Literature and Book Arts from the William Reese Co.
By Michael Stillman
Every once in awhile, the William Reese Company diverts from its normal course of catalogues of Americana and other works of antiquarian nonfiction. Catalogue 258 is one such diversion: Literature and Book Arts. It is described as, "a varied selection from the 17th through 21st centuries, largely recent acquisitions, poetry and prose, manuscripts, fine printing, illustrated books, and bibliography." Offered are 727 items of the aforementioned sort, only a small number of which could be classified as "expensive." These are mostly egalitarian books, suitable for almost any budget. Here is a small scattering of examples.
Here is an outstanding "deal" for those who would really like a Shakespeare first folio but can't afford the $5-plus million they go for these days. Item 580 is a copy of The Norton Facsimile First Folio... printed in 1968. They drew on 30 different copies as the source for the facsimiles, so it undoubtedly is in better shape than any of the originals! And who knows what it too will be worth in another four centuries. Item 580. Priced now at $250.
James Boswell was a noted 18th century British writer, observer, traveler, and associate of leading figures, though he is most known as the biographer of Samuel Johnson. Late in his life, Boswell became very interested in the spirit world (perhaps because Johnson was no longer around to drive him back to earth). Item 81 is a signed Boswell letter from the final months of his life pertaining to this interest. It is an invitation dated February 25 (1795) from Boswell to Henry Winyard to join him, George Winyard, and others for dinner on March 4. Years earlier, George Winyard, while stationed in Nova Scotia, claimed to have seen an apparition of his brother, then back in England. Months later, he received a letter from home reporting that his brother had died at the moment he saw the apparition. The purpose of the dinner was to get the story on record in front of some others who were less credulous than Boswell. Two and one-half months later, Boswell himself would be an apparition, though it is not known whether anyone saw him go. Item 81. $4,750.
Item 82 is a rare 1802 first edition of the first book by Boswell's son, Alexander. Sir Alexander Boswell's verse in Songs, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, has been described as "full of Scotch humor, but coarse at times." Reese notes that this work is more often known from its scarce 1803 second edition than this very uncommon first. $8,500.
During the Great Depression, many writers and artists were supported in their work by the federal government, the market no longer able to provide them a living. Item 29 is one such example: "1935" Written by the Editorial Staff of the Living Newspaper... This is a script created for the Federal Theater Project, with Arthur Arent as editor (and likely major contributor). This script covers topics from the year 1935, including Huey Long, Dutch Schultz, and the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the killing of the Lindberg baby. $150.