ASH RARE BOOKS – FIRST EDITIONS AND FINE BINDINGS
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AINSWORTH, William Harrison, 1805-1882 : SAINT JAMES’S; OR, THE COURT OF QUEEN ANNE. AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE.
London : John Mortimer; Parry, Blenkarn & Co., 1844. First edition. Ainsworth at the height of his fame with a tale of political intrigue and power at the court of Queen Anne – the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough; Robert Harley, first Earl of Oxford; Henry St. John, first Viscount Bolingbroke, etc. “Many would have backed Ainsworth’s talent against Dickens’s in 1840” (John Sutherland).
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ARLEN, Michael, 1895-1956 : THE GREEN HAT : A ROMANCE FOR A FEW PEOPLE.
London : W. Collins Sons & Co., (1924). First edition. “Acclaimed, attacked, parodied, and read, to the most fabulous degree of best-sellerdom ... a romance suited to its decade – cynical, sophisticated, yet sentimental, highly coloured, and glittering ... the book certainly cast a spell in its day and influenced many young writers. The character of the heroine, Iris Storm, set a new fashion in fatal charmers; and Arlen’s pictures of London café society were as exact as glossy photographs” (ODNB). Filmed both in 1928 and in 1934 – as “A Woman of Affairs” (with Greta Garbo) and “Outcast Lady” (with Constance Bennett) respectively.
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BALZAC, Honoré de, 1799-1850 : TALES FROM BALZAC.
London : Eveleigh Nash & Grayson, 1927. First edition of this collection of eleven translations of Balzac’s “most spell-binding” stories, including “At the Sign of the Cat and Racket”, “The Unknown Masterpiece”, “The Atheist’s Mass”, etc. Translated variously by Clara Bell, Ellen Marriage and John Gilmer, and edited and introduced by George Saintsbury (1845-1933).
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BUCHAN, John, 1875-1940 : PRESTER JOHN.
London : Thomas Nelson & Sons, (1910). First edition. Buchan in South Africa with a Haggardesque tale of uprising, myth, fabulous necklace, etc.
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CANETTI, Elias, 1905-1994 : AUTO DA FÉ.
London : Jonathan Cape, (1946). First edition in English of the banned “Die Blendung” (1935), his first and only novel, translated from the German (under Canetti’s personal supervision) by Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood (1910-1997). A Head without a World, Headless World and The World in the Head.
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CHESTERTON, G.K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936 : THE SECRET OF FATHER BROWN.
London : Cassell & Co., (1927). First edition. The fourth of the Father Brown volumes – ten short stories and pieces, including “The Song of the Flying Fish” and “The Red Moon of Meru”. Dedicated to Father John O’Connor of Bradford – reputed to be the original of “Father Brown” – and certainly the priest who guided Chesterton to catholicism.
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CHRISTIE, Agatha (Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa), 1890-1976 : SAD CYPRESS.
London : Collins for The Crime Club, (1940). First edition. A young and beautiful woman on trial for an open-and-shut case of murder – Poirot sits in court.
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CHURCHILL, Winston (Sir Winston Leonard Spencer), 1874-1965 : LONDON TO LADYSMITH VIA PRETORIA.
London : Longmans, Green & Co., 1900. First edition. Churchill’s personal account of the early months of the Boer War and his extraordinary adventures in South Africa. A particularly interesting copy in having been annotated in pencil in numerous places by an eye-witness to a number of the military actions – at Spion Kop, etc. At one point the anonymous annotator identifies himself as the field officer of the East Surreys who pointed out to Churchill “an expansive bullet of a particularly cruel pattern” being used by the Boers. For the most part the officer accepts Churchill’s account – “Very well described. I watched all this”, etc. – adding and identifying a name here and there, but elsewhere he bluntly corrects with a “Wrong” and other tokens of disagreement.
COOPER, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 : THE TWO ADMIRALS. A TALE OF THE SEA.
London : Richard Bentley, 1842. First edition. Cooper’s epic and poignant tale of two seamen of complementary abilities, intense lifelong friendship, rivalry, Whig and Tory, culminating at the time of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 – Bonnie Prince Charlie, etc. Long considered one of the finest ever maritime novels.
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“CRISPIN, Edmund” – [MONTGOMERY, Robert Bruce, 1921-1978] : THE CASE OF THE GILDED FLY.
London : Victor Gollancz, 1944. First edition. His rare first book – later published in the USA as “Obsequies at Oxford”. Gervase Fen making his first appearance in a witty and classical locked-room mystery with some theatrical types in wartime Oxford.
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DAVIES, W.H. (William Henry), 1871-1940 : THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SUPER-TRAMP.
London : A. C. Fifield, 1908. First edition. The first appearance of the book which made Davies’ name – a tramp by road and rail on both sides of the Atlantic in the late nineteenth century. A work of “primitive splendour and directness” (Osbert Sitwell). “Another effect of this book on me is to make me realize what a slave of convention I have been all my life. When I think of the way I worked tamely for my living during all those years when Mr. Davies, a free knight of the highway, lived like a pet bird on titbits, I feel that I have been duped out of my natural liberty” – from the preface by George Bernard Shaw.
