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The Morgan Presents Tolkien's Adventurous Tales and Original Illustrations

New York — This winter, the Morgan Library & Museum offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity... read more

Al Hirschfeld's Marx Brothers Drawing Tops Illustration Art Auction

New York­-Swann Galleries’ auction of Illustration Art on December 6 saw a bustling auction... read more

The Roger Casson Library of Polar Exploration, Travel & Local History Heads to Auction

An important private library of polar exploration, travel and local history books, including many... read more

Original Star Wars Designs Achieve Top Lot at Bonhams

London--A sketchbook showing the original hand-drawn costume designs for key characters in Star Wars... read more

The Getty Museum Presents "Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts"

Los Angeles - The written word was a major art form in the premodern... read more

Olmsted's 1859 Letter Describing his Vision for Central Park to be Auctioned

Los Angeles - A handwritten letter from renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to... read more

Works by Tolkien, Drawings, and Photography on View This Winter at the Morgan

New York — The 2019 winter season at the Morgan Library & Museum continues... read more

Sotheby's Geek Week Auctions Total $7.4 Million in NY

New York - Sotheby’s Geek Week auctions concluded Friday in New York with a... read more

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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Flush This Book

18th Century Commode, Bloomsbury New York, $1800

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Using the form of a book to disguise an entirely different function, or to hide something away, is nothing new—think of money boxes, for example. But book as bathroom?

It does not seem an obvious use for an old binding, but this traveling commode might have appealed to Apthorpe, the obsessive officer in Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Men at Arms. Apthorpe, some readers may recall, owned an Edwardian field latrine, a so-called “thunderbox” that came to a comic and explosive end. The example seen in New York, by contrast, survived relatively unscathed since the 18th century. It sold for $1,800 in a Bloomsbury New York auction, September 17-18, 2008.

Two of its supporting walls are the blind-tooled calf-over-oak-board covers of a large folio volume that advertises itself on the red morocco label to be an Historia Universalis. Closed, it looks just like any other large old folio, but in times of need oaken boards fold out to form a closed square, or lift up to provide a seat in which a chamber pot could be placed. The whole thunderbox, perhaps intended for use on a military campaign by someone of rank, rests on four small wooden pegs and the sides formed by the binding are further protected at the foot by small brass plates. The wooden seat is cracked, the chamber pot itself long gone, and the binding seen some restoration, but have you ever seen another thunderbox of this age and grandeur, let alone one with such literary reverberations?

Great Scoop

Waugh’s Comic Novel in Original Jacket, Bloomsbury London, £3,600

Speaking of Evelyn Waugh, when Scoop, Waugh’s brilliant comic satire on the world of British journalism, was first published in 1938, its dust jacket featured a mock-up of The Daily Beast, the newspaper that mistakenly sends a mild-mannered “Nature Notes” contributor, William Boot, to cover a war in Ishmaelia, instead of novelist John Boot. The domineering proprietor of Waugh’s newspaper was called Lord Copper, but the typeface used in the masthead on the dust jacket closely resembled that favored by Lord Beaverbook’s real life Daily Express, and he threatened to sue if this obvious visual play was not removed. A copy retaining that original dust jacket was sold for a record £3,600 ($6,110) by Bloomsbury Auctions of London on October 17, 2008.

Lucky L’Engle

1962 Edition, A Wrinkle in Time, PBA San Francisco, $10,800

Thirty publishers turned down Madeleine L’Engle’s first story about the Murry and O’Keefe families, A Wrinkle in Time. Her science fiction fantasy for children, they said, was just “too different.”

Then in 1962, Ariel Books/Farrar, Strauss & Cudahy took a chance with a book that within a twelvemonth had won the American Library Association’s prestigious John Newbery Medal as the outstanding American children’s book of the year—the first in a series of awards.* As with the first Harry Potter book, the initial print run was small, and records suggest it’s been nearly 20 years since a copy of the 1962 first edition was seen at auction—a copy that sold for $120 at California Book Auctions of San Francisco.

That particular wrinkle in time smoothed out on August 21, 2008, when the firm that later morphed into PBA Galleries of San Francisco saw a first edition bid to $10,800.

*Readers may wish to know that the 2008 winner of the Newbery Medal was Laura Amy Schmitz with Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village.

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