• <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 15:</b> Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 1:</b> Vintage Posters Featuring Highlights from the Gail Chisholm Collection
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 8:</b> Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 13:</b> 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 29:</b> Printed & Manuscript African Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 12:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 26:</b> Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 3:</b> Graphic Design
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 15:</b> 19th & 20th Century Literature
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 7:</b><br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 21:</b> Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III
  • <b>Sotheby’s, New York: Fine Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography. January 17, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Hayden, Ferdinand V. <i>The Yellowstone National Park, and the Mountain Ranges of Portions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah</i>. Boston, 1876. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Colton, G. Woolworth. <i>Colton’s New Map of the State of Texas, The Indian Territory and Adjoining Portions of New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas</i>. New York, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> [Jefferson, Thomas]. <i>The Committee appointed to prepare a Plan for the temporary Government of the Western Territory, have agreed to the following Resolutions.</i> … [Annapolis, 1 March 1784]. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, New York: Fine Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography. January 17, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Mitchell, Samuel Augustus. <i>A New Map of Texas Oregon and California with the Regions Adjoining. Compiled from the Most Recent Authorities</i>. Philadelphia, 1846. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Bodmer, Karl [illustrator] — Prince Maximilian Zu Wied-Neuwied. <i>Reise In Das Innere Nord-America In Den Jahren 1832 Bis 1834</i>. 1839-1841. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Bry, Theodor De, Thomas Hariot, and John White. <i>[Hariot's Virginia]. Wunderbarliche, Doch Warhafftige Erklärung, Von der Gelegenheit und Sitten der Wilden in Virginia</i>... Frankfurt, 1590. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, New York: Fine Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography. January 17, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Bry, Theodor De, Thomas Hariot, and John White. <i>[Hariot's Virginia]. Wunderbarliche, Doch Warhafftige Erklärung, Von der Gelegenheit und Sitten der Wilden in Virginia</i>... Frankfurt, 1590. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Catlin, George. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. London, 1844. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Franklin, Benjamin ["Richard Saunders"]. <i>Poor Richard Improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris ... For ... 1756</i>. Philadelphia: B. Franklin And D. Hall, 1755. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, New York: Fine Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography. January 17, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants Of America... A New Edition, with Several Additions in the Body of the Work</i> ... Philadelphia, [1776]. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> The Declaration of Independence. In Congress, July 4, 1776 … Salem, Massachusetts-Bay: Printed By E. Russell, By Order Of Authority, [Ca. 18–20 July 1776]. $1,000,000 to $1,500,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Jan. 17:</b> Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist. A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution … New York, 1788. $200,000 to $300,000
  • <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.
  • <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>

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2017 Issue

Book Review: Where Have All the Copies of Robert Burns' First Book Gone? Here is the Long Answer

D07ae20e-57e0-4b2b-b228-b750f729ec63

The Kilmarnock Burns. A Census.

In the summer of 1786, 27-year-old Robert Burns delivered his first set of poems to a local printer. Burns was the son of a farmer, one who saw little future for himself in his native Scotland. He planned to emigrate to Jamaica. He hoped that his book of poems might earn him enough money to pay the fare.

 

While unknown to the public, Burns had some local recognition among those who had seen manuscripts of his poems. Friend and lawyer Gavin Hamilton urged Burns to have a book of poems published. So began the career of Scotland's favorite son, with the printing of his first work, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. The first edition ran off the press around the first of August of 1786.

 

Burns had 612 copies printed. That sounds ambitious for an unknown poet. It is reminiscent of the Bronte sisters, later renown as novelists, ambitiously publishing a book of poems jointly, their first work. They printed 1,000 copies and sold 2. Burns was not such a dreamer. He needed money to print them and so first rounded up a collection of subscribers. Finding 600 of them in Kilmarnock, Scotland sounds like an overwhelming challenge, but while Burns had no official benefactors, he had friends who were willing to buy up a whole lot of copies and resell them. By June of that year, Burns already had 350 subscriptions. Robert Aiken bought 145 copies, almost a quarter of the print run. Robert Muir bought 72, Burns' brother Gilbert 70. Gavin Hamilton ordered 40 copies. Just seven people purchased two-thirds of the copies. By August 28, only 13 copies remained, by September 6, all had sold out. The success was so great that by September, Burns was working on a second edition of 1,000 copies, and his plans to emigrate to Jamaica were canceled.

 

The year 1786 was a long time ago, 231 years to be exact. What has happened to those 612 copies of Burns' first book since? Most, undoubtedly, met their unfortunate fate years ago, but what about the survivors? Answering that question seems an unimaginably difficult task, and yet a book has just been published that takes on that enormously difficult challenge. It is thorough, detailed, and obviously a labor of great love. It is the work of a retired Scot living in Florida, Allan Young, who began the task in 2002, and Patrick Scott, an Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, home of a major Burns collection. If you are a collector of Burns, someone who admires his work, or just someone who loves a good mystery, you will be completely fascinated by this book of detective nonfiction.

