Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2012 Issue

Literary Firsts and Other Notable Editions from Whitmore Rare Books

Whitmore5

Whitmore Rare Books' Catalogue 5.

Whitmore Rare Books has published their Catalogue 5. The Altadena, California, bookseller specializes in “literary first editions and other books of merit.” To that, we will add that most of these are 20th century literary works. Not all, as a 1551 edition of Horapollo's text on Egyptian hieroglyphics will attest, but most are. One more observation we can make about these works is that Whitmore focuses on condition. These are books that are in as excellent a condition as you are likely to find for such titles. Here are a few of the books we found within this fifth Whitmore catalogue.

Before he set off on his famous road trip, Jack Kerouac was busy writing his first novel. It compares life in the early “Beat Generation” city versus small town life. The title is, appropriately enough, The Town and the City. After much searching, he finally managed to find a publisher in 1950. By this time, he had actually completed the journey that would be memorialized in On The Road, but it would take six years after its writing was finished before On The Road would find a publisher. The lack of success of this first novel explains the years of long searching to find a publisher for his second book. On this first, the author's name is given as “John Kerouac.” Item 27. Priced at $1,500.

Item 1 is a signed first edition of the second, and perhaps most significant work from Isaac Asimov, published the same year as his first book (1950): I, Robot. It is really a collection of nine short stories Asimov had written for science fiction magazines during the 1940s. It introduces what would be the common theme of his robot books, the “three laws of robotics.” Asimov grappled with what rules robots would have to unerringly follow if they were not at some point to become a threat to the humans who created them. What he came up with was (1) they could not harm humans, and must always protect humans from harm, (2) they must obey all human commands, unless those commands conflicted with number 1, and (3) they must protect their own existence, provided that did not conflict with numbers 1 and 2. Later, he would realize that there needed to be a rule superior to all of these – protecting mankind, lest a robot be used in some diabolical human's scheme to harm others. $6,500.

Item 59 is an unusual book for an author noted for his humor – Mark Twain. The title is What Is Man, and it is a philosophical look at mankind by the great humorist. The inherent seriousness of the subject does not stop Twain from injecting his usual wit, even as he contends with the serious question of just what is man. The book takes the form of a dialogue, between a rather jaded old man and a young scholar. The older man has concluded that man is nothing more than a machine, predetermined in his actions, seeking nothing deeper than self-satisfaction. For Twain this was a difficult debate, as he found himself believing, for the most part, the older man's arguments, even if they weren't what he might have wished. The book was published by the De Vinne Press in 1906, one of 250 copies. $5,750.

Item 33 is a book that was not terribly popular among evangelical circles in 1927 when it was published. This is Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry, the story of a con-artist who builds a livelihood preaching fire and brimstone. It's a tale hard to forget when one sees some preacher preaching hellfire and contributions. Get thee behind me, Elmer. $1,750.

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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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