With a Nice Touch from the ’30s

Looking for a rowing book on the internet, on www.abebooks.co.uk to be more precise, I came across Steve Fairbairn’s famous Chats On Rowing, which was published in 1934 by W. Heffer & Sons Ltd., Cambridge. It is not hard to find copies of this book, especially not later editions, but booksellers are still asking a lot for it – as are they for all of Fairbairn’s books, just because …. well, it is Fairbairn. The price for the 1st edition of this Chats On Rowing is £140.00/$239.32. Not only is this copy a 1st edition, it also comes with a dust jacket, which has its wears and tears. I find this dust jacket lovely. The image has such a 1930-ish touch to it with the bowside/starboard oarsman rowing in what looks like a ‘tub’. He is maybe not holding the oar right in the image, but I would not have dared to say a thing like that during Fairbairn’s lifetime; Steve would for sure have accused me of being a member of the ‘Pretty-Pretty Brigade’, the camp of the English orthodox style.

My copy of Chats On Rowing was published in 1948 by Nicholas Kaye Ltd., London (a 2nd printing of this edition came out in 1949) and has a less attractive cover, a black&white photograph of two eights racing down the course at Henley (the photograph was taken in 1947 when Jesus College took the Grand Challenge Cup).

Both editions have Fairbairn’s poem “The Oarsman’s Song”, in which the fourth stanza famously reads:

All through the swing he hears the boat sing
As she glides on her flying track,
And he gathers aft to strike the craft
With a ringing bell note crack

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