Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2016 Issue

Peter Harrington Offers Modern Literature

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Modern Literature.

Peter Harrington has issued a catalogue of Modern Literature. There really isn't much more you can say in terms of a description of this catalogue. Those two words say it all. Perhaps a brief explanation of "modern" will help. The books and occasional manuscripts are from the twentieth century. With that, we really can't add much else, so let's take a look at a few of the items found inside.

 

We begin with a work of science fiction. This one combines science with the strange and the humorous, one of the more successful books of its genre. Item 1 is The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is the true first edition, first impression, the paperback that preceded the first hardback edition. It has been inscribed by author Douglas Adams. The story tracks the last human on earth, rescued by an alien friend shortly before the earth is destroyed to make way for an interstellar highway. That alien works for a travel guide with the same title as Adams' book. It then describes their experiences and the various beings they meet. It also recounts earth's role in finding the meaning of life. The answer to that eternal question, in case you're wondering, is 42. However, the price of this copy is £2,000 (British pounds, or roughly $2,581 in U. S. dollars).

 

One good destroyed earth deserves another. Here is another work of science fiction that also starts with the premise of earth being destroyed. However, in this case, a colony escapes to settle Mars (and do unto the Martians what happened to the earthlings). Item 23 is a first edition, first printing of The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, published in 1950. Bradbury had actually written a bunch of short stories, but no publisher was interested in them until one suggested he tie the stories together to make it something of a novel. £1,500 (US $1,936).

 

Item 150 is an autobiography (sort of) by a man not noted for being an author, or for anything else nice. It is My Autobiography by Benito Mussolini. He became Prime Minister in 1922 and ruled Italy with increasing dictatorial authority until 1943. After two years of conflicting leadership in Italy, Mussolini, still tied to the now collapsing Nazi regime in Germany, was captured by Italian partisans and executed. However, none of these dark days for the Fascist dictator are covered in this autobiography as it was published in 1928, as Mussolini was consolidating his power. It was published in English in New York, a propaganda piece by Mussolini recounting his career. We described it as "sort of" an autobiography as the "author" actually dictated it to his brother, who then had the book written by ghostwriters. It was first published earlier that year as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post, but this is the first edition, first printing in book form. It was not published in Italy at the time, and only published in his homeland in 1971. £875 (US $1,129).

 

Speaking of magazines, here's an item that fooled me at first. It is an inscribed gun magazine by Hunter Thompson, the fearful and loathsome but most entertaining writer. It was inscribed on July 4, 1985, at his residence near Aspen, Colorado – Owl Farm – and also says "Good Shooting" and something else whose meaning I can't decipher. When I saw the description "signed gun magazine" I figured it was a copy of Guns & Ammo or something like that. However, this is not a paper magazine, but the device that holds the ammunition in a gun. It has been spent so it is safe. Item 208. £2,250 (US $2,904).

 

Here is a book with a very formal inscription that belies the intrigue beneath. It is a reprint of the 1914 Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is inscribed, "To Mrs Dearholt, with kindest regards, Mr Burroughs. February 3, 1935." Mrs. Dearholt was actress Florence Gilbert. She married fellow actor Ashton Dearholt and retired to private life. In 1934, Ashton Dearholt went into the film business with Burroughs, and led an expedition to Guatemala to film The New Adventures of Tarzan. Dearholt both filmed and acted in this masterpiece. When he returned home, he brought along costar Ula Holt and insisted to his wife that she be allowed to move in with them. Mrs. Dearholt was not pleased. She was seriously not pleased, divorcing her husband instead, who promptly married Ms. Holt. However, not all was lost for Mrs. Dearholt. Two months after Burroughs formally inscribed this book to Mrs. Dearholt, he married her. He had recently divorced his first wife. Presumably, all was forgiven between the Burroughs and Mr. Dearholt as they remained in the film business together for a few more years until their studio was shut down for financial reasons. Item 30. £3,750 (US $4,843).

 

Peter Harrington may be reached at 020 7591 0220 (USA 011 44 20 7591 0220) or mail@peterharringtonbooks.com. Their website is www.peterharrington.co.uk or www.peterharringtonbooks.com (for U.S. customers).

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