Monday, May 24, 2021

Jim Pietrusz's bookplate

 So, here's a good reminder from days gone by: a reader who came across two books that once belonged to my friend Jim Pietrusz, identifiable by his bookplate. I have some of Jim's books, thanks to his generosity and that of his wife, Eileen: the particular image below is taken from an edition of LETTERS FROM JOSEPH CONRAD.*

It's good to know Jim's books are still out there, still being read and enjoyed. He'd like that.

Since the Reader's Comment, once accepted, vanishes from among the most recent postings and instead  appeared over on my post about Jim from 2014, I've copied that Comment into the main text of this post, here:

--John R.


Hello, I hope this comment finds you well, John, and isn't a source of some form of grief to bring this post back to mind, but I thought I might share what I believe to be the strange coincidence that led me here: I was recently purchasing original hardcovers of some books I read in my youth (a quartet by Laurence Yep—unwitting but at least semi-appropriate reads for this Asian American Heritage month) and noticed the rear of one of them had a few dates, partly hand-written, partly stamped. By chance, one happened to refer to my fourth birthday. I was reciting this fact in discussion over the phone with a friend, and picked up the sequel I thought had the date to reference it, only to discover it did not have the date of my birth, but a date six days later. Being handwritten, I concluded I'd imagined things, misreading a date into an eminently familiar one through the strange machinations of the subconscious and a kind of confirmation bias. I was finishing off the actual re-read of the first book (Dragon of the Lost Sea, should you be curious), and discovered I didn't imagine it: there it was, below a stamped date, my birthday (plus four years) handwritten in the back of this book I'd purchased used to have a nice, clean hardcover copy for the rest of my life. "What a strange coincidence," I thought: not only my birthday and a close-by companion date in another book from the series, but both previously owned by someone who wrote dates in it at all. A technologically-limited library checking things out to patrons, perhaps? Sated with the knowledge that I'd indeed found my birthday in a book, a perfectly enjoyable coincidence, I got to page 150 in the sequel (Dragon Steel), and noticed that there was a name stamped at the bottom left corner. A sort of confused haze dropped into my brain: Hadn't I just seen a name stamped in the corner just like that? And wasn't it the exact same name?! So I drew the first book back down off the shelf, flipping rapidly through it, and finding that, yes, I had in fact seen it before: on page 150 of each book there was stamped: "JIM PIETRUSZ". A bookplate in the first book re-affirmed this, a gnome or dwarf drawn, woodcut-style, with a cane and carrying books, marked "EX LIBRIS JIM PIETRUSZ". Now utterly mystified, I checked back at where I'd purchased these books from via Abebooks: one came from a bookshop in Houston, TX (in another coincidence, my father's hometown—though with one that size, less surprising on the whole), and the other from a bookshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I took to the search engines, and I found my way here. While it's hardly a guarantee, there seems to be enough in common here that I suspect these may both have been from your friend Jim Pietrusz--fantasy books, one even drawn from a used home in Milwaukee, and showing the signs of a devoted collector (I've since decided these may perhaps be the handwritten dates of the times the books were read). While I'd hoped to find Jim himself, it seems that's unfortunately not the chance I have, but I thought perhaps it might be good to know that these two, at least, are in the hands of someone who loves the books he once had (now dustjacket-protected by my own hands, even) and set for a happy life of appreciation. I'm sorry for your loss, these many years on, but I hope this is a good, if small and perhaps somewhat distant, tribute to Jim and his love of books and collecting them—even if it's just yet another pile of coincidences and another Jim entirely, I hope such appreciation and treatment of beloved fantasy books might serve to honour him all the same. It's many years late, but thank you for sharing his story and your memories.




*not the one I was nibbling on a few weeks ago but an earlier hardcover edition

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