Literature and Fine Books from Thomas Goldwasser Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books of San Francisco has issued their 20th catalogue, one that comes in two sections. The first covers artists' books, bookbindings, fine presses and illustrated books. The second part focuses on printed and manuscript literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. What you can expect to find here are either artistic or important literary works when it comes to printed material. There are numerous first editions of works by important authors, and many are signed or inscribed. Condition is almost always at the highest level for books of their age. Among the manuscripts, you will find typescripts of original works and letters from significant writers. This is a catalogue which will appeal to anyone who collects within the areas of artistic books and literature. A few samples of what is offered follow.
Item 25 is both an artistic book and a major American historical source. This is the third octavo edition of Thomas McKenney and James Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America, published in 1855. Thomas McKenney had served as Director of the Office of Indian Affairs under John Quincy Adams, but when Andrew Jackson came to power, he was dismissed. He had already become convinced that Indian culture was quickly disappearing as the West was rapidly settled, so the unemployed McKenney took it as his mission to preserve that culture before it was too late. With James Hall, he produced this three-volume combination of text and drawings of Indians, both chiefs and ordinary members of the tribe. Unfortunately, most of the original drawings were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian, but their reproductions in the various editions of the book survive. This third octavo, designed to be within the financial reach of Americans unable to afford the folio, is generally the most colorful of the hand-colored editions. All of the early editions are quite valuable today. Priced at $35,000.
Item 93 is an excellent example of great literature and a great investment. The Sound and the Fury was William Faulkner's first critically acclaimed novel, though he had published a few before. It tells of the decay of a once prosperous Mississippi family in the decades after the Civil War. It was a theme Faulkner would revisit in the years following its publication in 1929. This book is also a good lesson in long-term investing. While 1929 was not a great year to be buying things, anyone who purchased this book, with its $3 price tag, and held on, did quite well for himself. Currently priced at $15,000.
Here is another first edition about Mississippi, but in this case it's the river. It is Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. This is a true first edition, published by Chatto and Windus in London in 1883 (the first American edition came later). It retells both Twain's early days running a steamboat on the Mississippi, and his later return. Purchase this and the preceding title, and you may well own books by the two greatest southern authors. Item 206. $1,250.