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Rare Books

Most expensive sales from January to March 2022

Welcome to AbeBooks' most expensive sales of January, February and March 2022. Our list of rare and collectible items includes J.M. Barrie's famous fictional island, a study of Egyptian tarot, several iconic 20th century first editions and books that span the globe.

Cook’s Voyages by John Hawkesworth - $50,000

Cook's Voyages
Cook's Voyages in nine volumes

AbeBooks’ 10th most expensive sale of all time. A rare first edition set of the official accounts of Captain James Cook's three voyages published in nine volumes in 1773, 1777 and 1784 respectively. These books were 18th century bestsellers with readers eager to learn about the other side of the world.

Cook’s first voyage is covered by three volumes and describes his journey to the Southern Hemisphere. His second voyage, towards the South Pole, is described in two volumes. His third voyage, to the Pacific Ocean including the western coastline of America and Canada, is detailed in four volumes. These books gave Europeans a greater awareness of world geography, while his maps and charting of coastlines laid the foundation for modern maritime routes.

Hinterlassene Werke Des Generals Carl Von Clausewitz - $27,750

Hinterlassene
Carl Von Clausewitz was a Prussian general

This translates as ‘The surviving works of General Carl Von Clausewitz’, who was a Prussian general and military theorist. His most famous book is Vom Kriege (About War).

These works were published between 1832 and 1837 in 10 volumes bound into four books. Von Clausewitz (1780-1831) fought in France in the French Revolution and against France in the Napoleonic Wars. He analyzed strategy and tactics including the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon caused by poor military intelligence.

The Book Of Thoth: A Short Essay on the Tarot of the Egyptians by Aleister Crowley – $27,500

A study of Egyptian tarot by the world’s most infamous occultist. Published in 1944, this is a signed copy. Thoth was the Egyptian god of writing and knowledge, and his name is associated with numerous ancient Egyptian texts.

Hydrodynamica, sive De Viribus et Motibus Fluidorum Commentarii by Daniel Bernoulli - $25,000

Hydrodynamica by Daniel Bernoulli
Hydrodynamica is a pioneering text in the field of applied mechanics

Published in 1738, this is a landmark book in the field of theoretical and applied mechanics through its mathematical study of fluid flow. Translated from Latin, the title is ‘Hydrodynamics, or commentaries on the forces and motions of fluids.’ Bernoulli describes an equation that governs the flow of fluids in terms of speed, pressure, and potential energy, upon which much modern technology is based, especially aerodynamics.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster - $23,700

A 1924 first trade edition of Forster’s famous novel about the British Raj and India’s struggle for independence. Trade editions are intended for mass distribution and are issued once a publisher is sure that there is demand. Forster (1879-1970) signed and inscribed this copy in August 1944.

Neverland concept art by Mary Blair - $20,000

Neverland by Mary Blair
The Neverland concept art by Disney's Mary Blair

"There it is, Wendy. Second star to the right and straight on till morning." We all remember Peter Pan’s famous words from the 1953 Disney film when Neverland appears from behind the stars. This is the original concept painting for that scene by Disney artist Mary Blair. Concept art acts as a visual guide for animators and ensures that key scenes have a coherent and consistent style. Blair also contributed concept art for Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, Dumbo, and Fantasia.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - $20,000

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas books sold in January? Oh yes, Charles Dickens’ first editions are collected all year round. This is a first edition published by Chapman & Hall with an accompanying letter from Dickens laid into the book.

A Christmas Carol was published on December 19 in 1843 and became an instant bestseller. A novella, it helped craft the modern version of Christmas with its focus on family, food, and giving. Scrooge has entered the lexicon for anyone who is tight-fisted.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - $19,500

The third edition of Frankenstein from 1831, which was corrected and revised by Shelley. It is also the first illustrated edition with engraved frontispieces and an illustrated title page by Theodor von Holst depicting Frankenstein and the creature. The book is bound in late 19th century brown three-quarter morocco leather.

The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens - $16,000

More Christmas. Published between 1843 and 1848, Dickens’ Christmas Books series features A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain. These stories became part of Dickens’ reading tours in the 1850s and 1860s. This is a rare complete first edition set of all five books bound in full tan calf by the famous British bookbinding firm of Riviere & Son.

