Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2008 Issue

Objects of Obscure Desire from ReadInk

The first catalogue from ReadInk of Los Angeles.


By Michael Stillman

We don't often receive a Catalog Number 1, but here is the first from Los Angeles bookseller ReadInk. ReadInk has been in business for over a decade, and proprietor Howard Prouty says that this catalogue has been a dream for a long time. He notes that number 2 is already being planned, but for now we will focus on number one. The title is Objects of Obscure Desire, which describes the catalogue well while itself being obscure. What is in here?

These are mostly works of popular culture. Some might think that appellation dismissive, but it is nothing of the sort. These are the books regular people were reading and consulting, maybe you, more likely your parents or grandparents. The concentration is in works published during the second quarter of the 20th century, although the third quarter is well represented too. These books are fascinating looks at American culture, from the depths of the Depression to the optimistic post-war years.

ReadInk has broken the catalogue into many subjects. Among them are mystery, movies, various types of fiction, African Americana, New York, the West, newspapers, working during the Depression, boxing, and the WPA American Guides. Here are a few samples of the fun that is in store.

James J. Braddock (the "J" incongruously stood for "Walter") was one of those forgotten Pre-Joe Louis 1930s heavyweight champions. He was one of five in a row to win the championship, only to lose it in his first title defense. Braddock can be forgiven because his loss came to Louis, who would hold the title for over a decade. Braddock was reintroduced to celebrity status in 2005 through the film biography of his career, Cinderella Man, with Russell Crowe playing Braddock. The reason for a film about Braddock was his remarkable comeback. After a fast start during the 1920s, injuries to his hand sent the fighter into a tailspin. Over the next few years he lost twice as many fights as he won, and spent much of the time working on the docks to make a living. He then managed something of a comeback, but was still a 10-1 underdog when he stepped into the ring with champion Max Baer in 1935. The journeyman was expected to be an easy target for the champion, but Braddock kept coming at Baer until he won the decision. It is still one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. Offered is a copy of Relief to Royalty: The Story of James J. Braddock, World's Heavyweight Champion, by Lud (pseudonym for Ludwig Shabazian). Published in 1936, this biography, like the movie, only takes us through Braddock's fight with Baer. He did not fight again until 1937, when he lost his title defense to Louis. He fought only once more before retiring. Priced at $1,200.

Here is one of those works of fiction that is too close to truth for comfort: The Rat Factory, by J.M. Ryan, published in 1971. It is a satirical story about an egomaniac cartoon creator who bears a certain resemblance to one Walt Disney. Among his characters are Ricky Rat, Dizzy Duck, Dirty Dog, and Halfwit Hog. Are all cartoon animals alliterate? $100.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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