• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Princezna Hyacinta</i>, 1911. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b><br><i>Les Maîtres de l'Affiche</i>, 5 volumes, Paris, 1896-1900.<br>$35,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Job</i>, 1896.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Bleuze - Hadancourt Parfumeur</i>, circa 1899.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Lygie</i>, 1901. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Babylone d'Allemagne</i>, 1894.<br>$30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Zodiac / La Plume</i>, 1896. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>The Seasons</i>, 4 panels on silk, 1900.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret</i>, 1893. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Monaco / Monte-Carlo</i>, 1897. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Medee / Sarah Bernhardt</i>, 1898. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Confetti</i>, 1894. $40,000 to $60,000.
  • <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>SAXTON, Christopher. <i>The Travellers Guide being the best Mapp of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales</i>. London, [1583, but c.1716].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>VISSCHER, Claes Jansz. <i>Novissima et Accuratissima Leonis Belgici</i>. Amsterdam, Claes Jansz Visscher, [1611-1621 or later].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Decima Asie Tabula</i>. Ulm, Lienhart Holle, 16 July 1482.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>WIT, Frederick de, and Gerard VALK. <i>Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accurata Tabula</i>. Amsterdam, Gerard Valk, [c.1690-1700].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Astronomicum Caesareum</i>. Ingolstadt, Peter Apian, 1540.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>CASSINI, Jean-Dominique. <i>Carte de la Lune</i>. Paris, Jean-Dominique Cassini, 1787.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Geographicae enarrationis libri octo</i>. Argentoragi, 1525.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>[SAXTON, Christopher]. <i> [An Atlas of England and Wales]</i>. [London, Christopher Saxton, 1579].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> Commission des sciences et arts d'Egypte. <i>Description de l’Égypte</i>… Paris, Imprimerie impériale - Imprimerie royale, 1809-1828.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> CHURCHMAN, John. <i>To George Washington President of the United States of America this Magnetic Atlas or Variation Chart is humbly inscribed by John Churchman</i>. Philadelphia, 1790.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Tipus Orbis Universalis</i>. Vienna, Johannes Camertius, 1520.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LORIOT, A[uguste], [after] Nicolas LANE. <i>[Pocket globe]</i>. London, 65 New Bond Street, 1809.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Grooten Atlas</i>. Amsterdam, Joan Blaeu, 1662-1665.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>INGEBORG BRUN, Emmy. <i>Mars efter Lowell’s Glober 1894-1914</i>. Denmark, [c1915].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LUTHER, Martin. <i>Der vierde Teil aller Bücher vnd Schrifften des thewren seligen Mans</i>. Gedruckt zu Jhena, Durch Christian Rödinger, 1556.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2003 Issue

Book Lust and the Cultural Erotics of Fine Printing

Mb1

Popular Victorian cartoon, entitled


By Megan Benton

A talk delivered to the Roxburghe Club, 16 September 2003
Copyright 2003

Near the end of the nineteenth century, American essayist and avid book collector Eugene Field published a book entitled The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac. In it he tells one tale after another, all with the same theme—that if forced to choose between a woman and a beloved book, a sensible man would be better off with the book. He even wryly speculates that if a woman works hard and behaves well, she just might be lucky enough to come back in another life as a book, “to be petted, fondled, beloved and cherished by some good man.” Clearly his tongue is in his cheek here, but the joke says more than Field maybe realized about his appraisal of the relative merits of women and books.

Quaintly bizarre as they may strike us today, Field’s attitudes were not unusual at the time. They are part of an unprecedented culture of book love, or bibliophilia, that flourished throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in both Europe and America. Bibliophiles formed a small but prominent international community of generally prosperous, genteel, and well-educated men. On the face of it, that they were all men is not surprising. Thanks to traditional advantages of wealth, leisure, and especially higher education—men had always been in a better position than women to develop and enjoy an affinity for books. Book ownership and literacy, particularly in the classical languages that signaled social and cultural rank, had always been a masculine enclave.

Those Victorian gentlemen were not shy about proclaiming their love for books. They wrote voluminously about their feelings, making two things clear. First, they declared book love strictly men-only territory. Women might love reading, they conceded, but only men could truly love books. British writer Holbrook Jackson put it bluntly: “it would be as easy to teach a cow to dance as even the average intelligent woman to love books as a man does. . . . Book love is as masculine . . . as growing a beard.” Second, bibliophiles expressed their passion in increasingly romantic, sensual, and even erotic terms. They seemed to be always—in their own words—fondling, caressing, stroking, and petting their books. French novelist Anatole France claimed that a true bibliophile’s hand cannot help but “voluptuously pass a tender palm over [a book’s] back, its sides, and its edges.” Bibliophiles frequently referred to books not as mere friends but as mistresses, sweethearts, darlings, even Delilahs. The rhetoric, and there’s a lot of it, is pretty hard to ignore.

Why? What prompted these men to go gaga over books? And why did it seem to be so strangely tangled up with sex and gender? Very roughly, the answers grow out of two major developments in the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution and the growing friction, even crisis, over women’s roles in society. Books and reading were intimately involved in both changes.

