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Early Details on the 42nd Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, Nov. 16-18

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Christie's Presents the Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Collection of Photographic Masterworks

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Maps and Memoirs

Not Morocco Bound—Original Boards are Better!

Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language in its original boards.

Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, Heritage of Dallas on February 11-12, $34,655

Unlike the one in the Bing Crosby & Bob Hope song, this Webster was not morocco bound. Even better, it was uncut in the original boards, and folded inside was a four-page working manuscript containing Webster’s notes on the origins of some 126 words.

Webster had begun work on his great dictionary in 1800, and though he produced A Compendious Dictionary in 1806 and an abridgment of it for schools in the following year, it was not until 1827 that this multi-lingual and meticulous lexicographer began to oversee the printing of the first edition of his great work. Containing 70,000 words, a substantial numerical advance on anything previously attempted, and setting new standards in etymological research and accuracy of definition, Webster was first printed in 1828 in a run of 2,500 copies.

Dr. Johnson, in his great 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, famously and self-deprecatingly defined a lexicographer as “a harmless drudge,’ but Webster was a tireless, professional drudge. Sir James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, proclaimed him a born lexicographer, and the editors of Printing and the Mind of Man said of Webster that he “succeeded in breaking the fetters imposed upon American English by Johnson to the ultimate benefit of the living language of both countries.”

The example in this Texas sale was in the original binding, and though the spines were mostly perished, and the printed-paper spine label replacements and boards worn and scuffed, it remained a fine and clean copy. Of course, the manuscript insertion was a real bonus. The price virtually doubled the previous best at auction.

Kit Carson Approaches the Final Frontier

Signed carte-de-visite of Kit Carson, circa 1860s.

Carte-de-visite of Kit Carson, Swann’s New York on February 11, $35,600

Sold as part of the Jerome Schochet collection of signed historical photographs, this carte-de-visite portrait of the famous trapper, trail guide, Indian agent, and soldier is undated, but given that it was produced in Matthew Brady’s New York studios, it probably dates to the late 1860s, when Carson made a trip to the East to seek medical advice and help. In 1867, ill health had forced him to resign from his post as commander of Fort Garland, Colorado, and he died at his home near Fort Lyon in the same state in February of the following year.

“Breathe Some More Smoke My Way!”

A first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Heritage of Dallas on February 11-12, $23,900

When Elisabeth Dunn, a journalist from the British Daily Telegraph met J.K. Rowling in June 1997, for what was to be the author’s first-ever interview for a national newspaper, they met in Nicholson’s café in Edinburgh. Much of the book that quickly became a publishing phenomenon had been written there—the café being somewhat warmer than the then impoverished writer’s home.

At the time, Rowling had just quit smoking, as much for financial as health reasons, but Dunn admits that, at the time, she was addicted to Gauloises, those distinctively aromatic and pungent French cigarettes, and the smoke breathed her way during that interview had severely tested Rowling’s resolve. In an explanatory letter accompanying the book (addressed in 2003 to an R.M. Collins), Dunn recalls that J.K. Rowling continually leaned into the smoke to pick up the secondary nicotine.

The copy of the newly published book that Rowling gave to Dunn in the cafe is signed and inscribed, “Breathe some more smoke my way!” An example from the very small print run, it was in the publisher’s stiff pictorial wrappers, showing some slight spine and other creasing as well as a tiny area of blistering on the outer edge of the rear cover.

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