Christina's Virtual Rare Book Collection

(or, specific copies I would buy if I were a collector of rare books instead of a cataloguer of them)

Robert and I have about 2000 books in our apartment, almost all of them mine. As a life-long obsessive bookworm, I've moved my books from New York to Berkeley to Los Angeles, always acquiring more along the way. Currently I'm running out of shelf space, even with books crammed into our many six-foot high bookcases. (I know, I know--people are always warning me about earthquakes and bookcases and beds and doorways. Never mind that for now.)

There are cookbooks and reference books and some history or philosophy or art books, but mostly there are novels--especially Victorian novels, from the well-known to the obscure. They are not old, rare, or valuable books. They are mostly paperbacks, because that's what's cheapest, easiest to find, and easiest to stuff into a bag to read on a bus. I always shop for pocketbooks with a hefty paperback (Trollope works well) in hand, to make sure it fits. I love my books--I love being surrounded by them, knowing I've read all of them, being able to pull one down if I want to look something up or compare two scenes, and remembering how I felt and where I was when I first read it.

Since I started working at Heritage Book Shop in October, 1998 as a descriptive catalogue, I get to be around many books all the time at work. I work with many of the same titles as I have on my shelves at home, but in first editions or original serial parts, original cloth bindings or fancy full-leather gilt bindings. While it's exciting working on a $15,000 A Christmas Carol, I don't at all covet it. I own the books I do because I love to read them--while eating breakfast or while in the bathtub. The person who buys that $15,000 copy, I'm sure, doesn't read it at all.

But in my work at Heritage I have found some books that I would buy, if I were to begin a modest collection of Victorian first editions. My considerations are a combination of condition, realistic budget concerns in my albeit hypothetical world, and, subjectively enough, how much I like each copy. So, without further ado, here is my list of books in my virtual collection--each is one I've catalogued and described myself for Heritage. Each book is owned by Heritage unless it has recently been sold.

1. DICKENS, Charles, and Wilkie Collins. The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices. No Thoroughfare. The Perils of Certain English Prisoners. With Illustrations. London: Chapman and Hall, Limited, 1890.

First edition in book form. Octavo. [i-v]vi[vii-viii], [1-3]4-104[105-107]108-233[234-237]238-327[328]. Eight inserted plates by Arthur Layard.

Blue cloth with black decorative border on front top and bottom and with publishers' monogram in black on back. Black- and gilt-stamped spine. Black endpapers.

Somewhat rubbed, especially at corners and spine edges. Spine slightly chipped, frayed at ends. Front hinge just starting. Text and plates generally clean throughout.

A note at the front of the volume reads: "These stories, which originally appeared in 'Household Words,' are now reprinted in a complete form for the first time." Printed in 1890 by Charles Dickens and Evans, Crystal Palace Press, but the first appearance of the drama No Thoroughfare was in 1867, and of the two stories, 1857. Collins and Dickens were close friends, collaborating officially on some pieces, like these, for Dickens's magazines, but also conferring and advising each other on much of their other writing. This is a good copy of some of their joint work in the original collected form and binding. Not in Sadleir.

Gimbel D125. Wolff 1380-1382a. Compare with Sadleir 702.

HBS 27713, $150

2. DICKENS, Charles. The Life of Our Lord. Written During the Years 1846-1849 by Charles Dickens for his Children and Now First Published. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1934.

Limited edition, impression of 2,387 copies, published simultaneously with first trade edition. Small octavo. [i-iv]v-x[xi-xii], [1-2]3-128[129-132]. White mock-vellum boards stamped in blind, lettered in gilt on spine. White endpapers. Top edge gilt. Title-page printed in red and black. Red borders at top of each page of text. Pages unopened. Fine. In the publisher's cloth slipcase with numbered spine-label, sunned.

Dickens wrote this account of the life of Jesus for his children in 1846-1849, but never published it in his lifetime. Although he expressed deep religious feelings in private, Dickens felt a strong dislike for proselytizing and believed that any publicaton of his text would be ill-advised. It was first published long after his death, in 1934.

"This edition is specially designed by D.B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, Boston, and is limited to 2,387 numbered copies, which are published simultaneously with the regular trade edition."

Gimbel B198.

HBS 27541, $150

3. DICKENS, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. London: Chapman and Hall, 1870.

First edition in the original parts. Octavo. [i-v]vi-vii[viii], [1]2-190[191-192, ads]. With thirteen inserted plates by S.L. Fildes, including vignette title, and frontisportrait by J.H. Baker.

Original grass-green fine bead-grain cloth stamped in black and gilt on front and spine, black on back. With Smith's primary stamping pattern, including sawtooth border on front, as for a first edition in book form. Later, plain white endpapers. With original green printed wrappers with design by Charles A. Collins and Fildes.

Part III is bound with original stab-stitching intact, minus its front wrapper, but with complete front "Advertiser," all back ads (the last page of the last ad is torn), and text and plates, all in their original parts-issue position (i.e., plates in the front). Other parts include all original wrappers, but their pages have been rearranged for binding so that the preliminary materials included with Part VI appear at the beginning of Part I, and the plates to all parts other than III appear opposite the page they refer to, rather than at the front. Part VI includes the two-page list of editions of Dickens's work which follows text. All text and plates are correct, with stab-holes evident. The front wrapper to Part VI is earliest issue, with "Price Eighteenpence" pasted down instead of printed.

Rebacked, with original spine laid in. Light rubbing to corners and spine-ends, but otherwise, minimal wear to cloth, which is still very bright and shows quite well. Wrappers slightly chipped, but still very fresh. Light, sporadic foxing to margins of the text and a few plates. Ink signature and date on frontisportrait. An attractive and very good presentation of the original parts in original cloth.

Smith, Dickens, I.16. Hatton and Cleaver, pp. 371-384.

SOLD, $600

4. READE, Charles. The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth. London: Richard Bentley, 1857.

First edition. Octavo. [i-ii], [1]2-269[270-272]. Royal blue morocco cloth decoratively stamped in blind with "Bentley's Popular Series" in publisher's seal on front and back covers. Spine stamped and lettered in gilt. Pubisher's seal on front also gilt.

Corners and spine bumped. Spine faded and slightly frayed at ends. Covers faded at edges and slightly rubbed, but centers very bright, with brilliant gilt on front. Endpapers and text are very clean. Very good overall.

The plot of this early novel by Reade hinges on bigamy, illegitimacy, and a parish register--as do many sensation novels of the 1860s by Reade and others (notably Wilkie Collins). Fascinatingly, though, there is an element of sentimentalism and an attempt at a traditional, moralistic happy ending in this novel which shows us Reade still learning the form now associated with his name.

Sadleir 2001-2001a. Wolff 5705.

HBS 27712, $150

"How should you like to grow up a clever man, and write books, eh?"
"I think I would rather read them, sir," replied Oliver.
"What! Wouldn't you like to be a book-writer?" said the old gentleman.
Oliver considered a little while; and at last said, he should think it would be a much better thing to be a book-seller; upon which the old gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had said a very good thing.

Oliver Twist, Chapter XIV.

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Created: 12/5/98. Last Modified: 12/6/98