By the second half of the nineteenth century basic reading literacy levels approached 80-90 percent among adults in Western Europe and the US. An essential part of that rise was linked to a tremendous growth in the manufacture and distribution of books, spurred by industrialization. While a skilled printer with a hand press could produce about 250 impressions an hour, 8-10,000 or more soon flew from the jaws of mechanized, steam-powered presses. Even though books still weren’t cheap, and they were far outnumbered by magazines and newspapers, books were more accessible, to more people, than ever before. Thriving new chains of lending libraries only further ensured that almost anyone might read a book, anywhere, at any time. While this might sound great to folks like us, to many Victorians this sounded like social mayhem. Some feared the new readers—who were mainly women and the working classes—might be easy prey for ideas they wouldn’t understand properly. Others complained that their reading was a pointless distraction or worse, a waste of time better spent keeping the family, household, shops, and factories running smoothly.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Cassilly Adams, Civil War era watercolor on paper painting of the navy vessel upon which he was stationed: the U.S.S. Osage. $3,000 – 5,000
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Audubon, John James and John Bachman, <i>The Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: V.G. Audubon, 1854. 3 volumes. $2,400 – 3,400
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Roulstone, George. <i>LAWS OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE.</i> Printed and published by George Roulstone, Knoxville, (Tennessee), 1803. $2,000 – 3,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Heap, Gwin Harris. <i>CENTRAL ROUTE TO THE PACIFIC, FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSISSIPPI TO CALIFORNIA…</i> Philadelphia/London, 1854.<br>$1,800 – 2,200
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> FDR’s personal copy of <i>The Great Smoky Mountains"</i> by Laura Thornborough. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1937.<br>$1,500 – 1,800
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Latour, Arsene Lacarriere. <i>HISTORICAL MEMOIR OF THE WAR IN WEST FLORIDA AND LOUISIANA IN 1814 – 1815. WITH AN ATLAS.</i> Philadelphia, 1816.<br>$1,200 – 1,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> [Kennedy Autograph Signature] Kennedy, John F. <i>Profiles in Courage.</i> New York Harper & Brothers, (1956).<br>$1,200 – 1,500
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Sam Houston signed land document, granting Elias Riddle 100 acres in Bledsoe County, Tennessee "in the grassy cove…" dated February 22, 1828.<br>$1,000 – 1,200
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> "The State of Kentucky with Adjoining Territories" Map, by John Payne, engraved by John Scoles, published by John Low, New York, 1800. $500 – 700
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Civil War era letter and 4 carte de visites, including Confederate Generals. $300 – 500
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> 12 Bank of East Tennessee Pre Civil War Bills. $350 – 450
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> 2 Early Homeopathy books by Alva Curtis. $300 – 400
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.</i> Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1916.<br>$80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in English, Signed Integrally ("Isaac Newton"). $50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. London: John Murray, 1859. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.</i> London: Benjamin Motte, 1729.<br>$20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEISENBERG, WERNER. Autograph Manuscript entitled "<i>Entwicklung der Theorie der Elementarteilche,</i>” [1964].<br>$15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> BERNOULLI, DANIEL. <i>Hydrodynamica, sive De viribus et motibus fluidorum commentarii.</i> Strasbourg: Johann Heinrich Decker for Johann Reinhold Dulsecker, 1738. $5,000 – 7,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> [TARKOVSKY, ANDREI ARSENIEVICH.] STRUGATSKY, BORIS AND ARKADY. Typed Manuscript for <i>Stalker</i>, being the director's working script, 1977. $150,000 – 200,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. Typed Manuscript of "Marlin Off the Morro: A Cuban Letter," n.p., [1933]. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> SALINGER, JEROME DAVID. 4 Autograph Letters, 2 of which Signed ("Jerry") and 6 Typed Letters, 2 of which Initialed ("J"). $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> PASTERNAK, BORIS LEONIDOVICH. Typed Manuscript Carbon, "Doktor Zhivago," with some typed corrections, Moscow, 1948. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> MILNE, ALAN ALEXANDER. Autograph Manuscript Signed 3 times ("A.A. Milne"), entitled "Peace with Honour: An Enquiry into the War Convention," 1934.<br>$30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Robert Frost"), titled "Gold for Christmas," 1952. $15,000 – 20,000
  • <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton's Appointment as Aide-De-Camp to General George Washington. $150,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Correspondence about his reputation as a soldier and a gentleman nearly provoking a duel, 1779. $100,000 -150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. The earliest surviving love letter from Hamilton to his future wife Elizabeth Schuyler. $40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to Elizabeth Schuyler; a love letter that also announces the arrival of French General Rochambeau. $15,000 – 20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter to Elizabeth Schuyler, announcing the treason of Benedict Arnold. $35,000 – 50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to Elizabeth Hamilton, announcing that the army is preparing to engage Cornwallis in Virginia. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter draft to John Jay, concerning his lawsuit against Lewis Littlepage and Henry Brockholst Livingston. $10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph notes prepared for President Washington's third annual message to congress. $15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. A prevously unrecorded autograph draft of Pacificus essay no. VI.<br>$300,000 – 500,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter draft to an unnamed recipient (but possibly Jeremiah Wadsworth), regarding the presidential election of 1796. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b><br>Philip Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to his father, Alexander Hamilton, ("Dear Papa"), discussing his schooling and his desire to be "a good man." $8,000 – 12,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Two autograph memoranda, one with a diagram, planning the gardens at the grange. $15,000 – 25,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions