Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2012 Issue

Literature to 1900 from Peter Harrington


Literature to 1900.

Peter Harrington recently published their Catalogue 83. This latest collection is titled Literature to 1900. It contains items that go all the way back to the beginning of printing (yes, Gutenberg), but nothing past the 19th century. You will find most of the great names in literature and poetry from antiquarian times among the 196 items offered. Without further ado, we will take a look at some of the works.

There is no greater name in the field of literature than that of William Shakespeare. The first edition of his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies was not published until after the man died, preserved, most thankfully, by friends and associates without whom his works would have undoubtedly been forever lost. The “first folio” was published in 1623, and Shakespeare's works would be published just three more times in the 17th century. Item 136 is a copy of the final of these editions, the fourth folio, published in 1685. The fourth folio includes the seven additional plays added to the third folio, only one of which today is actually recognized as being written by Shakespeare (of course, some people still question whether Shakespeare wrote any of his plays, but that's an issue for another day). Also like the third, the fourth folio dropped the final “e” from Shakespeare's name. It would be returned in the following century. Harrington notes that the fourth folio was actually the preferred edition among collectors until the mid-18th century when, after arguments for primacy by Samuel Johnson and others, the first was established as the most collectible. Nonetheless, all four folios today command great prices, the first in the millions of dollars. Item 136. Priced at £140,000 (British pounds, or roughly $221,673 U.S. Dollars).

Returning to the dawn of time, at least as far as printing is concerned, we go back to the year 1455. Complete Gutenberg Bibles have been virtually unobtainable for a century, and it's hard to imagine when, or even if, another will become available. Those wishing to collect a piece of the first work of movable type printing have needed to do so through a leaf of the Bible. Almost a century ago, New York bookseller Gabriel Wells obtained an imperfect copy and began selling it off in leaves. Most he included with a copy of A Edward Newton's essay, the combined title being A Noble Fragment: Being a Leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, with a bibliographical essay by A. Edward Newton, published in 1921. This leaf comes from Jeremiah, containing chapter 18, and parts of 17 and 19. Item 13. £62,500 (US $98,956).

Many novels make great reading, but few have anywhere near the social impact of this one: Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. When this first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic was published in 1852, America was in the midst of its crisis over slavery. There had been rancorous debates in previous years, but there was also hope that the Compromise of 1850 might maintain the peace north versus south, that it might diffuse the confrontations. Stowe's novel was like throwing salt on the wound. It exposed the horrors of slavery in a way dry debate could not. Released on March 20, 1852, it took only a few days for the first printing of 5,000 copies to sell out, and by the end of the month, a second printing of an additional 5,000 copies was gone. Printing and the Mind of Man described the social impact of this book on the United States as “greater than that of any book before or since.” Any hope of a long term reconcilliation between slavery and freedom was seriously eroded by its publication. Item 159. £10,000 (US $15,835).

Item 21 was the spark of the bright, but brief flame that was the career of the Bronte sisters. In 1846, they published a book of poetry, using the masculine (though vague) pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. It was a monumental flop, only 39 of 1,000 copies being distributed, most free. It was not an auspicious start, but in 1847, Charlotte Bronte secured publication for her first novel, Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell. Still using her pseudonym to disguise her gender, Charlotte achieved great success with her first novel. Her sisters quickly followed with successful novels of their own. The flame of success would be painfully brief. Both of her sisters had died by 1849, and Charlotte only survived until 1855. Recognition came far too late. £50,000 (US $79,173).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <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>

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