Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2003 Issue

American Historical Novels:<br>Scribner&#146;s Catalogue 115 Revisited

A great catalogue will be used. This one is very worn.


By Bruce McKinney

In 1938 Scribner’s Book Store, on its way to issuing about 175 catalogues during its corporate life, issued #115, American Historical Novels:  Fifteenth to Nineteenth Century.  This is an engrossing survey of books that their rare book department felt to be both readable and often valuable.  When I first saw this catalogue I was struck by the catalogers’ knowledge of the material and their evident appreciation of the 228 items offered.  Here is an example.  In describing No. 12, a lot of two books, Jane G. Austin’s Standish of Standish and Betty Alden's, The First Born Daughter of the Pilgrims they wrote, “To our mind the best tales of the Plymouth Colony ever written; the historical background is excellent, Miss Austin rigidly verifying every particular.”  Of Elizabeth Keckley’s Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, published in 1868, their cataloguer wrote, “A bizarre tale by a newspaper woman who flitted in and out of the Civil War White House and wrote the “inside story” of an effort by Mary Todd Lincoln to sell secretly the rich clothes she had worn as First Lady.  The author was Jane Swisshelm, Washington’s trail-blazing newspaper-woman – an abolitionist sobster.  An important work.”  I found myself hooked on their knowledgeable perspective and decided to see what has happened to these titles in the sixty-five years since this exceptional catalogue was published.  Some of them should be available and it turns out they are.  Well over half of the titles are on ABE and certainly they are on the other listing sites as well.  Firsts aren’t all rare books as 150 copies of Edna Ferber’s Cimarron ( No. 227), 82 copies of Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s The Clansman (No. 216) and 117 copies of Walter D. Edmonds’s Drums Along the Mohawk (No. 87) confirm.  Of course there are incorrectly described items included in these online numbers but there are plenty of copies even including the erroneous entries.

In the Scribner catalogue there are 228 items with a total price of $6,725, an average of $29.42 per item.  The most expensive is James Fenimore Cooper’s The Water-Witch Or The Skimmer of the Seas printed in Dresden in 1830 (No. 41).  Their price is $285.  For reference they also offer a first American edition published in Philadelphia the same year for $15.  There are seven copies of the American edition today on ABE for prices ranging from $204.39 to $788.  The Dresden edition is not so easily found.

The second most expensive book is a fine copy of Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage (No. 196) in its first edition, 1865, and in its original dust wrapper. This gem costs $250. Today Bauman Rare Books offers a similar, if not identical copy, for $3,000.

There are two books tying for third place at $175. One is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales (#61), the first edition in original black cloth printed in Boston in 1837 that they describe as “slightly foxed but far above the average condition for this book.” The other is George Lippard’s Legend of the Black Rangers, 1844.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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