Whitmore Rare Books has published their Holiday Catalogue 2020. This is a fine and varied collection of books and a few ephemeral items. They would make great personal gifts, either for people with whom you are close, or for that really personal gift, for yourself. The holidays are almost here, so let's take a look inside at a few samples of what you will find.
We begin with an account by an American hero from a time when women weren't supposed to do such things, but she did them anyway. Amelia Earhart was an aviator when being a stewardess was as close as women were supposed to get to planes. She made a flight across the Atlantic in 1928, not long after Charles Lindberg's flight. She did not do it alone and William Stultz did most of the piloting, but four years later she would make the transatlantic flight alone. Item 15 is an account of that first flight, published in 1928, 20 Hrs. 40 Min.: Our Flight in the Friendship. It combines her entries in the log book with memories of her childhood and interest in flying, along with thoughts about women and aviation. Today, she is remembered even more for her disappearance. In 1937 she attempted to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by air, and came close, but her plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific on the last leg back to California. Many theories have been put forward, but even after most of a century, no one is certain what happened to her. Priced at $2,500.
Now we go from Amelia to Alice. Unlike Amelia, Alice was fictional. Maybe not entirely fictional as there was a real Alice, but the stories in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are certainly all a fiction. They are straight from the twisted logic of the inventive mind of mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Whitmore points out that this book has been published in at least 112 languages, which gives us an idea as to how many editions must have been published. This one is right near the top, though we may have to go down the rabbit hole to determine how these earliest ones play out. The first edition was published in 1865, but most of the few copies were quickly recalled. Carroll, and illustrator John Tenniel, were displeased with the quality of the printing of the illustrations. Thus this second, but first published edition, was printed and distributed later that year. Meanwhile, publisher Macmillan was stuck with the pages for almost 2,000 copies they were not about to toss in the dumpster. So they did the next closest thing – shipped them off to America where a less discerning audience would not notice the poorer quality. They were bound and distributed the following year. Thus technically, the first American edition is also the second issue of the first edition, while the copy here offered is the second edition, even though it was published prior to the second issue of the first edition. Curiouser and curiouser. Item 9. $8,500.
This is the most notable of biographies of the most notable of Americans, the “father of his country,” George Washington. The author was his friend and later Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court for 35 years, John Marshall. His court decisions, which favored a strong federal government, likely would have sat well with Washington. The title is The Life of George Washington... and it was published in five text and one atlas volumes from 1804-1807. This is a complete set, including the scarce atlas, all ten maps, and the 22-page subscriber's list. Marshall's lengthy biography also covers the early days of the new nation. The other notable biography of Washington at the time was that of Parson Weems, noted for being willing to aggrandize Washington (including the invented cherry tree/not tell a lie story). Marshall was focused on accuracy, undoubtedly understanding that Washington needed no exaggeration to be recognized as a most remarkable person and leader. Item 38. $5,000.
Next is a signed manuscript of a song written by Woody Guthrie dated September 7, 1949, at Coney Island, New York. Guthrie was a quintessential American folksinger, a child of the Depression and Dust Bowl Oklahoma who advocated for workers, minorities and the poor through his songs. His left-of-center views became more controversial after the war during the Red Scare era and resurgent racism. On August 27, 1949, singer Raul Robeson was scheduled to perform a concert in Peekskill, New York. Robeson had similar political views plus was black. A riot ensued, involving displeased locals supported by the KKK. Robeson was forced to cancel the concert. He vowed to be back, this time with friends, and on September 4, he returned with Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lee Hayes, and a concert was held on the grounds of the old Hollow Brook Golf Course. There were 20,000 in attendance, along with 2,500 trade union members who created a human wall to protect the singers. When Guthrie returned home, he wrote this song, titled Peekskill Golf Grounds. It recounts that day. It became part of a larger group known as the Peekskill Songs that Guthrie wrote but never recorded. Item 24. 12,500.
This is a book that also takes us back to the Depression, and while Guthrie headed east, most from Oklahoma and other hard-hit areas of the West headed farther west, to California. This is the story of two migrant farm workers in that era, an unusual pair. It is a fictional story by a writer known for tales of California in that time, John Steinbeck. The title is Of Mice and Men, the lead characters being the reasonably intelligent George and the intellectually slow but powerful Lennie. Lennie is goodhearted but unable at times to control his passions, with dire consequences considering his strength. Published in 1937. Item 66. $3,850.