Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2012 Issue

A Variety from James Cummins Bookseller


A Gutenberg leaf on the cover of James Cummins' catalogue.

James Cummins Bookseller's Catalogue 110 offers a variety of books and ephemeral material. It is impossible to peg such a variety other than to say this is higher end material, mostly priced in four digits. Rather than try to explain any further, we will take a look at a few samples of the items Cummins has in store, or in catalogue, anyway.

It is always logical to start from the beginning, and for books, that would be 1455. That is when the first book rolled off the press, Gutenberg's Bible. It didn't really roll off. Gutenberg's press was not exactly automated, but nevertheless, it was an unparalleled moment in the history of communications, nothing coming close until at least the 19th century with the invention of the telegraph and telephone. Item 52 is a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, complete copies long ago disappearing from the market. This is a leaf that is included with A. Edward Newton's essay on Gutenberg, published in 1921 by New York bookseller Gabriel Wells, under the title A Noble Fragment. Wells had separated the leaves from an imperfect copy he purchased at Sotheby's in 1920. Priced at $67,500.

Here is a book that was to science what Gutenberg's Bible was to printing. It is a second edition of Isaac Newton's Principia, published in 1713 (one of only three editions published during his lifetime). This was the work that introduced Newton's laws of motion and gravity. It explained what was going on in the world, be it the motion of planets or events here on earth. Prior to Newton, Keppler and Galileo explained what was happening, but it was Newton who provided the explanation why. The first edition was published in 1687, but had long ago become very scarce when Newton was convinced to publish this updated version. Item 75. $27,500.

Item 10 is a collection of letters from Phineas T. Barnum to Edward Bok, editor of The Brooklyn Magazine and Ladies Home Journal. However, these letters begin from years prior to Bok's important editorship, to the days when was just a persistent, and annoying young autograph hound. In one, Barnum jokingly relents to Bok's pleas, writing, “...I find it impossible to shake you off... But life is too short to permit an ever-busy man like me to write letters to strangers...I cannot do it. The idea of a man in his 72nd year called upon to write letters about nothing! Why the thing is perfectly preposterous! I shan't do it!” In a later letter, Barnum congratulates Bok's “Extraordinary & sometimes no doubt annoying persistence” in collecting autographs, quite an accomplishment for someone just 19. He then adds, “Meanwhile I sympathize with the sick, lame, halt, blind, aged and decrepit victims to whom you will give no rest till they surrender...” Ironically, Barnum would later write for publications Bok edited, probably unaware that he was the annoying autograph hound. He even agreed to write a piece for a book Bok was publishing, but withdrew the offer when he realized who Bok was. He appears to have believed that Bok may have been more interested in collecting written documents than in publishing the book. Three years later, Barnum writes another letter concerning an article his wife wrote for Ladies Home Journal, now under Bok's editorship. $9,000.

Speaking of Mr. Barnum, item 49 is an 1853 broadside for The Aztecs in Mexico 1503. Don't believe a word of it. It advertised an appearance by the so-called “Aztec Lilliputians” at the Hanover Rooms in London. Maximo and Bartola were no more Aztecs than you or I. They were two poor San Salvadoran children who suffered from microcephaly, where the head is unusually small and slanted, the body usually small too, and intelligence generally limited (the vernacular for the condition is “pinhead”). The children were taken from their poor home and sold to an American named Morris, who put them on display. Morris made up this story that they were from a lost Aztec city, the last of their race, revered by their people as Gods. From Morris, they would wind their way to P.T. Barnum's museum and his traveling shows. Amazingly, most people believed the story. Didn't Barnum say there's a sucker born every minute? (actually, apparently not, though most people believe he did). The pair (they were brother and sister) were taken to the White House to meet President Fillmore, and later Queen Victoria and numerous princes of Europe. Oddly, it is unknown whatever became of them, though it is believed they survived at least until the late 19th century, and probably into the 20th. $1,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. 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. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <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. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. 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. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.

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