Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2014 Issue

Books in the News: An Unlikely Gift, an Antarctic Discovery, and Serious Water Damage

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Pages from George Levick's Antarctic notebook.

An unlikely institution recently received a surprising gift – a large collection of old, often valuable books. The King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, England, was given a significant collection through the bequest of Jean Wilks. Miss Wilks served as Headmistress of the school from 1964 until her retirement in 1977. That was a long time ago, the explanation being that Miss Wilks was 97 years old when she died this past July 1. She left her entire library to the school.

 

While Jean Wilks was not a wealthy woman, she loved books and bought many when they were new or relatively recent. So, we find works from writers of her youth, such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, and D.H. Lawrence. Many are first editions. She also had some of the very first editions of Penguin paperbacks ever published. There was a collection from a name not quite as well known, but still important - Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackinstosh was born in Glasgow and became one of the most influential artists of the Art Nouveau movement in the U.K. Ms. Wilks had many of his books in her collection. These she had received from her friend and colleague Maggie Davidson. Ms. Davidson's grandfather was a Scottish merchant and patron of Mackintosh.

 

While the other books may be of interest to the students, the Mackintosh collection, though valuable, might be a stretch for high school girls. Fortunately, the school came up with a great idea. The Glasgow School of Art suffered a major fire last spring and lost many of its possessions. Mackintosh met his wife at the school in 1900 and designed its structure. King Edward VI High decided to give these art books to the Glasgow school, a fitting and generous gesture.

 

Antarctic Discovery

 

A few weeks ago, we reported on the discovery of one of the two ships used by Sir John Franklin on his Arctic expedition to discover a northwest passage. The ships had last been seen 170 years ago. All of Franklin's men died, with only a few bodies and notebooks ever recovered until this latest discovery. Franklin's expedition, and the dozens of rescue and recovery missions that followed it, form the heart of one of the more popular fields of collecting – polar exploration. This past month, artifacts were discovered from one of the most famous of expeditions to the other pole, Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to Antarctica in 1910. Scott's fate was no better than Franklin's, though it was not surrounded in nearly the degree of mystery.

 

Scott's story is a legendary tragedy. Having missed out on the opportunity to make the first attempt at the North Pole when Peary (allegedly) reached that destination, Scott turned his attention to the south. However, Norwegian Roald Amundsen had the same idea. Amundsen was a little faster. When Scott reached the South Pole, he found Amundsen's flag already planted, having arrived a month earlier. Disappointment turned to tragedy when weather turned much worse on the return trip. Scott and his accomplices were not sufficiently prepared and died trying to make their way back.

 

However, not all of those on the expedition were focused on the South Pole. A second group, which included zoologist and photographer George Murray Levick, traveled along the coast conducting scientific observations. They didn't have a particularly easy time either. When their ship was unable to make it through the ice to reach them, the group was forced to spend the Antarctic winter in a snow cave.

 

Before their group set off on the journey that forced them to spend their winter in a cave, Levick prepared a notebook with details of photographs he had taken in 1911. It was left behind outside of a hut at base camp, where it became buried in snow and ice. It remained there for a century until recently discovered by conservationists from the Antarctic Heritage Trust of New Zealand. Ice and water has damaged the book some, but the entries are still legible. The pages are being digitized, and then the repaired notebook will be sent back to Antarctica where it will be kept with 11,000 other artifacts at Cape Evans.

 

Water Damage Can Be A Menace

 

Water damage to books is a concern to collectors, but our worries pale in comparison to those experienced in Kashmir, according to the Greater Kashmir website. They have experienced serious flooding, resulting in books in both private and commercial establishments being soaked. However, the concerns go far beyond water stains and musty odors. They may be a health menace.

 

The problem is the flood waters are often seriously polluted. Dr. Ishtiyaq Ahmad was quoted as saying, "This is a dangerous situation as the books soaked in flood waters carry a number of viral, bacterial, fungal and other disease-causing agents. A large number of animals like cats, rats, dogs, cattle, etc. have died in these waters and by using these books a person can easily be inflicted by viral diseases like Lepto Spirosis that happens due to decaying feco-oral matter of rats and cats in water." He added, "These books can become a major cause for spreading diseases like cholera, typhoid, para typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis E and other deadly diseases." Another doctor noted that the American Centers for Disease Control calls for discarding books that have been soaked by flood waters as they cannot be safely cleaned and disinfected.

 

In the case of very rare and valuable books, extraordinary methods may be called on to preserve them, but for everything else, they should be discarded. Apparently, vendors in Kashmir have been selling some of these books at steep discounts, particularly to students, spreading the risk of disease.

 

Of course, serious book collectors already understand that condition matters. Sometimes, it matters even more than usual.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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