It is time that we close another year in the world of rare books - farewell, 2022!
It has been an intense twelve months with political and social strife reaching across the globe, from the war in Ukraine to the culture wars in the West and a rise in authoritarian doctrine in many countries. Natural disasters and economic hardship have also been affecting people all around the world.
Unsurprisingly, the trends in rare books this year reflect the intensity of 2022. We have noticed a surge of interest in non-fiction books and historical ephemera, maps, and manuscripts - perhaps due to a drive to have a tangible piece of history. There was also an increase in modern literature and comfort classic reads.
Among the collectible books sold this year, we saw quite a few titles from popular authors whose older works are made relevant today by new interpretations in modern culture. Collectibles copies of titles from The Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice have been favored in 2022 partially due to her passing in late December of last year, but the well-received AMC+ adaptation of Interview with The Vampire may also have something to do with that. Signed and first-edition copies of short stories and novels by Stephen King have been moving steadily, but that remains true most years! Even Lady Chatterley's Lover has had the television bump lately.
Cookbooks and cocktail books have waned in popularity since they dominated the field in 2020, but classic mixology books and cookbooks by Julia Child have still been selling steadily. Culinary ephemera has been popular in the past year, with menus, wine lists, and food adverts finding new owners.
The spotlight fell onto art and books about books. We saw the sale of original panels by Roy Lichtenstein, a lithograph by Salvador Dali, a catalog of Pablo Picasso, and a bibliography of the Arion Press.
The five most expensive books sold:
A Monumental Copy: Cosmographia Universalis by Sebastian Münster
This breathtaking folio, published in 1544, contains 14 double-page woodcut maps (including two world maps and one of the Americas), numerous double-page town views (including three folding panoramas), and over 900 woodcut text illustrations. Cosmographia contained the latest maps of many well-known cities but also an encyclopedic amount of detail about the known (and unknown) world.
Aside from the well-known maps, the text includes portraits of kings and princes, costumes and occupations, habits and customs, flora and fauna, monsters, wonders, and horrors. This work, one of Münster's most important, became a common house book of historic and geographic knowledge across Europe over the centuries, evidenced in this copy with annotations from owners in the 1600 and 1700s.
American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster
Old sets of encyclopedias and dictionaries are not often worth much, but this is a definite exception! Printed by Hezekiah Howe in 1828, this is the rare first edition of Webster's monumental American Dictionary, one of only 2500 copies. This dictionary introduced American English spellings, replacing colour with color, substituting wagon for waggon, and printing center instead of centre. He also added American words, like skunk and squash, that did not appear in British dictionaries.
Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted by Frances E. W. Harper
Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted is one of the first novels published by an African American woman. The author Frances E. W. Harper is also known for being the first African American woman to publish a short story. While Iola Leroy follows the "sentimental" conventions of late nineteenth-century writing about women, it also deals with the serious social issues of education for women, passing, miscegenation, abolition, reconstruction, temperance, and social responsibility. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in a eulogy for her: "she was not a great writer, but she wrote much worth reading. She was, above all, sincere."
Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire
A beautiful, extra-illustrated 1857 edition published by Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, containing the six notorious, banned poems. Baudelaire's masterpiece of Symbolism and Modernism scandalized the French authorities with their decadence, eroticism, and "insult to public decency." Le Fleurs du Mal got Baudelaire and his publisher prosecuted, fined, and six poems officially banned ("Les bijoux," "Le lethe," "A celle qui est trop gaie," "Lesbos," "Femmes damnees," and "Les metamorphoses du vampire").
Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works
A lavishly produced two-volume catalog raisonne that was created with the full participation of Yoshitomo Nara. This two-volume set is the most extensive, authoritative, and beautiful expression of the artist's work ever published. Featuring two 400-page volumes bound in fabric featuring Nara's designs, the catalog covers all of the artist's prolific output throughout his career to date, including more than 4,500 paintings, drawings, editions, sculptures, photographs, and collaborations with other artists.