William Golding books inspiring light.
“At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing.” writes William Golding in his novel of The Spire. A book which deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire and is loosely based on Salisbury Cathedral. Indeed visitors to the tallest tower in Britain have carefully trod in semi- darkness. That is until a volunteer guide, Robert Stiby, paid with his own money to have new lights installed inside the ancient scaffolding of the tower. Visitors are now able to marvel at the medieval structures. What has this story to do with book collecting you might wonder? As a bibliophile it is a reminder of the endurance and interest of classic authors.
William Golding (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993)
Golding remains a recognised novelist, playwright and poet being ranked third on The Times list of “The Greatest Writer since 1945”. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983 for his most famous work, The Lord of the Flies. Golding wrote many fine novels yet it is this book which he is most remembered for.
Fine copies of the classic, The Lord of The Flies, remains attractive to collectors of modern first editions. Indeed it could be argued that “A collection of modern fiction would never be complete without it” (Connolly, 136). As always the main factors affecting the appeal of a first edition book is the condition and the dust jacket.
The first UK edition of The Lord of The Flies published by Faber & Faber in 1954. It features the iconic jungle artwork on the dust wrapper. The children trapped on the island blend into the wild, jungle environment around them.
The US edition was published a year later in 1955. It was not popular and sold around 2,383 copies before quickly going out of print. This makes it a rare find. The dust jacket of this edition has a more dense foliage and darker colouring than the British publication.
When writing The Lord of the Flies Golding sought to “…illuminate the human condition in the world of today”. Almost as an echo to the past Canon Edward Probert, chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral commented on the new spire lighting. He states that, “…what was once clothed in darkness is now illuminated…”
To see more modern first editions and copies of William Golding books go here.
Rare and Antique Books have recently acquired four signed Kinglesy Amis books from the Dr Philip Murray Collection. It is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the obsession of book collecting, or biblomania. Murray gamely recognises that it “is the only form of collecting other than kleptomania that has a medical name attached to it”. He is clearly qualified to make the statement because as well as being one of Ireland’s leading book collectors, he is also a doctor.
Murray’s interest in books started at a young age in his home of Tipperary, Ireland. He collected the Dandy and Beano comics. His interests quickly led onto more literary works as he ventured in the many bookshops of his university city of Dublin. His passion for book collecting continued during his time abroad. Murray sought specialist catalogues, literary festivals and many, many second hand bookshops in his travels. Much of his joy was also in the befriending of authors along the way.
Murray amassed an impressively rare collection of twentieth century literary fiction and poetry. Over many years he built up an extensive range of books by some of Ireland’s most significant poets and novelists. Also including the best of British, American (North and South) and European authors. Names such as C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Beckett, O’Flaherty, J.B. Keane, McGahern, Kingsley Amis, Arthur Miller and many more litter his book collection. Murray’s quiet determination in sending first edition books with self addressed envelopes to authors enabled him to gather an enviable collection. A case in point is the ‘The Whoseday Book’ which contains the signatures of all but twelve of its over 360 contributors. Authors were inclined to add personal dedications which add to the charm and value of his collection. Seamus Heaney even submitted an original poem for his copy.
Murray has recently sold much of his compilation to relieve his family of disposing of such an enormous and significant collection. Around 2,200 books were handled by Dublin Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers in July 2016. These included Literature prize winners, Seamus Heaney, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Patrick White, attracting world wide interest and high prices.
Dr Murray describes the excitement of his “obsession” in his book, “Adventures of a Book Collector” ( Currach Press, 2011). Many a bibliophile may well relate the the joy of finding a gem of a book. The thrill of the chase is one feeling that many a book collector will recognise, even if the finding is now often in online purchases rather than in dusty corners of a book shop. The comradeship of discussing the merits and pleasures of a special book is a special experience. Murray explains it beautifully. “When I started collecting books, I wasn’t to know that it would turn into a lifetime pursuit and would give me such pleasure in both reading some great books and making many valued friendships”. Holding a book that Murray gathered for his collection allows a moment of reflection on the joys of this crazy obsession, Bibiliomania!
To see more books of Dr Philip Murray’s collection go here
Looking after your book collection
When it comes to rare and antique books condition is crucial so it’s important to look after a book collection carefully. Here are a few tips in how to preserve your treasured books:
Keep your books upright on a shelf – unless they are large folio sized and then it’s best to lie them flat. Be careful not to lean books which may warp them so use other books or book ends to support the books – but not too jammed together! Take care when removing books from the shelf so the spine is not pulled away first. This is especially true if the books are a little fragile to start with.
