Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2007 Issue

Children's Books from Aleph-Bet Books

Alephbet86

A Seuss drawing on the cover of Aleph-Bet's latest catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

Aleph-Bet Books
recently issued its Catalogue 86 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. This latest collection offers almost 600 books and related items, such as letters and drawings. These are books for children, but it is interesting to see how what we believe is appropriate for the young has changed over time. Two centuries ago, it was primarily religious material. A century ago, ugly racial stereotypes were commonplace in what we taught our young. Who knows how future generations will look at how we instruct our children, but hopefully we will be better remembered for the likes of Seuss than Sambo. Here are some samples of what Aleph-Bet has for us this month.

As is appropriate to their name, Aleph-Bet has a whole group of alphabet books to offer. Here is an example of a very early, religiously themed ABC: The A, B, C. With The Church of England Catechism... This may not be an exciting children's book, but a most interesting one, attributable to the fact that this is a 1785 American edition. The Revolution had only just been concluded, and references to the Church of England might raise some hard feelings. So an eagle and horses are pictured on the cover with the words "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence." It is unlikely an English edition would have required these three words, particularly the last. Then, a note on page one states, "The Blanks left in page 6 were formerly filled with the words (King) and (him); but as that form of Expression does not suit our Republican Governments, the Teacher will be pleased to fill up the Blanks with what Words he may deem expedient." Item 213. $750.

Here is an alphabet, or more precisely, aleph-bet book that's from around 1900, but in a sense much older. It is called Antiquarian Spelling Book, which is an odd name for an alphabet book. It combines ancient Hebrew letters with their transliterated English equivalent. However, the language differences can lead to some oddities, like the letter "B" being illustrated by a house. Item 15. $500.

Item 4 is A Canadian Child's ABC, by R.K. Gordon. Do they use a different alphabet in Canada? $450. Item 16 is Oliver Herford's Sea Legs from 1931. Characters on a sea cruise are used for this alphabet. For example, "F is the Flapper / who walks the first day / by her Lone, but tomorrow / it won't be that way." This book teaches kids the ways of the world along with their ABCs. $400.

For children of the wealthy, there is ABC for the SE, "SE" being the stock exchange. This circa 1870 book uses the names of members and officials from the London Stock Exchange for its alphabet. Item 25. $1,600. For those with too much time on their hands, there is a collection of four grains of rice (originally five, but one is missing) with the entire alphabet or a saying painted on each grain. Japanese artist Keiichiro Yamamoto accomplished this magnificent but ridiculous feat through hand painting in 1935. Item 20. $200.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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