At Books on Bay, we’re attracted to the unusual. Not sure if that says more about the books or about us, but we sure do like finding and sharing books that you don’t see every day. What do we think makes a book unusual? Well, it could be because of a number of things. The book could be really old, scarce, incredibly desirable, or just plain odd. Here are some of our favorites:
Gone with the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell
DID YOU KNOW that the 1st edition of Gone with the Wind has been reprinted over 100 times? (30 times in 1936 alone) Many people ask if we have a 1st edition GWTW in the shop, but what they’re really asking about is a 1st edition, 1st PRINTING of the book. Unfortunately for them, there were only about 5000 1st printings, so any of those books will be pricey—and, yes, we do have a 1st printing with a 1st state dust jacket, and you’re looking at it.<
L. Annaei Senecae Cordubensis Tragoediae [Seneca’s Tragedies] (1607)
Seneca was a philosopher, statesman, and dramatist of the Silver Age of Roman literature. He was also tutor and later advisor to the emperor Nero. This copy has its original animal skin vellum covers, leather spine and half the title page pasted down at the crown, as if to show the title of the book. (Now why on earth would someone do that to a book?) It is also signed in the front by an owner in 1610.
Pius XII: His Voice — His Life (1949)
The word “parlograph” was invented by a German company in 1913 for its dictating machines, but the word came to refer to recordings in general. Here you see a parlograph book, a book that is actually a record. This book was published by Ergo Sum Editions (Rome) and was printed and distributed in the seven principal languages of the world. The voice of Pius XII is recorded on an RCA Victor custom record (78 rpm) with a prayer for peace in English, a papal blessing, and the Sistene Choir in the background.
The History of the Coronation of the Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellenent Monarch James II, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. and of His Most Royal Consort Queen Mary (1687) by Francis Sandford
James II enjoyed one of the most sumptuous coronations and one of the shortest reigns in the history of English monarchy. This oversized book—considered by many to be the great-grandfather of today’s souvenir books—describes the coronation’s ceremonies and sites in excruciating, mind-numbing detail through 135 pages. Poor Sandford and his collaborator Gregory King barely broke even because James was overthrown only a year after they completed the book.
Traité des Maladies des Femmes Grosses et Accouchées [Diseases of Women With Child]
by François Mauriceau (1683)
This is the book that established obstetrics as a science. Mauriceau, a French master surgeon and leading obstetrician of his day, was the first to discuss tubal pregnancies and epidemic puerperal fever. He also developed a classical maneuver of assisted breech delivery and advocated a reclining position in bed rather than sitting on a birthing stool or chair for delivery. The book includes numerous detailed drawings that are eyebrow-raising even for today.
Literature of the Rebellion: A Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets Relating to the Civil War in the United States and on Subjects Growing Out of That Event, Together with Works on American Slavery, and Essays from Reviews and Magazines on the Same Subjects (1866)
by John Russell Bartlett
Well, the title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? This book is one of the most comprehensive bibliographies ever written and includes 6,073 printed items in five categories on the Civil War and related subjects. Not only is the book a great reference resource for Civil War collectors, but this copy was also once owned by the Library of Congress.
The Christian History, Containing Accounts of the Revival and Propagation of Religion in Great Britain & America (1743-1745) edited by Thomas Prince, Jr.
This book is a compilation of issues of the first Christian religious journal in America. Prince began the publication in 1743 to report on the revivals which were then sweeping America and Europe. What makes this copy especially interesting, though, is that it was owned by Daniel Denny, founder of the Denny family in America (whose members now number in the tens of thousands).
Britannia Baconica: Or, The Natural Rarities of England, Scotland, & Wales (1661)
by Joshua Childrey
A divine and natural philosopher, antiquary, astrologer, and man of the cloth, Childrey is best-known for this work. Though the descriptions of the curiosities included in the book are mostly taken from works by others, he occasionally refers to his own observations of his native county of Kent as well as of his visits to Wiltshire, Gloucester Cathedral and Witney.
Map of the Marvelous Land of Oz drawn by Prof. Wogglebug, T.E.
The first “official” map of Oz was printed as the endpapers in L. Frank Baum’s book, Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). In 1920 as a promotional giveaway, the publishers Reilly & Lee printed a 9” x 13” version that reproduced the 1914 map showing Emerald City in the center surrounded by the four major countries of Oz. On the back of the map is the Flag of Oz. This copy of the map/flag has been double-sided framed with glass and mattes on both sides of the frame.
And finally . . .
In this case, all of the books are definitely unusual. Look closely and you’ll see several special 1st editions (including two of the Hardy Boys books and Jack London’s Call of the Wild), two 1917 Girl Scout handbooks, an 1822 Book of Common Prayer with a beautiful fore-edge painting, the last book in the Dana Girls series, four limited editions signed by Elbert Hubbard who began the Roycrofters, a 1700s Jonathan Edwards book that was horribly re-bound by an institutional bindery, and our favorite: Gotham and the Gothamites (1823) by Samuel B. H. Judah. In 1823, Judah was a moderately successful author in New York City, and something possessed him to write a poetical satire about the greed of 100 well-known people in the city. Understandably, the 100 well-known people were not amused, and Judah was arrested and tried for libel. He was found guilty, fined $400, and kept in jail until he paid the fine, and then most of the copies were destroyed. What is wonderful about this copy (beyond the fact that it survived) is that inside it was an 1823 Essex Register newspaper account of the trial. The newspaper cutting has now been archival-standard framed and accompanies the book.