 

The authors have used every tool of searching to locate surviving copies, not just those in institutional libraries, but those hidden away in private collections. Often, this has required looking back at old records, such as long ago auction listings and old newspaper articles, to trace where they have gone. The authors traveled all around England and North America to view surviving copies, so as to be able to match them up with copies described somewhere perhaps over a century ago. The result is an amazingly thorough description of every copy publicly known to exist, along with information on a few other copies which almost certainly remain in the hands of some quiet, unknown collector.

 

As of 1996, Ross Roy, in writing about an exhibition on the 200th anniversary of Burns' death, estimated fewer than 70 copies survived. By 2009, Young had located 71 of them. As of this writing, that number has increased to 84. The authors estimated there could be as many as 25-30 more copies still extant, based on old auction and other descriptions of copies which likely still survive but whose whereabouts they have not yet been able to determine. Their book is entitled The Kilmarnock Burns: A Census, and Young and Scott have divided it into three sections – a census of institutionally held copies, where they were able to gather and include detailed information about location, condition, and identifying aspects of each of these 69 copies, a private ownership census of 15 copies, where information is mostly more spotty and several owners have wished to remain unidentified, and a chronological order report of all information they have located about copies, both those in known collections and those that are lost or whose whereabouts is unknown. Among the last group, there is information dating from April 1786, a listing of early subscribers, up to the current year.

 

The majority of the copies, 48, turned up in the United States. Twenty-five still remain in Scotland. Another 6 were in other parts of the U.K., 3 in Canada, one in Australia, and only one in a non-English speaking country, Switzerland. Only four still have original wraps, and of these, two are bound in and in one they were used under a marbled cover. There is one copy of unbound, uncut, folded sheets. Twenty-five have early bindings, most are in later fine bindings. It was thought that would make them more valuable. That was a mistake.

 

Among the many anecdotes about these copies, here are a few we found particularly interesting. A private collector in Scotland owns a copy once belonging to Gavin Hamilton, likely his personal copy rather than one he resold. On the page dedicating the book to him, Hamilton has written his name. It also contains two manuscript poems in Burns' hand bound in. Sadly, the top half inch of the title page has been sliced off. It likely once held an inscription. It was still in its original wrappers in 1850 when an Edinburgh bookseller had it rebound. According to the owner, "It is in wonderful condition."

 

Compare that to the copy at Balliol College, Oxford. The description of this copy reveals, "the text is grubby, showing evidence of a lot of reading throughout... The bottom left hand corners of openings are particularly dirty, presumably from grubby thumbs, and there are smudged fingerprints. Some pages have spill marks on them..." It could be worse. The Dunfermline Carnegie Library copy is missing the first 48 pages. It was being used by a barber to sharpen his razor, ripping out pages one at a time, when it was rescued by a traveling salesman.

 

Harvard University has a copy that once belonged to Harry Elkins Widener. Widener was a noted bibliophile, the son of U.S. Steel and American Tobacco wealth. However, it was given to Harvard by his mother, not Harry. Harry Widener went down with the Titanic, just 27 years of age.

 

One of the British Library copies was once in the library of bibliographer Thomas Wise. Wise was the master forger, who not only copied existing books, but created pre-first edition ("true first edition") copies. We will presume the British Library examined this copy carefully for authenticity.

 

One of the National Library of Scotland copies actually came from America, or at least back from America. It was part of the collection of Robert Hoe. He was a major manufacturer of printing presses in the 19th century and his sale in 1910-11 was by far the largest auction sale in American history up to that point.

 

The Florida State University copy comes from one of the luckiest book collectors of all time. It's all about timing. To the rest of the world, Jerome Kern is known as a songwriter, writing Ol' Man River and other classics. To bibliophiles, he is known for his immaculately well-timed auction. He sold his collection for staggering prices in 1929, at what would be the top of the market for several decades. Shortly thereafter came the stock market crash, and then the Great Depression, and the value of books, like most everything else, plummeted.

 

The Kirkcaldy Library copy was the gift of the daughter of John Nairn. Nairn is not well-known outside of Scotland, but he was one of the land's most successful businessmen. He didn't invent it, but made a fortune manufacturing linoleum. If your old house has linoleum floors, it may have helped purchase this copy.

 

The Lilly Library has one of only five copies with uncut leaves. It was sold by the estate of Frank Bemis to legendary bookseller Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, who in turn sold to to Josiah Lilly. Lilly left it to the Lilly Library at Indiana University. Later, it was determined that this apparently perfect copy was made up of sheets taken from multiple copies. Whether one of these owners, or a previous one compiled the copy is unknown. Mr. Lilly would not appear to be the culprit since it is unlikely he would have purchased a defective copy.

 

The University of South Carolina copy was once owned by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Cherry-Garrard was the Antarctic explorer who accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. He not only finished second, but died in terrible weather trying to make it back to the ship. Cherry-Garrard, fortunately, did not accompany Scott to the Pole, but barely survived a side journey that took the lives of his companions. He wrote about it in The Worst Journey in the World.

