Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2006 Issue

Literary Firsts and Poetry from Alexander Rare Books

Alex10

Literary Firsts and Poetry for the fall.


By Michael Stillman

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a fortune, is in need of a wife." No. He is in need of some books. That's why we, and Alexander Rare Books, are here. Alexander's latest catalogue, Number 10 of Literary Firsts and Poetry, quotes the first lines of several of the works they offer. I will admit to not being as familiar with fields such as 20th century poetry to identify most of these, but even I was able to match this one up with Jane Austen. Perhaps that is because she, like I, have been around quite awhile. Of course, she is with us no more, but to quote Mark Twain, "Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone." Fortunately, most of the books in this catalogue were published after Twain's own lifetime, so he cannot offer literary criticism. You will need to look through this catalogue and provide your own. Here are a few of the books you will find.

The aforementioned Pride and Prejudice is here, and the chance to obtain an affordable first edition painfully leads us to another Twain quote: "Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book." Twain would be horrified by the amount people pay today to maim their good libraries with Austen's work. We have seen copies of this book go for tens of thousands of dollars at auction. This three-volume 1813 first edition does have some pages in facsimile, which makes it available for the much less daunting $7,000. Even Twain would have appreciated a bargain like that! Well, maybe not.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." Can you identify this one? I will not answer whether I could connect that familiar line with its source, but for those uncertain, the answer is Endymion by John Keats. Keats lived at the same time as Austen, but as best we can tell, never offended the sensibilities of Twain. His epic Greek poem, Endymion: A Poetic Romance, was published in 1818. This was just the second book by the 22-year-old poet, and while certain political connections led to some unfavorable reviews, this work sealed his reputation as a major writer. That was fortunate, as Keats did not have a lot of time. Shortly after the poem was published, Keats began showing symptoms of tuberculosis, which had stricken others in his family. He managed just one more work containing his well-known odes before dying at the age of 25. Item 60 is a first edition of Endymion, priced at $5,500.

Item 27 is the rather obscure second book by E.L. Doctorow, Big As Life. It would not be until his third book, "The Book of Daniel" in 1971, that Doctorow would begin to receive acclaim. Big As Life is something of a science fiction tale, set in New York. Evidently, Doctorow did not care that much for his second novel. You will have to buy this first and collectible edition if you wish to read it, for Doctorow has not allowed it to be republished since. It is, naturally, his scarcest book. $375.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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