Bookman in Chief

Teddy Roosevelt has to be the president to beat for the title of Renaissance man in the oval office. Not only was he the sort of president who could take a bullet and then walk onstage and give his speech anyway*, he also displayed a sensitive eye for book design, and a taste for well-made books, as demonstrated in this letter to Edith Greenough Wendell found in the Updike Correspondence Collection, our collection of Daniel Berkeley Updike's personal letters (as well as a few letters that just mention him, as in this case).

Here's a transcription of the letter:

The White House

Oyster Bay, N.Y.,
July 30, 1907.

My dear Mrs. Wendell:
I am greatly obliged to you for the beautiful books. By George, it is a pleasure to see such work done in America! Indeed, when I get the chance I shall certainly ask you to take me around to the Mary-Mount [sic] Press. What a remarkable work Updike is doing!

It was such a pleasure to see you down here. all I regretted was that Barrett was not along.

Do you recollect my speaking to you about the remarkable Venetian Fifteenth Century Livy, and saying I did not think we had any modern printing that compared with it! Upon my word I think that Updike's Tacitus runs it close. If I remember aright, however, there was a little more spacing between the lines of the Livy, so that it gave a clearer look to the page.

Faithfully yours,
Theodore Roosevelt

Mrs. Edith Greenough Wendell
Nahant, Massachusetts.

Even if Roosevelt didn't have the name of Updike's press quite right, he certainly did seem to appreciate the work he was doing.

*"The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best." (!)

jgoffin's picture
Jordan Goffin

Special Collections Librarian Jordan Goffin has been mining the wonders in the Library’s Special Collections since early 2011. If you’d like to stop in and spend some time with the historic and noteworthy books, manuscripts and ephemera at PPL, contact him by email at or by phone at 401.455.8021. Also, visit the Notes for Bibliophiles blog ( to read more about the exciting materials in Special Collections and to keep up with events and announcements.


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