Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2004 Issue

Literary Classics from<br>James Cummins Bookseller

R6a

A Shakespeare Third Folio


By Michael Stillman

James Cummins Bookseller's latest catalogue comes without a name, other than "Catalogue 90." That's not very descriptive, so you'll have to trust us for one. We'll go with "literary classics" as that describes most, but not all, of what can be found in this catalogue.

There are many first editions from the past two centuries offered here. In fact, if you cannot remember the last time you were carded when ordering a beer, there are many books you could have picked up yourself when they were brand new first editions. And don't you wish you did! If foresight were only as good as hindsight, we'd have these books on our shelves, instead of the old college textbooks that were so expensive then we couldn't bear to part with them.

Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange wasn't the best seller ever published, but the title became a household name with the making of the film. Published in 1962, it is only 42-years-old, but a first edition, complete with dust jacket, is a valuable item today. Cummins offers a copy in fine condition as item 7. Priced at $4,500.

Here's an item even older than I, and it is a third edition, yet it is by far the most valuable item in this catalogue. Item 97 is a Shakespeare third folio, Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Time was when for a few hundred thousand bucks, you might still be able to obtain a first folio, but those days are now long gone. Any Shakespeare folios are very hard to find, and if not priceless, they are certainly very pricey. Yet as dramatically as the prices of these folios have grown over the many years since they were published, yesterday's prices have always proven to be a bargain from the vantage point of today. This rare third edition, printed in 1663, is priced at $150,000.

Item 123 is a collection of 17 Tennessee Williams works, 15 signed and inscribed. They were inscribed to Williams' good friend Lilla Van Saher. Van Saher was a friend of several writers, including Arthur Miller and Jerzy Kosinski. She was also an author herself, though not so well known. Since there's nothing more I can add to this, I'll just pick up this quote from Cummins' catalogue about Mrs. Van Saher: "She was not only the hostess to a modish New York literary salon, but a preferred dominatrix to a special group of men in need of sexual discipline." And she must have been a special lady. That makes this set a particularly interesting collection of association copies. $15,000.

Two copies of the first edition, first issue of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol are offered. You will have to read Cummins' catalogue to understand where these fall in the collection of variants of this edition, which makes it impossible to tell which is actually first. Suffice it to say that this is one of the earliest of this 1843 classic. Item 19 is a copy in near fine condition. $18,000. Item 20 is in very good condition. $12,000.

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