Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2012 Issue

Works by Isaac Asimov from Eureka Books

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Isaac Asimov from Eureka Books.

There aren't all that many authors who rate a single-author catalogue. One who does is Isaac Asimov. Eureka Books, of Eureka, California, has created just such a catalogue. It's title is Isaac Asimov, Highlights from a Private Collection. It contains 175 items, but even if each was unique, it wouldn't come close to covering all of the books the prolific Asimov created. He is credited with writing or editing over 500 books.

Most people associate Asimov with science fiction, and certainly that is the best known aspect of his career. Nonetheless, no one could write 500 science fiction novels without becoming overly repetitive. Asimov wrote much more, some closely related to his specialty, other books far afield. Many of his other titles were scientific, science without the fiction. Many of these were targeted to youth, helping to instruct the young in the ways of science. However, much of Asimov's body of work is totally unexpected. Asimov wrote books of limericks and jokes to tell to audiences. He wrote much history, including lengthy histories of the United States. He also wrote a history of the Holy Land. He provided detailed annotations on several works by others, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Milton's Paradise Lost. He was a Shakespearean scholar. In the 1950s, he was also a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, though he gave that up to concentrate on his writing. With all of his books and research, he certainly must have needed to work at that full time.

Asimov began writing short stories, primarily science fiction, in 1939, when he would have been around 20 years old (Asimov was born in Russia and not even he knew exactly when). However, it would not be until 1950 that his novels began to appear. Eureka Books' catalogue, which proceeds in chronological order, begins in this year. He continued to write for the rest of his life, which lasted until 1992, when he was probably 72 years of age. However, numerous posthumous collections and other works have continued to be published in the years since his death. We will now take a look inside the catalogue for a few of the items being offered.

Item 5 goes back to the first year that Asimov's work began appearing in book form - 1950. It is a first edition of what is still one of his best known works, I, Robot. Eureka notes that this is a fine, maybe even very fine copy in a fine dust jacket. The book was not written in 1950. It is actually a collection of nine short stories he wrote for science fiction magazines between 1940 and 1950. The stories introduced what would become the basis of all of Asimov's robot stories, his “three laws of robotics.” Asimov grappled with the concept of what rules a robot would have to follow to be useful, even safe, for mankind. He understood that robots could not be allowed to make decisions based on their own rules, or they could be destructive to humans. You know the story – robots gone wild ruling the world. Basically, the rules that would have to be inculcated into the robots' brains were (1) robots could not harm humans and must protect humans from harm, (2) robots must obey human commands (unless those commands conflicted with #1), and (3) they must preserve their own existence, provided that did not conflict with 1 or 2. This may sound straightforward, but robot ethics can be as difficult to enunciate as human ethics. Asimov would later realize that overarching all of these concerns was protecting humanity. For example, the ethical decision of Hitler's robot would have been to kill the SOB, even though that violates rule 1, but determining whether an action was a benefit to mankind is generally a more speculative decision than simply knowing not to kill people. That's a a taxing decision for any robot (or human) brain. Priced at $7,500.

It looks like by the latter part of his career, Asimov had written so much science fiction material that he had to reach for new topics, such as The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book. Actually, this is not what it appears. It is not yet another useless fad diet book. It is a collection of science fiction stories, often humorous, featuring characters with various weight-related issues, such as obesity or its opposite. Asimov didn't write any of the stories. He, along with Martin Greenburg and George Martin, edited the book. However, it does include some notable authors, including Stephen King and H.G. Wells. While Asimov did not write the stories, he did sign this copy of the book. Published in 1983. Item 113. $150.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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