Biggles The Camels are Coming
Captain W.E. Johns
An autograph copy should not be confused with a signed copy. An autograph copy is something that was handwritten and AbeBooks has a classic example on its list of most expensive sales during February. An autograph manuscript by the British art critic, social thinker, poet and artist John Ruskin sold for $18,750. It contained notes from Ruskin made while reading Thomas Carlyle's History of Friedrich II of Prussia. Ruskin was using it as research material for his own essay Notes on the Economies of the Kings of Prussia. This is an important manuscript because it is one-of-a-kind but also as Carlyle and Ruskin were good friends. Under Carlyle's guidance, Ruskin began to move away from art criticism and into political commentary.
The second most expensive sale of last month is also interesting but for different reasons. The Camels Are Coming by W.E. Johns, which sold for $17,754, is the first Biggles' novel. The Biggles series of aeronautical adventures spanned nearly 100 novels and features many different phases in the career of British flying ace James Bigglesworth (aka Biggles). The books go from his early days growing up in India, to fighting in World Wars I and II, and through to the Cold War era. First editions of The Camels Are Coming are scarce - all Biggles' collectors want a copy.
Other notable titles in last month's list include a copy of the first French edition of Captain Cook's third voyage and a rare 1937 first edition copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Lastly, Entomology, the study of insects, makes another appearance on this list with Edward Donovan's 16-volume Natural History of British Insects being sold for $9,500. Donovan was an amateur zoologist and also published Natural History of British Birds and the Natural History of British Fishes.
1. Fourteen pages on Thomas Carlyle by John Ruskin - $18,750
An autograph (meaning handwritten) manuscript written in 1866 containing Ruskin's notes after reading Carlyle's classic work ‘History of Friedrich II of Prussia' which were taken in preparation of the composition of his essay ‘Notes on the Economies of the Kings of Prussia.”' Much of the text was included in the published version of the essay regarding the early years of Austrian and Prussian monarchies, from 900 to 1667. Ruskin's notes on the early monarchs are very close to the finished text.
2. The Camels are Coming by W.E. Johns - $17,754
First UK edition (first printing), of the first book in W.E. Johns' Biggles series printed in 1932. The book contains 17 short stories, each preceded with illustration by Johns. This first edition can be tough to identify because it was undated at publication but does contain a couple tell-tale signs. Firstly, there is no catalogue of other W.E. Johns' titles at the rear of the book and, secondly, early editions contain an error on page 224 where the code number of a spy is given incorrectly as “2792” when they are referred to in the rest of the book as “2742”.
3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston - $12,000
Published in 1937, this is a fine first edition copy of what many consider Hurston's finest book.
4. The Natural History of British Insects by Edward Donovan - $9,500
This 16-volume set was published from 1792 to 1813 and contains explanations of various species and includes 576 engraved plates.
5. Troisième Voyage de Cook, ou voyage à l'Océan Pacifique, ordonné par le Roi d'Angleterre, pour faire des Découvertes dans l'Hémisphère Nord, pour déterminer la position & l'étendue de la Côte Ouest de l'Amérique Septentrionale, sa distance de l'Asie, & resoudre la question du passage au Nord - $8,544
The original French edition of Captain Cook's Third (and final) voyage where he hoped to find a passage through North America connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The translation was completed by Demeunier and it was published in 1785 in Paris.
6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - $7,500
An unread copy of the first edition, first printing, of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 1980 – only 7,500 copies of this printing were produced.
8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens - $6,450
The first publication of David Copperfield, serialized from May 1849 to November 1850.
9. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Jonathan Swift- $6,300
Otherwise known as Gulliver's Travels, this sale was of Volume Two only which was published in 1726 and contains parts III and IV (Voyage to Laputa and Voyage to Houyhnhnms). This volume was also lacking the plate of the automatic writing machine and the three maps.
10. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park - $6,050
Published in two volumes in 1816, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa documents Park's travels through west Africa to discover the course of the Niger River.