Le Theatre du Monde ou Nouvel Atlas by Willem & Joan Blaeu - $15,825

Theatre du Monde
Theatre du Monde is an atlas of the known world in 1648

An atlas of the known world printed in Amsterdam in 1648. Willem Blaeu became one of the key figures in Dutch cartography after setting up a successful mapmaking business and publishing his first atlas, Atlas Appendix, in 1630. His son Joan took over the business and focused on geography due to popular demand.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - $13,950

A signed first edition of Gone with the Wind in a facsimile dust jacket. Mitchell stopped signing copies about 12 months after the novel was published. Only 10,000 first edition copies were printed in May 1936. The subsequent June printing sold 50,000 copies on its first day. At 1,037 pages long, the novel became a worldwide bestseller and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The David O. Selznick movie further cemented the book’s place in literary history.

First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr by Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin - $13,750

Most collectors of space memorabilia want the signatures of the three astronauts from Apollo 11. This first edition is inscribed by Neil Armstrong, and signed by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. This account of the Moon landing was published in 1970, the year after their historic mission. Arthur C. Clarke wrote the book’s epilogue.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin - $12,500

 The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A rare first edition of The Awakening

A first edition of The Awakening from 1899 published by Herbert S. Stone & Company. One of the first novels to focus on women's issues and a landmark work in feminist writing.

The Awakening is set in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area, and focuses on Edna Pontellier who confounds turn-of-the-century society with her desire to be more than a wife and a mother. Its depiction of female sexual desire meant the book was poorly received at the time. First editions are scarce.

Kate Chopin died in 1904 and her writing faded into obscurity. It took the rise of feminism in the 1960s for her work to be reappraised as a pioneering.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - $12,500

A first edition from 1943 with the all-important dust jacket. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sold more than 300,000 copies in its first six weeks. Its appeal lies in the marginalized communities that it embraces - immigrants, the poor, and people struggling with abuse and addiction. The novel is semi-autobiographical, and focuses on an adolescent girl called Francie and her family in the first two decades of the 20th century.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - $12,000

A signed first edition published by Ballantine Books. When you ask a stranger about Ray Bradbury, they will probably mention Fahrenheit 451. Themes from the dystopian book-burning novel are as relevant today as when it was published in 1953.

Fahrenheit 451
A first edition of Fahrenheit 451

There are four first editions of Fahrenheit 451 that can be found. First is the soft cover edition released about six weeks before the hardcover version, which, despite being second in the timeline, is usually preferred by collectors. The hardcover commands four figures for a decent copy and more when signed.

The special fire-proof asbestos cover edition that was limited to 200 copies is rarely priced at less than $10,000. The granddaddy of them all is the special cloth and gilt presentation copy which Bradbury had specially bound and limited to 50 copies.

The Works of John Locke - $11,550

Works of John Locke
John Locke's writing influenced numerous philosophers

Printed in three volumes in 1714 for John Churchill. John Locke (1632-1704) influenced countless philosophers, thinkers and politicians with this writing on enlightenment and liberal theory. Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant were all influenced by his writing on identity and how knowledge is acquired.

Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, A Tale by James Fenimore Cooper - $11,000

A first edition printed in Florence in 1829. Cooper left America for almost seven years and wrote four books in Europe during that time. This story is set in a remote frontier settlement in Western Connecticut called Wish-ton-Wish. After leaving the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the protagonist Captain Mark Heathcote experiences the wilderness and conflict with Native Americans.

Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in decem libros digesta by Athanasius Kircher - $10,770

Ars magna
This book is an early text on light and optics.

Published in 1646 in Rome, this book’s title translates from Latin as ‘the great art of light and shadow, in 10 books.’ Ars magna is a key text on light and optics, and contains one of the earliest descriptions of the magic lantern and camera obscura. There are 40 plates and hundreds of illustrations in the text. Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was a German Jesuit scholar who wrote on a wide range of subjects, including religion, geology, science and medicine.

The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill - $10,630

The eight-volume 1928 first edition of this self help classic – the granddaddy of all motivational literature. This book was the precursor to Think and Grow Rich (published nine years later, in 1937) and was the basis of Hill's wealth-creation philosophy. This original edition is scarce, especially complete with all eight volumes.

Friendship album belonging to Mihály Pap - $10,470

Friendship album
This friendship album belonged a student who traveled around Europe in the 18th century

A friendship album is a notebook or journal where the owner collects messages from friends and acquaintances. They can include poems, drawings or paintings, signatures, anecdotes, or simple messages of goodwill. Rather like a print version of Facebook, friendship books display a circle of friends, and were popular between the 16th and 19th centuries. This friendship album belonged to a student traveling around Europe between 1765 and 1769. The messages are in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and German. The entries were collected in numerous cities, including Bern, Lausanne, Zurich, Nuremberg, London and Oxford.

Struggling to understand rare book jargon? Use the AbeBooks glossary.

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