Literary Titles from James Cummins Bookseller
By Michael Stillman
James Cummins Bookseller's catalogue number 95 is titled Literature, an apt name for a collection of literary works. However, these are not ordinary editions of important works. They are first or other special editions, and many are signed and inscribed. Here are a few of the 109 items Cummins is offering in this latest catalogue.
Willa Cather was noted for her novels of life on the prairies, where she grew up at the turn of the century. Item 5 is a copy of her fourth novel, a 1905 first edition of The Troll Garden. This one is inscribed by Cather to Judge James S. Young in Pittsburgh, November 13, 1910. This would evidently be the Federal District Court Judge from the Western District of Pennsylvania. Unlike Cather, the Judge long ago faded into obscurity, as did whatever might have been the connection between him and the author. Priced at $5,500.
This was the book that set off America's concern with protecting the remnants of its natural environment, though there was certainly more of it left at the time it was published. In 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Walden Pond was then located in the wilderness. One can only imagine what Thoreau might think if he saw it today, surrounded by bedroom communities. Probably just as well he can't. Item 102 is a first edition of this classic. $16,500.
Walden was not Thoreau's first wilderness book. In 1849, he published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Unlike Walden, this book was not an overnight sensation. It was not until the latter's success that the public revisited this earlier effort from Thoreau. The work does announce "will soon be published Walden..." Item 103. $16,000.
Lionel Wiggam was a poet, screenwriter, short story writer, and one-time male model who lived on then edge of celebrity without ever quite becoming a household name. He wrote the screenplay for the 1947 movie "Smash Up," starring Susan Hayward and Eddie Albert. Who could forget "Tap Roots," from 1948, starring Hayward, Van Heflin, and Boris Karloff? The answer is that most people have. Wiggam continued writing and publishing stories at least into the 1960s. If his work is not particularly noticed by the masses, it was appreciated by Ernest Hemingway, who inscribed a copy of the 1930 Modern Library edition of The Sun Also Rises to Wiggam. Hemingway signs it, "with very best regards, always, Ernest Hemingway." It is dated March 31, 1938, when Wiggam was still an aspiring poet. On that day, Hemingway traveled by train from Paris to Spain to report of the Spanish Civil War. He is known to have been traveling with two reporters from the New York Herald Tribune, and Cummins speculates that perhaps Wiggam was on that train too. Lionel Wiggam died just this past year at the age of 90. Item 29. $4,500.