Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2009 Issue

Letters, Literature and Film from James Pepper Rare Books

Pepper178

James Pepper's latest catalogue features some fascinating letters.


By Michael Stillman

James Pepper Rare Books has issued their Catalogue 178. Pepper catalogues are mostly filled with items of literature or those relating to film and theater. There are always a few exceptions, an occasional work related to history or art, but literature and film predominate. Here are a few we found this time, including some very interesting personal letters.

Item 43 is a biography, along with a most critical letter from its subject. The book is Robert Mitchum. A Biography by George Eells, published in 1984. The tough-guy movie actor was evidently not pleased with his biography. Along with the book is a copy of a letter Mitchum sent to a man who wished Mitchum to sign his copy. After noting that he never met author Eells, Mitchum writes, "The book is a compilation of inaccuracies and downright fabrication, and I have adopted a posture of disclaimer and refusal to sign my name to avoid any semblance of endorsement. I might suggest that you paste this note inside the book, if you so please." Priced at $1,500.

If you think that comment is tough, take a look at this one from writer-journalist-satirist Ambrose Bierce. Bierce had evidently been asked for an opinion of the magazine Lantern, published in Chicago, by its editor. Bierce most caustically replied. "Will I tell you what I think of your magazine? Sure I will. It has thirty-six pages of reading matter. Seventeen are given to the biography of a musician, - German, dead. Four to the mother of a theologician, - German, peasant-wench, dead. (The mag. is published in America, to-day). Five pages about Eugene Field's ancestors. All dead. 17 + 4 + 5 = 26. 36 - 26 = 10. Two pages about Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Three-fourths page about a bad poet and his indifference to - German. Two pages of his poetry. 3 = 3/4 + 2 = 4 3/4. 10 - 4 3/4 = 5 1/4. Not enough to criticize. What your magazine needs is an editor - presumably older, preferably American, and indubitably alive. At least awake." We gather Mr. Bierce didn't particularly care for the publication. The letter was written on May 22, 1913. Later that year, Bierce headed off to Mexico to report on that nation's revolution and was never heard from again. His fate is still unknown. Item 14. $3,000.

Now for a more positive letter. Item 101 includes a first edition, first issue of Gone With The Wind. It is signed by author Margaret Mitchell. This is already highly collectible and very valuable, but additionally, laid into this copy is a 1960 letter from Clark Gable, who played the leading male role in the movie adaptation of the book. The letter was to an editor of the Atlanta Constitution, in response to some written questions he sent. Gable most obligingly wrote out his answers in this letter. Gable states his belief that Gone With The Wind "is one of the finest motion pictures ever made," that Rhett Butler was his favorite role, and that he was more associated with this film than any other. Of author Mitchell, he says that not only did she write "a wonderful novel," but was very helpful to him in describing how to play the role. "I listened to her and followed her advice, and fortunately for me everything she told me was right. Naturally she was the one to whom I went for advice, because she was the one who had created the character. I am forever grateful to Margaret Mitchell." Gable died later that year, making this likely his final observations about this film. $85,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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