Check that the temperature of the room is constant – any extremes of hot or cold, wet or dry may cause problems with mould from fungi, drying out of fine leathers or bleaching from sunlight. Hot radiators or damp corners are obviously to be well avoided as is a “sunny spot”! The ideal temperature of the room should be within the range of 16 to 19 degrees centigrade and humidity within 45 – 60%. Preferably both temperature and humidity needs to be constant and not variable. Measuring the temperature and humidty can be done with thermometer of a portable electric thermohygrometre or hygrometre if needed.
All books should be handled and stored with care, in order to preserve their good condition or to prevent existing damage becoming even worse. Remember that modern first edition books printed from the mid-19th century onwards are often printed on mechanical ground wood pulp paper, which often has a high acidic content and can quickly become discoloured and brittle if not kept in the right conditions. A specialized clear jacket cover can be helpful to protect valuable dust jackets and avoid finger marks. Caution is required when eating and drinking around fine books! A note too about keeping books together – don’t use elastic bands to hold groups of similar books as these will dry out and become brittle – much safer to use a cotton tape. Needless to say sellotape and rare books do not go together!
Books that are left on shelves for a long period will collect dust and this could encourage the growth of mould. Cleaning a dusty book is best done by carefully brushing a closed book’s pages with a soft dry paintbrush – brushed away from the book shelf to clear the dust away. As well as dust collection silverfish or bookworms may infiltrate a fine book collection. These can be identified by the traces of larvae droppings called Frass which is usually found under the spines of books.
There is a large difference between light dusting to clean a book and repairing a broken hinge or page tear! If your book has a problem with it carefully think before embarking on a restoration project – is the value of the book worth less than the restoring bill? If so then it’s probably not a great idea unless the book has sentimental value. It’s worth remembering that restoring a cover is not to make the book look new again, but to make it look good for its age.
Repair jobs are tempting – how difficult can it be to simply glue back loose pages! But of course, badly repaired bindings, hinges or covers will devalue a first edition or rare book. Seek a reputable restorer and they may well be able to treat additional damage, spotted or stained material to reduce further erosion from dirt and oils. Leather covers can have restored color and luster. Cloth covers can be cleaned with water-less methods and in some cases cloth can be recolored. However do check that any washing will not shrink dust jackets. Bindings can be repaired by sanding down boards, gluing spines and attaching free pages to the cover before a final finishing of the cover – all not to be done lightly so a job for a skilled professional.
Remember the condition of books is crucial so a first edition book with no damage is more valuable than a copy with missing pages and weak bindings- or even worse a badly repaired edition!
The unique Jean de Brunhoff
One of the most beloved characters in children’s literature is Babar the Elephant. Created from bedtime stories that his wife used to soothe an ill son, Jean de Brunhoff went on to write and illustrate six books which have delighted children since their publication in the 1930s. Brunhoff managed to convey important life events in a way that was meaningful to children and often reflected the personal life and philosophy of the creator. In Three Centuries of Children’s Books in Europe, Bettina Hurlimann commented that the author’s life is “inseparable from his books” and several critics believe that Babar is Brunhoff’s characterization of himself. It is possible to see images of his own life in his work and to imagine the inspirations that generated these final images:
Early life: Brunhoff was the last and fourth child of Maurice de Brunhoff, a publisher, and Marguerite Brunhoff. He was born on December 9th, 1899 in Paris, France.
Training: Deciding to become a professional artist, Brunhoff studied painting with Othon Friesz at the Acadamie de la Grand Chamiere in Montparnasse. He created portraits, landscapes, and still life drawings that are reflected in his Babar books.
Family: In 1924, Brunhoff married Cecile Sabourand, a talented pianist from a Catholic family. The couple had three sons: Laurent, born in 1925, Mathieu, born in 1926, and Thierry, born in 1934.
Illness: Diagnosed with tuberculosis at a tragically early age, Brunhoff was forced to move into a sanitarium in Switzerland to treat his increasingly poor health. Unable to return home, he rearranged the nature of his Babar stories, making Babar becoming a father himself. He adapted the stories to allow him to offer paternal advice for his own sons. Brunhoff died on October 16, 1937, at the young age of 38.
