Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2015 Issue

In The News: Gems Found in Old Booksellers' Inventory, Edith's Rattle, and More

Australian coastal scenes by Col. James Biggs.

Once in awhile, a surprising item can turn up in the inventory of some old booksellers. This news came out of Australia a few weeks back. Jim Elder, of Elder Fine Art and Auctioneers, was tasked with going through the collection of two retired bookselling partners from Adelaide. Arthur Chard and Lex Rabbits, known professionally as Chard & Rabbits, had been in the business dating back to the 1950's. Mr. Chard died in 2003 but Mr. Rabbits still lives in a retirement home. As occasionally (okay, perhaps more than occasionally) happens, their inventory was sort of scattered, with items stuffed in various boxes, not well organized or inventoried.

 

Within the collection of 5,000 old books, prints, albums, and art was a plain envelope. Within it were four small paintings. The artist was Colonel James Hesketh Biggs. Biggs' name is not well known today, not even in Australia. Part of that is his own fault. He didn't sign his paintings. Fortunately, these four paintings had their titles and painter's name on the back. Those who know Biggs' work would be able to recognize these works. Small paintings were his specialty, and his detail which can take a magnifying glass to appreciate is remarkable.

 

Col. Biggs, naturally enough, was an army officer. He was also an amateur artist, who, along with being a painter, was a photographer and engraver. He mostly painted scenes. These four are from South Australia, each depicting views along the coast. A boat, pier, and some men having a picnic on rocks along the shoreline are featured. Biggs also must have spent some time in India as a number of Indian scenes are also found in his work, though not among this group.

 

Col. Biggs was well known in his day. He won several Australian prizes for his work in the late 1860's and early 1870's. Unfortunately, most of his work is lost today, either because small paintings can more easily disappear, or because owners do not know who the artist is. Because of their rarity and the quality of his work, auctioneer Elder described their value as "incalculable." We almost had a chance to calculate that value as they were scheduled to be sold at auction on October 11. However, that will have to wait as the paintings were withdrawn from the auction at the last minute for unstated reasons.

 

 

AbeBooks notes a most unusual item offered on their site. It's not a book, but it fits, sort of, the category of book-related ephemera. It's a baby rattle that once belonged to American novelist Edith Wharton. It is not an ordinary plastic rattle, as not even being touched by Wharton's youthful writing hand would alone justify a price of $16,500. It is made of sterling silver, with a red coral teething section. Coral apparently relieved the pain of teething. The intricate design of the rattle includes a whistle. It is engraved with the name "Edith." It is something that would only have been found in a wealthy family. Edith's family was quite prosperous. AbeBooks describes the item as "the most unusual item to be listed for sale on AbeBooks since Eugene O'Neill's underpants in 2013."

 

 

The Boston Public Library has terminated the employment of its former Head of Special Collections, Susan Glover. Ms. Glover had been caught up in the case of the missing Albrecht Durer print, valued at $300,000, last spring. Ms. Glover had been aware for almost a year that it was lost when she informed Library President Amy Ryan it was missing. Ms. Glover did not consider it a major issue as this has happened before in the not well organized, cramped special collections, where items can be misfiled.

 

