In February, 2006 I presented this talk on Mary Hyde before the Florida Bibliophile Society
Mary Hyde is one of the bibliophiles in my library. I have many of the books and essays she wrote, and some of the books she formerly owned. Who is Mary Hyde? Better men than I, and several women too, have answered that question. In his obituary of Mary Hyde, Nicolas Barker, editor of The Book Collector," tells us that she was born as Mary Morley Crapo in 1912, spent half her life as Mary Hyde, and died in 2003 with the title of Mary, Viscountess Eccles, or Lady Eccles for short. Laura Barnes, the noted James Joyce Collector, refers to Lady Eccles in her recent Rare Book Review article,"Me and James Joyce."
I was recently informed, in a friendly but insistent manner, that only men can be great book collectors. It seems that men alone possess the necessary obsessive-compulsive behaviour to build important collections. Now, I am not one to seek out - let alone brag about - being afflicted with a psychological disorder, but I do consider myself a serious collector.
I must concede, however, that as a woman I am in a distinct minority in the book world. I can rattle off only a half-dozen or so great women collectors in the past 20 years, with Lady Eccles at the top of the list. ...
In "Unending Pursuit," a talk before the Grolier Club in 1990, Lady Eccles, or Mary Hyde, as she shall be called throughout this talk, provided her thoughts on why there were so few women book collectors. She believed that a serious collector must have education, considerable resources,and freedom. Few women enjoyed all three. Mary Hyde had all three assets and more.
Mary Hyde can trace her heritage to a young French boy, the lone survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod around 1660. The boy was given the name of Pierre Craupaud, which is French for toad. Pierre eventually changed his name to Peter Crapoo, and married Penelope White, a descendant of the Mayflower. Together, they raised a family of ten children, and began to prosper in the New World. Mary's great-grandfather, Henry Howland Crapo, migrated to Michigan in the 1850s, and increased the family fortune with ventures in lumber and farming. He also made a name for himself in politics, becoming the governor of Michigan. Mary Hyde was raised on the family farm in Detroit, read Shakespeare with her father,and wrote plays for her friends. She graduated from Vassar in 1934, earned a Masters in English from Columbia University in 1935, and eloped with Donald Frizell Hyde, a lawyer, in September, 1939.
Many rare book collectors can remember their first experiences with rare books. Donald and Mary Hyde published their first experiences; however, they have different recollections of that first particular incident.
Donald Hyde's recollection first appeared in the fall of 1955 in "The Hyde Collection," an article written by Donald and Mary Hyde for The Book Collector:
Neither of us at a precocious age made an important rare book discovery, nor did we buy the collection's cornerstone during our undergraduate days. Both of us always loved books, the distaff side concentrating on the theatre and the other on the solid, and then unemphasized, eighteenth century. Bookcases from floor to ceiling were an important part of our first house, half a gardener's cottage in Detroit, when we were married in the autumn of 1939. It was not long after that the distaff side returned from a special showing of a visiting New York dealer, now deceased, proudly bearing several purchases. The male side grumbled on the basis of extravagance without realizing the further complaint that the purchases were second rate, some were cripples, and one Elizabethan document was an outright forgery, something Belle Greene later recognized at a range of ten feet. We have retained this example from sentiment and to serve as a salutary warning. To continue the story, the bride, with greater knowledge of male psychology than of books, returned to the exhibit and purchased for her husband run-of-the-mill first editions of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" and Johnson's "Dictionary." Little did either of us then realize we were launching the project which was to become one of the happiest features of our lives. We did, however, immediately fancy ourselves as book collectors. ...
Mary Hyde's recollection of that first particular incident first appeared in May 1960 in "A Library of Dr. Samuel Johnson," an article Mary Hyde wrote for Vassar Alumnae Magazine:
...the first particular incident occurred quite mundane to all outward appearances. It was a traveling exhibition of books, brought by a New York dealer to a Detroit shop. I had returned there about a year before and had recently been married to Donald Hyde, a lawyer. He said that he would not mind going with me to the showing since it was just across the street from his office. To my surprise, his interest, though along different lines, was as great as mine. While I examined Shakespeare and Elizabethan quartos, he was drawn to the eighteenth century books which were in far greater number. He gave most of his attention to Dr. Johnson, and he told me, which I had not known before, that the course he had most enjoyed in college was "The Age of Johnson." He went on casually and impressively with praise of Johnson's "Dictionary," his essays in the "Rambler" and "Idler," his poems, "London" and "The Vanity of Human Wishes, his "Lives of the Poets," his edition of "Shakespeare," and his one and impossible, play, "Irene." At this point, with exasperation, I called him "a Johnsonian," and that is what I shall call him in this story, for his attachment to Johnson was immediate and prophetic.
