A Spring Miscellany from Peter Harrington

- by Michael Stillman

A Spring Miscellany from Peter Harrington

Peter Harrington of London has issued their Catalogue 132, a Spring Miscellany. It provides much in the way of literature, a good mix of fiction and nonfiction. Most of what we find here are books, though there are exceptions, such as a couple of plates of cats named "Sam" by Andy Warhol, or the circa 1906 Barritt-Serviss Star and Planet Finder pictured on the catalogue's cover. Harrington specializes in important material in excellent condition and they don't let you down. Here are a few selections.


We begin with a Faulkner rarity that is most significant as it was his first book. The title is The Marble Faun, a collection of poetry from a man who would make his mark for prose, not poetry. Faulkner was a young man age 27 from Oxford, Mississippi, when his first book was published in 1924. Original plans called for a print run of 1,000 copies, but that was cut to 500, and out of those, 300 were pulped. It was not a bestseller and Faulkner's poetry, unlike his prose, has never been well-regarded, not even in hindsight. This copy is inscribed "To Dink Cearley from Bill Faulkner." Cearley's father was the jailor in Oxford and the family lived on the jail's grounds. G. L. (George) "Dink" Cearley was 19 years old at the time and how Faulkner came to know him is unclear. Information about the young man is sparse. He must have been in some sort of court case in 1931 as the city paid $2 to someone who was a witness, and according to Find A Grave, he died in 1938, age 33 or 34, apparently unmarried. Faulkner used the name "Dink" as a character in The Town, and one imagines it must have come from Cearley as where else would he have come up with a name like that? Item 69. Priced at £67,500 (British pounds, or approximately $87,205 in U.S. dollars).


Item 93 is a first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, published in 1922. Unable to find a publisher for his work in England, Joyce finally enlisted the support of Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Company in Paris to publish his book. It was too controversial for others, but the French were far less prudish. This is one of 750 copies (out of a run of 1,000) on handmade paper. It is copy #811, which enables us to follow its provenance. While the book itself is not marked, Sylvia Beach's notebook lists this copy as having been sent to a Miss Weaver on March 3, 1922. That would almost surely be Harriet Shaw Weaver. Weaver was a feminist and political radical, editor and financial supporter of The Egoist. She was enormously impressed with Joyce's writing and serialized a couple of his books in her magazine, and sought a printer for Joyce when all of those at home rejected this book. She served as his literary executor after Joyce died in 1941. £16,500 (US $21,309).


No one knows how to speak English better than Americans, the English included, or at least we think so. The English may have Johnson on their side, but we have Noah Webster, and frankly (and objectively), he is the top lexicographer. Webster taught us all how to speak English in 1828 when he published An American Dictionary of the English Language. According to Printing and the Mind of Man, "Webster succeeded in breaking the fetters imposed on American English by Dr Johnson, to the ultimate benefit of the living languages of both countries." Take that! This two-volume first edition was printed in 2,500 copies and revised editions have been printed ever since. Webster wanted to set forth a distinctively American version of the language, including reformed spelling. So that's what happened to those extra "U's" the British still love to include in words like "colour." Webster is also noted for his great ability to provide concise yet accurate definitions of words. Item 171. £18,000 (US $23,248).


Next we have a look at Napoleon's final fall, a book with a provenance more notable than the book itself: A Full and Circumstantial Account of the memorable Battle of Waterloo... by Christopher Kelly, published in 1818. British commander the Duke of Wellington's bibliographer describes it as "a bombastic and pro-English account," not unexpected for a British writer so soon after the battle. Inscribed on the title page is the name of its one-time owner, "Anglesey." Anglesey was the Marquess of Anglesey, a title he received after the Battle of Waterloo for his heroism. Before that, he was the Earl of Uxbridge, a title inherited a few years earlier when his father died, and before that simply Henry Paget. He was a very brave cavalry commander under Wellington, which led to a most notable supposed exchange between the two near the conclusion of the battle. Anglesey/Uxbridge/Paget had somehow managed to avoid serious injury until the battle was almost over. Riding alongside of Wellington, he was struck by a cannonball in the leg. He is said to have exclaimed, "By God, sir, I have lost my leg!" to which Wellington turned his eye from his telescope and responded, "By God, sir, so you have!" Wellington then returned to surveying the battlefield with his telescope. The leg was amputated, buried in Waterloo under an elaborate "tombstone," and Anglesey later became one of the earliest people to be fitted with an artificial limb. He went on to have a long career in government. Item 125. £1,500 (US $1,936).


This next book is an advance reading copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, an unknown prior to its publication. There were two issues of the advance copy, the first for booksellers, the second for readers. The first says on the cover it will be available in July, with an inserted slip stating July 11, the second has July 11 on the cover. This is the booksellers' first issue. The publisher's cover promotion enthusiastically proclaims (in hindsight, accurately), "It will, we think, furnish a jackpot of bestseller sales for you during the summer." An author's quote adds, "Someone rare has written this very fine first novel, a writer with the liveliest sense of life, and the warmest, most authentic humor. A touching book, and so funny, so likeable." The writer of that quote was the already very popular author Truman Capote. The two had been close friends growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. They met when she was six, he seven, and each being an unusual individual at an age when conformity is demanded to be accepted by one's peers, they gravitated to each other. It's no wonder he would provide his old friend a ringing endorsement as she was publishing her first book. Item 101. £12,500 (US $16,121).


Peter Harrington may be reached at 020 7591 0220 (USA 011 44 20 7591 0220) or mail@peterharrington.co.uk. Their website is www.peterharrington.co.uk.