Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2022 Issue

Ursus Rare Book Celebrates 50 Years with 50 Books

50 books for 50 years.

Ursus Rare Books has released a new catalogue entitled 50 Books 50 Years (Catalogue 353). It celebrates 50 years in the business for proprietor Peter Kraus. Naturally, he has seen a lot of changes and advances in the book trade. A native of England, he explains that at the age of 18, he had the great opportunity to move to America, stay with and learn the trade from his father's cousin, the legendary New York bookseller Hans Peter Kraus. After nine years of apprenticeship, he struck out on his own, forming Ursus Rare Books, with which he has spent most of his life. He sums up that life, and the many people with whom he has shared those years, by saying “To spend one's life surrounded by books and the people who love them is an enormous privilege, and one for which I am profoundly grateful.”

 

Ursus Rare Books carries “illustrated books of all periods,” noting specialties in color theory, Japanese illustrated books, Russian Avant-Garde, and Livres d'Artistes. Actually, they cover a lot more. Here are a few samples.

 

One doesn't think of the 16th century as a time when people needed to exercise, most working their bodies long days in the fields and such, but for nobility, life was different. This may be the first book on gymnastics and floor exercises. The author was Arcangelo Tuccaro, an Italian acrobat and gymnast, who lived from 1535-1602. Not much else is known about him. He was asked by Austrian Emperor Maxmilian II to accompany his daughter Isabel to France in 1570 for her marriage to King Charles IX. He then became an instructor in tumbling and gymnastics to Charles IX. Unfortunately, the young King was involved in a massacre between Catholics and Huguenots, went mad, and also contracted tuberculosis. He was dead four years later at the age of 23. What happened next to Tuccaro is unclear, as this book was published 25 years later, in 1599. The title is Trois dialogues de l’exercise de sauter et voltiger en l’air (three dialogues of jumping and flying in the air). In those days, explanations were often given in the form of dialogues (think Galileo). The text is accompanied by 87 woodcuts which illustrate how to do these acrobatic exercises. Item 4. Priced at $25,000.

 

This book comes from August Heinrich Christian Gelpke, a 19th century professor and astronomer who held some controversial ideas. He was best known for his theory that changes on the earth's surface resulted from comets crashing into it, a theory not held today by anyone I know. Item 15 is Allgemeine Darstellung der Oberflaechen der Weltkoerper unseres Sonnengebietes, besonders der Erde, des Mondes, der Venus und des Merkur's zur Vergleichung ihrer wundervollen Naturbaue und merkwuerdigen Naturkraefte, published in 1811. That's a mouthful. It translates to “General representation of the surfaces of the celestial bodies of our solar region, especially the earth, the moon, Venus and Mercury, for the comparison of their wonderful natural structures and remarkable natural forces.” What Gelpke has provided is a comparison between the sizes of mountains on Earth with those on the moon, Venus and Mercury. How he figured this out is beyond me but I wouldn't assume he got everything right. What is remarkable about this book are the two large, hand-colored, fold-out charts that display his comparisons. The first is a comparison of mountains in various earthly locations, the second compares them with those on the other celestial bodies. Accuracy aside they really are amazing. $4,750.

 

Here is another odd book featuring spectacular color illustrations, though it was meant to be a mathematical text. The title is The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid in which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols are used instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners, by Oliver Byrne, published in 1847. Byrne replaced letters normally used in formulas with color boxes. So, for example, a+b might be a red box + a black box. Why this is easier to understand escapes me. I find it more confusing, but Byrne believed one could learn Euclid in a third of the normal time this way. Ruari McLean described it as “one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century.” It is, as he said, a riot of colors, and its use of colored shapes resembles cubist art, though that was still half a century away. The book was also quite a triumph for printer Charles Whittingham as the small shapes and angles required perfect registration. Item 19. $22,500.

 

As long as we are on a run of unusual books, here is another. The title is Die Verkehrte Welt. Ein Komisches Kinderbuch (The wrong world. A funny children's book). Author Carl Reinhardt has turned the world upside down. The book is read from back to front. In its rhymes and illustrations (both the work of Reinhardt), we see such things as fish angling for humans, instruments playing musicians, a top spinning a boy, and a kite flying a boy. Surprisingly for such a clever and appealing book for children, this book is quite rare and it appears this 1863 edition is the only one published. Item 25. $4,750.

 

Continuing the thread of unusual books is Kachesdtvennaya Stal' SSSR (the quality of steel in the USSR) by Solomon Telingater, published in 1935. This is a book in praise of one of the Soviet Union's failed five-year plans and at a particularly brutal time as Stalin, the Putin of his day, was killing millions of his own people. Self-preservation required groveling before Stalin as the talented artist Solomon Telingater undoubtedly understood. He has used a steel binding for this book on Soviet steel production. Additionally, the frontispiece consists of two sheets of a heavy stock paper with a thin plate of steel between them. On the paper, there is a cutout of Stalin's face in profile, thereby displaying it in steel. This is particularly appropriate as “Stalin” translates to man of steel. The recto also shows a graph of rapidly rising steel production in the Soviet Union, the accuracy for which I cannot vouch. The 30 pages include illustrations, photographs, photomontages and drawings that “make it less a piece of technical literature than a work of art, an artefact.” Presumably, Stalin was pleased with the work as Telingater managed to outlive him. Item 39. $25,000.

 

Ursus Rare Books may be reached at 212-772-8787 or pkraus@ursusbooks.com. Their website is www.ursusbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • ALDE, May 28: KIPLING (RUDYARD). Le Livre de la Jungle. – Le IIe livre de la Jungle. Paris, Sagittaire, Simon Kra, 1924-1925. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: NOAILLES (ANNA DE). Les Climats. Paris, Société du Livre contemporain, 1924. €50,000 to €60,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MILTON (JOHN). Paradis perdu. Quatrième chant. S.l., Les Bibliophiles de l'Automobile-Club de France, 1974. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LEBEDEV (VLADIMIR). Russian Placards - Placard Russe 1917-1922. Saint-Petersbourg, Sterletz, 1923. €1,000 to €1,200.
    ALDE, May 28: MARDRUS (JOSEPH-CHARLES). Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris, F.-L. Schmied, 1927. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: TABLEAUX DE PARIS. Paris, Émile-Paul Frères, 1927. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LA FONTAINE (JEAN DE). Les Fables illustrées par Paul Jouve. S.l. [Lausanne], Gonin & Cie, 1929. €4,000 to €5,000.
    ALDE, May 28: SARTRE (JEAN-PAUL). Vingt-deux dessins sur le thème du désir. Paris, Fernand Mourlot, 1961. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: [BRAQUE (GEORGES)]. 13 mai 1962. Alès, PAB, 1962. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MIRÓ (JOAN). Je travaille comme un jardinier. Avant-propos d'Yvon Taillandier. Paris, Société intenationale d'art XXe siècle, 1963. €1,000 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MAGNAN (JEAN-MARIE). Taureaux. Paris, Michèle Trinckvel, 1965. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: PICASSO (PABLO). Dans l'atelier de Picasso. 1960. €15,000 to €20,000.
  • 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
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions