"Rotating" First Editions from Between The Covers Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
The most recent offering from Between The Covers Rare Books is A Selection of Books from the Collection of Paul Keller. The late Paul Keller was a Florida collector who specialized in literary firsts. That is most of what is found in this catalogue -- literary first editions from the twentieth century. Offered are over 200 interesting to highly important first editions. Keller was also a stickler for quality, so these copies are generally in exceptionally good condition.
While we are great fans of the printed catalogue, Between The Covers offers an amazing tool on their website which is available for the books in the Keller collection. It is a rotating look at the books. You can either sit back and watch the books spinning around, which enables you to see front, back, spine and fore edge, or use your mouse to manipulate the rotation. You can flip the book upside down or look at the top and bottom edges if you wish. The link to the website appears at the bottom of this article. Now, here are a few of the items being offered in the catalogue.
What better place to start than with item number one, which may be the greatest of all American novels? This one is Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Offered is an exceptionally good copy of the first issue of the first American edition (following the British first), published in 1885. This book makes great reading, but buy another copy to read and place this one delicately on your shelf. Priced at $17,500.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, item 41 is Charles Duff's A Handbook on Hanging: Being a short Introduction to the fine art of Execution, and containing much useful information on Neck-Breaking, Throttling, Strangling, Asphyxiation, Decapitation and Electrocution;... All Very Proper to be Read and Kept in Every Family. One suspects this is a tongue-in-cheek book, at least one hopes so. This book is evidently a tome against capital punishment, but written as if Duff was an overzealous supporter. However, he does find room to mention botched attempts at executing people, and cases where innocents were put to death. Though this book was published in 1929, its subject remains as contentious and controversial an issue as it was then. This is the first American edition, following the 1927 British first. $500.
Item 72 is not typical of most books in this catalogue, but is quite collectible nonetheless. It is a signed early reprint of Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy's account of the actions of several courageous individuals. This copy is inscribed by JFK to "Cal and Anne," likely book owner Caleria Schwartz, whom we are not able to otherwise identify. The book was published in 1956, when the future president was a senator from Massachusetts. $4,500.