Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2009 Issue

Items for the Boston Book Fair from Kevin F. Kelly, Bookseller

For the Boston fair from Kevin F. Kelly, Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

Kevin F. Kelly, Bookseller, printed a catalogue especially for the recent Boston Antiquarian Book Fair. This is a varied collection, impossible for this reviewer to categorize. There are a number of seafaring books, editions of Aesop's Fables, some manuscript documents concerning rations for Revolutionary War soldiers, items related to early U.S Presidents, some modern literature, a collection of Swiss watch hairsprings... See what I mean? How do you categorize this other than to say if you collect anything, you may find it among the works offered by this New York City bookseller. So, we will take a look at a few of the offerings with the understanding that it is representative only of the quality of the material available, not the subject matter.

Item 33 is the scarce, lesser-known pamphlet concerning one of the most horrendous ship disasters ever recorded. The title is An account of the loss of the Essex, from having been struck by a whale in the South Seas with some interesting particulars of the sufferings of her crew on a desert island and in the boats at sea. The Essex set sail from Nantucket in 1819, but nearly a year later, in the South Pacific whaling grounds, she was sunk by a gigantic, angry sperm whale. Chalk it up to revenge. Thousands of miles from significant civilization, the crew climbed into their three, inadequately supplied small boats. They managed to make their way to uninhabited Henderson Island, more or less in the vicinity of the Bounty mutineers' Pitcairn Island, a month later. For a week, they consumed available plants and animals and drank from a small fresh water source. However, with the island unable to sustain them much longer, 18 of the men set out to sea again, while three remained on Henderson. Their story is one of unimaginable suffering - starvation, madness, and finally, cannibalism, one group drawing lots to determine who would be food for the others. There is a more extensive, better-known account of this horror told by one of the survivors who set off from Henderson, Owen Chase. This shorter account, published in 1824, came from Thomas Chappel, one of the three who remained behind on Henderson. They, too, suffered near starvation, but were saved after the other survivors told their rescuers of their location. This incident became the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Priced at $1,950.

Item 21 is another book that likely inspired Melville. It is Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with notes of a Sojourn on the island of Zanzibar, by J. Ross Browne. This is one of the best accounts of American whaling in the Pacific in the 1840s. It was reviewed in Literary World in the year following publication (1846) by Melville, whose whaling story, Moby Dick, was published in 1850. $1,250.

Item 45 pertains to a very different sort of nautical mission. It is an 1812 privateer's commission, signed by both President James Madison and the future President, Secretary of State James Monroe. The commission authorizes the armed, private schooner Rosie, operated by 35 men, "...to subdue, seize and take any armed or unarmed British vessel, public or private..." This was in effect legalized piracy, but the United States, having a weak navy to defend itself during the War of 1812, was forced to resort to this incentive-based nautical behavior to counteract superior British naval strength. $4,250.

Item 62 memorializes a very sad day in early U.S. history. The December 26, 1799, issue of Providence, Rhode Island's, United States Chronicle pronounces, "Washington is no more!" Washington had died on December 15, but in pre-electronic communications days, news traveled slowly. It includes an account of Washington's last hours from his private secretary, and tributes from President Adams and members of Congress. The paper is bordered in black. $6,000.

Item 69 is a very odd work: The Aeropleustic Art, or Navigation by the Use of Kites, or Bouyant Sails. George Pocock, the author of this 1827 treatise, believed kites could be used as auxiliary sales for ships. More interesting was his "Char-volant," a carriage powered by a kite. According to Pocock, it could run at 20 miles an hour, a speed so great it "could almost prevent breathing," except, of course, his pre-car traveled with the wind, so it felt calm. One can only guess what happened if one wanted to travel in the other direction. Perhaps this explains why it never caught on. Nevertheless, in an era of fuel shortages it sounds like a good idea, once a few adjustments are made. $7,500.

Kevin F. Kelly, Bookseller, may be reached at 646-895-9858 or books@kevinkellybookseller.com. The website is www.kevinkellybookseller.com.

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
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000

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