Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

The Strange and the Serious from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

More of the odd from Garret Scott, Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

Recently arrived is Catalogue Twenty-Four from Garrett Scott, Bookseller. Scott's catalogues are always among the most unusual and entertaining you will find. They are filled with strange writings from strange people, mad scientists, medical quacks, bad poets and the like. That is not to say all of his titles are weird. There are serious and intelligent writings here as well. It's just that there is something magnetic about the works of people whose minds are a train wreck. Here are some of each from Scott's latest catalogue.

Here is a Shakespearean item most Shakespeare collectors do not own. Whether the story is true remains unknown, though I will admit to having my doubts. The item is How Shakespeare's Skull was Stolen and Found. By a Warwickshire Man, published in 1884. According to the unknown author, around 1794, Horace Walpole, over drinks one night, announced he would pay a handsome sum to anyone who would bring him Shakespeare's skull. Supposedly, a group of men took up the challenge some time later, broke into his grave, removed the skull, covered up the break-in so it would not be noticed, and brought the skull to Walpole. An evidently more sober Walpole refused to pay for it, whereupon the skull ended up being dumped in a churchyard. Some 50 years later, the anonymous "Warwickshire Man," examining Walpole's papers, deciphered the story and the skull's whereabouts, retrieved it and returned it to its grave. Then, he kept silent for another 35 years before finally revealing the story in this book. Alas poor Shakespeare, I knew him. Item 100. Priced at $50.

Item 23 is a book of poems, Songs from the St. Lawrence, by the prolific poet Marion Albina Bigelow. Scott notes she seemed to specialize in "lingering disease and childhood mortality." So we have poems such as Children Disinterred, inspired by witnessing the bodies of four dead children disinterred so they could be buried next to their mother. Then there is the e'er popular Two Smothered Children, with stanzas such as:

"Nay, their death was strangely fearful!
No fond parent closed their eyes,
And no voice of pity answer’d
To their feebly moaning cries!"

For $100, you can have a whole book full of these to recite to your dearest.

Item 112 is The Diary of a Bird Freely Translated into Human Language, by Henry Davis Minot. This is a first-person (first-bird?) account of the life of a warbler, who has a message of conservation to tell his human friends. This 1880 work may sound like another of the loony titles in Scott's catalogue, but this is a legitimate book by a serious ornithologist. Minot may be better known as co-author of the first book (pamphlet) written by his Harvard buddy, Theodore Roosevelt, The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, N.Y. Minot chose to devote the rest of his life to the study of birds, while Roosevelt went on to do other things. $125.

Here is a book whose point is very different from what you would expect based on the lead in. States the writer, "...in free and enlightened Governments, where every man participates in public affairs, where the road to preferment is open to all; where merit, and not birth, confers distinction; where enterprise and industry insure a just reward; where none but salutary restraints are imposed, and consequently where the whole energies of a people are kept in constant requisition, it is not surprising that the mental faculties are often deranged." I was really expecting them to say that in an idyllic society such as this, people are happy, prosperous or something nice, not mentally deranged. Evidently we would be healthier mentally in an unfree, unenlightened society where the road to success is closed to all not born of wealth and privilege. This quote comes from the Third Annual Report of the Directors of the Ohio Lunatic Asylum, December 13, 1837, and one wonders who was running the lunatic asylum, the officers or the inmates. Item 121. $75.

Item 148 is the erudite-sounding title The Logic of History: A Study in Astral Mathematics by Jas. S. Taylor, published in 1960. Taylor had much experience from which to speak at the time, being a man 89 years of age. His thesis was historic occurrences were determined by events taking place on Neptune. He was then able to demonstrate the obvious connections. So, the 164.8 years period of Neptune's orbit coincides perfectly with the time between the American Militia Act of 1792 and the deployment of federal troops to enforce integration in Little Rock in 1957. And, the "punctum of opposition," 82 years, 4 months and 3 days, is the time that separates the Provisional Treaty of Paris in 1782 and Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Mere coincidence? I think not. If Lee had had access to this book, he would have known it was useless to resist. Defeat was in the stars, or Neptune. $75.

Garrett Scott, Bookseller may be reached at 734-741-8605 or garrett@bibliophagist.com. His website is www.GSBbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

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