Rare Books

Most expensive sales from January to March 2024

Classic literature, poetry, a bank cheque and more.

Welcome to our most expensive sales of January, February and March 2024.

We kick off the year with early American artifacts, poetry from the Victorian era, an occult handbook and first editions of all kinds: a 16th century map still found in modern-day classrooms, Sylvia Plath’s life-imitating-art as well as the Hemingway work that would help put his name down in history.

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War - £14,585

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
Four volumes expanded to eight. A very fine set, the contents clean and bright, with very attractive bindings scarcely worn.

The American Civil War took place between 1861 and 1865, establishing a more centralized federal government and leading to the freedom of more than four million enslaved Americans.

This four-volume set, published in 1887, contains firsthand accounts from more than 266 authors, including some of the Union and Confederate generals who led battles and shaped their outcome.

The accounts are brought to life by engraved illustrations, orders of battle, telegrams, autographed letters plus satirical images clipped from contemporary publications.

Sold by Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books

A beautifully bound and physically very substantial set containing an important collection of first-hand accounts of the American Civil War, extra-illustrated with an impressive assemblage of contemporary images, documents, and ephemera that provide a fascinating visual record of this era of conflict. The text comprises some 388 accounts by 226 authors, and these are complemented by nearly 200 maps and 1,500 additional engravings and related material.
Kaitlin Manning (	Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books)
Kaitlin Manning (Philip J. Pirages Rare Books)

The Papers of James Madison purchased by order of Congress - £14,425

The Madison Papers title page
Rare presentation copy, signed and dated by Dolley Madison, March 21, 1842.

James Madison is known as a Founding Father of the United States and its fourth president. His legacy, however, is as the ‘Father of the Constitution,’ a title he earned for his role in drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, two of the most important documents in American history.

The Papers of James Madison are a principal source for the legislative process behind these documents. They include personal notes, drafts of letters with the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington as well as Madison’s journal of the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

The Papers were sold to Congress by Madison’s widow, Dolley, after he died, though Madison had actually been asked to publish them prior to his death. To this, Madison suggested that it was better that they be published posthumously, or once the Constitution had been “well settled by practice.”

Sold by 19th Century Rare Book & Photography Shop

Complete collection of United States laws for the period from 1789 through March 1849 - £12,000

Acts passed at the first session of U.S. Congress
31 volumes. Binding and condition vary, overall condition quite good.

Our tour of United States history concludes with this complete collection of U.S. laws from 1789 to 1849, from the earliest days of its federal government, all the way through the nation’s formative years in the early 19th century.

Treaties with American Indian tribes, reports on the Louisiana Purchase, accounts of the Lewis and Clark expedition and other hallmark events of U.S. history may be found within their covers.

Sold by William Reese Company

The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, illustrated by John Buckland Wright - £11,520

The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam
Quarto. One of 30 copies specially bound, containing five additional plates.

Today, Omar Khayyam is known for giving the world some of the best-known and well-quoted Victorian poetry.

But during his lifetime in the 11th century Seljuk Empire, Khayyam was known as a mathematician. It would be eight centuries before English writer Edward Fitzgerald would come across Khayyam’s quatrains, or rubaiyat, take great liberties in translating the work and introduce them to the delight of English-reading salons in the fin de siècle period.

This copy is made unique by its eight illustrations supplied by John Buckland Wright, printed from copper engravings and considered some of the artist’s best work.

Sold by Bromer Booksellers

The magus, or Celestial intelligencer: being a complete system of occult philosophy by Francis Barrett - £10,800

The magus, or Celestial intelligencer: being a complete system of occult philosophy.
The book includes four fascinating hand-colored plates with portraits of demons.
Joern Koblitz

The magus, or Celestial intelligencer, is a handbook of the occult and ceremonial magic. It can be credited with making magic more accessible to the masses.

Occultist Francis Barrett explored Talismanic Magic, Alchemy, Cabalistic and Ceremonial Magic to compile The magus.

For the aspiring magi, discontented with the contemporary bias for classicism and pure reason, the handbook would have been an exciting trove of occult philosophy.

Sold by Milestones of Science Books

The Magus, or Celestial intelligencer is a very curious book, much sought after by collectors, especially in this rare first edition. It contains four hand-colored plates with portraits of demons and provides the reader with a fairly complete occult manual that teaches the principles of arithmology and correspondences, planetary and cabalistic magic and scrying techniques. However, since we specialize in the exact sciences and medicine, the book belongs to an area that is rather marginal for us.
Jörn Koblitz (Milestones of Science Books)
Jörn Koblitz (Milestones of Science Books)

Photo Album by Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral - £10,400

Photo album
The album (28 x 40 cm) has 23 pages containing 178 black and white photographs.

