Catalogues | April 29, 2020

Peter Harrington’s Spring Catalogue Offers a Dickens Letter from his First Trip to America

Courtesy of Peter Harrington Rare Books

London — An affable if slightly bitter autographed letter from Charles Dickens to the British consul in Boston is among the highlights of Peter Harrington’s new Spring Catalogue, which also contains several rare items of interest including a first edition of The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard; a first edition in English of Camoens’s Os Lusíadas, and a first edition, first issue of accounts of the voyages of HMS Adventure and Beagle by Darwin.

Charles Dickens first visited America on a six-month tour in 1842, partly as he had always admired the country, and also with the intent of publishing his observations. While he was welcomed by local dignitaries and was lined up with an itinerary including a visit to the White House, meetings with various literary and political figures, and numerous banquets, he soon found his literary stardom oppressive, being unable to keep up with the flood of correspondence and overwhelmed by the surge of admirers.

The letter also touches on the issue of international copyright which was the
greatest blight to his trip – Dickens’s critical views on the lack of an international copyright agreement met with widespread condemnation in the American press, and even led to a forged letter attributed to Dickens being published in the New York Tatler, which particularly irritated Dickens. The fascinating letter is, however, very friendly and ends with a comment that he came back to the UK to find that the only change in Britain was an increase in income tax.

The letter is just one of the storied inclusions in Peter Harrington’s Spring Catalogue, which features an eclectic selection of the book dealer’s recent acquisitions and has been curated to appeal to a wide variety of interests – from aviation to fine bindings, children’s books, computing, economics, literature, photography, poetry, polar exploration, private correspondence, Renaissance science, Russian classics, women’s suffrage, and more.

Commenting on the catalogue’s launch, Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington says: “We’ve had a busy few weeks at Peter Harrington, keeping up with the rapid changes that have taken place in the past month and working hard to ensure that we can continue to present a wide range of books to appeal to our loyal customers and ardent collectors of rare books.

“We always try to represent a broad variety, ranging from entry-level first editions aimed at collectors who are just starting to nurture their passion, to highly desirable and incredibly rare finds sought after by seasoned collectors. I’m pleased to say that our Spring Miscellany selection this year represents a very strong offering that we hope will present many hours of enjoyment and discovery for lovers of rare and antiquarian books.”

Other highlights of the Spring Catalogue include:

•    Five volumes that include the first English editions to be illustrated of popular Jane Austen novels including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

•    A hand painted silk handkerchief with original portrait of Josephine Baker. The delightful memento of La Baker, features a nicely executed portrait showing her smiling, wearing earrings and a pearl necklace and sporting her famous Eton crop.

•    First edition, sixth impression, of An Airman's Outings, the highly popular memoir of Alan Bott, a British ace credited with five aerial victories.

•    First trade edition of In Cold Blood, inscribed by the author Truman Capote to his friend Bob Thomas, a veteran Hollywood columnist who began writing for the Associated Press in 1944.

•    Inscribed first edition of Aleksandr Leonidovich Chizhevskii’s “Strukturnyi analiz dvizhushcheisia krovi" (The Structural Analysis of Moving Blood). Chizhevskii opposed the idea that red blood cells move chaotically in the bloodstream, proving that erythrocytes form rings, and the speed of their movement depends on the distance between the rings and the axis of the blood vessel.

•    First edition, limited issue, bound in publisher’s full red morocco and signed by George and Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, and Rouben Mamoulian of Porgy and Bess, the opera in three acts that is considered to be Gershwin’s masterpiece.

•    First UK edition, published simultaneously with the US edition on 1 April 1988, of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, one of the most important scientific works of the second half of the 20th century.

•    First English edition of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, rarely found complete in cloth, with each volume in first impression.

NOTE ON INTERNATIONAL DELIVERY: All items in the catalogue can be viewed and will be available for sale at

While our stores in Mayfair and Chelsea in London are temporarily closed on account of the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, our online store is open and our specialists are available to give consultations by Zoom video chat or FaceTime – buyers can email to set up an appointment, or if they have any other questions. Peter Harrington’s international mail order delivery service is also fully operational and all international online orders are being fulfilled as normal.