Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2003 Issue

Horn’s and Grabhorns

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However, time would be more generous to Edwards’ judgment. By 1985, at the auction of the inventory of John Howell Books, The Santa Fe Trail would break through all estimates to fetch $1,980. A good, but not mint copy (as was Howell’s) still sold for $1,150 at a Dorothy Sloan auction in 1997. Today, if you go to the Abebooks website, you will find three copies up for sale. William Reese and Marilyn Braiterman offer copies for $2,500: Bea and Peter Siegel Books offers one for $2,750. Edwards’ advice has been vindicated.

A close second in Edwards’ estimation was the 1930 printing of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Four hundred copies were printed, and it was the Grabhorns’ most ambitious project at the time. There are few sales recorded in the AED. Only one record, an offering in a Howell catalogue from 1982, with a price of $2,500, is found. However, today you can find four copies being offered at Abebooks, for prices ranging from $1,750 to $3,750.

Of equal importance to Edwards, but even rarer, is the 1929 Grabhorn printing of John Mandeville’s Travels and Voyages. Only 150 copies of this title were printed, and I find no records in the ÆD and no copies for sale on Abebooks. But, there is a copy offered online by Kubik Fine Books of Dayton, Ohio, for $1,500. If interested, their web address is www.kubikbooks.com.

Here’s a real irony. Despite what was evidently an extensive collection of Grabhorns, Edwards was still missing a few. Four, to be exact. One was Oscar Wilde’s Salome. “I missed “Salome” today, on a long distance call to San Francisco, by only 30 minutes. Some library had purchased it.” He sadly noted how libraries were making these already scarce books (back in 1947) even rarer. Too bad Edwards didn’t have an internet connection. Two copies of Grabhorn’s Salome are for sale on Abebooks today, and at prices he would have thought reasonable even in 1947: $200 and $300.

Of course the Grabhorn Press was just one of many such quality printers. I must admit I never understood the appeal of this type of book. I could understand purchasing a very old and delicate book with a history behind it with no intention of inflicting the handling necessary to read it. I couldn’t understand the concept of printing a book that, from the start, was not meant to be read. I remember late night television hucksters selling “great books,” classics rapped in what were described as fine bindings, and thinking that the people these classics were targeted to would never read the books. I laughed at the absurdity of this concept. Now I know. Edwards would have called me “ridiculous, asinine, and an imbecile.” And while, of course, he would be right, I still think books are meant for reading. Call me old-fashioned.

Rare Book Monthly

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