London: John Murray, 1957. First trade edition. Octavo, original green cloth, original dust jacket. About-fine book, price-clipped jacket with publisher's remainder sticker to flap of price-clipped jacket. A splendid, nearly-fine copy. Item #818
"AN ANCIENT WISDOM EXORCISING THE MEMORY OF THE CONFLICT AND BLOODSHED OF THE INTERVENING CENTURIES" First trade edition of Patrick Leigh ("Paddy") Fermor's third book—this copy presented to Frank Sheed (publisher of Sheed and Ward) soon after publication. Fermor was the progenitor of a new breed of travel writer: "Paddy's two sublime masterpieces, A Time to Keep Silence and A Time for Gifts, are among the most beautifully written books of travel of any period, and it was really he who created the persona of the bookish wanderer: the footloose scholar in the wilds, scrambling through remote mountains, a knapsack of good books on his shoulder." (William Dalrymple, The Best Travel Writing). This copy was inscribed for presentation to F.J. Sheed, the Catholic evangelist, author, and publisher: "Frank Sheed / from the Quodlibetarian Society / Beaumont College / in gratitude / January 31st 1958." Founded in 1926, the publishing house of Sheed and Ward brought the fruit of Catholic thought to audiences throughout the English-speaking world: "For an author to appear in one of Sheed & Ward's meticulously edited and beautiful books was a recognized honor...as many tenured Catholic academics at Catholic and non-Catholic institutions discovered to their delight" (Kevin Starr).
Fermor visited the Benedictines at the Abbey of St. Wandrille de Fontanelle and Solesmes and the Cistercians at La Grande Trappe, culminating with an exploration of the abandoned rock cave churches and hermitages of Cappadocia. The first and longest piece originally appeared under a different title in a 1949 issue of the periodical 'The Cornhill', with the second and third pieces written later. These lyrical reflections on the legacy of monasticism are "more than a history or travel journal, however, this beautiful short book is a meditation on the meaning of silence and solitude for modern life" (New York Review of Books). A Postscript, written three years later in a upper window at the Benedictine priory in Hampshire, takes measure of the modern rebirth of monasticism in the British Isles, concluding: "An ancient wisdom exorcising the memory of the conflict and bloodshed of the intervening centuries, that brings its message of tranquility to quieten the mind and compose the spirit." First published in 1953 in a limited edition of 500 copies by the Queen Anne Press. The text is decorated with lovely drawings by John Craxton and dramatic photographs by M. le Cure Bretocq and Joan Eyres Monsell (Fermor and Monsell married in 1968). Dust jacket illustration by Peter Todd Mitchell. Starr, The Lost World: American Catholic Non-Fiction at Mid-century.