• <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Shakespeare and Company, Paris 1922, First Edition, No. 30 of 100 copies. Signed by Joyce and printed on fine Dutch handmade paper. €70,000 to €90,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b><br>A very important collection of accounts, draft statements, ledgers etc., from the archive of Domhnall Ua Conchubhair [O’Connor] [1872-1935]. €15,000 to €20,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>De Honni-Soit a Mal-y-Chance.</i> Mesures, 15 Janvier 1936. [French translation of Joyce’s essay from a banned writer to a banned signer, a tribute to John Sullivan]. €7,000 to €10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Finnegans Wake,</i> 8vo L. (Faber & Faber) 1939, Signed and Limited 21 (450) Copies. €1,500 to €2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>The Works of J.S. D.D.,</i> D.S.P.D., Vol. I – Vol. XVIII, together 18 vols. Faulkner’s Edition of Swift – Lord Orrery’s Copy. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Eyzinger (Michael). <i>Ad Leonis Belgici Topographicam atque Historicam Descriptionem,</i> 2 vols.in one, [Cologne] 1586. Excessively rare 16th century work with 162 double page engravings. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Yeats (W.B.). <i>The Dublin University Review,</i> issue for June 1886, containing the first printing of Yeats’ poem “Mosada” at pp. 473-483. €800 to €1,200
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Heaney (Seamus) & O’Neill (T.) <i>Columcille The Scribe,</i> Single m/ss on vellum, R.I.A. 2004, #95 (of 100) copies. €800 to €1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Bonaparte (Napoleon). A French Republic Brevet (Republique Francaise) Department of War manuscript and printed document appointing Gaspard Bourves to Captain. Signed. €600 to €700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Irish Broadsides Ballads: A folio Album containing approx. 70 Dublin printed broadside ballads, mostly by Brereton, Lr. Exchange St., and with wd. cut illus. at head. €400 to €600
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Anon. <i>The State of Irish Affairs, For the Honourable Members of the Houses of Parliament…</i>. 4to Lond. (G. Miller) 1645. €300 to €400
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> [Graham (Doctor James)]. <i>A Lecture on the Generation Increase and Improvement of the Human Species…</i>, 8vo L. (M. Smith) [c. 1784]. €200 to €300
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i> Walden: or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> BUKOWSKI, CHARLES. Archive of Correspondence Addressed to Kay "Kaja" Johnson, Los Angeles, California: July – November 1961. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> DICKENS, CHARLES, AND GEORGE CRUIKSHANK [ILLUSTRATOR]. Unpublished autograph letter signed, to Cruikshank, completed on the artist's proof, related to the publication of The Pic-Nic Papers. $7,000 to $10,000
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> FEYNMAN, RICHARD. <i>"Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!" Adventures of a Curious Character.</i> As Told to Ralph Leighton. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> GERSHWIN, GEORGE. Autograph music manuscript of "Leavin’ for de Promise’ Lan’" from the opera Porgy and Bess, Act One Scene Two. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as sixteenth president, being a military commission for Rufus H. Johnson. $8,000 to $10,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> NYC pride parade photos by Hank O’Neal, annotated on verso by Allen Ginsberg, 1970s. Pictured is Marsha P. Johnson. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Neon Dancer,</i> postcard signed to Jim Fouratt, 1982. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Personal papers of Candy Darling, New York, circa 1950s-1973. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Walt Whitman, <i>Memoranda of the War,</i> Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle, from “the author with his love,” Camden, 1875-76. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,</i> first edition, signed, London, 1899. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> James Baldwin, <i>Giovanni’s Room,</i> first edition, presentation copy, New York, 1956. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> JEB (Joan E. Biren), <i>Ginger and Catherine,</i> silver print, 1972. $700 to $1,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Su Negrin, <i>Gay Liberation,</i> photograph by Peter Hujar, poster published by Times Change Press, 1970. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Harvey Milk, Autograph Letter Signed, as acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Lester Beall, <i>Rural Electrification Administration,</i> 1939. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Gerda Wegener, <i>Two Women in a Window,</i> watercolor, chalk & wash, circa 1920. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Jean Cocteau, original sketchbook, <i>Le Mystère et Antigone,</i> including sketches of his lover Jean Desbordes, 1932. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Djuna Barnes, <i>Ladies Almanack . . . Written & Illustrated by A Lady of Fashion,</i> limited edition, signed & inscribed to her literary executor, 1928. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> MYERS, ARTHUR B.[OWEN] R.[ICHARDS] Life with the Hamran Arabs... $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> LYELL, D. D. Nyasaland for the Hunter and Settler. $600 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> JOHNSON, ISAAC CHARLES Sport on the Blue Nile… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BETHELL, ALFRED J. Notes on South African Hunting and Notes on a Ride to the Victoria Falls… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BISHOP, B. F. Game & Visitor's Book. $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold "Jake" Johnson:</b> BYRON, EDMUND What We Did in South Africa in 1873. $600 to $900

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2014 Issue

Master Adam, Craftsman-Poet: If I had a hammer...