We returned several times to the exhibit. It had a powerful attraction for we had both believed that rare books of this sort were not generally available, that they either reposed in an institutional library or were reserved for important private collections. We had never thought that they would be offered to people as insignificant as we were. We hesitated, and in the end, he presented me with three Shakespeare quartos and a document with the seal and signature of Queen Elizabeth I; I presented him with a first edition of Blackstone, which seemed appropriate, and because of his excessive admiration, first editions of Boswell's Life of Johnson and Johnson's Dictionary. The last two were the unrecognized beginning of our library. We discovered somewhat later, with a little more knowledge, that they were indifferent copies, but we continue to be fond of them and they are excellent for rough reference use. In this regard, the quartos we also later found to be slightly defective and the Elizabethan document proved to be a forgery. The first experience in rare books, if unaided, is apt to be unsatisfactory - but highly instructive.
Shortly after their first experience with rare books in Detroit, Donald Hyde was offered a position with a law firm in New York City. On election day in 1940, while Roosevelt was beating Wilkie, the Hydes moved to New York. A friend of the family, Randolph Adams of the Clements Library, prepared their way into the book world, introducing them to A.S.W. Rosenbach, Gabriel Wells, Arthur Houghton, and John Fleming. Rosenbach recommended they buy only the finest books, even if it limited the number of books they could purchase. Wells suggested they buy what they could afford, trading up as circumstances permitted. Houghton inspected their library, shook his head disapprovingly and wrote suggestions on three-by-five file cards on how to collect books. Fleming inspected their books, including some Americana they had inherited, and found only one book of value.
Donald and Mary Hyde became fast learners in the book collecting world of New York City. On January 30, 1941, at the Parke-Bernet Galleries auction of Darwin Kingsley's library, they bid $2600 for the 1663 Third Folio of Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. On April 14, 2004, this copy sold for $623,000 at Christie's in New York.
At the A. Edward Newton auction in April, May and October of 1941, the Hydes continued to buy Shakespeare books; but they also began to make serious strides towards forming a significant Samuel Johnson Collection.
Some of you may have heard of A. Edward Newton from the numerous books he wrote on book collecting, from The Amenities of Book-Collecting in 1918, to Bibliography and Pseudo-Bibliography in 1936. In the 1930s, only R. B. Adam of Buffalo had a better Samuel Johnson Collection than did A. Edward Newton.
At the Newton Sale, Donald and Mary Hyde won the auction for a 1684 copy of Julius Caesar, the first separate edition of this play. They paid $270 for it. In May 2004, this copy sold for $26,290. They bought Newton's undated Hamlet for $900. Only twenty copies have been recorded. The book was published around 1619. It sold for $276,000 in 2004. Samuel Johnson's teapot went to the highest bidder, the Hydes, for $650. For $530, they acquired a collection of 32 Autograph Manuscripts and Letters, 10 of which are in Johnson's hand, and others by William Dodd. If you will recall, William Dodd and his Forgery, was one of the topics of Paul Ruxin's "Soft-Hearted Sam" talk last year. Among the Hyde's other purchases at the Newton sale were Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi's Commonplace Book for $650, which contained many anecdotes about Samuel Johnson.