Jean de Brunhoff’s images portray a wide range of life experiences in a sensitive way that was quite rare and novel in it’s time. His work was well received by critics and remains iconic today. Maurice Sendak, who wrote an introduction to a 60th Anniversary Album of Babar, famously comments, “Babar is at the very heart of my conception of what turns a picture book into a work of art.… Beneath the pure fun, the originality of style, and the vivacity of imagination is a serious and touching theme: a father writing to his sons and voicing his natural concern for their welfare, for their lives … Jean’s bequest to his family, and the world, shines from the books.” It is no wonder that first editions of Jean de Brunhoff’s work are so treasured and valued.
To see more first edition illustrations and writings of Jean de Brunhoff click here
Kipling’s Original Jungle Book
The release of a new film about The Jungle Book has generated a good deal of interest in Rudyard Kipling’s tales of the jungle and allows an opportunity to reflect on the original story and influences behind this classic tale.
It seems as if becoming a father inspired Kipling to write for children as he began writing the Jungle Book when he was expecting his first child. After living in Pakistan and London he was settling down to domestic bliss in Vermont with his new wife. Kipling dedicated the book to his baby daughter Josephine in 1894 who was, by then, just one year old. Five years later, both she and her father came down with pneumonia and tragically Josephine succumbed to the illness. A rare proof edition which was dedicated to his daughter was found in a collection of Kipling’s works that belonged to his second daughter, Elsie. She lived at Wimpole Hall from 1938 to 1976 and the book is now on display in Cambridgeshire there. Kipling’s loss was only heightened when he lost his son, John, in the first World War. The deaths left Kipling brokenhearted and he wrote in 1920 that “the pain gets acuter when peace comes because one thinks what might have been”. According to Kipling’s surviving daughter, Elsie, Kipling used to recite from the Jungle Books with the lights out in a semi-darkened room.
The Jungle Book stories was purely sourced out of Kipling’s imagination and his talents as an acute observer and story teller of life may have been honed in his apprenticeship as a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan. He admitted to one colleague that he called upon nearly everything he had “heard or dreamed about the Indian Jungle” to write the stories. Certainly Kipling had never visited the jungle area in India and appears to have been inspired by photographs and stories of his friends who had been there. He may have been similarly influenced by the writings of Sterndale’s 1877 book, Seonee: Or, Camp Life on the Satpura Range and Robert Armitage Sterndale, Mammalia of India.
The iconic images which contributed to the success of the stories were taken from his father, John Lockwood. He was an illustrator, museum curator and art teacher and spent years in India. Rudyard Kipling was born and spent some of his early childhood in Lahore. His father had observed and drawn images of Indian jungle life in his book, Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People, which was published in 1891. He went on to contribute images to The Jungle Book and to Kipling’s later publication of Kim.
Kipling used more than just his imagination for the story plots as the books hints at Kipling’s philosophy of life and influences of the political and social setting of the time. The Jungle Book has a thread of “the Law of the Jungle” running through it which parallels the state of the British Empire and the politics in his day.
The new 3D animation film by Jon Favreaux will attract new audiences and the ownership of a first edition copy of The Jungle Book might make a marvelous gift for those who enjoy the film. Looking at a first edition of The Jungle Book is rare reminder of the remarkable ability of Kipling to write a book that still hold attraction for an audience 122 years since it was first published.
To see more publications of Rudyard Kipling go here
What makes a rare book?
Just because it’s old doesn’t mean that it’s rare!
In general books printed in the hand press era (from the 1450’s invention of the printing press to until the mechanism of printing in the early 19th Century) are recognised as rare. Yet many books printed in the 19th century can be classed as rare due to the poorer quality of paper and so may be more fragile than older books. Eighteenth century editions of the Bible survive in such numbers that few are considered valuable or rare.
Is the old book important in some way?
Authors that made a significant contribution to science, history or influencing society in some way are the kind of books that are collectable and therefore often valuable. A first edition book by Charles Darwin, for instance, will fetch thousands of pounds. Also any special bindings, an early use of a new printing process, or an autograph, inscription, or marginal notes from a famous person can contribute to a book’s importance and its value. For example, H. G. Wells is remembered for his science fiction novels, and is recognised as the father of science fiction being nominated for The Nobel Prize for Literature for four years. His works of “The Time Machine” (1895) and “The War of the Worlds” (1898) would clearly be of far greater value than a more recent science fiction novelist.
How about the condition of the book?
