Fairs | April 2023 | Alex Johnson

Five Rare Books for Collectors: Eric Idle’s Library

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Dylan Thomas, Collected Poems 1934-1952. London: J.M. Dent, 1959. Reprint. Octavo. Original blue cloth binding, with gilt stamping. Some minor browning and wear along the extremities of the dust jacket. $250.
With a presentation label from The Royal Wolverhampton School awarding this volume to Eric Idle for “Service to the School” on July 6, 1962. In The Pythons' Autobiography by The Pythons (2003), Idle reflected on his time at the boarding school: “I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority. Perfect training for Python.”
Dylan Thomas is included in Idle’s list of influences on his Eric Idle Online! blog.

Highlights from the private library of revered British actor Eric Idle, founding member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, will be on offer at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair (NYIABF) by johnson rare books & archives. British history, literature, rock and roll, along with humor, comedy and musical theater are just a few of the subjects covered in Idle’s library, accumulated over the nearly three decades he lived in Los Angeles. 
“I’m never happier than when reading a book. I read a lot of books. I find books endlessly inspiring,” Idle says, pointing to a shelf of British history he referenced for sketch ideas. Among the books for sale are first editions of Winston Churchill’s four volume A History of the English-Speaking People (1956-58) and Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s The Comic History of England (1847-48). 
As for the new owners of the books, Idle’s advice is: “Enjoy them. I think books are there to be enjoyed. Read them with pleasure and share your pleasure with other people.” The collection includes books signed by several rock musicians, who Idle counted among his friends, such as George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, The Comic History of England
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Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, The Comic History of England. London: Published at the Punch Office, 1847-48. First edition. Original twenty parts in nineteen, published from July 1946 to February 1848. Octavo: xii, 320; xii, 304 p. Twenty colored steel-engravings after designs by John Leech, plus 240 woodcuts in the text. $2,000.
The set collates near complete: lacking the pink slip advertising The Battle of Life and Dombey & Son at the front of Part VI. The back wrapper of Part XVIII supplied from a Part XI (with Elements of Botany on the inside and Mr. Dickens New Monthly Work on the outside). The ads on the back wrapper of Part V match those called for by Tooley (with Opinions of the Press on the inside and Rowlands Macassar Oil on the outside) rather than Abbey (with First Vol. of the Music Book on the inside and Works by G. A'Beckett on the outside).
Original blue printed wrappers. The usual rebacking. A very clean and bright set. Housed in a full olive morocco folding case (spine faded to brown).

George Harrison, Live in Japan: George Harrison with Eric Clapton and Band
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George Harrison, Live in Japan: George Harrison with Eric Clapton and Band. Guildford, England: Genesis Publications Ltd, 1993. First edition. This is copy number 30 of 3500 signed by George Harrison. Accompanied by a double CD with original artwork and 19 live tracks, a laminated “After Show” pass, and Eric’s and George’s guitar picks. Quarto. Bound in black leather with gold and red tooling and gilt edged pages. Near fine. Housed in the publisher’s slipcase. $3,000.
Pictorial celebration of George Harrison’s “Rock Legends” tour of Japan in 1991, featuring almost 500 previously unpublished photographs. The foreword by Eric Clapton explains how George was persuaded to return to touring after a break of 17 years. The first (and longest) chapter is written by George himself and details his thoughts and feelings on taking to the road after such a long absence. It includes George’s personal recollections of the tour and memories of times on the road with The Beatles. Subsequent chapters are written by each member of Eric Clapton’s band and reveal private moments behind the scenes, during sound checks, on stage and in transit.

A.A. Roback, A Dictionaryof International Slurs (Ethnophaulisms), with a Supplementary Essay on Aspects of Ethnic Prejudice
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A.A. Roback, A Dictionaryof International Slurs (Ethnophaulisms), with a Supplementary Essay on Aspects of Ethnic Prejudice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Sci-Art Publishers, 1944. First edition. This is number 912 of 1000 copies signed by the author. Octavo. In a later one quarter black morocco over black cloth binding, with gilt titles and five raised bands. $500.
Signed on the half-title “Ex Libris Eric Idle”.
The dictionary consists of a collection of approximately 1000 slurs in English on other nationalities; a lexicon of slurs in a number of foreign languages (over 1,000 expressions) translated literally and idiomatically, together with the original words or phrases; and an inventory of over 1,000 proverbs which relate to some 50 national groups and are provided with historical cues. A short treatise on ethnic prejudice gives the backgrounds of the various nationalities, together with the accepted group traits for each. A bibliography of linguistic, folkloristic, and general works is included.

Special “The Rutles” issue of What's Happening? from WEA Records Ltd
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Special “The Rutles” issue of What's Happening? from WEA Records Ltd. in London, issued in advance of the television mockumentary All You Need Is Cash (1978). Signed by Eric Idle, who co-directed the affectionate parody of The Beatles with Gary Weis and appeared as Dirk McQuickly, the Paul McCartney-styled character in the group. 

Citing his first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as a favorite (and not offered for sale), Idle says he prefers to read books in their first edition because “you get a sense of history…somebody once read this for the first time at that time.”
The Idle collection can be found at stand A10 at the book fair, which returns to the Park Avenue Armory in New York City April 27-30, 2023, for its 63rd Edition.
Based in Covina, California, johnson rare books & archives were also agents for the sale of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s library. Additional books from Idle’s library will be offered for sale on their website in the coming months.