However, Ms. Ryan was not pleased and quickly placed Ms. Glover on leave back in May. Fears mounted that the print had been stolen. The police were called in, and just a day ahead of a meeting between city and library officials, the print was found, misfiled some 80 feet away from where it should have been. Nonetheless, Ms. Ryan, who had tendered her resignation because of the scandal, left, and so did the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. A report compiled by an outside consultant around this time was highly critical of the library for poor record keeping and a lack of rational order in its storage of special collections. However, it also was highly critical of the city for providing insufficient funding to manage and store collections of the size of those at the Boston Public Library. Now, Ms. Glover has been terminated without ever coming back from leave, with Beth Prindle appointed Acting Head of Special Collections until a permanent appointment can be made.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: McCarthy (Cormac). Cities of the Plain, N.Y., 1998, First Edn., signed on hf. title; together with Uncorrected Proof and Uncorrected Advance Reading Copies, both signed by the Author. €800 to €1,000.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Stanihurst (Richard). De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, Libri Quattuor, sm. 4to Antwerp (Christi. Plantium) 1584. First Edn. €525 to €750.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Fleischer (Nat.) Jack Dempsey The Idol of Fistiana, An Intimate Narrative, N.Y., 1929, First Edn. Signed on f.e.p. by Rocky Marciano. €400 to €600.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Smith - Classical Atlas, Lond., 1820. Bound with, Smiths New General Atlas .. Principal Empires, Kingdoms, & States throughout the World, Lond. 1822. €350 to €500.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Rare Auction Catalogues – 1856: Bindon Blood, of Ennis, Co. Clare: Sotheby & Wilkinson. €320 to €450.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Mavor (Wm.)] A General Collection of Voyages and Travels from the Discovery of America to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, 28 vols. (complete) Lond., 1810. €300 to €400.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Mc Carthy (Cormac). Outer Dark, N.Y. (Random House)1968, Signed by Mc Carthy. €250 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Three signed works by Ted Huges - Wodwo, 1967; Crow from the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970; and Tales from Ovid, 1997. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: The Garden. An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in all its Branches, 7 vols. lg. 4to Lond. 1877-1880. With 127 colored plates. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Procter (Richard A.) Saturn and its System: Containing Discussions of The Motion (Real and Apparent)…, Lond. 1865. First Edn. €160 to €220.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Ashe] St. George, Lord Bishop of Clogher, A Sermon Preached to the Protestants of Ireland, now in London,... Oct. 23, 1712, London 1712. Second Edn. €130 to €180.
  • 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
  • Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Piccolomini's De La Sfera del Mondo (The Sphere of the World), 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Vellutello's Commentary on Petrarch, With Map, 1525.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Finely Bound Definitive, Illustrated Edition of I Promessi Sposi, 1840.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Rare First Edition of John Milton's Latin Correspondence, 1674.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Giolito's Edition of Boccaccio's The Decamerone, with Bedford Binding, 1542.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of the First Biography of Marie of the Incarnation, with Rare Portrait, 1677.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Aldine Edition of Volume One of Cicero's Orationes, 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Bonanni's Illustrated Costume Catalogue, with Complete Plates, 1711.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Important Incunable, the First Italian Edition of Josephus's De Bello Judaico, 1480.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Jacques Philippe d'Orville's Illustrated Book of the Ruins of Sicily, 1764.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Incunable from 1487, The Contemplative Life, with Early Manuscript.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Ignatius of Loyola's Exercitia Spiritualia, 1563.
  • Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 546. Christoph Jacob Trew. Plantae selectae, 1750-1773.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 70. Thomas Murner. Die Narren beschwerung. 1558.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 621. Michael Bernhard Valentini. Museum Museorum, 1714.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 545. Sander Reichenbachia. Orchids illustrated and described, 1888-1894.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1018. Marinetti, Boccioni, Pratella Futurism - Comprehensive collection of 35 Futurist manifestos, some of them exceptionally rare. 1909-1933.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 634. August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof. 3 Original Drawings, around 1740.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 671. Jacob / Picasso. Chronique des Temps, 1956.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1260. Mary Webb. Sarn. 1948. Lucie Weill Art Deco Binding.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 508. Felix Bonfils. 108 large-format photographs of Syria and Palestine.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 967. Dante Aligheri and Salvador Dali. Divina Commedia, 1963.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1316. Tolouse-Lautrec. Dessinateur. Duhayon binding, 1948.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1303. Regards sur Paris. Braque, Picasso, Masson, 1962.
  • Doyle, May 1: Thomas Jefferson expresses fears of "a war of extermination" in Saint-Dominigue. $40,000 to $60,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An exceptional presentation copy of Fitzgerald's last book, in the first issue dust jacket. $25,000 to $35,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The rare first signed edition of Dorian Gray. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The Prayer Book of Jehan Bernachier. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Van Dyck's Icones Principum Virorum Doctorum. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The magnificent Cranach Hamlet in the deluxe binding by Dõrfner. $7,000 to $10,000.
    Doyle, May 1: A remarkable unpublished manuscript of a voyage to South America in 1759-1764. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Bouchette's monumental and rare wall map of Lower Canada. $12,000 to $18,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An rare original 1837 abolitionist woodblock. $8,000 to $12,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An important manuscript breviary in Middle Dutch. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An extraordinary Old Testament manuscript, circa 1250. $20,000 to $30,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions