Riverrun Books & Manuscripts has created a spectacular catalogue of The Bart Auerbach Collection. It contains 500 items divided into three sections, Dedication Copies; Books, Letters & Manuscripts; and The Book Trade. A great number of the books contain author inscriptions.
Bart Auerbach spent over 60 years in the book trade. He wrote innumerable descriptions in catalogues, some while a bookseller, but most while working for the two largest auction houses in the world, Christie's and Sotheby's. If you use the Transaction History database on this site, you have undoubtedly read many of his descriptions even though you were unaware. He didn't promote himself, just the books he loved. As you might also now guess, Auerbach secured many of the books for himself. He was an avid collector. It is those books that are being offered by Thomas F. Lecky, proprietor of Riverrun Books, and a colleague of Auerbach for several years at Christie's. These are a few selections.
So you think you know all the James Bond books? How about this one – Bond Strikes Camp? It was issued in 1963, between The Spy Who Loved Me and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. No? Perhaps because only 50 copies were printed. Or maybe because it wasn't written by Ian Fleming. However, the book received Fleming's approval and he told the author, Cyril Connolly, he should have printed more. Fleming and Connolly were good friends, which led to the latter writing a spoof of the Bond books. It is shorter than the others at 16 pages. In it “M” orders Bond to dress up as a woman because the Russian General they seek to entrap likes cross-dressing men. In the end, it turns out “M” is actually the Russian General. Fleming had originally encouraged Connolly to write the story when he heard the idea. This copy was inscribed to Ian, “The Inspirer from the Inspired.” Item 44. Priced at $17,500.
This is a letter that answers the question is it theologically sound to baptize deformed babies, herein called “monsters?” One wonders how this could be a serious question, but apparently it was in 1693 when Dr. Lazare-André Bocquillot received the question. While Bocquillot responds that in some cases the deformity is caused by bestiality in which case the child isn't human so baptizing would not be appropriate. Doctors didn't know a whole lot about genetics then. However, if the deformity is caused by the “mother's fantasy” or some accident of nature, it must be part of God's plan, so the “monster” is human and should be baptized. Sometimes science and religion should stick to their own spheres. Item 34. $600.
You may be familiar with the Comstock Laws. Passed between 1873 and the early 20th century, these began with prohibiting the mailing of “obscene” material through the postal system but evolved to prohibiting various forms of “immoral” behavior. This sort of “immoral” applied specifically to sexual behavior. The inspiration for these laws was Anthony Comstock, a postal inspector and Secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He was not a man you would want to invite to a party. Item 206 is a letter Comstock wrote to New York Governor Alonzo Cornell in 1880. It referred to George Gaulier, a man he had arrested as a result of special police powers he was granted. Supposedly, Gaulier was seeking parole and Comstock wanted to stop it. Gaulier was the perfect foil for Comstock, a man who elicited little sympathy. Gaulier was a professor of French at several New York institutions who showed “obscene and filthy books” to boys in his care, “and then he practised the Italian vice on them & Suck'd their persons.” My guess is Comstock wasn't particularly popular in Little Italy either. $750.
You may not know this book or its author, but she was quite a sensation in the 1920s. Nathalia Crane was a child prodigy, a writer of poetry encouraged by her father, once a newspaperman though not well-educated. She submitted her first poem to a local paper at the age of 9, and followed with submissions to others. They were published even though the editors did not know her age, assuming her poems were the work of an adult. Her topics, language, and knowledge were not that of a child. She was celebrated by many, dismissed by a few, and some believed she was either a miracle, a hoax, or maybe even a medium deriving her words from someone else. In reality, she was just a young girl who knew how to use a typewriter. After two books of poetry she wrote this one, her first novel: The Sunken Garden, published in 1926. She continued to write some through the 1930s but without the amazement of her being a child prodigy, as with so many other child prodigies, the public lost interest. She went into education, became a Professor of English at San Diego State University, and died in 1998. She inscribed this copy to Jean Starr Untermeyer, “most sweet friend and gracious lady, to whom I have dedicated The Sunken Garden.” Untermeyer was the former wife of Louis Untermeyer, a poet and strong defender of Crane and her poetry. Item 33. $1,250.
Jack London was a very popular American novelist of the early 20th century. He was one of the first American writers to achieve international success and was well-compensated for it. However, he also was sympathetic to the poor working people and promoted their rights while advocating for socialism. He was similarly concerned for animals, which brings us to this next item. His book, Michael, Brother of Jerry, is about a dog and it describes the poor treatment of performing animals. He particularly focused on cruel training used by circuses to get animals to act. His foreword to the book particularly focuses on the issue. In 1918, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals separately published his foreword, item 317 being a copy of the first edition, first printing of this four-page leaflet. It led to the creation of “Jack London Clubs” that were successful in getting Ringling Bros. circus to discontinue animal performances “for all time” (“all time lasted four years). Recently, circuses have again discontinued some animal acts and certain localities have banned them. Progress has been slower than a performing tortoise but at least some of London's values are starting to achieve greater acceptance.