Auctions weren't the only avenue which got the Hyde's attention in the 1940s. Booksellers far and wide sold the Hydes many an Elizabethan treasure, not to mention a multitude of Johnsoniana. From Rosenbach, the Hydes probably bought the most. For $3250, Donald Hyde acquired uncut copies of Boswell's Life of Johnson, and Johnson's Lives of the Poets in boards, and a mahogany chair that Samuel Johnson reportedly used at his club in the Old Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. When A.S.W. Rosenbach took sick in the early 1940s, his brother Philip instructed the staff to liquidate much of the stock at cost. For almost $10,000, Donald Hyde bought Boswell's manuscript, 'Boswelliana," William Henry Ireland's Confession of his Shakespeare forgeries, a handful of Elizabethan plays and other prized books and manuscripts. The Ireland confessions aroused the interest of Mary Hyde and led to a forgery collection. Her essay, "Shakespeare Jr.," which demonstrated that Shakespeare did not write the play, "Vortigen," was included in To Dr. R., a festschrift of essays published in honor of Rosenbach's 75th birthday in 1946.
Through A.S.W. Rosenbach, Donald and Mary Hyde met Colonel Ralph Isham, the flamboyant Boswell collector. Donald Hyde became Isham's legal representative in bookish matters, and helped him acquire additional Boswell treasures. Through Isham. the Hydes acquired the manuscript of Boswell's Book of Company, and several Johnson manuscripts and drafts, not to mention an additional 119 Johnson letters. You will hear more about Colonel Isham later.
The crowning collecting achievement of the Hydes, however, was the unexpected acquisition of the R. B. Adam Collection in 1948. This collection consisted of 1087 books and 611 Autographs, 232 of them being autographed letters of Samuel Johnson, 20 Johnson manuscripts, and 50 Boswell letters and associated material.
At the turn of the century, "Grangerizing" or "extra-illustrating" was the rage of book collectors, and R. B. Adam was no exception. In the following fourteen volumes, Adam added letters, manuscripts and pictures of almost everyone mentioned in the books, including those mentioned in the footnotes: The books were George Birkbeck Hill's edition of the Life of Johnson ( 6 vols.) Johnsoniana (2vols.), Letters of Samuel Johnson (2vols.), Johnsonian Miscellanies (2 vols.), Footsteps of Dr. Johnson in Scotland (1 vol.), and Dr. Johnson and the Fair Sex (1 vol.). R. B. Adam had spent a lifetime extra-illustrating these volumes, and his son added to it. When the Hydes acquired the collection, these 14 books had grown to 62 thick extra-illustrated folios.
R. B. Adam nearly lost his collection because of the stock market crash of 1929. Desperate for funds to pay off a bank loan and to keep his department store in Buffalo open, Adam offered the collection to Yale University for $1,500,000, but without success. In 1932, the bank took possession of the book collection and secured the books in the bank vault. In the fall of 1935, Adam persuaded the bank to loan the collection to the University of Rochester, under the care of Robert Metsdorf, the library curator, so it would be available for the use of scholars. Negotiations for the sale of the collection continued with Yale and several other parties, again without success. His son, R. B. Adam II, continued the negotiations after his father passed away in 1940. The chief obstacle to the sale of the collection was that R. B. Adam had wanted the collection to be kept intact; however, no one wanted the entire collection. Yale did not want duplicates of books they already had. Mary Benjamin only wanted the autographed letters. When the Hydes made an offer of $80,000* for the entire collection, the Adam family accepted their offer on one condition: that they would keep the collection intact. They honored R.B. Adam's wishes.
*In 2009, in A Monument More Durable Than Brass: The Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, William Zachs says the R. B. Adam collection of SJ went for $157,500. I got my figure from one of Rosenbach's books, but can't find the reference.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, book collecting took a back seat to patriotism, and Donald Hyde joined the Navy. Mary Hyde worked on her doctorate thesis on Elizabethan Drama. She didn't do her research at the local library; instead, she had access to the A.S.W. Rosenbach Collection, the finest collection of Shakespeare quartos and Elizabethan drama in the United States. She also had access to the books in the Folger Library in Washington, as well as the books in the Elizabethan Collection of Carl H. Pforzheimer. Many of Rosenbach's Shakespeare quartos eventually found their way into the Hyde Library.
On June 3, 1945, Mary Hyde received her doctorate in Philosophy from Columbia University. Her thesis, Playwriting for Elizabethans, was first published in 1949, and reprinted in 1973. It is a masterpiece. Early on in her research, Mary Hyde realized that not one Elizabethan playwright had written a pamphlet on the rules of playwriting for the Elizabethan period. There were brief criticisms of contemporary playwriting from Philip Sydney, Thomas Heywood and Ben Jonson, and nothing but silence from William Shakespeare. Mary Hyde decided to write a treatise on how to write plays during the Elizabethan period. For her study, she chose 80 plays which were performed on stage between 1600 and 1605, only seven of which were Shakespeare's plays. She compared the plays to each other and to their predecessors. She wrote rules on playwriting in general, choices of themes and characters, rules of conventions versus dramatic principles, and advice concerning the beginning, middle and end of plays to be performed during the Elizabethan period. Drama lovers: this is a book for you.
"I pride myself on being a clubable man."
These words are the words of Samuel Johnson, but they apply to Donald Hyde as well. He was a member of many clubs, including The Club of Odd Volumes, The Manuscript Society, The Philobiblon Club, The Roxburghe Club, the Johnsonians, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Grolier Club. Donald Hyde was a member of the Grolier Club from 1943 to 1966. In fact, he was President of the Grolier Club from 1961 to 1965.
One of the best essays I've ever read about the Grolier Club is "Grolier Watching By A Lady" by Mary Hyde. You see, for the longest time, the Grolier Club was a men's club; women could not be members. All Mary Hyde could do was watch on the sidelines, and enjoy the club functions she was allowed to participate in.
Mary Hyde was one of the first women to become a member of the Grolier Club, but that did not occur until May 1976. Many years before, A. Edward Newton had tried to get Amy Lowell elected to the Grolier Club, but the book world just wasn't ready yet.
Mary Hyde participated in her husband's biblio-bliss as much as she could. She entertained the Grolier members in her home and accompanied them on the Grolier trips to England and to Italy.
"I want it to be a happy book, put together while things are still going on."
With these words, spoken in the summer of 1963 by Donald Hyde to the editor, Gabriel Austin, plans began for the publication of a book about the lives and book collections of Donald and Mary Hyde. Actually, two books were planned. The second book would contain essays by scholars about the collections in the Four Oaks Library. If you thought that Johnson and Shakespeare were the only collecting interests of the Hydes, you would be mistaken! They also had a Henry Fielding Collection, a Japanese Books and Manuscript Collection, a George Bernard Shaw Collection, an Oscar Wilde Collection and a Forgery Collection, all of which were substantial collections. In addition, the Hydes had small but choice collections of Sports and Architecture books and a Fine Binding Collection. The histories of these collections are included in the essays contained in the Four Oaks Library volume.
The first volume would contain articles written by friends about the farm the Hydes had acquired in November,1943. They called it "Four Oaks Farm" because the pillars reminded Don of his grandfather's home, "Four Oaks." The book would include anecdotes and accounts of the visitors and festivities which took place at Four Oaks Farm. Both books, Four Oaks Farm and Four Oaks Library were published in 1967.
When I first read these books in 2002, I realized I was reading about a special place: the Camelot of the book world, where the Hydes shared the unending pursuit of book collecting with their friends.
Elizabth Kay, friend of the Hydes, wrote the essay about the first American birthday party for Samuel Johnson. Each year, Johnsonian scholars would gather together in Litchfield, England, Johnson's birthplace, and celebrate his birthday. On August 9, 1946, The Hydes and the Kays and some of their other friends decided to celebrate Johnson's birthday in America too. The celebration would take place at Four Oaks Farm. There wasn't much time for planning because Johnson's birthday was September 18th, less than six weeks away; but pull it off they did.
Many of the Johnsonians and other booklovers came despite the short notice. When they arrived about seven p.m. on September 18th, Johnson's silver teapot greeted them near the door. Donald and Mary Hyde welcomed the guests in the north terrace. Johnson's great chair awaited their presence in the living room. On the menu was a feast from the Eighteenth century: Fricando of Veal, Mutton Kebobbed, and Roast Turkies, Roots & Vegetables. There were so many guests that they were divided into three groups. Conversation had an Elizabethan flavor in Mary's group in the French Room, with Dr. Rosenbach doing most of the talking. Johnsonian talk led the way in Don's group in the Gun Room, while Elizabeth reported that her group in the family room was the gayest and noisiest of them all. After dessert, coffee and brandy, the tables were cleared and churchwarden pipes were passed to the gentlemen. Professor Clifford, editor of the Johnsonian News Letter, read a greeting cable from the President of the Johnson Society in England, Lord Harmsworth. Lyman Butterfied distributed the first keepsake of the Johnsonians, a practice which continues to this day. Professor Osgood, the speaker for the evening, tore up his speech and "spoke from the heart." During his talk he pointed to Johnson's empty chair and said he felt the presence of Johnson's spirit.
