Sophie Schneideman Rare Books has released a catalogue of The Auchincloss Collection of Fine Printing & Press Books. We suspect there will be several more, as this is Catalogue One: A-D. There are many letters in the alphabet to go. Kenneth Auchincloss was a journalist and eventually Managing Editor of Newsweek magazine for over 20 years. He was also a serious collector. He developed an interest in fine press books while still in secondary school, which led to his developing a large collection in the field, as well as becoming a patron of the fine press. Late in life, he created a tribute to New York which was published by the Grolier Club. Kenneth Auchincloss died in 2003. Here are a few pieces from the first four letters of the alphabet that were part of his collection.
We start with one of the most notable of private presses, the Ashendene Press of Charles Henry St. John Hornby. Item 31 is the oddly and archaically spelled A Treatyse on Fysshynge wyth an Angle. They liked “y's” more back in the 15th century. However, this is not a 15th century edition. It is a 1903 edition, which places it a little more than four centuries after the first. The author was Dame Juliana Berners. At least Dame Berners is who the book is attributed to. No one really knows for sure. Actually, no one even is sure she existed, but someone wrote it so hers is a good name for an author. Whoever it was, she certainly liked to fish. Indeed, one of the woodcuts is of a woman with a fishing pole whom we presume is Dame Berners. Ashendene has taken the originals and reproduced the woodcuts to virtual perfection, so much so that a crack in one of the original woodcuts has been reproduced. The original had come from the press of Wynkyn de Worde (more of those “y's”) and was the first printed book on fysshynge, or fishing. £1,200 (US $1,925).
Speaking of wood blocks, perhaps the greatest such artist ever was Thomas Bewick. Bewick lived from the late 18th to the early 19th century. His woodcuts, fortunately, were numerous. Item 53 is History of the British Birds. Of course along with their history the work is filled with his illustrations. Bewick was also an ornithologist, which helped in creating accurate representations. This set contains a second edition of volume I along with the first edition of volume II (1804). £650 (US $1,042).
Next we have another Bewick book from nearly two centuries later. Needless to say, there are no autographed copies. Item 57 is Thomas Bewick's Birds, one of 100 sets. It contains 17 engravings of Bewick's birds and amazingly enough, they were just as Bewick intended. Even after all the years, many of Bewick's woodblocks are still around. These 17 were housed at the Newcastle upon Tyne Central Library, and they were taken for a print run around the block in 1997. £320 (US $513).