Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

The Strange and the Serious from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

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More of the odd from Garret Scott, Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

Recently arrived is Catalogue Twenty-Four from Garrett Scott, Bookseller. Scott's catalogues are always among the most unusual and entertaining you will find. They are filled with strange writings from strange people, mad scientists, medical quacks, bad poets and the like. That is not to say all of his titles are weird. There are serious and intelligent writings here as well. It's just that there is something magnetic about the works of people whose minds are a train wreck. Here are some of each from Scott's latest catalogue.

Here is a Shakespearean item most Shakespeare collectors do not own. Whether the story is true remains unknown, though I will admit to having my doubts. The item is How Shakespeare's Skull was Stolen and Found. By a Warwickshire Man, published in 1884. According to the unknown author, around 1794, Horace Walpole, over drinks one night, announced he would pay a handsome sum to anyone who would bring him Shakespeare's skull. Supposedly, a group of men took up the challenge some time later, broke into his grave, removed the skull, covered up the break-in so it would not be noticed, and brought the skull to Walpole. An evidently more sober Walpole refused to pay for it, whereupon the skull ended up being dumped in a churchyard. Some 50 years later, the anonymous "Warwickshire Man," examining Walpole's papers, deciphered the story and the skull's whereabouts, retrieved it and returned it to its grave. Then, he kept silent for another 35 years before finally revealing the story in this book. Alas poor Shakespeare, I knew him. Item 100. Priced at $50.

Item 23 is a book of poems, Songs from the St. Lawrence, by the prolific poet Marion Albina Bigelow. Scott notes she seemed to specialize in "lingering disease and childhood mortality." So we have poems such as Children Disinterred, inspired by witnessing the bodies of four dead children disinterred so they could be buried next to their mother. Then there is the e'er popular Two Smothered Children, with stanzas such as:

"Nay, their death was strangely fearful!
No fond parent closed their eyes,
And no voice of pity answer’d
To their feebly moaning cries!"

For $100, you can have a whole book full of these to recite to your dearest.

Item 112 is The Diary of a Bird Freely Translated into Human Language, by Henry Davis Minot. This is a first-person (first-bird?) account of the life of a warbler, who has a message of conservation to tell his human friends. This 1880 work may sound like another of the loony titles in Scott's catalogue, but this is a legitimate book by a serious ornithologist. Minot may be better known as co-author of the first book (pamphlet) written by his Harvard buddy, Theodore Roosevelt, The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, N.Y. Minot chose to devote the rest of his life to the study of birds, while Roosevelt went on to do other things. $125.

Here is a book whose point is very different from what you would expect based on the lead in. States the writer, "...in free and enlightened Governments, where every man participates in public affairs, where the road to preferment is open to all; where merit, and not birth, confers distinction; where enterprise and industry insure a just reward; where none but salutary restraints are imposed, and consequently where the whole energies of a people are kept in constant requisition, it is not surprising that the mental faculties are often deranged." I was really expecting them to say that in an idyllic society such as this, people are happy, prosperous or something nice, not mentally deranged. Evidently we would be healthier mentally in an unfree, unenlightened society where the road to success is closed to all not born of wealth and privilege. This quote comes from the Third Annual Report of the Directors of the Ohio Lunatic Asylum, December 13, 1837, and one wonders who was running the lunatic asylum, the officers or the inmates. Item 121. $75.

Item 148 is the erudite-sounding title The Logic of History: A Study in Astral Mathematics by Jas. S. Taylor, published in 1960. Taylor had much experience from which to speak at the time, being a man 89 years of age. His thesis was historic occurrences were determined by events taking place on Neptune. He was then able to demonstrate the obvious connections. So, the 164.8 years period of Neptune's orbit coincides perfectly with the time between the American Militia Act of 1792 and the deployment of federal troops to enforce integration in Little Rock in 1957. And, the "punctum of opposition," 82 years, 4 months and 3 days, is the time that separates the Provisional Treaty of Paris in 1782 and Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Mere coincidence? I think not. If Lee had had access to this book, he would have known it was useless to resist. Defeat was in the stars, or Neptune. $75.

Garrett Scott, Bookseller may be reached at 734-741-8605 or garrett@bibliophagist.com. His website is www.GSBbooks.com.

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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