Lost Everything? Have a Martini.
Savoy Cocktail Book, Bloomsbury Auctions London, $595.
Illustrated and decorated in Art Deco style by Gilbert Rumbold, The Savoy Cocktail Book was compiled by the Savoy Hotel’s legendary American barman of the ’20s and ’30s, Harry Craddock, and features hundreds of his more popular cocktail recipes for slings and smashes, fizzes and flips. The most famous of Craddock’s own inventions (though the claim is disputed) was the White Lady, but Harry, who had left America to ply his trade in London during the Prohibition years, is also credited with popularizing the Dry Martini in Britain.
“The way to drink a cocktail” said Craddock, “is quickly, while it's still laughing at you. Wines, of course, merely smile. They are for the man who takes time.”
The book is still in print but this is a 1930 first copy in the original pictorial boards that sold for £432 ($595) at Bloomsbury Auctions in London on February 26. I’m told the salerooms have seen quite a few copies of late, perhaps brought out of the drinks cabinet by the realization that old Harry’s book is currently fizzin’.
Two of the three copies that showed up in auction records last year sold. One of them was a much less attractive example of the New York edition of the same year–the cover quite considerably abraded—that sold for £504 (then $1,005). Swann Galleries of New York sold the third copy, another U.S. edition, but a much better looking example, at $720.
Dutchess of Newcastle’s Sci-Fi, Tenants Leyburn, $4,770.
Samuel Pepys famously dismissed her as “mad, conceited and ridiculous,” and in an age when women generally concealed their identities when venturing into print, some saw her as a self-publicist in both life and literature. But Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, was undoubtedly a remarkable woman.
She not only wrote poems and plays—the latter dismissed in one of my older references as “now almost unreadable”—but tackled philosophical and scientific questions, published her own Sociable Letters and wrote an affectionate and very popular biography of her husband. There were few subjects on which Margaret did not hold a view, from gender and power to manners, scientific method, and animal protection, while The Description of a New World, also called The Blazing World of 1668 is an early example of science fiction.
It tells the story of a Utopian kingdom in another world, reached via the North Pole, in which a young woman from our own becomes the empress of a society of talking animals and organizes an invasion of Earth that involves submarines towed by “fish men” and fire stones dropped by “bird men”—all intended to confound the enemies of her English homeland.
Cavendish’s works are rarely seen at auction, but a March 3 Tennants of Leyburn (Yorkshire) sale provided a rare opportunity to acquire a substantial number of them—one seized by London booksellers, Maggs. The books came from the library of Douglas Grant (1921-69), a professor of American literature at the University of Leeds, whose published works had included a biography of this audacious duchess, Margaret the First.
Fresh to the market after 40 years, books from the Grant library made much, much more than predicted and his copy of Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World, in a contemporary calf binding, was the first seen at auction in nearly 30 years. It sold for £3,450 ($4,770).