 

And then, there is one copy in the hands of a bookseller, Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller. If you would like a copy, this one is still available. It is described as a "fine copy" and is available for the price of $85,000. Incomplete copies come up occasionally at auction for not notably high prices, but a complete copy in fine condition is highly valuable.

 

Burns collectors will be fascinated by this book, but it is a great read for all who like old books and find a where-is-it-now mystery exciting. A copy may be purchased from Amazon through this link: click here. If you are aware of any missing copies, or otherwise need to contact the author, Patrick Scott may be reached at scottp@mailbox.sc.edu.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 39: Presidential Pardon Signed by John F. Kennedy. November 1962. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 537: Marc Chagall. <i>Illustrations for the Bible</i>. Features 28 lithograph plates. First American edition, 1956. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 252: Jack Kerouac. <i>On the Road</i>. 1957. First edition. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 143: Arthur Rimbaud. <i>A Season in Hell</i>. With photogravures by Robert Mapplethorpe. The Limited Editions Club, 1986. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 72: Group of 11 Harry Truman Signed Letters. Typed & signed by the former President. 1962-1970. $1,500 to $2,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 157: Arthur Conan Doyle. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by The Limited Editions Club. 8 vols. 1950-52. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 173: Jacob Lawrence. <i>The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis</i>. Illustrated with silkscreens by Lawrence. 1989. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 239: William Faulkner. <i>Sartoris</i>. First edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 286: Walt Whitman. New Year’s Eve Postcard Signed, “Walt Whitman,” to the poet Gabriel Sarrazin. January, 1891. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 351: Pair of European Fine Bindings. Including Gesanbuch (1831) & Naboznych Vylevov (1911). $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 423: August Luben. <i> Naturhistorischer Atlas der Saugethiere </i>. Includes complete set of 30 loose plates. Leipzig: 1858. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 386: <i>Famous Monsters of Filmland No 1</i>. Art by Will Elder, text by Forrest Ackerman. Warren’s first monster magazine. Feb, 1958. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> <i>Verve: Revue Artistique et Littéraire/An Artistic and Literary Quarterly,</i> nos.1-38 in 26 vol [a complete set], numerous colour lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse & others. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Wesley (John, Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism, 1703-91). Autograph Letter signed to Rev. John Bredin, 1782. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Austen (Jane). Brock (Charles Edward). A group of seventeen ink and watercolour drawings for Dent's edition of Jane Austen's <i>Sense and Sensibility,</i> 1908. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Tibullus (Albius) and Gaius Valerius Catullus. <i>Elegiae, sive Carmina,</i> Venice, Andreas de Paltasichis, 1487. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Doves Press. English Bible (The), 5 vol., one of 500 copies, signed and inscribed by Laurence Hodson, Doves Press, 1903. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Africa. Smith (Andrew). <i>Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,</i> 5 vol., first edition, original cloth, [1838-50]. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Longitude. <i>An Act for providing a Publick Reward for such Person or Persons as shall Discover the Longitude at Sea,</i> first edition of this highly important act, John Baskett, 1714. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Shirley (James). <i>Six new playes, viz. The Brothers. Sisters. Doubtfull Heir. Imposture. Cardinall. Court secret,</i> first edition, 1653. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Ugolino,</i> number 77 of 125 copies, Dublin, Dolmen Press, 1979. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Lasinio (Carlo, 1759-1838). <i>[Ritratti Originali de Pittori Esistenti Nella Reale Galleria de Firenze],</i> 99 engravings, circa 1791-96. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Japan. Kusakabe Kimbei. Photograph Album, 50 hand-coloured albumen prints, oblong folio, [c.1890-1900]. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Polar. Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, printed flyer, 1852. £1,000 to £1,500
  • <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> <i>The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment,</i> 1789. Signed by George Washington. $28,000 to $32,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> George Washington Signed Letter to John Marshall. $12,000 to $14,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Picasso Signed “Vallauris” 1952 Exhibition Poster. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Military appointment commission document signed by both President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, dated January 27, 1803. $2,400 to $2,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Doris Ulmann and Julia Peterkin. <i>Roll, Jordan, Roll.</i> New York, 1933, deluxe edition, preceding first edition of the same year. No. 74 of 350. $5,000 to $6,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> John Marshall. <i>The Life of George Washington,</i> Philadelphia, 1832. Signed by author. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Samuel L. Margolies (American, 1897-1974). Aquatint and etching, "Builders of Babylon," 1937. $4,000 to $4,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Two Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) signed documents as President of Washington College. $3,000 to $3,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> William C. Harris. <i>The Fishes of North America That Are Captured on Hook and Line</i>, Vol I., New York, 1898. 40 chromolithograph plates. $2,000 to $2,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> $100 "Date Back" bank note 1902 from the Clarksville National Bank, Clarksville, Tennessee, depicting the portrait of John Jay Knox, Jr. $1,400 to $1,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and Monticello, Taken from Lewis Mountain, drawn and lithographed by Edward Sachse. $800 to $1,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Large Civil War photograph mounted on card stock depicting Rossville Gap in Missionary Ridge. $400 to $450

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions