An association copy is a book whose interest is enhanced by annotations by a creator of the work or one that has been passed from one person to another where the people have a strong connection with the work or the creator’s career overall. ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter includes this definition and examples:
Today Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) is best known for the products of the organization he founded. The Stratemeyer Syndicate (established in 1905) was the book packager, to use a modern term, that created popular series like the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew.
However, he was also a prolific author on his own account with 168 books and many more stories for periodicals, including dime novels, story paper serials and short stories, and short stories for newspapers. His longest and best-selling personally-written series was the Rover Boys (1899-1926) with some 5 million copies sold by 1937.
He was different from many of his author peers because he treated writing as a business instead of leaving his fortunes to any publisher’s actions. He devised a number of innovative methods to promote his books.
Yet, one of the promotional methods used today, an author signing event, was something that Stratemeyer would not do. On the two occasions when a publisher suggested that this would be an ideal way to promote his books, he sent unusually strongly-worded replies. One included these passages:
I cannot understand why anything in my conduct should make you imagine that I would care to place myself on exhibition in a department store, like the cheap song writers, or rat trap or corset inventors. I had to read your letter three times to grasp its full importance.
… I am simply surprised beyond all measure of the impression that you should put this question up to me, knowing me as you do. You mention that this is ‘just such a selling campaign’ as I wish to conduct. Never! If it has got to depend on anything of this sort,—this cheap, clap-trap method of selling books,— count me out.
— Edward Stratemeyer to Warren F. Gregory of Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 22 May 1913
The result of this is that books signed by Edward Stratemeyer are not found in many collections. Although he would not do general bookstore signings or speeches in front of groups of readers, he did sign books in a few instances.
He would sign books for young people in his family, including nieces and nephews.
When he met young people on one of his trips he might arrange to sign a book for them upon his return.
Another category where he would sign a book was to present to a fellow author in exchange for one of that author’s books autographed. After Horatio Alger Jr. died, Stratemeyer expressed regret that he had not obtained a book signed by the elder author. They knew each other and had exchanged letters but clearly Stratemeyer saw a signed book as a more permanent memento.
One of Stratemeyer’s frequent correspondents was George Waldo Browne of New Hampshire. As a fellow writer, they exchanged news of the state of the publishing industry as well as their successes and challenges.
Browne wrote the first biographical article about Stratemeyer for The Writer. It had been written several months before. In it he recounted a conversation with the general manager of Lee & Shepard who had asked which author of the day might take the place of the recently demised “Oliver Optic” (William T. Adams). To this Brown replied that Edward Stratemeyer was the most likely to fill that role.
A little more than four years ago, a few months after the death of William T. Adams, whose pseudonym heads the list given above, while in conversation with the senior member of the old and highly respectable publishing house of Lee & Shepard, who have placed on the market so many excellent books for youthful readers, I was asked who there was among the young writers of juvenile stories to take the place so long filled by the late “Oliver Optic.” I replied, without dreaming of being a prophet: “I do not know, unless it is Edward Stratemeyer.” Inside of a year the truth of my words was verified. Mr. Stratemeyer, then little known to book readers, suddenly sprang to the front rank of story-tellers, and the place left by the decease of the famous “Oliver Optic” was no longer empty.
—”Edward Stratemeyer” by George Waldo Browne. The Writer, March 1902.
Because of this endorsement, Warren F. Gregory of Lee & Shepard offered Edward Stratemeyer the opportunity to write the last announced book by “Oliver Optic,” a volume in the Blue and Gray on Land series, An Undivided Union (1899).
As a friend and fellow writer, George Waldo Browne was a natural for Stratemeyer to ask for an exchange of signed books. When asked to select which title of Stratemeyer’s he wished, he stated that:
Please accept my thanks for your offer to exchange books. I have intended to send you a copy of my Two American Boys in Hawaii, as I felt that I owed that much to you. For personal reasons–it being the book which really “put you on your feet,” as I understand it, I shall select your Dewey book. Later on perhaps I can make some arrangement to get your Hawaiian story.
— George Waldo Browne to Edward Stratemeyer, 19 Aug 1899.
This is the copy of Under Dewey at Manila (Lee & Shepard, 1898) that Edward Stratemeyer signed and presented to George Waldo Browne.
The signed copy of Browne’s book presented to Stratemeyer, Two American Boys in Hawaii, is in a fellow collector’s library.
As scarce as they are, not all books signed by Stratemeyer would be considered an association copy, even ones exchanged with fellow authors. However, because of the importance of Browne’s endorsement to Stratemeyer’s career, this copy has special interest.