A Variety of Books from John Michael Lang
A bit of everything from John Michael Lang.
By Michael Stillman
This is our first review of a catalogue from John Michael Lang Fine Books of Seattle, Washington. This, their 16th catalogue, was prepared in association with Taylor Bowie, another Seattle bookseller. This is not an easy catalogue to pigeonhole. There are literature, history, children's books, Westerns, etiquette books, cooking, and more. Here is a catalogue in which a $75,000 book can sit next to a $25 one. I guess we'll just have to say this is a catalogue of books, and not try to get more specific. So, if you collect books, maybe what you are looking for is here. Now for a few of the many titles Lang is offering.
We will start with item number 1, the $75,000 item. This is a 1493 first edition, in Latin, of Liber Chronicarum, the Nuremberg Chronicle. Edited by Hartmann Schedel of Nuremberg, this was a massive undertaking to describe the history of the world less than four decades after the invention of the printing press. It starts from Creation and includes an outlook of the end of the world, along with everything in between. Its large folio pages are filled with pictures, including one of Pope Joan, whose image was not defaced as in many copies. Pope Joan was the legendary female pope, accepted by many at the time as a real, historical figure, but now generally considered a figment of imagination, an urban legend of its rural time. Some of the illustrations are believed to have been created by Albrecht Durer, a legendary artist who was quite real.
Here is another man associated with Nuremberg, but not in the positive, honorable manner of Schedel. Item 65 is Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer. Speer was Hitler's architect, associate and friend, who denied knowledge of the ongoing Holocaust, but who likely knew what was going on but tried to look the other way. Like other Nazi leaders still living after the War, Speer was tried for war crimes at Nuremberg, specifically the use of slave labor. He was the exception among the defendants in expressing remorse, and received the relatively light sentence of 20 years, enabling him to live his last 15 years in freedom. This 1970 first edition of Speer's book, signed and inscribed by the author, is priced at $1,500.
Thomas "Boston" Corbett was the Jack Ruby of another generation. Ruby, of course, was the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Kennedy's assassin. Corbett was the man who killed John Wilkes Booth. He was already a person with evident mental problems when he was selected among a group of 26 men to track down and capture Booth alive. Corbett was the ultimate "mad hatter," hat-making being his trade. After the death of his wife, he became a very fundamental Christian, to the point of growing his hair long in attempt to look like Jesus. He became concerned he would fall to the temptation of prostitutes and so took the natural step for those whose minds operate a little differently from most; he castrated himself with a pair of scissors. Corbett joined the Union army during the Civil War, rose to the rank of sergeant, spent time in the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville (which probably did not help his mental health), then returned to the army after his release. He achieved his fame when sent to capture Booth.
A Variety of Books from John Michael Lang
Boston Corbett, the man who shot John Wilkes Booth.
Lincoln's assassin was trapped in a barn, which the forces lit on fire to force him out. However, Corbett found a crack in the wall and shot Booth dead. Corbett was arrested for disobeying orders. But Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered his release and allowed him to receive his share of the reward money. After the War, he bounced around, employing his hatter's trade, ending up living in a hole he dug into a hillside in Kansas, where he suffered a mental breakdown in 1878. However, he recovered sufficiently to a get a job as doorkeeper to the Kansas House of Representatives, where one day he brandished a revolver, threatening to finish off heretics in the legislature. He was declared insane and committed to an asylum. On May 26, 1888, Corbett escaped, and after a brief stay with someone he met in Andersonville, Corbett disappeared, never to be heard from again. Item 24 is Corbett's signed calling card, including his military rank, along with a photogravure of the man he killed. $350.
The Double Door by Theodora Keogh is an early (1950) novel dealing with gay issues. It is a book about a gay married man living a double life. The book's author was a woman unafraid of tackling controversial issues in her books. This copy was autographed by Theodora Keogh, also known as Theodora Roosevelt Keogh. She is the granddaughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, quite a daring individual himself. Item 35. $100.
Speaking of President Theodore Roosevelt, his is the last picture in The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents, published in 1901. Evidently this was published late in 1901, as Roosevelt did not succeed to that office until the death of William McKinley late that September. Along with the portraits, the book includes a brief historical review of the presidents and their administrations. Here is your chance to obtain not only the portraits of leaders we all can envision, such as Lincoln and Washington, but also those of Chester Arthur, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Zachary Taylor, Tippecanoe and Tyler, too. Item 72. $300.
Item 21 is a 1943 edition of one of the most popular cookbooks ever written, The Joy of Cooking. It was originally self-published by author Irma Rombauer in 1931, but later became enormously successful and is still being published to this day. It includes a section on sugarless recipes, not for the reasons of diet one would expect to be the explanation today, but because sugar was rationed during wartime 1943. This copy carries the uncommon autograph of Mrs. Rombauer. $950.
Item 50 is an ugly expose, I Break Strikes: The Technique of Pearl L. Bergoff, by Edward Levinson, published in 1935. Bergoff, a boy named "Pearl," may have made up for that less than masculine name by engaging in the strong-arm career of breaking strikes. He would deliver strikebreakers to companies in need of this service, those "workers" often being criminals and other assorted unpleasant and violent types. He provided his services to some of the most respected of firms, from the Waldorf Hotel to the Erie Railroad, and performed numerous jobs on behalf of public employers, notably the City of New York. Bergoff was reported to have taken in $2 million to provide scabs for the Erie strike, and that 54 people died as a result of his attacks on workers. The techniques of people like Bergoff were finally dealt with by the passage of the Wagner Act in the 1930s prohibiting mass transportation of strikebreakers. $75.
You may reach John Michael Lang Fine Books at 206-624-4100 or by email at email@example.com