We have received the newest catalogue from Honey & Wax Booksellers of Brooklyn. It has no stated title, but, based on others, I think it is safe to call it Catalogue 3. After a couple of years as a home-based bookseller, they have opened up a location elsewhere in the New York City borough. It is “past the pickle factory, next to the movie prop shop.” Presuming there aren't another pickle factory and movie prop shop in close proximity in Brooklyn, that should provide sufficient direction. Honey & Wax's catalogues don't fall into clear subject matter delineations, but here is what I like about them. As they explain, they place their “emphasis on unusual and surprising copies.” It's not just that the book or edition is uncommon, the book, or ephemeral item, is often something unusual in kind. It is always fun to find things you don't expect. Here are a few of these items.
We start with Orlando Furioso in English Historical Verse, the second English edition of Lodovico Ariosto's adventures of an Italian knight, published in 1607. The translator was John Harrington, and there is a tale behind his translation. Harrington was Queen Elizabeth's godson, and she was evidently displeased when he first translated and circulated a racy fragment of the text among her ladies. She banished him from court until he produced a complete translation. However, Harrington was not fooled as to what the people wanted. In his “apologie,” Harrington humorously writes, “methinks I see some of you searching already for these places of the book, and you are halfe offended that I have not made some directions that you might finde out and read them immediately.” Methinks he is correct. Item 3. Priced at $8,500.
Here is a clever book: Punctuation Personified: or Pointing Made Easy. By Mr. Stops. “Mr. Stops,” unsurprisingly, is an alias. The book contains amusing rhymes that teach children about punctuation, a field of study in desperate need of anything to make it more entertaining. So, Mr. Stops tells us, “Here counsellor Comma the reader may view, / Who knows neither guile nor repentance; / A straight forward path he resolves to pursue / By dividing short parts of a sentence.” Or, how about “See, how Semicolon is strutting with pride; Into two or more parts he'll a sentence divide.” I think this stuff is neat, but I suspect today's youth would not be so enthralled. In this day of texting and Twitter, do they even know about punctuation, or is it a lost art, like spelling? Item 7, published in 1824. $3,000.
For those children looking to become scientists or engineers, perhaps this instruction book will be of more use: Marmaduke Multiply's Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians. Mathematicians are alliterate. This 1816-1817 book, published in parts, contains rhymes and illustrations to teach the multiplication tables. For example, “Six times 8 are 48. Dear Aunt! your dress is out of date,” and “Seven times 8 are 56. That fellow merits twenty kicks.” Okay, these rhymes aren't nearly so clever, but the illustrations are very good. Item 9. $4,500.
Item 63 is a circa 1830 edition of Picture of New-York, published by Mahlon Day. This miniature book, with woodcuts throughout (some crudely colored) was meant to introduce the city to children. This copy belonged to, and bears the bookplate of, the legendary bookseller A. S. W. Rosenbach. Rosenbach was certainly among the pantheon of the greatest booksellers ever. Operating during the first half of the 20th century, “the Doctor” sold to the most important and wealthiest book collectors of the golden age of book collecting. While Rosenbach sold the most important books printed, he only collected in a few areas for himself. One was children's books, and this book appears in his 1936 catalogue Early American Children's Books. Rosenbach noted that Mahlon Day had a habit of promoting itself in its stories, and a woodcut of their Manhattan store appears in this book. $1,800.
Here is a board game with a somewhat unsettling name: The New Game of Human Life. Is it playing with human life? Or maybe it's a game involving genetic engineering? Not likely, since it was created in 1790. No, it's actually quite harmless. It contains 84 human characters in various squares from which you move up or back, depending on whether you landed on a positive or negative character. It's kind of like Hooks and Ladders with moral input. The Studious Boy advances to become the Orator, the Negligent Boy stays in place, the Prodigal is sent back to the place of the Careless Boy. Other characters include the Philosopher, the Patriot, Rebellious Youth, Lover, Drunkard, and Hypochondriac. You win the game by succeeding the Immortal Man. The game advises you use a six-sided totum, a kind of spinning device, rather than dice because of the bad connotations that go with those. Item 1. $5,000.
Item 12 is a great item for those who love the Blues (we mean the music, not feeling low). It is The Paramount Book of Blues. This is a 1927 catalogue of blues music recordings, including such legendary names as Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon. Paramount started as the Wisconsin Chair Company, but made the odd transition to recording company to help sell the phonographs it made. $950.