Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Quest for Buffalo Wind

Collectors of Seton memorabilia are an interesting group.. It isn’t really clear how big the universe of Seton collectors really is. Of course, there are lots of people who collect Scout memorabilia and as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America and one who greatly influenced the development of Scouting worldwide, for some, Seton material stands alongside Baden-Powell and Dan Beard material as some of Scouting’s most sought-after memorabilia. And some of Scouting’s most avid collectors are members of the Order of the Arrow. Since Seton’s ideas clearly influenced the founders of the Order, many Arrowmen have a special interest in Seton.

Still, it isn’t very clear how many hard-core Seton collectors there are. (One person who is one of the very elite group who generate their income from matters related to Seton calls them “Setonistas.” We sort of know each other. Many have bid against each other. We may know each other better by our eBay handles than by our real names. Among others, we know that Seton remains enormously popular in Japan.

For me, Buffalo Wind was the Holy Grail of Seton collecting. Buffalo Wind was published in 1938. It was a small booklet, a pamphlet really, printed by the Seton Village Press, set by Maurice Taylor in the Press’s characteristic Lydian type. It was bund in buffalo hide, probably by Marceil Taylor, Maurice’s wife and partner in operating the Seton Village Press.

What made Buffalo Wind special was two things. One is its very small quantity – 200 signed and numbered copies. The other is its spiritually autobiographical content.

I have been something of a Seton collector for a long, long time. To one degree or another, over 30 years, and pretty seriously for the past 15 years. And I have chase Buffalo Wind all over the country. I have traveled regularly on business for years and have made a hobby of spending idle time on the road looking through used and antiquarian bookstores.

The internet has, of course, radically changed the business of collecting anything. I like to tell people that one thing the internet, both Google and eBay, has clarified is rarity., Things that I once thought very rare and that I was therefore willing to spend heavily for are now readily available on eBay auctions or on such websites as ABE Books. Others that I might not have thought of as particularly rare seldom ever com available.

For example, one book I thought was pretty rare was one of Serton’s last published works, Santana Hero Dog of France. It was, at least theoretically, an edition of 500 with 300 signed by Seton. Today, it shows up on eBay with regularity and several copies are usually available through ABE Books. Dee Seton Barber later told me that she had had boxes of Santana and had given them away over the years.

Buffalo Wind, on the other hand was rare before the internet and still rare today.

My family knew of my quest for Buffalo Wind and all sorts of people,. Most with only the most casual interest in Seton, have helped me in the search.

In the pre-eBay, “bulletin boiard world of the internet, I found it for sale once, but was too late.

I have seen it on eBay approximately four times.

I have a strong memory of being in Denver on a business trip in days long before ubiquitous broad band in hotels, trying to bid on a copy of Buffalo Wind. I wasn’t exactly outbid, I just couldn’t bid very fast and the auction closed. My trail had taken me close to Buffalo Wind, but the trail became cold again.

One day, I again found it on eBay, this time being sold by a Tulsa book dealer. At this particular point in time, I felt financially stable enough to bid aggressively and, thankfully, broad band internet had found its way to our casa. It was an exciting auction close and I was successful. I quickly sent payment, although I felt guilty about how much I’d spent. (My wife has been very supportive in this quest.. She owns a Seton rarity in its own right – a hand-colored copy of the Indian Costume Book. That is also one of the most collectible Seton items.)

It is a funny feeling when a 10 + year pursuit comes to a close. All of my family was excited. When the package arrived, we made an event of it. The family gathered around and I sat in “Dad’s Chair” in the living room.

To set the stage, I read the description of Buffalo Wind from Bulletin in Bold Letters, Maurice Taylor’s book about the Seton Village Press.

Then I opened the package and carefully examined the contents. I quickly became concerned. This copy of Buffalo Wind was not bound in buffalo hide. And it was neither signed by Ernest Thompson Seton nor numbered.

I felt sick. Not only was it clear that the quest for Buffalo Wind was not over as I had thought, but I had spent a lot of money on the wrong thing. Lots of questions crossed my mind, including, at least briefly, “Have I been defrauded?”

Then I picked back up my copy of Bulletin Bold Letters and read Taylor’s account of the proofs he had made of Buffalo Wind. He says there no more than 25.

I examined my copy of Buffalo Wind and quickly discovered that my copy was one of those proofs. And while Maurice Taylor said there may have been 25, I am unaware of any in the hands of a collector of even a museum, including Philmont. I felt a little funny still that I really didn’t have the Buffalo Wind that I had been seeking, but I did have something that was very rare. After we all calmed down, we were happy with the addition to our library’s Seton collection, but we All knew that the quest would continue.

That was six or seven years ago. I did not catch the scent of Buffalo Wind again until a couple of weeks ago. A copy showed up on eBay. The buffalo hide cover was very worn and a binding string was broken. Nevertheless, I chose to bid. And I won. I got it for a lot less than my other copy, but at least I will have a “real” copy of Buffalo Wind.

Is my quest over? I won’t know until I actually see what I’ve got. But, if this copy is in really bad shape, I will keep looking.

Isn’t that what collectors do?


pwax said...

So how can a person get to read that book?

Aside from that, I am a big Seton fan and enjoyed seeing your blog.

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!