Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2010 Issue

A History of Ideas from Sotheran's

Sotherans4-10

A History of Ideas from Sotheran's.


By Michael Stillman

Henry Sotheran Ltd., or Sotheran's, the venerable London bookseller, has issued a new catalogue of the History of Ideas. The catalogue is filled with antiquarian (and some not so old) books filled with great thinking, from philosophy, science, mathematics, natural history, politics, theology and the arts. A lot of brainpower went into creating these works. These are a few of them.

We will start with one of the most important books ever published in the fields of natural history and science, as it entirely changed the way we think about ourselves: The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Item 33 is one of the 1,250 copies of the first edition published in 1859. Darwin had noticed similarities, but differences, between species he found in South America and those on Pacific Islands, and concluded that this represented evolution in response to the local environment. Though he reached his momentous conclusions early on after his journey in the 1830s, he sat on his theory for almost two decades, until similar, independent conclusions reached by Alfred Russel Wallace necessitated his releasing them to the public. After publishing a preliminary journal article with Wallace the previous year, Darwin released the full details of his theory in this book, which sold out immediately. Priced at £75,000 (British pounds, or about $113,510 in U.S. dollars).

Winston Churchill proved prophetic when he published this article in 1924: Shall We Commit Suicide? Churchill was anticipating the atomic weapons that would arise just two decades later when he asked, "Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings nay, to blast a township at a stroke?" Regrettably, the answer was yes. Churchill also speaks of these bombs being guided automatically in flying machines, another regrettable development which would arise a few years later. Item 94. £750 (US $1,135).

Some great ideas are better than others. Here's one that's not so great: Warm Beer: Or a Treatise wherein is Declared by Many Reasons, that Beer so Qualified, is Far More Wholesome than that which is Drank Cold... And you thought substituting horrible tasting "healthy" versions of foods was a new phenomenon? The editor of this piece, who wisely only identified himself with the initials "F.W.," answers the objection "some will say, cold beer is very pleasant to one that is thirsty" with "I answer it is true: but pleasant things are for the most part very dangerous." F.W. goes on to rhetorically make the critical point, "How many have you known and heard of, who by drinking a cup of cold beer in extream thirst, have taken a surfeit and killed themselves?" Actually, not many, unless they went driving. Perhaps the virtue of warm beer is that no one would drink it. Item 81 is a 1724 second edition of this work first published in 1641. £2,500 (US $3,783).

Item 84 is a remarkable, if chilling photo album. It is a collection of photographs taken by Charles W. Alexander at the Nuremburg war trials. From November 1945 through October 1946, the allies conducted trials for the most egregious of crimes against humanity against various officials of the Nazi regime. Alexander's photographs include those of the courtroom, judges, prosecutors, and naturally, the defendants. The album contains a July 26, 1946 inscription from Robert Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and the chief U.S. prosecutor at the trials, to David Maxwell-Fyfe, one of the prosecutors from Britain. £9,995 (US $15,130).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. $40,000 to $60,000

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