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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

All Over the Map

Landlubbers Beware!

Journal of a Landsman from Portsmouth to Lisbon on His Majesty’s Ship ––––, by Robert Seymour, £3,055 ($4,960) at Dominic Winter of South Cerney, March 2-3.

From Seymour’s earlier, seagoing work—a collection of fourteen colored lithograph plates (on eight sheets) and ten colored vignettes published in 1831 by Thomas M’Lean. Courtesy of Dominic Winter.

It was Seymour’s comic creations, especially those on hunting and fishing themes, and his suggestion for a textually linked series of comic sketches about a sporting club, that prompted publishers Chapman & Hall to commission what was to become, with broadened subject matter, the work we know as Pickwick Papers.

There has been much controversy as to just how much Seymour influenced the famous Dickens book, but his involvement had a tragic end. Seymour suffered from depression and had shot himself with a fowling piece (shotgun) before the second part of the original serial issue of 1836-37 had been published. The other illustrations were supplied by R. W. Buss and of course, Hablot K. Browne (‘Phiz’).

Better days at sea are remembered here. The sailor in the right foreground is using what appears to an early attempt at making the daily task of scouring and whitening the decks a little easier—a stick propelled holystone!

The Guinea Pig Expires

Prototypes for ‘The Amiable Guinea-Pig,’ watercolor drawing by Beatrix Potter, $85,400 at Bonhams San Francisco on February 13.

A high five figures was had for these five vignettes of a guinea pig grooming and dressing, drawn by Beatrix Potter. Courtesy of Bonhams.

A sequence of drawings of a guinea pig grooming and dressing itself, this watercolor dates from 1893, but many years later Beatrix Potter re-worked three of the vignettes to illustrate the rhyme ‘The Amiable Guinea-pig’ in Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes, first published in 1917.

In an entry in her journal for February 1893, Potter tells of an unfortunate incident involving one of her little models. She had borrowed from a Miss Paget a “very particular guinea-pig with a long white ruff, known as Queen Elizabeth,” an animal with a distinguished pedigree.

“This wretched pig,” she wrote, “took to eating blotting paper, pasteboard, string and other curious substances and expired in the night.”

Paget, it seems, took the loss of her pet stoically and Potter gave her a drawing of the departed animal.

From Book to Film to Book

Metropolis, by Thea von Harbou, £1,020 ($1,640) at Bloomsbury Auctions of London on February 10.

The dust jacket of the first English edition of Metropolis is an outstanding example of Art Deco illustration. Courtesy of Bloomsbury.

Designed by Aubrey Hammond, the dust jacket for the 1927, first English edition of Thea von Harbou’s Metropolis is very much a period piece and, it would seem, draws for its striking imagery on the much more famous film version of that year.

A first issue copy, it has a slightly chipped and torn jacket, but the only other copy of this edition to show up in auction records is one that made $1,440 in Bloomsbury’s New York salerooms in 2009.

In August 2007, however, PBA Galleries of San Francisco got $5,750 for the only copy of the German language original for which I can find an auction record—though copies of both versions can be found at very much higher sums online.

Thea von Harbou, whose second husband, Fritz Lang, directed the memorable silent film version of the book in 1927, was both an actress and writer and collaborated with Murnau, Lang, and others on the screenplays for several films.

Thea joined the Nazi party in 1932 but Fritz Lang moved to Hollywood when The Testament of Dr Mabuse was banned by the party, and the couple was divorced, leaving Thea to pursue her own film career in Germany.

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