Condition is often everything! A damaged or incomplete book will significantly affect the value and desirability of a book. Badly repaired books will also negatively influence the price of a book. The condition of any dust jacket is also a factor to consider. There is a wider spread view in the trade that dust jackets that have been repaired, even if professionally to a high standard, are not a sought after as those left in their original state. A multi-volume set of books which are all in pristine condition can have considerable value if the set is complete. First edition children’s books are often more rare to find in a good condition because they aren’t the best library archivists! Coloured in and torn pages plus discarded dust jackets are common. This is why, for example, good quality first edition of many Dr Seuss books frequently sell for considerable sums.
What about the history of the book?
The story of where a book came from and who might have owned the book is called provenance in the trade. Having an interesting provenance can add considerable value to a book and it’s rarity. Without any doubt the most highly valued form of provenance is that which shows an association copy or a link between an important owner of a book and its author. This is often with an inscription or a presentation. An inscribed copy usually carries the author’s signature along with the recipient’s name, while a presentation copy is given by the author to the recipient. A personal inscription by the author to a significant person would make the book more appealing to a collector. For example, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” that was personally signed and dedicated to none other than Alice Liddell, the real-life child on whom Carroll’s fictional Alice was based, fetched £15,400 at auction back in 1928. One can only guess it’s value now! Signed or limited editions of a book can add considerable value to a book.
And how many rare books are out there?
A book can be rare because there were very few copies printed or it was printed for private circulation only. First editions tend to be considered “rare” as publishers might cautiously publish only the number of books they think will sell. This is especially true for first time authors where the demands of the public are not certain. These first editions, especially if printed in small numbers, are particularly prized by book collectors. For Ian Fleming’s first Bond book Casino Royale, only 3000 of the first edition, first impression, first state (without the Sunday Times mention) were printed. Many went straight into the library system so their jackets were discarded, making complete copies very rare, highly sought after and very valuable. Even in recent times, the first hardback edition of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone’, was a run of only 500 copies printed. A copy sold at Southerby’s in 2015 for £25,000.
Does anyone want it?
This is the million dollar question! The desirability of a book is crucial and is anyone prepared to pay good money for it? Owning an first edition book in pristine condition of an unknown author might not be a book of great value to others – even if it is to you! Collecting books is a often done for very personal reasons. These can be quite varied such as collecting your childhood favourite author, or extending a special interest hobby or even to fill a shelf to show off!
Ultimately, though, the value of a book as a collectable item, is directly related to the book’s relative scarcity and its condition. It is basic supply and demand. When many collectors seek the same book and only a few copies are available, that book value increases. Yet what makes a rare book is a fine mix of numbers, importance, condition and provenance to make it truly rare and valuable.
For more books go to our authors list
The First Treasure Island Illustrations
The thought of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island conjures up images of pirates and buccaneers of the sea. You would imagine that illustrations would be an essential addition to entertain readers of the book. In fact, the first publication of the story of Treasure Island contained only one illustration. This was in a seventeen weekly installment in the magazine, The Young Folks, from October 1881 to January 1882. Stevenson was a little known author then but he was keen to see the story in a book format. He approached several publishers with his draft. Cassell and Company of London realised it’s potential and published the first book version of Treasure Island in 1883, but without illustration!
The first illustrated version was said to be an American publisher, Roberts Brothers of Boston, who released the book in February 1884 with four illustrations by the artist F. T. Merrill. The print run was only 1,000 copies. Apparently Stevenson was not impressed by the drawings and describing them as “disgusting” to the American publisher, Charles Scribner, and for a later illustrated version encouraged the publisher to use the images of the later Cassell & Co edition.
The Cassell & Company employed a French artist, Georges Roux (1850-1929), who also illustrated Jules Verne, for this first English illustrated version. This was published in August 1885. There is some doubt about the authenticity of some of the illustrations and apparently two or three of Merrill’s pictures are reproduced, plus one unidentified picture opposite page 260 in this publication.
Stevenson wrote to his father just before the release of the first English illustrated edition saying, “An illustrated Treasure Island will be out next month. I have had an early copy, and the French pictures are admirable. The artist has got his types up in Hogarth; he is full of fire and spirit, can draw and can compose, and has understood the book as I meant it, all but one or two little accidents, such as making the Hispaniola a brig. I would send you my copy, but I cannot; it is my new toy, and I cannot divorce myself from this enjoyment.”
