Works Antiquarian and Modern from Blackwell's Rare Books
Antiquarian and modern books from Blackwell's.
Blackwell's Rare Books has issued a selection of material Antiquarian & Modern Catalogue B171. The rare book store is located within Blackwell's large store for new books in Oxford, England, opposite the Bodleian Library. The catalogue is divided into two distinct sections: Antiquarian Books, and Modern First Editions. For this review, we will focus on the antiquarian material, as these items tend to need a bit more explanation, but those who collect modern firsts should know that there are 136 titles offered in this category. Here, now, are some of the older books and related material available in this latest Blackwell's catalogue.
We will start with what must be the least expected item to appear in this catalogue, and one that will be of more interest to American readers than British. Those in the latter category can skip through to the remaining pieces. Item 160 is a letter from George Washington, written after the conclusion of the Revolution, but before he returned to public service as President. It is dated August 10, 1784, and while the letter's existence was known based on letters from its recipient (longtime Washington friend Rev. William Gordon), this letter itself had been “lost.” In it, Washington speaks of personal matters, in particular, his property in the west, where he had large, but mostly unused land. Writes Washington, “I am now indeed repairing my pack saddles, and preparing for a journey to the Western Country, where it is necessary for me to pay some attention to the property I hold in it.” Washington owned 20,000 acres in the west, but had a problem with squatters, who would build homes on his unused land. Washington undertook a 680-mile round-trip journey the following month, and began litigation that would successfully force the squatters off his land. However, he was not able to visit some of his more outlying land on this journey as some of the Indians out there were not in a very good mood. The letter contains Washington's familiar signature. Priced at £14,000 (British pounds, or roughly $21,826 U.S. dollars).
Now we will return to England, and a tawdry affair that would have shocked Americans, at least those as upstanding as General Washington. Item 47 is Genuine Copies of all the Love Letters and Cards which passed between an Illustrious Personage and a Noble Lady, during the course of a Late Amour. This is a polite way of saying the publisher was printing the private, amorous correspondence between Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, younger brother of King George III (maybe Washington would have expected as much from the brother of such a scoundrel), and Lady Grosvenor, the “noble lady” who was very much married to Lord Grosvenor at the time. While Lady Grosvenor was obviously amused by the Duke, Lord Grosvenor was not. He sued the Duke for criminal conversion (adultery) and won a judgment of £10,000, which, when legal costs were added, would be the equivalent of around $2 million today. The Duke had to borrow the money from his displeased kingly brother to pay the judgment. This book and others certainly besmirched Cumberland's reputation, not only because of his illicit behavior, but by the adolescent emotions expressed and the poor grammar of his letters. £600 (US $933).
Such indiscretion is by no means limited to royalty. This next book takes us back to the late 15th/early 16th century, and a time when German priests were not adhering too closely to a lifestyle devoid of worldly pleasures. Indeed, passions of the flesh were apparently being fulfilled on a regular basis. This did not please the more conservative theologian Arnoldus von Tongern, who condemned such practices in Avisamentum de concubinariis... published in 1507. Blackwell's quotes various sources on the subject that speak of, “the profligacy of the clergy at German cathedrals, as well as their rudeness and ignorance, was proverbial,” “the extraordinary immorality to which priests and monks yielded themselves,” and “in the 15th century the worldliness of the clergy reached a height not possible to surpass.” Since priests were forbidden to marry, they lived with concubines, thereby gaining the benefit of wives without the obligations. Item 9. £850 (US $1,322).
Works Antiquarian and Modern from Blackwell's Rare Books
Literature for railway passengers.
Enough of this debauchery! Here is a tale of a very different type of lady: Eureka. Eureka. The Virtuous Woman Found. Her loss bewailed... No, it was not her virtue that was lost. Sadly, the virtuous Mary, Countess Dowager of Warwick, passed on in 1678, and this tribute was written to her memory by Anthony Walker, her chaplain. Walker helped lead her from a life of irreligion to exhibiting “the most illustrious pattern of sincere piety, and solid goodness this age hath produced.” Mary's four-year-old son had taken ill, and she pledged to lead a life of piety if his health was restored. If Mary, despite her piety, is not that well remembered, her brother, Robert Boyle, is well known as the man often referred to as “the father of chemistry,” and discoverer of Boyle's Law (inverse relationship between pressure and volume of a gas). Item 159. £2,000 (US $3,113).
Here is a collection of material published for riders on the Midland Railroad in 1848, to help pass the time: No. 1 of Literary Selections for Railway Travellers. This is an unrecorded selection of stories and poetry featuring one by William Cox entitled Steam. This is a futuristic story where Cox imagines a world where steam powered “carts and carriages came rattling down the highways horseless and driverless,” while tall buildings are built with steam-powered robots and trains roll through tunnels under rivers. Not bad prognostications for 1848. The pamphlet was priced at one penny, meaning a return of several million percent for those wise enough to buy it at the time. Item 45. £500 (US $778).
Blackwell's Rare Books may be reached at +44 (0) 1865 333555 or email@example.com. Their website is www.blackwell.co.uk/rarebooks.