This photo album of 178 black and white photographic prints captures the geographical mission led by Admiral Gago Coutinho to establish the borders between Angola and Barotze in then-Rhodesia. The prints depict Coutinho and his crew as they traverse the African continent across the 13th parallel.

Coutinho is known today as a great scientist, geographer, astronomer and air navigator, later in life becoming the first to complete an aerial crossing of the South Atlantic.

Sold by Livraria Castro e Silva

Our mission as booksellers is essentially to identify, acquire, study and describe exclusive and possibly unique works, thus enabling our customers to collect, study, deepen and publicise their historical or scientific interest. This photo book is one of many examples of the works that Abebooks customers can find in our collection.
Pedro Castro e Silva
Pedro Castro e Silva

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - £10,100

The Bell Jar
True first edition, published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.

Her only foray into novels, Plath’s semi-autobiographical The Bell Jar follows Esther Greenwood as a young woman slowly unraveling. Plath effectively drew upon her own experience to depict mental illness in such a way that the character’s insanity becomes real, and even rational.

This true first edition was published in 1963 under Plath’s pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. It is bound in the publisher’s black cloth with its original, unclipped dust jacket. At the request of her family, the novel would not be published under ‘Sylvia Plath’ until 1967, and in the United States until 1971.

Sold by AlmostAll1stEditions

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - £10,000

The Old Man and The Sea.jpg
Laid in cheque, signed by Ernest Hemingway.

The Old Man and the Sea is the only work by Hemingway to be called out in the citation accompanying his Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. It tells the story of an aging Cuban fisherman as he kills and subsequently loses his greatest prize, a giant Marlin.

This first edition of Hemingway’s modern classic comes in its original dustjacket and includes a laid in bank cheque signed by the author for a good friend.

Sold by Magnum Opus Rare Books

Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill - £10,000

Painting as a Pastime
In black ink in five lines on the front free endpaper recto Churchill wrote: "Inscribed for T. E. R. Harris by Winston S. Churchill 1948".

Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965) was an accomplished amateur painter. His essay Painting as a Pastime had been printed in The Strand Magazine in 1922.

The first book edition of this essay appeared in 1948. This copy has a its dust jacket and is in very good condition.

Churchill inscribed it to his London banker Thomas Ernest Rorer Harris (1886-1954).

Sold by Churchill Book Collector

Soldier, writer, and politician, Churchill was perhaps an unlikely painter. Nonetheless he proved both a prolific and passionate one. Winston's wife Clementine had opposed the idea of her husband's opining in print on the subject, concerned that he might be belittled by professional painters and others. Clementine aside, it may be that Churchill's comparative reticence on the subject was to keep something personal in the great and turbulent sweep of his otherwise tremendously public life. He wrote, 'Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude" (Painting as a Pastime, p. 13).'
Paul Shelley (Churchill Book Collector)

Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio Quam ex Magna Universali Gerardi Mercatoris by Rumold Mercator - £9,500

Mercator World Map
Mercator's map of the world in fine original color. Double-hemisphere engraved world map with four lines of text in Latin, no text on verso.

Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) is famous for creating a world map using a new projection which laid out the globe as a flattened version of a cylinder, thus enabling latitude and longitude lines to be used to plot a straight route.

Many may know Mercator’s work without knowing it, as maps using this projection are often the standard today.

Mercator has the further distinction of coining the term ‘atlas.’ His Atlas (published by son Rumold after his death) was the first collection of maps to use the term in the title.

Sold by Daniel Crouch Rare Books Ltd

The first edition of the first map in the first atlas to be called such.
Daniel Crouch
Daniel Crouch (Daniel Crouch Rare Books)

Buddenbrooks. Verfall einer Familie by Thomas Mann - £8,490

Light brown Morocco leather bindings, gilt stamped labels.

A first edition of one of the greatest novels in German literature, this handsome copy of Buddenbrooks features Morocco bindings and a gold-embossed title on the spine.

Buddenbrooks would be the first novel published by a young Thomas Mann (1875-1955), and the one to make him famous. First published as two volumes in 1901, it has since become a cornerstone of German classic literature, weaving the tale of a wealthy north German bourgeois family’s ascent and decline over four generations.

Sold by Antiquariat J. Voerster

More than 100 years after it was first published, this novel, a great piece of world literature, has lost none of its relevance and continues to captivate countless people.
Antiquariat J. Voerster
Eva-Maria Voerster & Oliver Voerster


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