Literary Classics from
James Cummins Bookseller
A Shakespeare Third Folio
By Michael Stillman
James Cummins Bookseller's latest catalogue comes without a name, other than "Catalogue 90." That's not very descriptive, so you'll have to trust us for one. We'll go with "literary classics" as that describes most, but not all, of what can be found in this catalogue.
There are many first editions from the past two centuries offered here. In fact, if you cannot remember the last time you were carded when ordering a beer, there are many books you could have picked up yourself when they were brand new first editions. And don't you wish you did! If foresight were only as good as hindsight, we'd have these books on our shelves, instead of the old college textbooks that were so expensive then we couldn't bear to part with them.
Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange wasn't the best seller ever published, but the title became a household name with the making of the film. Published in 1962, it is only 42-years-old, but a first edition, complete with dust jacket, is a valuable item today. Cummins offers a copy in fine condition as item 7. Priced at $4,500.
Here's an item even older than I, and it is a third edition, yet it is by far the most valuable item in this catalogue. Item 97 is a Shakespeare third folio, Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Time was when for a few hundred thousand bucks, you might still be able to obtain a first folio, but those days are now long gone. Any Shakespeare folios are very hard to find, and if not priceless, they are certainly very pricey. Yet as dramatically as the prices of these folios have grown over the many years since they were published, yesterday's prices have always proven to be a bargain from the vantage point of today. This rare third edition, printed in 1663, is priced at $150,000.
Item 123 is a collection of 17 Tennessee Williams works, 15 signed and inscribed. They were inscribed to Williams' good friend Lilla Van Saher. Van Saher was a friend of several writers, including Arthur Miller and Jerzy Kosinski. She was also an author herself, though not so well known. Since there's nothing more I can add to this, I'll just pick up this quote from Cummins' catalogue about Mrs. Van Saher: "She was not only the hostess to a modish New York literary salon, but a preferred dominatrix to a special group of men in need of sexual discipline." And she must have been a special lady. That makes this set a particularly interesting collection of association copies. $15,000.
Two copies of the first edition, first issue of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol are offered. You will have to read Cummins' catalogue to understand where these fall in the collection of variants of this edition, which makes it impossible to tell which is actually first. Suffice it to say that this is one of the earliest of this 1843 classic. Item 19 is a copy in near fine condition. $18,000. Item 20 is in very good condition. $12,000.
Literary Classics from
James Cummins Bookseller
Little Caesar was one of the first of its genre.
There are a couple of "Alice" items available. The first is a pair, a second edition (first English from London) of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, along with a first edition of Through the Looking Glass. Item 29. $9,500. Item 30 is a Limited Editions club set from 1932. Each copy in this pair was signed by "Alice" herself, Alice Hargreaves (ne Alice Liddell). Liddell was a young girl when she encouraged Professor Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) to tell her and her sisters stories, stories which grew into two books with "Alice" as the lead. In her later years, Mrs. Hargreaves signed these sets to help pay the bills. $6,000.
Next is another, more recent children's classic, Charlotte's Web. Who would think to make a spider the star of a children's book? The answer is E.B. White, and this is a 1952 first edition of this book, complete with dust jacket. Item 74. $1,500.
In 1963, on a cross-country trip, I briefly stopped by Cheyenne, Wyoming. Unfortunately, I left Cheyenne without picking up a copy of Leaving Cheyenne, written by Larry McMurtry and published in that very same year. Big Mistake. Here is a first edition that still has its price tag: $4.95. Today's price is $2,500. Item 88.
Next is a series everyone knows, the four "Rabbit" books by John Updike: Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest. The first, from 1960, has some light wear and creasing in the dust jacket, while the others, dated 1971, 1981, and 1990 are in fine condition with fine dust jackets. Who knows what they will be worth when they hit the century mark, but if you buy these for your grandchildren today, they will one day be very appreciative. Item 113. $1,500.
Item 44 isn't something to add to your collection. It is a collection. This is 25 first editions by or about Nathaniel Hawthorne. It starts with Twice-Told Tales from 1837 and runs through a 1902 biography. Along the way are classics such as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables. There's even the less well-remembered The Life of Franklin Pierce. Then again, Pierce is not so well remembered himself. Hawthorne is. $17,500.
Finally, here is a book better remembered for its movie. It became the granddaddy of gangster flicks. The author is W.R. Burnett. The book is Little Caesar. The movie launched the career of Edward G. Robinson as the quintessential tough guy. Of course, the gangster movie would become a staple of American film, witness successors such as The Godfather. Burnett's book was published in 1929, a year before the big screen adaptation. Item 8. $8,500.
James Cummins Bookseller is located on the web at www.jamescummingsbookseller.com, and may be reached by phone at 212-688-6441.