[DISRAELI, Benjamin, First Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-1881] : THE YOUNG DUKE.
London : Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1831. First edition. Disraeli’s intriguing early novel of high society – “all rings, ringlets, and a little rouge” – a wastrel redeemed by the love of a good woman, etc., but also the novel in which we first see the evolution of Disraeli’s politics and what was soon to become his particular brand of one-nation conservatism.
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[DOUGLAS, Norman (George Norman), 1868-1952] – “NORMYX” : UNPROFESSIONAL TALES.
London : T. Fisher Unwin, 1901. First edition. Beyond the early pamphlets and offprints, Douglas’s first book and his first venture into fiction. He later claimed that just eight copies were sold – a slight exaggeration, but close on 600 copies of the original 750 were still unsold in 1903 and almost certainly pulped. Contains fifteen short stories (including “Elfwater”, “Nocturne”, “The Devil’s Oak”, and “Belladonna”) as well as the fantasy femme fatale novella “Nerinda”, most of the former written in collaboration with his then wife, Elsa Fitzgibbon (1876-1916).
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EGAN, Pierce, 1772-1849 : LIFE IN LONDON; OR, THE DAY AND NIGHT SCENES OF JERRY HAWTHORN, ESQ. AND HIS ELEGANT FRIEND CORINTHIAN TOM, ACCOMPANIED BY BOB LOGIC, THE OXONIAN, IN THEIR RAMBLES AND SPREES THROUGH THE METROPOLIS.
London : for Sherwood, Neely & Jones, 1821. First edition : the second issue, with the footnote on p.9. Pierce Egan’s roaring and runaway success – racy, slangy, and riotous adventures among the highest of high life and the lowest of low life in Regency London – “In his particular line, he was the greatest man in England” (John Camden Hotten). The sparkling text which took the country by storm as it appeared in instalments between August 1820 and July 1821 is gloriously accompanied by the superb aquatints of the brothers Isaac Robert and George Cruikshank, many depicting recognisable London scenes.
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FITZGERALD, F. Scott (Francis Scott Key), 1896-1940 : THE GREAT GATSBY.
London : Chatto & Windus, (1926). First British edition. “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world”. Old money, new money, the defining novel of the Jazz Age, originally published in New York the previous year.
GRAVES, Robert (Robert von Ranke), 1895-1985 : I, CLAUDIUS: FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS EMPEROR OF THE ROMANS BORN B.C. 10 MURDERED AND DEIFIED A.D. 54. / CLAUDIUS THE GOD AND HIS WIFE MESSALINA ...
London : Arthur Barker, 1934. First editions of the two separately published volumes of Graves’ “I Claudius” masterpiece. “I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as ‘Claudius the Idiot’, or ‘That Claudius’, or ‘Claudius the Stammerer’, or ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’ or at best as ‘Poor Uncle Claudius’, am now about to write this strange history of my life ...”.
GREENE, Graham (Henry Graham), 1904-1991 : IT’S A BATTLEFIELD.
London : William Heinemann, (1934). First edition. Greene’s first overtly political novel – “the injustice of man’s justice”. Greene called it “a panoramic novel of London” – in some sense an inversion of the traditional detective story, as a communist London bus-driver awaits his hanging.
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GREENE, Graham (Henry Graham), 1904-1991 : THE MINISTRY OF FEAR : AN ENTERTAINMENT.
London : William Heinemann, (1943). First edition. Greene’s powerful evocation of London in the blitz – a spy thriller full of guilt, menace and deceit. Informed by his work at the Ministry of Information – and turned into the 1944 Fritz Lang film noir, with Ray Milland and Marjorie Reynolds.
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HAGGARD, H. Rider (Sir Henry Rider), 1856-1925 : AYESHA : THE RETURN OF SHE.
London : Ward Lock & Co., 1905. First edition. As Haggard points out in his prefatory note, not so much a sequel to “She” as the conclusion to his famous tale – a conclusion he had deliberately waited twenty years to write. He also points out that the correct pronunciation is “Assha”.
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HALL, S. C. (Samuel Carter), 1800-1889 – editor : THE BOOK OF BRITISH BALLADS.
London : Jeremiah How, 1842-1844. A first edition set of both series of this elaborate and much-lauded production. A copiously illustrated collection of fifty-two of the finest English ballads, each with an introduction – including “Chevy Chase”, “Fair Rosamond”, “Genevieve”, “King Arthur’s Death”, “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne”, “Sir Lancelot du Lake”, “The Blind Beggar of Bednall Green”, “The Demon Lover”, “The Nut-Brown Mayd”, etc. – illustrated with wood-engravings by the foremost artists and engravers of the period, including, among the artists, Edward Corbould, “Alfred Crowquill”, Richard Dadd, John Franklin, William Powell Frith, Sir John Gilbert, Kenny Meadows, Sir Joseph Noel Paton and Sir John Tenniel, and among the engravers – Frederick Branston, George Dalziel, Edmund Evans, William Folkard, Mason Jackson, Ebenezer Landells, William James Linton, Orrin Smith, Henry Vizetelly and John Walmsley. “The most ambitious English book with wood engravings during the period under survey” (Gordon Ray, “The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914”).
