Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2012 Issue

A Miscellany from Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts

Pirages63

A miscellany from Phillip J. Pirages.

Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts is now offering their Catalogue 63: A 19th and 20th Century Miscellany, including many modest items. We presume those “modest” items refer to modestly priced items, rather than being some kind of a moral judgment. Pirages provides us with a striking catalogue, filled with thorough descriptions and images, despite there being over 500 items presented. This is accomplished by creating a catalogue the size of a medium-sized telephone book, 308 pages in all. The material is sufficiently varied to make it difficult to describe, so we will stick with the bookseller's description - a “miscellany.” You might find anything here, sort of like that telephone book. Here is a look at about 1% of what is offered.

Here is one of those apparently “immodest” books, though one would hardly think so considering the original recipient was a man of the cloth: Letters of James Boswell, Addressed to the Rev. W.J. Temple, Now First Published from the Original MSS. James Boswell, more often just known as “Boswell,” was a Scottish lawyer and writer whose lasting impact comes through the biography he wrote of the English lexicographer and wit Samuel Johnson. Boswell managed to get into the literary circles of his time which allowed for his association with Johnson. The Rev. Temple was a personal friend through most of Boswell's life, and these letters reveal more about his inner thoughts. The letters were first published here in 1857, over 60 years after Boswell died. A tipped in letter from an earlier owner, Lady Amscott-Ingilby, notes that this book is not recommended “for the young ladies' reading” on account of its indecencies. Item 82. Priced at $275.

Mark Twain found humor in just about everything. Here is an exception. He often found himself in a financial squeeze, so one thing he did not appreciate was someone else exploiting his name for their financial gain. In 1902, the Boston publisher Small, Maynard & Company printed an item called The House Party, purporting to contain stories submitted by 12 writers from a list of 25. They were published anonymously, and readers were invited to send in their guesses as to who wrote each. The first to correctly identify the authors was to receive a $1,000 prize. However, submissions had to be made on a form bound into The House Party. In other words, you had to pay to play, by buying the publication. An angered Twain wrote an article condemning the scheme for the North American Review, which he titled The Game as Played Up North. Item 117 is the autograph manuscript of this article. He had contacted 16 of the authors and found they either had not participated in the writing, or did not realize there would be an element of gambling involved. In his article, Twain condemns the scheme as being an illegal lottery with but a slim chance of winning. He then goes into what really bothered him, that his name was being used without his permission. The manuscript was sent to Clara Spaulding Stanchfield, a childhood friend of his wife and now a close family friend. The text is signed twice as “Mark Twain,” while the cover letter to Stanchfield is signed with Twain's actual initials, SLC. The article was never published. $20,000.

Here is a book that used every word you could possibly imagine, though most but once. This, naturally, would be a dictionary. Item 489 is the most important American dictionary ever published, the 1828 first edition of Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language. It contains 70,000 entries, all compiled by Webster himself. There were only 2,500 copies printed of the first edition, but Webster's work has gone on to be likely the best selling book ever originating in America. $22,500.

Here is a subject that doesn't often warrant its own book: Documents Relative to an Investigation of the Manner in which the Funeral of the Late Matthew Boulton, Esq. Was Furnished. Pirages explains that this item arose from “a lawsuit with attendant publicity that mushroomed to ridiculous proportions.” One George Lander had been hired to furnish headbands and scarves for the funeral of Matthew Boulton, who died in 1809. Apparently the quality was not very good, but even more upsetting to Boulton's only son, Matthew Robinson Boulton, was the bill – almost £545. That may not sound exorbitant until you realize that in today's currency, that is the equivalent of £31,000 or $50,000. Along with suing Lander, the younger Boulton made the public aware of the injustice in this pamphlet, which provides details of comparative pricing to make its point. Item 84. $350.

George Lander was not about to allow his good name to be besmirched, so he responded (also in 1811) with An Answer to the Pamphlet of Matthew Robinson Boulton, Esq. of Soho. Both of these pamphlets are quite rare. By the way, the deceased senior Mr. Boulton was a wealthy man, a business partner of inventor James Watt who made major advances in the design of steam engines. Item 85. $350.

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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