The First Occasional List from John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller

- by Michael Stillman

Windle1

The First Occasional List from John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller has published Occasional List Number One. English Books, Fine Printing and Bindings. Windle is hardly new to catalogues, but this is a first of a planned “unknown number” of occasional lists. These are to be collections of around 50 items to be published on a regular basis. As the title notes, this catalogue is focused on English books and fine printing, either of which leave it open to an unlimited variety of topics. Here, then, are a few samples from this list number one.

Item 9 is a book designed to bring botany to the masses, in a manner of speaking. It is Erasmus Darwin's The Botanic Garden. It consists of two poems, Part I being The Economy of Vegetation, Part II The Loves of Plants. Offered is the third (preferred) edition of Part I with the Tornado plate engraved by William Blake, Part II a fourth edition (1794-95). Darwin was a scientist, physician, and poet, and though not nearly so well remembered as his grandson, Charles Darwin, he was a very popular figure in his day. Erasmus also developed a theory of evolution, but unlike his grandson, he never understood what made it tick (natural selection). These poems, especially the Loves of Plants, added an almost human element to their lives, giving the book the popular appeal necessary for Darwin to provide his readers with a certain amount of scientific instruction. Priced at $3,750.

Here is another book of poetry that received none of the popular acclaim achieved by Darwin's book when it was first released, but which fared much better the second time around. The title is Poems, by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and it was first published in 1846. Those names may not be familiar, but that is because they were pseudonyms for the soon to be famous Bronte sisters. One thousand copies were printed by Aylott and Jones, but two years later, 961 copies remained unsold (only two or three copies actually sold, the other few given away). The sisters wisely turned to novel writing instead. In 1847, all three sisters would have books published, and they quickly ascended from unknown to popular authors, though at first still shrouded by pseudonymous identities. The result of their success was that Smith, Elder grabbed the unsold material and re-released it with a new cover and title page in 1848. This time the book sold. Sadly, the sisters had little time to enjoy their success. Emily died in 1848, Anne in 1849, and Charlotte, the last survivor, in 1855. Item 14 is a copy of the 1848 Smith, Elder edition of their poems (the 1846 one is essentially unobtainable). $1,250.

Item 49 is the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft by her husband, William Godwin: Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft was a woman ahead of her time. Already an author of various books, including one on educating daughters, it was her Vindication if the Rights of Woman that garnered the most attention. She argued that women should receive an education comparable to that received by men, and should have the same fundamental rights as their male counterparts. She was hardly a radical feminist by today's standards. She explained that providing a greater education for women was useful as it would make them better companions for men. Nonetheless, her views were radical and far ahead of time in 1792. In 1797, Wollstonecraft gave birth to a daughter, also named Mary, and died ten days later from complications. Her daughter would go on to write Frankenstein and marry the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. After her death, Mary's husband, William Godwin, would write this biography of her. Wollstonecraft had led an unusual lifestyle for her era, including a couple of affairs and close relationships with women that shocked turn of the 19th century sensibilities. Godwin, a radical and anarchist not troubled by her history, believed in telling her story as it was, not as a sanitized fiction. The result was that her reputation was seriously tarnished, and it would take a century before she would be reexamined and her contributions to the rights of women again recognized. Offered is a second edition of Godwin's biography, the “corrected” edition of 1798 (same year as the first), designed to be slightly more acceptable than the first. $1,750.