Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

Inscribed Books from James Cummins Bookseller


Dodgson/Carroll inscription on cover of James Cummins' latest catalogue.

By Michael Stillman

James Cummins, Bookseller has issued a catalogue entitled From the Author. At first glance, that might seem obvious. All books come from an author. However, what we have here are books that have been inscribed. Perhaps the title isn't precisely correct, as while all are inscribed, they aren't necessarily inscribed by the book's author. That became obvious very quickly when in the letter "A" we found a book by Aristotle. Good luck finding a book inscribed by Aristotle, especially a printed one. Nevertheless, while they aren't necessarily inscribed by the author, they are inscribed by some interesting person or other, frequently adding a significant connection to the underlying text. Here are a few of these inscribed works.

Item 108 is generally regarded as W. Somerset Maugham's greatest novel, an opinion to which he acquiesced. It is Of Human Bondage, generally considered to be largely autobiographical. To this Maugham also acquiesced, but perhaps only to a more limited degree. In his inscription to James Spencer, Maugham writes, "This by way of being an autobiographical novel, but it IS a novel & fiction has as great a place in it as fact." This is a first English edition, published in 1915. Priced at $3,500.

Item 48 is an inscribed copy of Through the Looking Glass by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his penname Lewis Carroll. It is inscribed to Margaret Lilias Godfrey Faussett for Christmas of 1871. Faussett could be described as one of Dodgson's numerous "child friends," though she was also the daughter of a close friend and associate from his role as a mathematics professor, Robert Godfrey Faussett. Ms. Faussett would later write that she met Dodgson prior to the book being published, but that he had promised to send her a copy once it was printed. This is proof he kept his word. This letter is displayed on the catalogue's cover (click the thumbnail image above to view). $15,000.

Item 141 is a Shakespearean play, not inscribed by Shakespeare, but by the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day: The Merchant of Venice, as Performed at the Winter Garden Theater of New York, January 1867, by Edwin Booth. Booth was a great actor with a magnificent career, but his accomplishments have been sadly overshadowed by the destructive behavior of his actor brother John Wilkes, who assassinated President Lincoln. Edwin had to leave the stage for several months after his brother's misdeed, so badly was the "Booth" name tarnished. Booth inscribed this book on July 2, 1867, to Charles Tuckerman, a writer, poet and diplomat who served as U.S. minister to Greece during the Johnson and Grant administrations and later wrote about that country. $750.

Item 3 is The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony including Public Addresses, Her Own Letters and many from her contemporaries during Fifty Years, by Ida Harper. Rather than being signed by the author, it is inscribed by the subject herself, Susan B. Anthony. This is a two-volume authorized biography, and Ms. Anthony has inscribed both books to Charlotte A. Thomas, a suffragette from Maine. $6,500.

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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