Five Rare Books for Collectors: International Women's Day

Peter Harrington

Book of Hours by Yolande Bonhomme (printer) (1545). Printed by the first woman to publish the Bible.

For International Women's Day, highlights from Peter Harrington's latest catalogue Louder Than Words: Women Who Changed the World chosen by its lead cataloguers Theodora Robinson and Emma Walshe:

* Book of Hours. Les presentes heures a lusaige de Paris toutes au long sans tiens requerir by Yolande Bonhomme (printer) (1545)

Printed by the first woman to publish the Bible.

The French printer and seller of liturgical and devotional books in Paris, Yolande Bonhomme (c.1490–1557), was one of a small number of important female book printers in Paris during the first half of the 16th century. She was the daughter of Pasquier Bonhomme, himself a printer and one of four appointed booksellers of the University of Paris, and the wife of another printer, Thielmann Kerver, who had moved to Paris from his birthplace in Coblentz to work as a bookseller at the Sign of the Unicorn. Yolande began printing on her own following her husband’s death in 1522, but continued to use his name and printer’s device on many of her books, as here. In 1526, she became the first woman to publish the Bible.

Octavo (171 x 103 mm). Encased in a silver filigree book binding, probably Dutch, late 17th century, with clasps, elegant filigree finials at head and tail of spine, white silk over wooden boards, pale blue silk-covered endpapers (the endpapers perhaps a later addition), gilt and gauffered edges (these perhaps French from a previous binding). Housed in a black morocco-backed folding case, spine lettered in silver, by J. & S.Brockman.

* An Essay on Light and Shade, on Colours, and on Composition in General [Together with, titled in manuscript:] Addition to the Second Edition by Mary Gartside (1805)

The first book by the woman who redefined colour.

Inscribed copies of the first edition and supplement of “one of the rarest and most unusual books about colour ever published” (Loske), each a remarkable survival in the original boards and wrappers respectively, the former complete with beautifully bright examples of Gartside’s colour blots, unique to each copy. The Essay is inscribed by the author in ink “With the Author’s best Respects” and the supplement “With the Authors Respects to Mr Barrow”.

Two works, quarto. Essay: uncut in original yellow paper-backed pink boards, printed decorative oval centrepiece encircling lettering on front board. Addition: uncut in original drab paper wrappers, stab-stitched, manuscript label pasted on front. Housed together in a custom dark red cloth flat-back box.

* Evenings with the Stars by Mary Proctor (1924)

A beautifully illustrated guide to stargazing

First edition, first impression, presentation copy, inscribed on the front free endpaper: “For Mrs. Gurney Fox, in appreciation of a very pleasant evening, from the Author”, with the author’s own pencil corrections to the text, and in some places eliding outdated information. Mary Proctor graduated from the London College of Preceptors in 1898 and made her name as “the children’s astronomer”, a reference to her success in pitching scientific works at a young public. In later life she became an astronomy lecturer and was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. The crater Proctor on the Moon is named after her.

Octavo. Original grey cloth, spine and front cover lettered in gilt, blocked in blind, and decorated with a brown architectural design incorporating gilt-bordered blue and black cloth onlays. Housed in a red cloth solander box.

* Manuscript recipe book by Rebecca Torr (1770)

More than a hundred years of recipes.

A fascinating artefact comprising over 200 pages of manuscript recipes carefully compiled over more than a century of use. The variant hands of Rebecca Torr and her descendants date the contributions through the late 18th to the 20th century, encompassing medical, culinary, and household topics, with contributions from family and community that open a window onto the Georgian household.

Small quarto (197 x 158 mm). Sometime neatly rebacked in green calf, original green vellum boards annotated in manuscript, spine lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers.

* Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly by Victoria Woodhull & Tennessee Claflin (1873)

The first female candidate for President of the United States addresses Congress.

A notable and well-preserved issue of the radical newspaper, featuring a striking full-page engraving of Woodhull advocating for women’s suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee on January 11, 1871. Also present at the table are suffragists Lillie Devereux Blake, Paulina Wright Davis, Josephine Sophia White Griffing, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Belva Ann Lockwood, and Susan B. Anthony.

Single issue, folio (page size 420 x 295 mm), 16 pp. Large sheet of newsprint, folded, unopened.