Whitmore Rare Books recently released their Catalogue 8, just in time for the holiday season. The cover gives away that this is the gift-giving season of the year, whether you plan to treat others or yourself. Either way, there is a nice mix of material to be found in this catalogue. There is fiction and nonfiction, old and fairly recent. There is distinctly American books to be found, and others equally representative of the “Old World.” Here are a few examples from the 100 fine items that Whitmore has placed on display.
The 1920s were roaring times, for America and author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald burst on the scene in 1920 with his first novel. He and wife Zelda lived the high life, somewhat beyond their means, but nonetheless they were at the top of the social scene. Alas, the world would change by the end of the decade, both for America with the coming of the Depression, and for Fitzgerald with the deterioration of his personal situation. Beyond the financial challenges was the most difficult one of all – the deterioration of Zelda's mental state that within a few years would see her institutionalized for most of the remainder of her life. His personal situation would provide a backdrop for the last novel Fitzgerald finished, Tender is the Night. Item 32 is a first edition from 1934 of this final novel. Priced at $950.
This next book comes from another terribly troubled time in American history – 1860. Item 55 is a copy of Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois. This book was published at Lincoln's behest as he sought the presidency in 1860. It begins with Lincoln's famous Cooper Union “House Divided” speech. In it, Lincoln warns that a nation cannot permanently endure half free and half slave, though at the time he had no idea that the end of slavery would come so soon, or at his hand. Lincoln's great debates in 1858 with Douglas during that year's Illinois senate campaign would not bring about the desired results - an election victory. However, Lincoln would turn the tables in 1860 when the two met again, this time battling for much higher stakes - the highest office in the land. $650.
Here is another author who saw good times quickly devolve to bad. Oscar Wilde was one of the great humorists around the turn of the last century. His play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was a great hit when it came out in 1895. Unfortunately, Wilde became embroiled in a legal battle concerning a same sex relationship, a battle he unwisely chose to pursue. As a result, he ended up in prison for “gross indecency,” a broken man, never to write another comedy, and only to die a few years later. It was from his time in prison that Wilde wrote the poem that is offered as item 97: The Ballad of Reading Gaol. It is based on another inmate convicted of killing his wife. Wilde published the work pseudonymously as “C.3.3.,” his cell block, for fear his name would hurt sales. $2,500.
There is no limit to the number of self-help books out there, but in the beginning there was one. Dale Carnegie started as an educator and salesman, reportedly very good at the latter. He used his sales techniques to develop a course on instilling self-confidence in his students and teaching them how to convince others to come around to their way of thinking. After a couple of decades of this, he published his most notable book: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie's techniques and his book remain popular to this day, though he died over half a century ago. Item 8 is a first edition of his 1936 bestseller. $2,500.