Michael Thompson Books' latest catalogue comes with the title Autumn Miscellany Consisting of 100 Books, Mostly Recent Acquisitions, or List 96. We don't mean to be picky, but their last list of 100 books contained 101, this one 99. Mathematical precision aside, this catalogue presents a variety of material hard to pinpoint except with words like… "miscellany." That part of the title is spot on, so we will look inside and present a few of the miscellaneous items offered by way of sample.
There are several books in this catalogue that will interest those who collect in the field of women's rights. Item 13 is a look at the rights, or lack there of, of women in India in the first half of the 19th century: Hindoo Female Education, by Priscilla Chapman, published in 1839. While this was pre-official British rule, the British East India Company was the effective ruler of much of the Indian subcontinent. This book was promoted by the Ladies Society for Promoting Female Education in India, a Liverpool based organization founded in 1821 to alleviate "the degraded and neglected state of females in India." It covers such topics as male-female relations, medicine, bathing, polygamy, and the condition of the poor. Plates show a school, orphanage, and village scene. Priced at $750.
Not that conditions were that great for women back in England at the time either. Item 18 is Selections from the Letters of Caroline Frances Cornwallis. Published in 1864, a few years after her death, these letters reveal the reformist principles of Ms. Cornwallis, a distant relative of the General who lost the American Revolution. She argued for the rights of the poor, slaves, and women. She believed that women were treated similarly to black slaves and called for their emancipation. $300.
One field in which women definitely did not participate in the early days was the great explorations. It probably wouldn't have been fun anyway being stuffed for years in a cramped, unsanitary, disease-ridden ship with a bunch of not very well-behaved men. One of the earlier female travelers was Ida Pfeiffer, an Austrian woman who undertook a couple of remarkable trips around the world. She did not begin traveling until after her husband had died and her children were grown, now in her mid-40s. The first of her two 'round the world trips came when she was 50. Item 71 is her A Lady's Travels Round the World, published in 1852. Mrs. Pfeiffer contracted a disease in Madagascar in 1857 and died the following year. $350.
What book has been printed in more copies than any book other than the Bible? The answer is Mao zhuxi yulu, and it has done quite well since the leader had a couple millennia head start. In English, this book is titled Quotations of Chairman Mao, though it is more commonly known as Mao's "Little Red Book." It is filled with the Chairman's wisdom, or whatever it was he promulgated. It was first published in 1964, and it quickly became required reading for the hundreds of millions of residents of China, hence its great popularity. Over a billion copies of this book have been printed, though it no longer is anywhere near as popular as it was during his lifetime, and it is dubious that it will continue to be a bestseller a couple of millennia hence. Item 52 is a copy of the first edition in its earliest state, with the endorsement of Lin Piao (or Biao). Lin was a skilled military commander who accompanied Mao on the Long March. In 1964, he had this book of quotations from Mao published, providing the book's endorsement. However, his endorsement was later removed or blotted out of most copies when he was accused of plotting to overthrow Mao. Lin died in a plane crash while attempting to escape the country. His name became the symbol of everything counterrevolutionary and evil in Communist China. This copy comes with the earliest state off-white cover, ironic for the "Little Red Book." $15,000.
Item 53 is the same book, also from 1964, with the second state cover. This one has the red vinyl binding from whence came the name "Little Red Book." $18,000.
Item 98 is Charlotte Yonge's What Books to Lend and What to Give… published in 1887. Yonge was a very popular and prolific writer of the 19th century who has been mostly ignored or forgotten in modern times. She was a devoutly Christian woman whose religious views influenced many of her writings, this one included. Here she argues for a parish school to have a good library, as "a library is an almost indispensable adjunct to a school, if the children are to be lured to stay at home instead of playing questionable games in the dark." Perhaps, but I don't think the library has been invented that young people would prefer to "playing questionable games in the dark." $450.
Michael Thompson Books may be reached at 323-658-1901 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.mrtbooksla.com.