Colonel Ralph Isham, the Boswell collector, was the final speaker of the night. He marched over to Johnson's chair, sat in it as if it were his throne, and entertained his subjects with his talk: "The Defense of the Individual Known as the Book Collector." When he was done with his talk, Colonel Isham revealed the reason why he was late in arriving for the night's festivities. He had just returned from Boston Harbor where he had spent the last three days trying to obtain his latest batch of Boswell treasures from the strike-bound freighter, not to mention trying to rescue thirty thirsty horses that had been transported on the freighter. Isham had a captive audience when he read a letter from Lady Talbot listing the treasures found in the barn at Malahide Castle. And so the First American Birthday Party for Dr. Johnson continued until the wee hours of the morning.
One of my favorite chapters in Four Oaks Farm is Mary Hyde's essay, "The Guest Book," particularly how she tried to accommodate the great R. W. Chapman. Smoking was prohibited in the Four Oaks Library, but Mary Hyde was not about to inform Chapman of this rule. Chapman would light up another cigarette before extinquishing the first one. Mary Hyde decided to smoke the cigarettes he had abandoned. Soon there were two chain smokers.
Mary Hyde shares a bittersweet memory in the closing pages of "The Guest Book." In June 1965, Donald Hyde had come down with hepatitis. Although he appeared to be recovering, there were additional unforeseen complications along the way:
The tiny lights on the Christmas trees in pots along the terrace and on the large trees made a fairyland at night. Pictures were taken in light and darkness, inside and out, slightly askew, but warm with friendship and pleasure. Don, walking over the farm in his checked coat and matching hat, or sitting in his favorite chair in a bright smoking jacket, smiled and talked and laughed and stayed up just as late as ever. He was generous to everyone, gentle, imperturbable, a little detached, but never more full of kindness, imagination, and fun, seemingly untroubled and happy.
This is the best place to close these pages, for a guest book is a special kind of book. It is to be lightly handled and not studied too deeply; it is dedicated to sunshine through the seasons of many years. Something unpretentious, cheerful, highly personal, a collection of signatures, handsome hands, illegible hands, hurried scrawls, blots, the growing letters of childrens' names, marks, pictures, and the spontaneous comments which never seem remarkable at the time but which have extraordinary impact later. A guest book is the evocation of happy events of one's life. And Christmas 1965 was full of gaiety and laughter, the culmination of our life at Four Oaks Farm.
On 5 February 1966, Donald Frizell Hyde died. He was only fifty-seven years old.
Mary Hyde talks about how she dealt with her husband's death in her essay,"Unending Pursuit:"
With Don's death in February 1966, I lost a great deal of heart in the library. But slowly I returned to collecting as a way of life. The Hroswitha Club and the Grolier were welcoming, and sound advice was ever at hand from Gordon Ray and Gabriel Austin. Still, I found it very hard...the chase...the negotiation...the bidding at auction...all the things Don was so good at, and loved doing. Even in 1969, when Mrs. Thrale's Children's Book came up for sale in London, a manuscript diary which the Mainwarings had let me read when Don and I visited them in Wales, I agonized over the sale. Stayed in my hotel bedroom, by the telephone, while Winnie Myers did the bidding. At last...she telephoned. Surprise! Joy! Success! The Children's Book was ours!! There was no agony at all deciding what to do next. I began at once to work on a book, The Thrales of Streatham Park.
Mary Hyde buried herself in the writing of books and essays. While still researching her book on the Thrales, she prepared another book for publication: The Impossible Friendship. This book covered the rivalry between James Boswell and Mrs. Thrale. Both were dear friends of Samuel Johnson and vied for his attention. Mary had written the first draft of this book while Donald Hyde was still alive; but, it wasn't published until 1972.
