More Cinema, Firsts and Detectives from James Pepper Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
James Pepper Rare Books has issued Catalogue 167 in their continuing series of "literary first editions, mystery and detective fiction, rare cinema material, and assorted unusual offerings." As usual, there is a mix of the important, the strange, and everything in between. The material is primarily 20th century in origin, though it can come from either end of those 100 years. Here are a few items we found in this latest collection.
The name John Estes Cooke may not sound familiar, but L. Frank Baum probably does. Estes and Baum were one and the same. The creator of the Wizard of Oz vacationed in Macatawa, Michigan, and in 1907 he pseudonymously printed a parody of his friends and neighbors titled Tamawaca Folks. The publisher is listed as the Tamawaca Press, a very private press that published nothing else. It seems likely that Baum took his pseudonym from one of the John Esten Cookes, either the Virginia novelist and historian who often wrote about Confederate soldiers and leaders, or his physician-theologian uncle Dr. John Esten Cooke who was also a writer. Item 9. Priced at $1,850.
Here is a wonderful gift for someone named "Barbara." It is a 1940 first edition of Walt Disney's Fantasia. It contains numerous illustrations, including 15 tipped in color plates. This copy is inscribed by Disney, "For Barbara with best wishes, Walt Disney." Item 35. $7,500.
Item 62 is an early detective novel from Ben Hecht. Hecht would become an Academy Award winning screenwriter once he moved to Hollywood, but he was still a newspaperman in 1923 when he published The Florentine Dagger. Evidently, he didn't put all that much work into it. This copy contains an inscription to legendary silent actor (even after "talkies" were introduced) Harpo Marx and his wife Susie. It reads, "This book was dictated in 18 hours to Miss Edith Malm -- public stenographer. Don't ask me why it took so long." $950.
Item 21 is an intriguing letter from western writer B. M. Bower. "B.M." was actually Bertha Muzzy Bower. She used her initials not because "Bertha Muzzy" is a terrible name, but to disguise her gender. She was one of the first female western writers. In the letter, which accompanied a photograph (not present), Ms. Bower writes, "All the stories you have read of Bower's came from behind those eyes in the picture, and if you look hard enough you may be able to see more that haven't been put in words yet. Right there is where Chip lives..." Chip was a character in her novels. $375.
Item 5 is older than most of the items Pepper offers. It is the 1852 first edition of Selections from the Writings and Speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. The noted abolitionist has inscribed this copy to Andrew Robeson, "with the warmest sympathies and highest regards of his friend, Wm. Lloyd Garrison." Robeson, a wealthy man from New Bedford with substantial whaling interests, was a strong supporter of Garrison who provided substantial financial assistance. $950.
Item 56 is the final biography from actor Alec Guiness: A Positively Final Appearance, A Journal 1996-98. Published in 1999, Guiness wasn't kidding as he died the following year. He was one of the great actors of his time, nominated for several academy awards, winning one for Best Actor as the British POW commander in the "Bridge on the River Kwai." However, most later fans knew him for a role he did not like, that of Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars." In the book, he mentions telling a young fan, who had seen the movie 100 times, he would only give him an autograph if he promised not to watch it again. This copy is signed and dated 1999 by Guiness. $250.
James Pepper Rare Books is found online at www.JamesPepperBooks.com, telephone 805-963-1025.