Browsing the Doyle the Home auction catalogues, one encounters lots containing books with great regularity, all of which are catalogued by the Rare Books Department. These group lots include everything from finely bound library sets to decorative bindings to art monographs and the so-called "coffee table books." But quite often there are groups of books that we describe as "antiquarian miscellanies," these being groups of interesting or rare volumes worthy of collector notice. When encountered in our Doyle at Home auctions, these "antiquarian miscellanies" are often paired with modest estimates, thus offering the opportunity for novice collectors to affordably begin gathering the materials that form a well-rounded and diverse rare book collection. We hope these books pique the interest of new collectors and invite them into the wonderful world of book collecting.
The February 8 Doyle at Home auction offers a particular lot that fits this quite well (Lot 408). I have an affinity for turn-of-the-century (the last century!) decorative cloth bindings that were designed and issued by the book publishers themselves for marketing purposes. The covers and spines of these volumes often have bright gilt lettering, colorful decoration and stampings, and figural motifs. These books were often oriented towards younger readers, and many are tales of wartime, travel and adventure, mystery and intrigue, usually with outlandish titles. Mostly between 1885 and 1910, they precede the era of the modernist "dust jacketed" novel -- a much cheaper solution for publishers to market the book, and other books published by the firm, by printing on a paper jacket, rather than decorating the cloth binding itself.
The February 8 sale offers a group of nearly 100 of these decorated clothbound volumes, which are not only a feast for the eyes, but also have some rarity and bibliographical merit. For instance, Arthur Stanwood Pier's The Plattsburgers contains early illustrations by Norman Rockwell; early editions of the adventure novels of Jack London contain graphic covers and intriguing titles, such as The Sea-Wolf and The Mutiny of the Elsinore; other books with fun titles include H. Rider Haggard's mysterious People of the Mist, H. Allen King's Life in a Putty Knife Factory, and Edgar Eggleston's The Hoosier Schoolhouse-Master, a book noted in the school of mid-western realism.
Present in the lot are also books that reflect the changing cultural landscape of the United States, such as Zane Grey's The Vanishing Indian, George Rodney's 1936 The Vanishing Frontier, and William Westall's 1887 adventure novel A Queer Race, in which two survivors of a shipwreck off South America discover an island inhabited by the second generation of 18th century European castaways.
From England there is much visionary fiction, such as later printings of Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which despite the edition statement are virtually identical to their first editions, a plus for the new collector. From the intrepid mind of H.G. Wells we have the beginnings of science fiction in works such as The Country of the Blind, The Dream, and New Worlds for Old. And lastly, the there are works reflective of the political thinking of Europe, evidenced by Israel Zangwill's Zionist novel Dreamers of the Ghetto and works by Sir Winston Churchill.
It is our hope that these "antiquarian miscellanies" appeal to both new and seasoned collectors. We encourage collectors to come o the exhibition and examine the books in person and for our internet viewers to email us with any questions.