The Thrales of Streatham Park was published in 1976, and a third printing, which I have, was published in 1978. Mrs. Thrale's Children's Book which Mrs. Thrale later called The Family Book was only one part of the story about the Thrales. Mary Hyde traveled to England four times to research and learn the rest of their story. She also needed the assistance of a number of pediatricians to decipher Mrs Thrale's notes about the diseases and treatments of the many illnesses her twelve children suffered. The survival rate of the Thrale children is a telling sign of the heartaches Mrs. Thrale endured. Of the twelve children, only four reached adulthood. One of them lived until the age of nine, while two of them died at the age of four. The other five children never saw their second birthday; in fact, one of them only lived ten hours.
As the years passed, Mary Hyde continued collecting, researching, and writing books and essays. Her next book, Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas, A Correspondence, has a Florida connection with a member of the Florida Bibliophile Society. It was first published in 1982 and contains a photograph of Raymond Douglas. Mary Hyde obtained this photo from the Douglas Collection at the University of South Florida. The Special Collections Librarian at USF was our own Jay Dobkin.
One of Mary Hyde's friends in England was Lord Eccles, a member of the Roxburghe Club, and the one most responsible for the creation of the British Library in 1971. At his 80th birthday in 1983, he announced his engagement to Mary Hyde, who was now over 70 herself. They were married shortly after and spent fifteen years together, summers in England and winters at Four Oaks Farm. Together, they founded the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. In the early nineties, he persuaded her to spearhead the publication of the Hyde Edition of the Letters of Samuel Johnson, the most complete scholarly edition of Johnson's letters. Lord Eccles died in February 1999.
On her 90th birthday in 2002, the Grolier Club presented Mary, Viscountess Eccles with a Miscellany of Her Essays and Addresses. Surprisingly, "Unending Pursuit" is not one of the essays contained in the book. The seventeen essays and addresses that were selected, however, will allow you to learn more than a little bit about her life in the world of books.
Mary Hyde died on 26 August, 2003. The book world lost one of its greatest women book collectors; however, it gained immensely through her bequests regarding the disposition of the collections in the Four Oaks Library. The Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson went to Harvard, as did the Henry Fielding, Forgery, and Autograph Collections. The Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw Collections went to the British Library. The Fine Binding and Sports collections were sold to Maggs. Ten of the choicest volumes of the Japanese Books and Manuscript collection were given to Harvard; the rest were sold at Christie's to benefit the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama Collection was sold at Christie's for a total prices realized of $1,867,092. Although the bidding had gone up to $1,200,000 for the showcase of the auction, the 1611 edition of Hamlet, the reserve hadn't been met. After the auction, the Hamlet and the other unsold items were sold to a private collector from the Midwest for an undisclosed amount of money.
If, as Eugene Field suggests, womenfolk are few in that part of Paradise especially reserved for booklovers I do not care. One woman will be there, for I shall insist that eight and twenty years' probation entitles her to share in my biblio-bliss above as she has shared it here below. That woman is my wife.
These words were written by A. Edward Newton in his dedication of his first book to his wife; however, they could just as easily have been written by either Donald Hyde or David Eccles. Mary Hyde is sharing the unending pursuit of their bibliobliss above as she did here below.
This ends the formal portion of my presentation. I've brought some of Mary Hyde's books and pamphlets from my library for you to view. As an added treat, I copied a few pages of John Overholt's Hyde Collection Catablog. John is currently cataloging the printed books of the Hyde collection at Harvard, and is sharing his discoveries in his blog: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/hydeblog/
Thank You. Any questions?
I just wanted to let you know that I came across your blog while doing research on the Hroswitha Club and found it very interesting. I'm working on a novel about book collectors and trying to gather all the information I can. If you have any additional information on who the original members of the Hroswitha club were I'd love to hear it!
Thanks for all of your efforts in researching the history of Lamb's library.
I acquired Edward Newton's copy of The Bibliophile Society 1905 edition of the Letters of Charles Lamb at a local book fair many years ago.
To Mara Rae Rutherford and grynfy,
Please provide a contact address next time you post so I can respond personally.
What a great post! You've mentioned Mary Hyde in other posts I've read of yours; this was a great introduction for me. I'll be researching her further.
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