15a83817-3fa2-42f7-9309-0bfd32418948

Master Adam.

If I had a hammer, or rather a brace, I would write verses to add my humble kingpin to the magnificent work of poetry—just like Master Adam Billaut did. In the 17th century, this carpenter-poet from Nevers, France, though deprived of all literary education, as Voltaire put it, turned poet in his workshop. But he was born a commoner in 1602, and was then reduced to create verses in the middle of his tools and bottles, to quote Chaudon’s Dictionary (Lyon, 1804). This situation lasted until he was 32; then he met the Abbot of Marolles who read his verses to the Duchess of Nevers, and then decided to promote them. “I was more than willing to expose his poems to the public who would undoubtedly like them as much as I did. The following year he came to Paris where he became acquainted with many people of quality,” wrote the Abbot. Mr. Adam’s life changed for the better—but during the Grand Siècle, a leopard couldn’t change its spots, or a commoner turn a respectable poet.

 

From Nevers to Paris

 

Adam Billaut came to Paris where he eventually became a relative of Saint-Amand who introduced him to several literary salons. The court soon grew infatuated with this carpenter who prided himself on writing verses. Adam got some recognition but could never rise above the rank of burlesque or Bacchic writer. As a matter of fact, noticing he had afterwards sunk into oblivion, the 1731 edition of Moreri’s Dictionary underlined: “It was quite inevitable for an author of his rank.” Adam used his social position as a selling point, entitling his first collection of poems-The Kingpins—and got trapped. But he was probably ready to endure a certain amount of mockery, or humiliation, to finally get the recognition he wished for.

 

In The Kingpins, he sought the Approbation of the Parnassus and published a hundred pages of dedicatory epistles from various poets.He loved praises, and begged for dedicatory verses,” read Moreri’s Dictionary. Everyone complied, and those who couldn’t write them had them written by friends.” Most of them were just basic plays on words about his ambivalent condition. Saint-Amand, his mentor, wrote he could build verses as well as furniture; Scarron said he was writing verses with a plane-pushing hand. Corneille, Benserade or Quinet were among the numerous writers who said a silly word about this silly work—Mr. Scudery even wondered whether he was a genius or a monster. The then famous painter Mr. Chauveau drew the portrait of the author that was added as a frontispiece to the first edition of The Kingpins (in-4°, chez Quinet—1644). A few months later, every one in Paris was singing along his song As soon as the light comes back to gild our hills—his most popular piece of work ever. “It is said,” continued Moreri’s Dictionary, “that he obtained a pension from Monsieur Duke of Orléans, Gaston Jean-Baptiste.” He became a curiosity at court where he was called the planing Virgil, and even ventured into politics. Indeed, in 1651, he published a Mazarinade—a text against Cardinal Mazarin—entitled Le Claquet de la Fronde, as well as an epigram on the same topic. “These pieces that brought nothing to his reputation,” underlined C. Moreau in his Bibliographie des Mazarinades (Paris, 1850), “were first re-published in the 1840 edition of his works.”

 

Pensions

 

When I first came across Adam’s works, I thought it was a joke—or a literary fraud. A craftsman-poet from the 17th century who entitled his works The Kingpins or The Plane? Come on... History recalls a few working-poets, though; such as Burns, a peasant; Hans Sacks, a shoemaker; or a pastry cook from the same period, who even stated that Adam’s works made more noise, but that his own were more fiery. They were the first working-artists in a time when education was the privilege of a few, and when birth was of the utmost importance. To come from a dignified family would place you above the rest, and insure you respect and privileges. To come from the rabble, on the contrary, made a vulgar man out of you; not even good verses could save you from such damnation. No doubt these working-artists were regularly mocked and made fun at in society. Furthermore, Adam could be trivial at times. As a matter of fact, Jean Pinet, who published his complete works in 1842, cut off the incriminating passages to print them separately. Adam wrote about wine and its consequences, about farting too; some asses and whores would also pop up every now and then. Worse, some of his poems lacked polishing—or should we say planing? Ferdinand Denis, who wrote the Biographic and literary notice of the Pinet edition, blamed it on the lack of time. Several persons of quality including Richelieu and the Prince of Condé generously promised Adam a pension—but talk is cheap, and most of these pensions were never honoured. Therefore, Adam was reduced to earning a living as a carpenter.

