Amanda Hall Rare Books has issued their Catalogue 45. This is a thick catalogue with detailed descriptions and illustrations for each item. These are readily classified as antiquarian books, mostly 18th century and older, often by a few centuries. Many of the books are in French though other languages (including English) are well-represented. The subjects of the material are widely varied, but they are presented in groups for convenience. They are: America, art, children's books, devotional works, education, English novels, fables & emblem books, French fiction, fine & private printing, history, how-to books, literary translations, love and all that, natural history & nature, philosophy, poetry, Robinsonades & imaginary voyages, satire, sermons, theological controversy, toys and games for children & adults, and travel. Did they miss anything? These are a few samples of the often uncommon material to be found.
We begin with an Italian book, Gli Ornamenti Delle Donne, a guide to feminine beauty by Giovanni Marinelli. The concept might initially appear condescending, a male telling women how to be beautiful or even focusing on physical appearance for women, but that would be unfair. Marinelli was quite progressive for his time, which was almost five centuries ago. The book was published in 1574. He was a physician who wrote about health and beauty, taking women seriously, which was hardly the norm in his time. His daughter, of whom he was evidently quite proud, was a feminist and wrote a book whose title translates to “the nobility and excellence of women and the defects and vices of men.” It was an answer to a book that promoted the superiority of men to women. Marinelli advocated education for women, uncommon in the 16th century. The book includes tips for hygiene, dieting either to lose or gain weight, and various beauty secrets, including 26 recipes for hair dye (dying your hair blond was popular in Italy at the time). Item 69. Priced at $3,800.
Next is a book for those who enjoy fables from two figures tied closely to the art form: Recueil de Fables d’Ésope, et autres Mythologistes; les mêmes, mises en vers par La Fontaine, ornées de gravures par Augustin Legrand... In English, that is “Collection of Fables of Aesop and other Mythologists; the same, put into verse by La Fontaine, decorated with engravings by Augustin Legrand...” It was published in 1799. Each fable has an illustration and the prose story on the left-hand page, while La Fontaine's verse is opposite on the right page. Legrand was an engraver and artist who, unlike Aesop and La Fontaine, never made a notable impact despite his skills. This book was intended to be read by children and youth, and like all such books in its day (and to a large extent still), were there to teach morals to the young. Item 40. $2,250.
Christian Ernst Graf (or Graaf) took La Fontaine's fables a step farther. Graf was a choir leader in the Netherlands and a music composer. Item 42 is his Vingt Cent Fables dans le gout de M. de la Fontaine, en musique pour le Chant et Clavecin, composés par C.E. Graaf (Twenty Hundred Fables in the Style of M. de la Fontaine, in Music for Voice and Harpsichord, Composed by C.E. Graaf), published circa 1780-83. He composed music for the Dutch court in the The Hague and also for this book. Graf has taken La Fontaine's verse fables and set them to music. The musical notations are provided so you should be able to play or sing these fables in a manner probably not heard in many years. $1,800.
Asparagus aren't always the easiest vegetable to grow, but for those with the touch, they can be quite prolific, poking their heads out of the soil everywhere. Here is a man who knew all about them, Jean-Jacques Fillassier. His epic on the subject is entitled Culture de la Grosse Asperge, dite de Holland, la plus précoce, la plus hâtive, la plus fécond & la plus durable que l’on connoisse (Cultivation of the Large Asparagus, known as Holland, the earliest, earliest, most fertile & most durable that we know), a second edition published in Amsterdam in 1784. Fillasier was a writer, not just about gardening but also a few other other subjects, was an admirer of Rousseau, and operated a nursery. Hall describes this work as “a comprehensive treatise on asparagus cultivation.” It was a popular book published several times as late as 1815. Along with lots of valuable information on the cultivation and care of asparagus, he notes the need to often travel long distances to find the plants as a means of promoting the sale of his plants near Paris. Item 88. $600.
This is a book that surely had a very small run and considering that was over two centuries ago, it must be very rare. It is also quite sad. It is a woman's tribute to her sister who died at the age of 21. She evidently loved her sister immensely, even if she didn't think very much of her poetry. The book is Lines. Written on Several Occasions. By the Late Honble. Charlotte Penelope Monckton. No printer or place of printing is mentioned but it is dated 1806. Charlotte Monckton's poems were printed in this volume, though the young lady had no intention of ever printing them herself. Her sister did so as a family remembrance for someone they loved dearly. Charlotte must have had some inklings of death because that is a subject of several of her poems. The lead-off one concerns the death of her mother in 1801. Two are about the death of her brother, Augustus, in 1802. The last poem is entitled Inscription on a Stone erected in Selby Wood, to the memory of a Favourite Dog. It is dated March 1806, a month before she died. The dedication cautions “the following artless and unstudied Lines, evidently the momentary Effusions of an elegant and accomplished Mind, possessed of the greatest Sensibility, were doubtless Intended by the Beloved Writer to be transient, but are now committed to the Press, for the Purpose of Presenting a few select friends with a memorial of a dear and ever to be lamented SISTER...” Charlotte's sister had the memento bound in blue morocco with gilt edges and marbled endpapers. Item 60. $3,500.
Here is a book that didn't impress the critics any more than did Charlotte Monckton's poetry. The book is Chit-Chat: Or Natural Characters; And the Manners of Real Life, Represented in a Series of Interesting Adventures, attributed to John Collet, a first Dublin edition published in 1755. It's the tale of an unsophisticated 19-year-old young lady whose mother dies. Her father tries to find her a companion, but that lady turns out to be a woman who is outwardly polished but “specious and insincere.” She falls in love with Welford, a friend of her father, and they suffer through several misadventures. Among them, young Charlotte Byersley contracts smallpox, survived but is scarred and believes Welford will no longer love her. But, he comes through. Despite the title, the critic from The Monthly Review did not find it “interesting” at all. “To say the best of this performance, it contains nothing indecent or offensive to the chaste and modest ear; but, at the same time, it must be confessed, the reader of taste will here find nothing to excite and keep up his curiosity, engage his attention, or interest his heart. The author has involved about half a dozen couple of insipids, in certain uninteresting adventures and difficulities, out of which they are extricated at last; -- and all is conducted in the modern way, without energy, humour, or spirit.” Really makes you want to read it to see if it can really be that bad, after which it will be a fine collectible. Item 33. $2,250.
Amanda Hall Rare Books is located in Shaftesbury, Wiltshire, England, and may be reached at 44 (0) 1747 898330 or email@example.com.