure in mind and he said he wanted £10,000,' replies the suave metropolitan bookseller.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tales from the Second Hand Book Trade 5


Sent in by Stateside jot watcher JK this piece of fascinating second hand book folklore...

The first time I heard it, it concerned a dealer on the west side of the Hudson, not far from West Point. The second time it was another dealer, this time on the east side of the Hudson, near Garrison. I don't believe a word of it but even so.

 A dealer --we'll call him Fred-- has fallen on harder times than usual. He keeps a shop in upstate New York, not far from the banks of the Hudson River in an area known for its grand estates.  His little patch, however, is far from grand; his shop is dusty, his stock dispirited and distinctly pedestrian---John Grisham paperbacks and book club Stephen Kings. It was not always so; Fred once dealt in better things, but one too many bounced checks and word got around.  And so it is that one morning a man walks into the shop, takes a quick look around, and says, We have some books. When can you come to --and here he names a locally famous name, an estate house that everyone has heard of but very few have ever seen the inside of--Grayson Hall?  Tomorrow, I suppose, Fred answers. They set a time and the man departs.

Fred is equally despondent and excited. He knows there is a library at Grayson Hall but he knows too his funds are limited. Severely limited, in fact. What can he do?  The appointed time comes and Fred is shown into the library of Grayson Hall. To say it is imposing is an understatement, and to say the books are good is even more so. Two stories, upper and lower shelves are filled. From where he is standing Fred can see many Hemingways fine in jackets and even, he thinks, early Faulkners also wearing jackets. What do you think? the man says. Interesting, Fred answers. Very interesting. How much will you charge? the man says. I'm sorry? Fred says. Charge?  Madame is closing the house, the man says. We want all the books out of here, and we won't pay you anymore than $500 to remove them, and we won't pay you that if you can't promise to have them out of here in two weeks.  Let me think about it for a moment, Fred says, recovering.  After a moment or two he says, Two weeks? $500?  It's a bit less than my usual rate, but I'll do it.  From there the story gets fuzzy-- some say it was Christies, some say Sotheby's that got the auction, but everyone agrees that a few months later Fred closed up shop for good and left for warmer climes.


The First Edition and Book Collector (1924)



Sent in by jot watcher RMH (a man who knows a bad book magazine when he sees one) this neat analysis of why magazines fail. The Alan Odle cover and illustrations seem to be the only saving grace...

When a magazine folds after a handful of issues there are usually just a few reasons why:

1) The editor dies and no replacement can be found
2) The financial backing dries up
3) There are too few new contributions in hand
4) No-one buys the magazine.
5) The magazine is really not that good

In the case of The First Edition and Book Collector, which expired after just  two issues in the autumn of 1924, the latter was probably the reason. The only redeeming features of this real stinker of a first issue are Thomas Hardy’s first publication, a short story   that was first published in 1865, and some wonderful black and white illustrations by Alan Odle, a genuine heir to the mantle of Aubrey Beardsley. But even the genius of Odle cannot save this one.

The First Edition and Book Collector begins with utter tosh and ends with it. The magazine purports to be focussed on the collection of first editions, but what do we get in this first issue? We get two opening pages on why the editor, one H.D.Clevely, doesn’t care too much for poets and novelists who dress like analytical chemists or rent collectors and who write adverts for liver pills (no names given), and who is quite capable of arguing that poets should leave their intellect behind and grow long hair in order to engage with human emotion. Later on, the same author contributes an eleven page story which has nothing whatsoever to do with first editions or even book-collecting, though it does give reign to a nasty brand of anti-Semitism.

There follows two further pages that begin promisingly with some sort of sense—in which the writer divides bibliophiles into collectors and accumulators. He then spoils it all by stating categorically that ‘book collecting is probably the most inexpensive form of artistic recreation in the world ‘.He then goes on to claim that books are cheap ( compared with what ?) and produces a classic piece of false logic :‘ first editions are just as cheap as any other books; therefore when they come out is the time to buy them’( my italics).

It gets worse-- far worse. Again, we are treated to another two pages of hokum, this time  on ‘the condition of books ‘.The writer begins reasonably enough , before his  little brain gets overheated and he develops a familiar rant. Adopting the authoritative tone of someone who has run an antiquarian bookshop for four decades, we get this planet-sized generalisation:’ the majority of old books are quite worthless ‘.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tales from the Second Hand Book Trade 4


This is the (not entirely apocryphal) tale of the young dealer who bought a first edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations for £90,000 without having the money to pay for it. Let's call him Ralph Barton. Ralph was a young bookdealer wanting to deal in important books but was not really possessed of the funds needed. He got by and occasionally got lucky. He had a studio flat in Wandsworth shared with his girlfriend Serena -a city analyst who, along with her friends, thought Ralph was a bit of a loser for dealing in books. She felt he should join her in the financial quarter or go into the law, for which he had trained. They had a heavy mortgage but with his occasional windfalls and her decent salary they were able to manage.

One July morning Ralph was at another important London auction and bought a few job lots of rare and quite valuable  18th century pamphlet considerably under the sum he was willing to pay. Encouraged by this he started to bid on a superb 1776 first of Wealth of Nations which the chatter in the rooms had reckoned would break the £100,000 barrier. He was still bidding at £90,000 when suddenly the bidding stopped and the hammer came down. The book was his. For Ralph this was probably the worst moment of his young life. The flat would go, Serena would leave him and he would be a pariah in the trade.

Worst of all people were now congratulating him as if he had the money to pay for the thing. As he dejectedly sloped out of the rooms he bumped into a flustered figure in a ridiculously expensive suit. The man inquired anxiously "what did the Adam Smith make?" When Ralph told him £90K the man said - "I would have gone well over that, damn and blast it..." Needless to say Ralph sold him the book then and there - pocketing a quick £30K profit.

