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Most unusual item for sale on AbeBooks is…. Edith Wharton’s baby rattle

Edith Wharton’s baby rattle

It’s not difficult to find weird things for sale on the AbeBooks marketplace but Edith Wharton’s baby rattle takes some beating. In fact, I’d say it’s the most unusual item to be listed for sale on AbeBooks since Eugene O’Neill’s underpants in 2013.

Priced at $16,500, this is no ordinary baby rattle. It’s made from sterling silver, contains a whistle, is engraved with the word ‘Edith’ and contains a red coral teething section.

Edith Wharton by Hermoine LeeI have learned that coral has long been used to soothe teething babies and that coral teething devices were used in the 17th to 19th centuries by wealthy families. Edith Wharton was born in 1862 in New York into a wealthy family who travelled extensively.

The rattle is offered for sale by Priscilla Juvelis from Maine. She has 100% solid provenance regarding this unusual item. The baby rattle was given to Lucienne Belugou, daughter of Leon Belugou, on her christening. Lucienne Belugou gave it to French scholar Claudine Lesage and Priscilla bought it from Ms. Lesage. The account of the gift and Edith Wharton’s (close) relations with Leon Belugou is to be found in Hermione Lee’s excellent biography of Edith Wharton.

Off the top of my head, I would describe the following items as most unusual:

Truman Capote’s birth certificate;

A rotating celestial globe;

A hat belonging to a 19th century French major general;

An IBM computer technology carrying case;

Albert Payson Terhune’s chair.


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