Honey & Wax Booksellers has printed their catalogue No. 11. Honey & Wax catalogues are among the hardest to describe because of their eclectic nature, a variety of items that could include almost anything. Most items are from the 18th to the early 19th century, many have an artistic bent, most are books but then... for example, there are a couple of early 19th century board games you don't know how to play (but could learn), a young girl's commonplace book from nearly two centuries ago, an anatomical human drawing by a 15-year-old schoolboy, an album of costume designs from France at the turn of the 20th century, a box of lettered and numbered zinc tiles used in French schools 150 years ago, a traveling writing desk used by an Irish revolutionary, and some unusual children's masks from the 1970s. Here are a few of the items to be found.
We begin with the beginning for “George Eliot,” whose “name” would soon become well-known to 19th century readers. We all now know that “George Eliot” was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, but in the era when she was writing, she feared her work would be rejected by the public if they knew it was written by a woman. Unlike the Brontes' androgynous names to hide their female identity, Evans used one to leave no doubt in people's minds that she was a man. This is her first book of fiction, Scenes of Clerical Life, published in 1858. It contains stories based on her own childhood, touching on religion, social reform, poverty, alcoholism, all the issues ordinary people dealt with in those days. Interestingly, when Charles Dickens received the book, he sent the publisher a note of congratulations and predicted the pen named writer would be revealed to be a woman. This copy is housed in a custom box. Item 7. Priced at $18,000.
From first we go to last. This was Nathaniel Hawthorne's last novel, The Marble Faun; or, The Romance of Beni, published in 1860. It comes in a custom slipcase. This was a Gothic romance, set in fictional Italy. By then, Hawthorne was a well-established and popular writer, meaning it isn't particularly rare as many copies were printed. Some reviews were critical, but most were positive and it was apparently well-received by readers at the time. While Hawthorne was still working on several other novels, he became too ill to finish them, dying four years after this final completed novel was published. Item 18. $750.
Commonplace books were common in the 19th century. They were sort of a compendium of knowledge, part scrapbook but more. The owner generally wrote things of interest, often copying poems or articles by others and contributing their own thoughts. Most were kept by young people and most of them were girls. This one fits the bill. It was kept by Roxana W. Gross during and around 1836. At the time she was 13 years old. Also typical of many of these, it tends to be somewhat morbid. She has copied poems she read, including “To a Dead Sister,” “Lines on the Death of One of Our Little School Mates,” “Lines on the Death of a Young Lady,” “The Motherless Boy,” “Reflections of a Father o'er the Tomb of his Daughter,” and “Angel Voices.” Before thinking Miss Gross was unusually morbid, this type of writing was commonplace in her era as death was more a part of life among the young, so many children not making it to adulthood before modern medicine. Disasters also appear in Roxana's book such as with “Massacre of the Nuns at Paris,” “The Queen of Prussia's Tomb,” and “Napoleon's Grave.” While some of these pieces are known, she has not attributed them to a source so it is hard to tell whether the others were copied from something she read or are original. “Lines, Written on Nantasket Beach, While Sitting Under the Shade of a Rock” looks like it may be original. Item 56. $1,500.
Here is a book that will teach you all about snow. It is not a complex scientific book as it was meant for children. Perhaps people from Buffalo might find this interesting, or then again, maybe not. You will learn about how snowflakes are born and follow the life of one in particular. The appropriate title is Snow. It describes different sizes and types of snowflakes, related types of frozen water such as sleet, hail, and frost, and describes the dangers and benefits of snow. The author of this 1954 book is Thelma Harrington Bell a notable children's book author of the mid-20th century, with the pictures drawn by Corydon Bell, an illustrator who was conveniently her husband. Item 19. $100.
Next we have a collection of five advertising signs for Samarkand Ice Cream. I don't know much about this brand. It was in business in California in the 1920s to at least the 1940s. It was evidently quite popular there and even had some ice cream shops shaped like a large round tub of ice cream. I assume their ice cream was good because...hey, it's ice cream. These advertising signs were created by the mother-daughter team of Wiki and Wana Derge. Those appear to actually be their names. “Wiki” was not named after one of those cooperative websites because she lived long before the internet existed. The signs were used for countertop advertising or in streetcars. Four of the five are signed by Wana Derge. Honey & Wax describes these as “striking examples of West Coast Art Deco design.” That is a close-up of one of their signs displayed on the catalogue's cover. Item 55. $750.
This is a story that didn't age well in the 1940s. The title is Ilenka, the story of Ilenka Feodorovna, a young girl growing up in the Soviet Union. It is a happy, modern, progressive place where everything is bright and shiny. But, Ilenka is not happy because “girls can be anything they want to be in Russia,” but poor Ilenka doesn't know what she wants to be. There are just too many wonderful choices. Her brothers and friends all know, but Ilenka is left to ponder. She considers being a ballet dancer, canal boat captain, tractor driver. She visits the ballet, cooperative farms, the large, modern factory where her mother works, the beautiful schools where her brothers study engineering and music. Ultimately, she decides to just be herself. Illustrator Arnold Edwin Bare's drawings re-enforce the image of everything being clean, modern, and beautiful in the U.S.S.R. Of course, this place was nothing like the real Soviet Union, and one thing girls could not be in Stalin's Russia was free. This book would get some blow-back a few years later during the Red Scare era, but in 1945 when the book was published, the Soviet Union was still America's ally in the Great War, so it is not surprising it would be portrayed so favorably. It is doubtful the author or illustrator were ever anywhere near the place. Kingman went on to have a long career as a writer and editor of children's books, only passing in 2020 at the age of 100. Item 42. $150.
Honey & Wax Booksellers may be reached at 917-974-2420 or email@example.com. Their website is www.honeyandwaxbooks.com.