Those naysayers who say the physical book is dead should take a look at October’s top 10 most expensive sales on AbeBooks. The combined value of the top 10 sales exceeds $98,000 and an $11,000 signed first edition of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway didn’t even crack the top three.
Two different copies of An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by Sir George Leonard Staunton were sold for $17,000 and $15,800 respectively. This three-volume set (two books of text and an accompanying atlas) documents the efforts of Earl Macartney and his party to set up the first British Embassy in China. The group traveled to Beijing in 1792 via Madeira, Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, the Cape of Good Hope and Indonesia, and included Sir George Leonard Staunton and his 11-year-old son who was to be the ambassador’s page. That young boy was also the only European in the party who spoke Mandarin, and therefore was the only one able to speak with the Chinese Emperor.
Other interesting sales include a one-of-a-kind handwritten diary from a captain in the American Civil War as well as a collection of three works by J.D. Hooker about the botanical research conducted on the ships Erebus and Terror during the Ross expedition to find the magnetic South Pole. Hooker was one of the greatest botanists of the 19th century, and a trendsetter for agreeing with Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Rounding out the list were three books by the first South Carolina poet laureate (1934-1973) Archibald Rutledge. Rutledge was the author of more than 50 books with many of his poems describing hunting or other experiences growing up on a plantation and summer holidays in South Carolina.
1. An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by Sir George Leonard Staunton - $17,000
Published in 1797-1798 in three volumes of which the two text volumes are from the large paper issue which measures 12 and 7/16 inches (compared to 12 inches for the regular issue in original boards). This set is the second edition (corrected) and was signed by the author.
2. The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H.M. Discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839-1843, under the command of Sir James Clark Ross by J.D. Hooker - $16,000
These books were published in an effort to document the botanical research of J.D. Hooker during the four-year voyage, on which Hooker was the assistant surgeon and naturalist, to determine the position of the magnetic South Pole. Published in London in 1844 this is an incomplete, but still very rare, set of three volumes each in two parts. This sale contained one part from each of the three volumes.
4. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway - $11,000
A fine copy of the 1929 first edition, first printing of Hemingway’s classic signed by the author on a laid in signature.
5. The Heart’s Quest by Archibald Rutledge - $7,995
This is a signed first edition copy of Rutledge’s earliest work; the book itself is undated but it has been recorded that it was published in 1904 making it the South Carolinian poet’s first published work by nearly two years.
6. Civil War Diary of Captain Emanuel D. Roath by Emanuel D. Roath - $7,500
Written from 1864-1865, this diary contains 160 pages detailing the experiences of the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry in the American Civil War including combat actions and imprisonment in a Confederate prison. Recruited in central Pennsylvania to serve for three years, and attached to the main body of the Army of the Potomac, the 107th fought at Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.
7. Under The Pines and Other Poems by Archibald Rutledge - $7,200
Under the Pines was Rutledge’s second publication having been published in 1906; this copy was signed and inscribed “O to recall/What to recall Myhew Phillips.”
8. How Wild Was My Village by Archibald Rutledge - $5,995
Published in 1969 by Wing Publications, this first edition copy was inscribed by the South Carolina Poet Laureate “With the love of your friend, Archibald Rutledge.” In addition to Rutledge’s text the book is illustrated throughout by D.P. McGuire.
9= Dumas’ Works: The Romances of Alexandre Dumas - $5,000
Published in 1903 in 32 volumes, this Louvre Edition of Dumas’ works came in three-quarter leather bindings and was limited to 1000 sets each hand numbered in red ink, in each volume, on the limitation page.
9= Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde by Heinrich Beck, et al - $5,000
Published between 1973 and 2007 in 35 volumes, the Lexicon of Germanic Antiquities is an important German-language encyclopedia of the history of the Germanic people from Antiquity to the Middle Ages; the first edition was published from 1911-1919 with this being the second edition. Ex-reference library copy (non-circulating).