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First Edition

Book collectors seek out first editions as they represent the original form in which a book was originally published.

Signed and inscribed copies are even more desirable, and the ‘dedication copy’ – the copy which is inscribed to the person to whom the author dedicated the book – is more sought after still.


Trench and his Embankment – a panoramic first proposal

19 July 2001

A BIBLE was one of several lots that moved into the four-figure range in this summer sale at Y Gelli in Hay on June 8.

A medieval lawyer’s pocketbook and Quevedo’s Seneca

28 June 2001

UK: WRITTEN shortly after 1290, perhaps for a practising lawyer and presumably by professional scribes – it exhibits a variety of neat English cursive and charter hands – the manuscript copy of Magna Carta and the Statutes of England illustrated right is a remarkable example of an English medieval secular book.

“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guide me…”

29 May 2001

In the past ten years, there have been only five or six first edition copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at auction, and not since 1991 have we seen a copy in the original boards*.

The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia – the first public reading

09 April 2001

UK: OFFERED at Phillips on March 30 was the former Houghton copy of the 1590 first edition of The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

1858 first issue of Coral Island

09 April 2001

UK: AS well as a quantity of letters, journals and sketch albums written or compiled by R.M. Ballantyne – among them an album containing sketches made on excursions to Scotland and fishing trips to Norway in the 1850s, which sold at £1000 to David Miles – the Bonhams (Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent) sale contained an 1858 first issue of Coral Island, the publisher’s decorative blue cloth binding slightly worn but generally good, which made £4000 (Heritage).

Sheldrake’s ... Herbal of Medicinal Plants

09 April 2001

Timothy Sheldrake’s ... Herbal of Medicinal Plants is often found without a title and with fewer than the 118 plates by C.H. Emmerich after Sheldrake called for, but they have great appeal and the Phillips copy, a first issue of c.1759 with 111 coloured plates, made £5500 at Bonhams.

First edition of Greenville Collins’ Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot...

09 April 2001

The Scillies in one of 49 engraved charts from a 1753 first edition of Greenville Collins’ Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot... which made £4000 at Bonhams.

The Sign of Four

09 April 2001

The contents and joints are loose and the upper hinge is nearly detached, but the maroon cloth gilt binding of this 1890 first issue of what was only Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes story, The Sign of Four, are pretty good and this copy sold at Dominic Winter for £3000 to Bromlea & Jonkers.

Koster's Travels in Brazil

09 April 2001

UK: ONE of eight coloured aquatints, plus map and plan, from an 1816 first edition of Travels in Brazil by Henry Koster, who first went to Brazil in 1809, hoping that a change of climate might alleviate his TB, and eventually settled to the life of a sugar planter at Jaguaribe, near Recife in Pernambuco, where he died in 1820.

1925 Golden Cockerel edition of Songs... by Robert Burns

09 April 2001

UK: INSET with a portrait miniature, this 1925 Golden Cockerel edition of Songs... by Robert Burns, illustrated with wood engravings by Mabel Annesley and bound in Cosway style in red morocco gilt by Bayntun Rivière, was sold at Bonhams (Buyer’s premium:15/10 per cent) at £1400 (Pirouages).

Thomas Hardy and A Pair of Blue Eyes

02 April 2001

UK: JUST TO prove that “one can get a better... deal from the smaller boys”, John Cranwell, who trades in Oswestry as Bookworld and puts together two auctions a year for the local auctioneers, rang every Thomas Hardy specialist he could find in Sheppard's directory prior to this sale – determined that no-one with a declared interest should be unaware of the fact that a copy of Hardy’s third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was to be offered in this 400-lot sale at the town’s Wynnstay Hotel.

Elegy on Captain Cook

02 April 2001

US: IT MAY be 25 years since a copy of the Elegy on Captain Cook, as “composed and and publickly recited before the Royal Academy of Florence” by Michelangelo Gianetti, was last seen at auction, and this 1785 Florentine first edition, engraved throughout and bound in contemporary calf, would also appear to be the dedication copy.

Leonhard Fuch’s De Historia Stirpium...

02 April 2001

UK: LEONHARD Fuch’s De Historia Stirpium..., first issued in Basel in 1542, contains over 500 full-page botanical woodcuts, one shown bottom right, but while it is not unusual to find a portrait of the author in any book, this work also contains portraits of the artists, Heinrich Füllmaurer and Albert Meyer, and the man who made the woodblocks from their originals, Veit Rudolphe Speckle.

Wodehouse collection

02 April 2001

The Bonhams Knightsbridge sale (see above, Henty – the great adventure begins with A Secret for Success) also included a P.G. Wodehouse collection (from a different source) and among the more successful of those lots were these two shown here.

Hevelius’ Selenographia...

26 March 2001

Sold at $75,000 (£51,725), at the Freilich sale which took place at Sotheby’s New York on January 10 and 11, was a superb copy of the first complete lunar atlas, Hevelius’ Selenographia... of 1647.

Histoire naturelle ... Règne Minéral

26 March 2001

One of eight colour printed and hand-finished plates from the only known copy of a work that Fabien Gautier D’Agoty issued in 1777, apparently as a prospectus for his Histoire naturelle ... Règne Minéral.

Hortus sanitatis and the Atlas minéralogique de la France...

26 March 2001

A spread from a 1491 first edition of the most comprehensive and richly illustrated medical or natural history publication of the 15th century, the Hortus sanitatis.

Systême des animaux... and Campi Phlegraei...

26 March 2001

Interleaved throughout with blank leaves, 19 of which bear the author’s annotations, this is Jean Baptiste Lamarck’s own copy of his landmark work on the evolution of species, an 1801 first of Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, ou tableau général des classes, des ordres et des genre de ces animaux in a contemporary binding.

Euclid’s Elementa

26 March 2001

In a beautifully preserved contemporary, and possibly Austrian binding of blind-stamped calf with brass fittings, this copy of Erhard Ratdolt’s 1482, first printing of Euclid’s Elementa, shows some slight waterstaining to the lower margins, but it remains one of the largest and freshest copies in existence – taller than even the Doheny, Honeyman-Garden and Haskell F. Norman copies.

Carolus Linnaeus’ Systema naturae...

26 March 2001

Pictured here is the title page of one of the more important publications in the history of science – Carolus Linnaeus’ Systema naturae... of 1735, which laid the groundwork for the systematic classification of plants and animals.