The Latest From Bauman Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Bauman Rare Books has issued its latest catalogue of New Acquisitions, dated October 2006. Bauman catalogues are distinguished less by specific subject matter and more by the overall quality and importance of the works offered. This is another catalogue filled with exceptional material. Because the content is so varied, we can only offer a few samples of what you will find. Of note is a group of books remarkable for their bindings, including one with a hand oil painting on the cover, others with silver and bejeweled bindings. If you collect bindings that go way beyond the normal definition of "fine bindings," this is a must-have catalogue.
It really isn't necessary to name the most sought after and valuable book of American poetry, but we will anyway. Item 20 is a copy of the first edition, with most first issue points, of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, published in 1855. There is no shortage of later versions of this work, which expanded over the years, but the very rare first edition was privately published, with Whitman typesetting and printing much of it himself. He was an unknown poet in 1855, but when Ralph Waldo Emerson recognized Whitman as the answer to his call for a truly American poet, his famed reputation was sealed. Priced at $165,000.
Ernest Hemingway could be an irascible character, as demonstrated by this signed letter he wrote on August 9, 1932. The lucky recipient was Paul Romaine, publisher of the private Casanova Press of Milwaukee, who had suggested Hemingway might benefit from taking a clearer political stand in his writings. Says Papa, "I was angry at you, a parasite or camp follower of the arts, suggesting smugly to me that you hoped (I forget the words exactly) that I was being influenced by or cognizant of such and such a political or economic movement etc." Romaine suggests a more leftward tilt to Hemingway's politics, to which the writer responds, "I will not outline my political beliefs to you - since I could be jailed for them - but if they are not much further left than yours which sound like a sentimental socialism I will move them further over." He also had some contemptuous remarks about the perception that he needs to write about "lost generations and bulls," and goes into some blunt opinions about several other writers. This letter offers a most insightful look at Hemingway's personality still early in his career. Item 107. $17,000.
For one of those titles filled with irony, there is General George Armstrong Custer's My Life on the Plains. Or, Personal Experiences with Indians. Custer is remembered for one dramatic experience with Indians, but naturally, he didn't write about that one. This book was published in 1874, two years before his untimely passing. Custer had served with Union forces during the Civil War, but after that great conflagration, moved west to do battle with the Indians. The book tells of various Indian wars in which he participated. Custer was something of a publicity seeker who wanted his exploits known. He ultimately got his wish, though not in a way he intended. Item 69. $4,500.