Last month I stirred the pot up by posting an entry which several readers construed as “political.” A few disapproved of using a commercial space to post a personal message. A few supported the post, and most people didn’t give a damn. In that spirit I offer the following obituary – not because it’s “political,” but because it made me laugh, and laughter is often the best medicine.
Anyway, on with the show…
For the past couple of months I’ve felt a little detached from the book biz. Our daughter’s wedding was a pleasant distraction, as were all the guests streaming through our house, and Thanksgiving, and setting up our fourth annual Gourmet Tree stand
(We’ve sold about 100 trees in the past week. I think people really respond to the fact that they’re gluten free.) Oh, I staggered through the Boston Book Fair, and manged to issue two half-catalogs, but those activities felt more like involuntary twitches than sustained bookish endeavors. I suppose we all go through periods like this. Perhaps they’re even necessary – a little down time in which to catch one’s bibliographic breath.
Then, almost without my noticing it, and certainly not having planned on it, books came roaring back.
This most recent rush started with the news that an old customer had died. I learned of his demise, not from the family, but through the auction house that was selling his collection. I left a lot of bids, and wound up getting several lots, a few of which were things that I’d sold him over the years.
This one, for example
Torrey, William. Torrey’s Narrative: or, the Life and Adventures of William Torrey. Boston: A. J. Wright, 1848. 300 pp. b/w plates and illustrations in text. First edition. Torrey went to sea on a whaler out of New Bedford and served on several whaling, sealing and merchant voyages over 14 years. Included in the narrative are descriptions of his life in the Marquesas (where he participated in cannibalism), his visits to Hawaii, California, the Northwest Coast, South America, and other places. Torrey apparently had a quick temper, for he ran into trouble with several of his captains, and left ship a number of times. “Includes several whaling cruises in the Pacific in the 1830s, with visits to Hawaii, Marquesas… Fanning Island…”—Forster 96. Jenkins p. 151. Not in Hill, Hunnewell or Sabin. With 6 full page woodcuts. “Written by himself. Illustrated by engravings of his own sketching.” Bound in original blindstamped cloth with gold cover decoration and spine lettering. Rebacked, with spine laid down. Overall a very good copy of a scarce book. $1250
or this neat little piece of ephemera
Ephemera. Ezra Kelley’s Celebrated Oils. Color lithographed advertising card measuring 5 1/2 x 6 7/8 inches. “For watches, clocks, type writers, sewing machines, etc. etc.” Images of old whale ship and harpooner chasing a miniature sperm whale. Endorsements and advertising copy on back. It is interesting that, circa. 1890, whale oil was still competing with petroleum products. Fine condition. $100
Then some fishy items swam my way
$25, $50, and $25 respectively
with a lovely little America’s Cup die cut in their wake.
Then I spent a day examining, but not purchasing, a spectacular collection of early American imprints.
Rare Franklin imprint
A selection of early imprints
Sometimes the dollars just don’t add up. In the best of such circumstances your time is well spent because of what you learn by handling the material. That was the case here. Maybe I should have paid the guy a fee just for just getting to look at that wonderful stuff. (It’s still available, by the way. Contact me for particulars if you’re interested.)
Then, finally, the coolest of the cool – a very early ship sailing card, printed in Australia, measuring an astonishing 5 3/4 x 9 inches, advertising a sailing from Australia to San Francisco, “the El Dorado of America.”
It is dated in manuscript on the back “Captain George Webster August 3 1854,” and a small news clipping pasted to the front of the card validates this sailing date, names Elbridge Webster as owner, and lists the passengers. I have never seen the like, and probably never will again. Nor is it likely that Adams & Co., the agents for whom the card was printed, sent many more ships to California. According to an article entitled “History of the Express Business” in Banker’s Magazine the successful American firm “Adams & Co. had attempted to establish an express at Melbourne, Australia… but for various causes entirely beyond their control, the enterprise was a failure, and resulted in heavy loss to their firm.” $5500
It feels good to be back in business!