Literature from Shapero Rare Books
Literature from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books has issued a Spring List 2008 of Literature. Included is a collection of fifty literary classics in first or other special editions. With the exception of a Gulliver's Travels from the 18th century, these books range from the early 19th to the late 20th century. There will be few if any authors you don't recognize, this being a catalogue of important and collectible writers. Here are some examples.
The aforementioned book about Gulliver's travels, officially Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, remains one of the most popular travel books ever. Of course, these travels never took place, nor did Lemuel Gulliver even exist. This all came from the imagination, and wit, of author Jonathan Swift. The work was a parody of the travel books of the era, when various explorers would set out all over the world and come back with their tales of lands far away. Swift's were much farther away, and Gulliver reported back on lands of midgets and giants and all sorts of characters and fantastic places. Entertaining as it is, much of Swift's original wit is lost on most readers today as it poked fun at political issues of the day long since forgotten. Item 42. Published in 1726 (this is a first edition, second issue). Priced at £6,750 (or approximate equivalent of US $13,407).
Here is a major work with some fascinating Cold War intrigue behind it. Boris Pasternak wrote his epic Doctor Zhivago over many years in Soviet Russia. When it was finally ready for publication, it was rejected by local authorities as not being properly supportive of the state. There was little room for freedom of expression in the Soviet Union, but Pasternak gave a copy of his manuscript to Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli who took it back to Italy and had it published in Italian. The book became a great success, with much support from western governments who saw it as a propaganda victory during the height of Cold War tensions. The book was recognized as worthy of a Nobel Prize, but the rules for that award required the book be published in its original language. So, with some help from the CIA, this Russian edition was published under Feltrinelli's name (but not by him), undated, but in 1958. Item 32 is the Russian language edition. Priced at £1,250 (US $2,464).
Item 5 is a novel centered on the land. It is a story of changing times, prosperity and despair, in turn of the century China. Ultimately, the story is focused on the main character and his ties to The Good Earth. Pearl Buck's classic novel was published in 1931, and item 5 is a copy of the first edition, first issue. Buck won a Pulitzer Prize for the book and a Nobel for literature a few years later. £950 (US $1,873).
Item 1 is about a family that was more than tied to the good earth, they lived inside of it. Watership Down is the tale of some anthropomorphic rabbits, who flee their doomed warren to establish a new colony on Watership Down. There is much danger along the way to building their new home, and you quickly forget their harey nature amidst the human emotions and issues they experience. Offered is the first illustrated edition of this book by Richard Adams, one of a limited edition of 250 copies published in 1976 and signed by the author. £2,500 (US $4,927).
Literature from Shapero Rare Books
The first-first-first Harry Potter.
For those who believe books must be old to be valuable, item 36 is the first edition, first issue, of the first Harry Potter book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Shapero notes that author J.K. Rowling was turned down by seven publishers (aren't they sorry?) before Bloomsbury printed 500 copies in 1997, not exactly anticipating a run on the bookstores. Of those, 350 went to libraries, so the book was published in a more durable library binding without a dust jacket. This virtually pristine copy is likely one of the 150 that went into private hands as it does not bear the signs of heavy use the quickly popular book endured in public libraries. Shapero notes that this copy can be identified as the first issue as it includes "1 wand" at both the top and bottom of the list of items Harry is to take with him to Howarts. £27,500 (US $54,192).
Shapero Rare Books may be found online at www.shapero.com, telephone +44 (0)20 7493 2876.