 

Some of his poems also happened to be boring—mostly those never-ending flattering epistles from his second collection, The Brace. “Among a lot of dull verses, we find a few happy lines,” stated Chaudon. Moreri’s Dictionary added: “His works did good to him, but can’t make him a good poet.” In 1842, mentalities had evolved regarding working-artists, and Ferdinand Denis justified the author: “The centuries have been misled; Voltaire himself saw in Master Adam nothing but a cabaret poet (...). But we must speak up now! To say that Adam Billaut was a disheartened poet with elevated thoughts (...) who was forced to sing Bacchic songs, and to liven up some noisy orgies where, a miserable host, he excited both mockery and admiration.” But Master Adam genuinely enjoyed the cabaret, as confessed to a Lord who complained of his not attending his dinners: “In this place (...) everything pleases my belly, / Here I despise war heartily, / And the bottom of a whore / Ain’t worth a glass of liquor.” There was something melancholic about him too—probably since the death of his beloved mother. “Ever since the sad and fateful hour, / When the messenger of despair came to tell me: (...) Your mother has died from the plague, / I haven’t stopped sighing, I haven’t stopped crying.” Death is omnipresent in his poems, and he had morbid images reminiscent of the poetry of the middle age. He was far from the fashionable love epigrams of the time—he knew it, and didn’t care. Ronsard was his model, but he saw a rose withering with tenderness, if not with pleasure: “Even though you are but a withered flower, / How happy I am, proud Rose / To see these changes chasing my rivals away forever.

 

Adam’s favour only lasted for a time. He was in an uncomfortable position, so he walked away and came back to Nevers. As Chaudon put it: “He stuck to mediocrity to preserve his happiness.” In his dictionary, Pierre Bayle wrote he was then living in poverty, which sounds quite exaggerated as his protector, Marie de Gonzague, appointed him bailiff of the court of accounts of the Nivernais before she left for Poland. The Duke of Nevers, from his part, graciously sheltered him until his death in 1662—Mr. Adam’s house still stands today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Cook, James. <i>A Voyage towards the South Pole,</i> 1st edition, 1777. Presentation copy to James Furneaux. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Mathews, Gregory M. <i>The Birds of Australia,</i> 13 volumes, 1st edition, 1910-27. A fine set, with 600 hand-coloured lithographs. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Shelley, George Ernest. <i>Monograph of the Nectariniidae,</i> 1st edition, 1876-80. With 121 hand-coloured lithographic plates by Keulemans. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Nostradamus, Michel de. <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> 1st edition in English, 1672. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Collodi, Carlo. <i>Le Avventure di Pinocchio,</i> 1st edition, 1883. Original cloth. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Kelmscott Press. <i>The Life and Death of Jason,</i> 1895. One of 200 copies on paper. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Ambler, Eric. <i>Uncommon Danger,</i> 1st edition, 1937. With the dust jacket. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Huxley, Aldous. <i>Crome Yellow,</i> 1st edition, 1921. Rare in the dust jacket. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Isherwood, Christopher. <i>Goodbye to Berlin,</i> 1st edition, 1939. With the dust jacket, £1,000 to £1,500
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Lewis, C. S. Autograph letter signed to Charles Jasper Sisson (1885-1966), 1937. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Tolkien, J. R. R. <i>The Lord of the Rings,</i> 1956-7. Signed by Tolkien in each volume. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Wells, H. G. <i>The War of the Worlds,</i> 1st edition, 1898. Inscribed by Wells with autograph self-portrait. £3,000 to £5,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Very Fine. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Neill, John R. Pen-and-ink drawing from Oz, "He raised his gun, took aim and fired," $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>June 13 - New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Thompson, Kay. <i>Eloise at Christmastime.</i> New York: Random House, [1958]. First edition. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Taylor, Deems. <i>Walt Disney’s Fantasia.</i> New York: 1940. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. $1,500 to $2,500

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions