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    Ed Bateman. The Instinct Never Dies. N.p. [self-published in Texas], 1931. First edition. Inscribed by the author on the title page ("To Uncle Larry - This book is for a very few - those who I think will appreciate it and what it means - Edw. B."). 7.75" x 12.5" legal-size sheets of Japanese handmade paper, printed recto only in two colors, and gathered between a smooth cowhide wraparound cover, secured with a leather thong. Unpaginated (39pp). Illustrations by Dick Spencer. The cowhide of the front cover has a faint splotch measuring approximately three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and a couple of light smudges. Back cover has a small surface abrasion and some puckering. Otherwise, a fine copy.

    "Expense was no object for one of the rarest items printed during the Depression era" is the way Al Lowman, in his Printing Arts in Texas, begins his entry on this beautifully-made and almost mythically rare Texas book, produced by Ed Bateman, the wildcat oilman who, in 1930, brought in the Lou Della Crim No. 1, the biggest discovery well in American history. With his proceeds (rumored to be around two million dollars), Bateman bought a ranch and enjoyed his money; and with his new-found wealth, he produced this magnificent book. "I produced this book during the Bateman Age of Extravagance, when money (for which, apparently, I have a native-born contempt) was indeed plentiful. I spent so much on it, the very sum per copy would horrify an intelligent man - not even a Morgan or a Rockefeller could or would pay what I paid" (Bateman, in a letter to Dudley Dobie, 1941).

    Ed Bateman began his professional life as a newspaper reporter in Dallas and Houston, eventually finding himself on the oil business beat, reporting on and interviewing the movers and shakers of the post-World War One oil boom. He learned so much about geology and the workings of the oil business that he left his newspaper gig for the wildly speculative and wholly uncertain world of oil leasing and, later, wildcat drilling. After forty-one dry wells, his gusher - in the famed East Texas oilfield - finally came in.

    Even though Bateman found his greatest success as an oil wildcatter, he always referred to himself as "an old newspaper man." He writes in the somewhat wistful and poetic introduction to The Instinct Never Dies: "This is a curious book, if you please ... at least, in one respect. It is on paper, and printed, solely to feed, and thereby still, the heart-hunger of one who, having once dipped deeply into that mysterious draught known as printer's ink, must indulge again. [...] Once away from columns that clamored hourly for fresh grist of the world, the instinct persisted strangely. [...] And it has. Through great good-fortune, I can now sit at a desk in my library for as many hours as I like, and write all I please. More extraordinary, I can pay for printing it, as simply or ornately as I like. This book is the first result. There is no necessity for selling a single copy and any newspaper man can tell you that I do not require a reading audience. I simply must write, and having written, put it to press."

    Lowman writes: "The Instinct Never Dies reflects what one man can do when he has talent and a lot of money. [...] Bateman's reaction to his new wealth was extraordinary: he wrote, designed, and set with his own hands" this deceptively modest little book which he produced solely for his own pleasure. Though apparently self-taught, Lowman notes: "The careful letterspacing and immaculate presswork are the hallmark of an accomplished and painstaking craftsman." Bateman wrote a few other books on Western themes, but none was as personal to him as this, his first book, a collection of vignettes of people and places he had encountered in his travels. As he writes in his introduction: "...those of you who now hold the volume in your hands have two consoling thoughts for the boredom you may suffer: first, that it cost you nothing, and second, that it is the concrete results of an old newshound having a hell of a good time."

    The Instinct Never Dies - the culmination of one man's artistic and aesthetic vision - is an appealing and thoroughly impressive book that has become almost legendary in its maddening elusiveness. We are proud to offer this copy of a book so exceedingly rare that few Texana collectors have ever actually seen a copy.

    References: Dobie, Out of the Old Rock. Lowman, Printing Arts in Texas ("issued in such limited numbers that few bibliophiles have ever seen or heard of it"). Sonnichsen, Texas Humoresque, quoting Western Horseman, May 1989.

    More Information:

    Stories: "Compensation"; "Idealism"; "Higher Accountancy"; "Digression"; "Thrill - 1931 Model"; "Frustration."

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2009
    21st Saturday
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