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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Full Color

Charlotte Bests the Wild Things

Garth Williams, unused jacket design for E. B.White’s Charlotte’s Web, $64,050 at Bonhams New York on June 22.

Garth Williams’ unused painting for the dust jacket for Charlotte’s Web. Courtesy of Bonhams.

There were some disappointing results in the twentieth-century illustration art sale that included the E. H. Shepard drawings featured above. Fewer than half of the two hundred and sixty lots were sold, a catalogue cover illustrated watercolor by Maurice Sendak being the most significant. A 1990 poster design for the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) that incorporated Max and the best known of the Wild Things, plus Alligator from Alligators All Around, it failed on an estimate of $400,000-700,000.

There was better fortune, however, for the artwork reproduced here, a cover design for another of the best-loved American children’s books of the last century.

Publishers Harper & Row rejected this first, more polished and detailed version in favor of the lighter, looser rendering that has been used ever since.

Sailing, Extra-Illustrated

Anonymous, Sailing and Fighting Instructions for his Majesties Fleets, $43,750 at Christie’s New York on June 23.

A beautifully hand-illustrated (and colored) naval manual. Courtesy of Christie’s.

A very special copy in which the instructions have been specially illustrated by hand with one hundred colored ink drawings of signals, flags, guns, etc., covering almost every conceivable scenario regarding communication between ships, day or night. It also exhibits autograph additions and elaborations to the printed instructions—perhaps by the John Norris who has signed two extensive additions on the final blank leaf.

Various editions of this manual exist, dating back to 1673, but this one is thought to have been printed in London, c.1782, not so many years before it was replaced by the British Admiralty with The Signal Book for Ships of War.

An inscription on the front endpaper explains that in 1866, this attractive extra-illustrated copy, bound in nineteenth-century brown morocco gilt, was presented by Thornton Jenkins, Chief of the American Bureau of Navigation, to the Hon. Gideon S. Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Welles had served as naval secretary to Lincoln during the Civil War and continued in post under Andrew Jackson, while Jenkins’ long naval career had culminated with Civil War service under Admiral David Farragut, the man whom during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, so US naval legend has it, uttered instructions that are not to be found in this manual: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” or something of that nature.

Scotland in Full Color

John Parker Lawson, Scotland delineated in a series of Views, $60,000 at Christie’s New York on June 23.

Says the catalogue: “The plates are magnificent and the grandeur of the Scottish landscape seen through the eyes of such a group of artists makes this one of the outstanding topographical books of the nineteenth century.” Courtesy of Christie’s.

Rarely seen in the colored state, this is one of the finer examples of lithographed British topography, and among those commissioned by the publisher, Joseph Hogarth, to produce drawings of Scottish scenery were Turner, David Roberts, J. D. Harding, Joseph Nash, Clarkson Stanfield, George Cattermole, and many more distinguished artists.

Lawson, who provided the descriptive text, was an ordained minister who in his latter years worked as a writer for various Edinburgh publishers and booksellers.

Published in stages in the years 1847-54, the work was not a success at the time and Martin Hardie, in his 1906 study of English Coloured Books, cites a contemporary letter by another publisher, a Mr. Cadell, that offers a reason why: “It has two drawbacks, the first, it is rather late; the second, too dear. Success will attend no one thing in these scrambling, pushing, competing, bustling times, that is not good, new and cheap. I mean by new that it must have a dash of originality.”

Times and opinions have changed. This two-volume set had broken bindings but the ninety plates of this folio collection were all colored up and mounted on stiff card. There was some minor foxing to some of the plates in this New York copy, but not it seems on the view of Edinburgh from St. Anthony’s Chapel, after David Roberts, illustrated here.

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Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.