Ralph is now a proper dealer, well able to afford five figure books and has even become slightly pompous. Serena no longer thinks of bookselling as a trade for failures and they have moved to a proper house in Battersea.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Innkeeper John Fothergill lampooned


Found - in A Bunch of Blue Ribbons.A Volume of Cambridge Essays [Collected by I. Rose. London: Chapman & Hall, 1933] a satirical poem lampooning the celebrated innkeeper John Fothergill. Fothergill wrote a best-seller Diary of an Innkeeper and was known to Oxford students for his inn at Thame, frequented by, among others, most of the prominent members of  the Brideshead set. Oddly, he is unknown to Wikipedia but has a good entry in the DNB. His Diary was republished fairly recently by the Folio Society. A Bunch of Blue Ribbons was a sort of counter blast to a recent work Red Rags -a record of pet hatreds and aversions by bright young students at Oxford and Cambridge. This poem is in a chapter called A Sob Sister defends Oxford by Christopher Saltmarshe (a Cambridge poet also unknown to the all-knowing Wikipedia):

I am giving below a disgraceful and insulting lampoon which fell into my hands. The subject is an inn-keeper, whose name is dear to the immediate generation of Oxonians, which learnt to appreciate him as a host, an epicure and a gentleman. As an example of the depths of scurrility to which the enemies of Oxford can stoop I, as an old Cantab., believe these verses to be unparalleled.

BALLAD AGAINST BLATHERGALL

Buying a box of matches once by stealth,
I saw an inn-kepper who fame pursued,
Welcoming those who boasted height and wealth,
To the short and shabby he was merely rude.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Auberon Herbert poet and voluntaryist


Found in Windfall and Waterfall (Williams & Norgate, London 1894) a volume of poetry by Auberon Herbert  - an advertisement for his journal The Free Life - the organ of Voluntaryism. Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert (Highclere, 18 June 1838 – 5 November 1906) was a writer,poet, theorist, philosopher, and 19th century individualist. A member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Herbert was the son of the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, brother of Henry Herbert, the 4th Earl, and father of the 9th Baron Lucas. He promoted a classical liberal philosophy and took the ideas of Herbert Spencer a stage further by advocating voluntary-funded government that uses force only in defence of individual liberty and private property. He is known as the originator of voluntaryism.
The poetry is competent and clean limbed, somewhat of its time but counter to the prevailing decadence of much 1890s verse. We are quoting the tract on voluntaryism and preceding it with a couple of poems. His ideas are still alive, especially in the libertarian fringes of American republican thinking...


THE UNKNOWN SHORE. 
It falls on my ear, now faint, now strong, 
The thunderous note of the distant roar, 

The surf of the sea I have sailed so long - , 
As it beats at last on the unknown shore. 

Oh ! how will it be, when the hour has come,- 
Unlike all hours that went before, — 

Will help be near, or in pain and fear, 

Shall I win my way to the unknown shore ? 


IN BORDERLAND. 
For strange deep longings move us, 
As betwixt the two we stand, 

And share in the mystic meetings 
And partings in borderland ; 

When day and night so gently 
Touch hands, and fall apart, 

Like those in life forbidden, 

Heart should be one with heart. 

THE FREE LIFE

Organ of Voluntary Taxation and of the Voluntary State ; 
Edited by Auberon Herbert. Id. Monthly. 

'"THE FREE LIFE does not believe in creating happiness, virtue, or prosperity for the human race by Acts of Parliament. It does not believe in splitting the nation up into two or three political parties, each trying to vote down the other, and to force upon the other its own opinions and interests. It does not believe in the modern politician, always engaged in glorifying himself and his party,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oliver Madox Brown's 'Gabriel Denver' - a rarity


Found - Oliver Madox Brown's novel Gabriel Denver (London: Smith, Elder 1873) - a late Victorian rarity with Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood connections. The binding was designed by the author's father, Ford Madox Brown and is said to be the only book cover he ever worked on. A loosely inserted catalogue clipping from about 1920 prices the book at 18/6 and states;

'...  a novel of great promise, the first and only production of the author, who died in his twentieth year. In A Birth Song Swinburne refers to him in the following lines:
 "High hopes and hearts requickening in thy dawn,
 Even theirs whose life-springs, child, 
 Filled thine with life and smiled,
 But then wept blood for half their own withdrawn."

70 years late in 1992 a slight used copy turned up at Christies New York (from the collection of librarian and poet Kenneth A Lohf) and made $1210. The cataloguer described it thus:

Original tan cloth, pictorially blocked in black, lettered in gilt and black ..binder's ticket of Leighton Son and Hodge at inside rear cover, fraying at ends of spine, rear cover slightly soiled, cloth slipcase. FIRST EDITION, published when the author was eighteen years old (he died tragically the following year); this is the only book cover his artist father designed. Fredeman 47.1 and Plate VII for illustration of the front cover; Robert Lee Wolff, Strange Stories (Boston, 1971), pp. 37-43 and illustration of the front cover. "The death at nineteen of this brilliantly versatile and precocious artist and novelist, son of Ford Madox Brown, and brother-in-law of William Michael Rossetti and Francis Hueffer, deeply distressed the boy's father and all the brethren of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Both [this and The Dwale Bluth in the next lot] his books are rare ... By 1883, [Gabriel Denver] was already a rarity. Only 300 copies were sold and the rest pulped. See also a remarkable passage in George Moore's Vale (Hail and Farewell, III, 1914, pp. 47-51) in which Moore describes his friendship with Brown formed at art school. During the model's rest periods Brown read aloud from a novel of his which must have been Gabriel Denver..."The model was so entranced, she let her robe slip from her and listened quite naked"--Wolff 881.
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