Rare Book Monthly
Articles - November - 2003 Issue
America, America (and two more Americas)<br>Four new Americana Catalogues
By Mike Stillman
This month we have four new catalogues pertaining to America that collectors won’t want to miss. There is “Catalogue 86” from James Cummins, “Rare Americana” from David M. Lesser, “New Jerseyana” from Joseph J. Felcone, and “The Louisiana Purchase” from William Reese Co.
The first catalogue in our review isn’t of Americana at all. It has something from many subjects, which perhaps explains why James Cummins Bookseller simply calls it “Catalogue 86.” Items range from the sublime, Winston Churchill’s work about the English-speaking world, to the horrific, a 1933 signature of Joseph Goebbels from photographer Alfred Eisenstadt’s autograph album. “Here are the eyes of hate,” Eisenstadt recalled after snapping the photo. However, while not specifically a catalogue from America, Cummins offers a wide range of items from some of America’s most important literary figures.
It’s hard to ignore the five Samuel Clemens pieces being offered. Item 20 is an 1898 letter to his publisher in London about his concerns over copyright protections. This was the file-sharing issue of its day. The letter is signed “Mark Twain.” Priced at $2,750. Item 21 is a letter to that publisher forbidding use of a picture with his family. “Whenever you recognize my wife or daughter in any picture, please squelch that picture.” It’s signed simply “SLC.” $3,000. Item 24 is an association copy from Clemens’ library of Andrew Paterson’s The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses. It has an inscription to Clemens from a “Mr. Carruthers” (likely future New South Wales Premier Joseph Carruthers) who presented the book to him during an 1895 speaking tour of Australia. Author Paterson is best known for the poem, later set to music, “Waltzing Matilda.” $3,750.
Item 41 is another association copy: Lord Alfred Douglas’ copy of T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-1935. On the flyleaf Douglas has written his opinion of Eliot’s work: “The worst indictment that could possibly be brought against this age of idiocy is that it has accepted this contemptible, impudent jackass TS Eliot as a ‘poet.’” Tell us how you really feel! $3,000.
Item 6 is the quintessential American children’s classic, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is a first edition from 1900 with W.W. Denslow’s illustrations. Baum felt it was time to replace the old fairy tale, “with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale.” The Wizard of Oz was meant simply to “please children,” with “the wonderment and joy... retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.” Little could Baum have known how much wonderment and joy (but still a little fear) his tale would bring generations of children and adults. $15,000.