Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2016 Issue

William Blake and Many Fine Books from John Windle Bookseller

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Blake and other books.

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller has issued Catalogue 64. It begins with 10 items from their new William Blake Gallery in San Francisco. They explain. "The William Blake Gallery is the first gallery devoted entirely to Blake since 1806 when Blake opened (and rapidly closed) his own gallery in London." They note that this time, the audience will be more appreciative than it was in Blake's time. It will offer over 1,000 items related to Blake, including books, original prints, drawings, reference material, and ephemera. From there, the catalogue moves on to numerous other items, featured in categories such as fine books, fine press, children's books, and illuminations. Here are a few of them.

 

We will begin with one of the Blake items. The title is The Pastorals of Virgil, with a Course of English Reading adapted for Schools. This is an odd book in which to find Blake, but nonetheless, he was commissioned to provide illustrations for a schoolbook. The Pastorals was meant to teach Latin to youth, and this edition was the third published by its editor, Robert John Thornton. When Thornton added illustrations to the second edition, sales rose, so he decided to expand on that concept. Blake contributed 17 woodcuts to the book. They were not appreciated by the publisher who nearly rejected them and did not print the blocks with care. Like Blake himself, they are far more appreciated today. Fortunately, this is an exceptional copy, it being a presentation inscribed by Thornton to his daughter, rather than one actually used in a school. Windle notes that "the impressions of the woodcuts in this copy are the richest I have ever seen." Published in 1821. Item i. Priced at $67,500.

 

Captain William Bligh has a bad rap for brutality, but it seems he was really no meaner than the typical sea captain of his day. The cause of the mutiny on the Bounty was more likely the desire of some of her sailors to stay in Tahiti rather than to continue sailing and eventually return home. Once the mutineers took control of the ship, they put Bligh and his loyal seamen on a small boat and set them adrift. Thereupon, Bligh commanded one of the most remarkable journeys ever. He led 18 men on a 3,600-mile journey in a small boat, with few provisions, no charts, no compass, to rescue in Batavia (Jakarta today). Once he made it back to London, Bligh whipped off an account of what had happened to protect his reputation. He would later publish a longer version, but this is his first account, published in 1790, of what transpired on his ship: A Narrative of the Mutiny, on board his Majesty's Ship Bounty; and the subsequent voyage of part of the crew, in the ship's boat, from Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, to Timor, a Dutch settlement in the East Indies. Item 4. $12,500.

 

George Catlin was a lawyer by trade who became concerned with the disappearance of Indian culture as American settlers moved west of the Mississippi. He made it his life's work to capture and preserve that culture for future generations. His tool of preservation was the paintbrush. In 1832, he set out west, and would make a total of five trips over eight years. He painted hundreds of portraits and scenes of traditional Indian life before it disappeared forever. In the 1840's and 1850's, he toured with exhibits of his paintings, traveling across the eastern states and to Europe, often bringing living Indians along with him. Before starting his tours, Catlin published a book filled with his etchings. Item 15 is a copy of the first edition, first issue, published in London in 1841: Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. $5,500.

 

Item 53 is a poignant letter from composer Giacomo Puccini to his mistress in the spring of 1924. Puccini is known for his operas, including La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly. He writes of plans to travel to Milan with his wife and of difficulty in finishing his final opera, Turandot. He complained of great suffering caused by severe throat pain. This would later be diagnosed as throat cancer. Puccini was a heavy smoker. The illness took his life six months later, and Puccini never finished his last opera, it having to be completed by others. $4,500.

 

Next we have a flower book, Floral Belles from the Green-House and Garden Painted from Nature. A contemporary advertisement from the publisher exclaims, "There are sixteen pictures in the volume...and each of them is painted from nature by the patient and laborious hand of the artist, and with such exquisite care and taste, and delicacy of touch as to vie with nature herself." The artist was Clarissa Munger Badger. Each of her flowers is accompanied by a poem. Mrs. Badger hand colored the flowers herself, and her skill is evident. Windle describes this volume as "among the best folio flower books produced in America." This first and only edition was published in 1867. Item 3. $6,500.

 

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller may be reached at 415-986-5826 or john@johnwindle.com. Their website is www.johnwindle.com.

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