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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Chronicles of Narnia, Virginia, and Greece

Many Colour’d, Finely Spun

Selections of the Costume of Albania and Greece… by Joseph Cartwright, £39,650 ($63,965) at Sotheby’s London on November 4.

One of the twelve handcolored plates from Cartwright’s folio. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Serving as Paymaster-General to British forces in Corfu in the years 1816-20 was Cartwright’s official role and day job, but he was also a talented artist noted for his marine paintings. His prolonged stay in the Ionian Islands and Greece allowed him plenty of time to get to work with pen and paintbrush.

In 1821, he published Views in the Ionian Islands and, in the following year, this costume plate book, “with explanatory quotations from the poems of Lord Byron and Gally Knight.”

A folio collection of just a dozen colored aquatints by Robert Havell and his son after Cartwright’s originals, it is a work that was missing from even the Blackmer and Atabey libraries, two of the finest libraries on Greece and the Levant ever assembled, and the only other auction record is for a copy sold in the same rooms in 1988 for $6,470.

In the plate reproduced here we see a lady of Corfu, to which are appended two lines from Byron’s Don Juan: “Her dress was many colour’d, finely spun / Her hair had silver only, bound to be her dowry.”

Pulp Fiction

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, £85,250 ($136,517) at Sotheby’s London on October 28.

Bright pictorial jacket of Hammett’s classic detective novel. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Possibly the very first presentation copy that its author inscribed—on January 23, three weeks before the official publication date—this 1930 first of what is now considered one of the most influential detective stories of them all, was one that Hammett gave to Raoul Whitfield, a fellow pulp fiction writer and good friend.

Whitfield and Hammett created a sort of mutual admiration society, but the book is actually inscribed to both Raoul and his second wife, Prudence. The publication of Hammett’s letters in 2001 made it clear that his admiration for the latter extended beyond the literary. Prudence and Hammett were, for a time, lovers.

This was yet another of the high spots from that ‘Library of an English Bibliophile.’

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Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.