Another unexpected donation arrived last week, and it is nothing short of spectacular: the first numbered set of a limited first edition printing of Theodore Thomas‘s autobiography.

Copy number one

Copy number one

Our founder and first music director completed his autobiography during the summer of 1904, just before the opening of the Orchestra’s fourteenth season. It was first published in two volumes—Life Work and Concert Programmes—on April 5, 1905, just three months after his unexpected death on January 4.

Inscription from editor George P. Upton to publisher Ogden Trevor McClurg

Inscription from editor George P. Upton to publisher Ogden Trevor McClurg

And what makes this donation all the more remarkable is that it bears an inscription from the editor to the publisher A. C. McClurg & Co. The inscription reads: “To Ogden Trevor McClurg / These memorials of the great conductor / with its very cordial regards of their compile[?] / Geo. P. Upton / Chicago May 2, 1905″.

In the preface, Thomas wrote: “. . . I never intended to write my autobiography, or anything else; I desired only to preserve my programmes—representing over half a century of a very important part of the history of music in America—in some permanent form, and this is the result. I am happy to say that at my request, Mr. George P. Upton, whose interest in the cause of good music has been of such marked benefit to Chicago for fifty years, has undertaken the laborious task of compiling and editing this publication, of selecting and classifying the programmes to be printed, and of writing such explanations as they have required.”

The limited edition open to the title page

The limited edition of the autobiography open to the title page of volume one

The standard issue of the book with volume two opened to an illustration of Thomas sitting at his desk

The standard issue of the autobiography with volume two opened to an illustration of Thomas sitting at his desk

From left to right: the 1905 two-volume limited edition, the 1905 two-volume standard edition, and the 1964 reprint

From left to right: the 1905 two-volume limited edition, the 1905 two-volume standard edition, and the 1964 reprint

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