Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2005 Issue

James Cummins Features Two Centuries of Literature

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Catalogue 91 of Literature from James Cummins.


By Michael Stillman

James Cummins Bookseller's
Catalogue 91 of literature is filled with first editions and manuscripts of authors from the past two centuries. The names read off like a who's who list of great novelists. If you are looking for firsts, this catalogue is a great place to start.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was Henry David Thoreau's first book. It was not a smashing success. If this had typified his career, Thoreau would probably have had to become a logger or some such thing. Fortunately, greater success lay ahead. At the back of the book is an advertisement, "Will Soon Be Published Walden, or Life in the Woods...." That was a harbinger of things to come for the young writer. With the success of his later works, "Concord and Merrimack" would earn its respect in time. Item 90 is a first edition of Thoreau's first work from 1849. Priced at $6,000.

One the greatest of American writers ever was Edgar Allan Poe. Poetic master of the macabre, mystery, and horror was he. Perhaps it is fitting with the strangeness of the man and his life that his most popular book during his lifetime was The Conchologist's First Book: A System of Testaceous Malacology arranged expressly for use in Schools.... This is a book about shells, a dull, ordinary book intended for school studies. While Poe was, if nothing else, a trailblazer, this book was about as unoriginal as it comes. In fact, it was mostly lifted from an earlier British text, with Poe paid a handsome advance to engage in this act of plagiarism. It was a great success, the first edition selling out in a few weeks, with other editions to follow. The money Poe earned from it would allow him to concentrate on the type of work for which he is remembered, and Poe would have to resort to such shell games nevermore. From 1839, Item 74 is a first edition of Poe's shell book. $1,750.

Here is another surprising work for its author: A Persian Pearl: and Other Essays by Clarence S. Darrow. This was Darrow's first book, and includes five essays, discussing topics such as poets Walt Whitman and Robert Browning and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Clarence Darrow, of course, is not remembered for his literary criticism. He is remembered as the greatest attorney of his era, particularly his role for the defense in the Scopes Monkey Trial. You may well remember Spencer Tracy playing Darrow's role in the fictionalized movie of this trial, "Inherit the Wind." Item 26. $1,250.

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  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
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    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
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    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
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    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

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