Exceptional Works from Michael Sharpe Rare and Antiquarian Books
By Michael Stillman
Now available is Catalog No. 2 from Michael Sharpe Rare and Antiquarian Books. Sharpe offers a variety of material, from history to travels, literature, science, theology, art, maps, illuminated books and more. Just about anything may show up in the pages of this catalogue. What is common to the selections is that these are significant works and their condition is generally exceptional for their age. Here are a few samples of what Sharpe has available for us this time.
Here is one of the greatest seafaring adventures ever, combining mutiny and a most remarkable escape and survival, and it's all for real. Item 16 is Captain William Bligh's A Narrative of Mutiny on board His Majesty's Ship Bounty, a first edition from 1790. Bligh's account, intended to absolve him from blame for the mutiny, tells the amazing story of survival by he and 18 loyal crewmen. The mutineers cast them off in a small boat, facing seemingly hopeless odds. Instead, Bligh managed to lead them across 3,500 miles of open seas, three months on the water before finally finding safe haven in Timor, a Dutch island. Bligh even managed to chart some of the largely unknown coast of Australia as they passed by. He would go on to have a successful, if sometimes checkered career in the Royal Navy (he suffered another mutiny while Governor of New South Wales), retiring as a Vice Admiral. Priced at $28,000.
Item 39 recounts a much quicker journey: 20 hrs. 40 min. Our Flight in the Friendship. This was Amelia Earhart's account of being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. The flight and book release both occurred in 1928, the year after Charles' Lindberg's first trans-Atlantic flight. Although this flight made Earhart a celebrity, she expected few accolades, as her role was little more than a passenger, brought along for the publicity. However, she would earn her fame a decade later when she almost completed her flight around the world, disappearing on the last leg and still missing today. Offered is one of the 150 signed copies of the book issued and a flag she brought along on the flight. $10,000.
Item 88 is Edgar Allen Poe's bestseller, at least during his lifetime. It does not concern birds such as ravens, but only lowly mollusks. The title is The Conchologist's First Book; or A System of Testaceous Malacology arranged expressly for use in Schools... This was a science book for schools, essentially ripped off from an earlier British text. Nevermind. This 1839 book was an immediate success, ran into several editions, and provided Poe with the money necessary to focus on writing his more creative works of the following decade. $2,500.
Poe wasn't the only one with strange tales to tell. In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson published his classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This story is the ultimate case of split personality, as the good Dr. Jekyll, with the aid of some strange drugs, becomes the murderous Mr. Hyde. It is a look at the good and evil in all of us, as well as an entertaining story. Item 113 is the "authorized" American edition, which Sharpe tells us actually preceded the London edition by four days, the latter being held back so it would not get lost in the Christmas rush. $10,000.