The importance of illustration for commercial purposes and reader delight was recognized in R. L. Stevenson’s time as much as it is today. The illustrations of Treasure Island have been reworked many times including the famous 1930 illustrations of N.C. Wyeth’s and Walt Disney’s iconic images. The writings and illustrations ensure the book remains a favourite read today although more than one illustration is demanded today!
For more early publications of Robert Louis Stevenson see here
Ref: Robert Louis Stevenson, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 5: 145: Swearingen, Roger G. The prose writings of Robert Louis Stevenson. London, 1980.
Harper Lee’s First Editions of To Kill A Mocking Bird
The recent death of Harper Lee on February 19th brings the classic American novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, to attention. The novel handles issues of race and bigotry in the American South and remains on school reading list to this day. Collecting a first edition of the book is becoming increasing popular and the value increasing.
Harper Lee took two and a half years to write the book and on it’s publication the editorial team warned her that it might be a slow seller. Initially only 5,000 copies were printed on July 11th 1960 and cautiously distributed mainly to libraries. However it’s impact was immediate and fourteen re-printings were made in the first year. The book was selected for three American book clubs and, after being on the best seller list for a hundred weeks, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Since then it has never been out of print and has been distributed in over forty languages.
The iconic status of the book makes it a very desirable collectors item. However, identifying a first edition To Kill A Mocking Bird needs some caution and there are a few key markers to look for. The first US Edition, published in 1960 by J.B. Lippincott Company has a hard cover first edition is brown with a green spine. The dust jacket was printed in four colours, black, white, green, and brown, with a picture of Harper Lee. On the bottom right corner of the photo, is Truman Capote’s name as the photographer. The price of $3.95 is on the bottom of the inside flap of the dust jacket. A main feature of a first edition is the inclusion of “First Edition” on the copyright page.
The first British edition was published in 1960 by Heinemann as a Book Society Choice novel and has a unique illustration of Attitcus Finch on the cover. A photograph of Harper Lee is on the rear cover.
Harper Lee was a reluctant signer of her books and so signed copies are rare and keenly sought after. Her signature is easy to forge and so additional caution needs to be taken when these are on offer. It may be wise to seek specialist assistance in identifying her authentic signature.
Rare and Antique books has a first UK edition of the Book Society Choice publication of 1960. Take a look here.
Alice in Wonderland is traditionally thought of as a children’s book (although many adults secretly read it!). Yet it’s original appeal was not to the younger aged child. Maybe Lewis Carroll thought to amend this after seeing the 1874 Dutch simplified copy of Alice in Wonderland. He subsequently wrote to his publisher, Macmillan to suggest a coloured, large print and reduced version of the book. He commented that he wished it to be “read, to be cooed over, to be dogs’ eared, to be rumpled, to be kissed,” by children from nought to five. He re-wrote the story in a child friendly format as if it was being read aloud, almost as a fairy story. It begins with “Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Alice, and she had a very curious dream.” His clever use of questions endeared children to the book. For example, “Which would you have liked the best, do you think, to be a little tiny Alice, no larger than a kitten, or a great tall Alice, with your head always knocking against the ceiling?” He also appealed to children by including a reference to a puppy called Dash – a sure winner for attracting children.
However, much of the success of the story must be also be given to the use of the popular and original illustrations by John Tenniel. The copyright expired in 1907 yet Tenniel approved the use of twenty of his images for this children’s book.
The first editions did not escape Carroll’s precise attention to detail. He rejected the entire original 10,000 sets of sheets printed by Edmund Evans claiming that the pictures were “far too bright and gaudy”. The sheets were therefore reprinted and the casings were used in subsequent editions. Twelve copies were specially bound up with un-priced titles as advertisements to the American market. Another 4,000 of these rejected sheets were sent to America with an added tipped in folded preliminary leaf dated 1890. The 6,000 remaining sheets were made up with un-priced titles as the 3rd People’s Edition. The final sets of sheets were published as a fourth issue in 1897 with an amended cheaper price label . In addition, a specially bound set of fourteen presentation editions were published in 1889.
Interestingly the Tenniel illustrations were also amended in the second editions of the Nursery Alice. The profile of Alice’s face looking at the Cheshire Cat are quite different in this second 1890 publication.
Of course, Alice in Wonderland has never been out of print and there are over one hundred English versions of this classic book. Yet the first editions of the Nursery versions are quite special – and you might even catch some adults reading them!
To see our editions of the Nursery Alice in Wonderland as well as other books by Lewis Carroll click here