Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2013 Issue

Hang Them High - Poor man’s dreams and rich man’s collections

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Shall we hang the landlords?

Just the other day, I came across the catalogue of a very impressive sale that took place in Drouot in December 2012. I noticed a peculiar detail about it, that made me laugh—a bittersweet laughter I must say. This sale was held by the famous Pierre Bergé Auction House and was entitled Utopistes & Révoltés (Utopists & Rebellious). It listed 249 items from Jean-Pierre Faur’s impressive collection about “La Commune”. Now, “La Commune” is a very special period in French history. From March to May 1871, the people of Paris rebelled against the legitimate government that had just surrendered to the Prussians to whom France had declared war the previous year. For two months, desperate and determined citizens fought the police in the streets of the capital with a rare fierceness. The repression was terrible, women and children were executed alongside men—but they were amongst the first ones to fight. To make it short, this event known as “La Commune” has become the cradle of French utopia, the ultimate reference to any serious anarchist.

 

A lot of stories are still told about these glorious days of guerrilla, such as this young boy who was running in the street carrying a Molotov Cocktail when a woman called for him: “Don’t go this way, my son,” she said. “The police are up the street.” The young boy smiled at her: “Then, that’s exactly where I want to go!” His body was later recovered on the sidewalk. This sale featured incredible documents related to this movement, including a copy of the rare Hurrah !!! ou la Révolution par les Cosaques (Londres, Octobre 1854). The author, Ernest Coeurderoy, was an apocalyptic soul who could not accept the failure of the revolution of 1848 and who eventually committed suicide in Geneva. His book is considered as a cornerstone of the rebellious spirit of the century. The appraisal was 5,000-6,000 euros. Some gorgeous posters from “La Commune” were also featured, which demonstrate how the people had organised themselves, free from any government. One of the most striking items remains the 119 original photographs compiled by the police to identify the rebels! They are beautiful by themselves, showing some dark people staring at the camera, wearing old-fashioned clothes. There’s something violent about them, some tension coming from these people. The policemen wrote some lines besides the portraits: “Tall and fat, limping because of pains in his back”, and the names of the “Communards” over the photographs. “Unique and very rare,” reads the catalogue. Estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 euros, I bet it went for more than that. Another compilation of portraits (all dating from the late 19th century) features those of several female “Communardes”, including the iconic Louise Michel who became famous for allegedly throwing Molotov Cocktails at the police from her motorcycle!  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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