The Bookseller's Cabinet from Jeff Weber Rare Books
A Gutenberg leaf on the cover of Jeff Weber's latest catalogue.
By Michael Stillman
Jeff Weber Rare Books has published their catalogue #163: Bookseller's Cabinet. There is much to be found on a variety of subjects in Weber's cabinet. Listed topics include early printed books, literature, Americana and the West, art and architecture, bibliography and fine printing, travel, archeology and cartography. Here are some of the titles to be found on the shelf.
We will start at the beginning of the catalogue, item 1, as it represents the beginning of books. It is a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book, which came off the press in (or close to) 1455. The leaf can be seen on the cover of this catalogue. The printing was a mammoth undertaking that left Gutenberg broke, and would do the same for anyone who attempted to buy a complete copy today (no complete Gutenberg has been sold in over three decades). Around 180 were printed. Just under 50 are known to survive, with fewer than half of these complete. While Gutenberg and his press in Mainz, Germany, were alone in 1455, by the end of the century, there were several hundred print shops around Europe. The technology spread rapidly, changing how people communicated for over 500 years, no real alternative developing until… a few years ago? The page here offered is taken from the Book of Samuel. Priced at $85,000. By the way, a complete Gutenberg contains 636 leaves, which would imply a value of $54 million for a complete copy. Hard to know, as we are unlikely to see another copy on the market any time soon.
An inscribed first edition of Gone With The Wind is a costly item (though not like a Gutenberg), but here is a reasonable alternative. Item 46 is Eo Vento Levou, the Brazilian first edition of this classic. This first was published in 1940. It's hard to imagine what Brazilians who read this book thought typical Americans were like. This copy has been inscribed by author Margaret Mitchell to the Atlanta Historical Society. This society would be a logical recipient of a gift from Miss Mitchell as her father had once been its president, but why a copy in Portuguese is unclear. It apparently was never read. $1,750.
Item 51 is another great piece of American literature, a first edition of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939. There is no need to describe the book's contents, as you almost surely are familiar with it. Instead, we will describe its condition, or better yet, let Weber describe it: "This copy…is the finest copy anyone has ever seen… For any collector of John Steinbeck's books, this copy is the apotheosis and would be a crown jewel of their collection." Steinbeck collectors take heed! The description applies to book and dust jacket alike. $10,000.
Keeping one wife happy can be a great challenge to man. If you have 55, you are almost certain to have a few who are displeased. Probably the least happy of Brigham Young's wives was Ann Eliza Young, who two years after her divorce in 1873 published Wife No. 19, The Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Expose of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy. Evidently Ann Eliza was not easy to please as she divorced her other two husbands too. The accuracy of her title is also in question, as she has also been calculated to be wife number 27 or wife number 52 (there is some question as to how many of Young's "marriages" were really considered as such). She was certainly a latter day wife, marrying him in 1869 when Young was 67 and she was 24. As this book attests, Ann Eliza became a spokesperson against polygamy and for women's rights, as well as being a vocal critic of the Mormon Church, which excommunicated her. Item 231. $225.
The Bookseller's Cabinet from Jeff Weber Rare Books
Joseph Revere on California.
Perhaps Mrs. Young #52 would have been more happy with her lot had she read this book: An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex. A read of this 1797 tale will make it obvious its author was a man - clergyman Thomas Gisborne. Gisborne could be described as being of the "graciously submit" school of theology. He supported a domestic role for women, not much heavy labor, even less heavy thinking, not based on his own predispositions, of course, but because God wanted it that way. Gisborne certainly never refers to God as "She." His argument goes from men being physically stronger, through some unclear leap of logic, to their requiring more brainpower. God, he explains, "with the most conspicuous wisdom," developed a "plan of discrimination between the mental powers and dispositions of the two sexes." To men went the ability to master such fields as jurisprudence, operation of government, philosophy, navigation, commerce, and "abstruse researches of erudition." To women went the ability to look pretty. Women have skills in "sprightliness and vivacity," as well as a superior ability to diffuse the family with "the enlivening and endearing smile of cheerfulness." Men - if you plan to purchase this book, you better have a good explanation prepared for the little woman. Item 167. $150.
Item 95 is one of the best looks at California shortly before, and during the early days of the Gold Rush. Joseph Revere had come from Boston by way of the Mexican War. After his service, Revere continued on to California. His 1849 book is A Tour of Duty in California; Including a Description of the Gold Region… and it is one from the highly collectible Zamorano 80. Revere was a grandson of the famed silversmith and midnight rider, Paul Revere. $1,000.
Jeff Weber Rare Books may be reached at 323-344-9332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.