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HOUSEHOLD, Geoffrey (Geoffrey Edward West), 1900-1988 : ROGUE MALE.
London : Chatto & Windus, 1939. First edition. Household, “a discriminating hedonist, well versed in the pleasures of the table and the bed” as Michael Barber in ODNB has it, with his most famous and enduring novel – a laconic English sportsman sets out to bag “the biggest game on earth” – a Hitleresque dictator bent on the perversion of civilisation. Nominated at least once as “the best manhunt book in history”. Filmed as “Man Hunt” by Fritz Lang in 1941, with Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, etc., and again by Clive Donner in 1976, with Peter O’Toole, John Standing, Alastair Sim, Harold Pinter, etc.
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[HUGHES, Thomas, 1822-1896] : TOM BROWN’S SCHOOL DAYS. BY AN OLD BOY.
Cambridge : Macmillan & Co., 1857. First edition. “As on the one hand it should ever be remembered that we are boys, and boys at school, so on the other hand we must bear in mind that we form a complete social body ... a society, in which, by the nature of the case, we must not only learn, but act and live; and act and live not only as boys, but as boys who will be men” (Rugby School Magazine). First published in April 1857 and reprinted four times before the year was out – surely the most famous, inspiring, and influential of all school stories, and the most celebrated encapsulation of the British public school ethos. Bound in is a two-page signed autograph letter from Hughes on House of Commons Library notepaper, dated 30th May 1866 (Hughes became Liberal M.P. for Lambeth in 1865), to an un-named recipient, making apologies over a social engagement, “but if there be no opposition on the part of our whips to my absence I will try to come to you”.
JOHNSON, Samuel, 1709-1784 : JOHNSON’S TABLE-TALK: CONTAINING APHORISMS ON LITERATURE, LIFE, AND MANNERS; WITH ANECDOTES OF DISTINGUISHED PERSONS: SELECTED AND ARRANGED FROM MR. BOSWELL’S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
London : for C. Dilly, 1798. First edition. “No, Sir; we had talk enough, but no conversation ...” – the essential Johnson distilled (with Boswell’s entire approbation). Johnson on conversation, wine, marriage, children, education, conduct, manners, London, trade, travelling, life, death, religion, politics, and much else.
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JONES, James (James Ramon), 1921-1977 : FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.
New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951. First edition. His first and most famous novel, based on his own army experiences in the months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, which he witnessed. An immediate success, winner of the National Book Award, always included in lists of the major novels of the twentieth century, and the basis of the memorable and multiple Oscar-winning 1953 film, with Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, etc.
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LEWIS, C.S. (Clive Staples), 1898-1963 : THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE : A STORY FOR CHILDREN.
London : Geoffrey Bles, (1950). First edition. Illustrations and colour frontispiece by Pauline Baynes. The first and best-known of the Narnia chronicles.
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MARRYAT, Frederick, 1792-1848 : THE PRIVATEER’S-MAN : ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
London : Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1846. First edition : the secondary issue, with the eight dramatic plates by James Stephenson (1808-1886) which were not included in the first issue. Familiar Marryat terrain with rip-roaring adventures and derring-do – off Hispaniola, Port Royal, Liverpool, Senegal, sharks, tigers, spies, London, the Tower, Jacobites, Bordeaux, Brazil, diamond mines, etc.
MASON, A.E.W. (Alfred Edward Woodley), 1865-1948 : THE FOUR FEATHERS.
London : Smith, Elder & Co., 1902. First edition. Mason’s enduring tale of courage, cowardice and redemption – made into popular films on at least seven occasions from 1915 onwards, of which perhaps the most memorable is that directed by Zoltan Korda and starring Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, and June Duprez.
MOTION, Andrew (Sir Andrew), 1952- : A LONG STORY.
Bath : Old School Press, 2001. First edition : one of twenty copies (of 230) reserved in sheets for binders and signed by both Andrew Motion and the illustrator, Simon Brett. Four extended poems from the then Poet Laureate, delicately hand-printed on Magnani paper, illustrated with evocative and atmospheric wood-engravings by Simon Brett.
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ORCZY, Baroness Emmuska Magdalena, 1865-1947 : THE ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL.
London : Hutchinson & Co., 1908. First edition. The third of the Scarlet Pimpernel series – “Paris this September, 1793! – or shall we call it Vendémiaire, Year 1 of the Republic”?
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“ORWELL, George” – [BLAIR, Eric Arthur, 1903-1950] : NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR : A NOVEL.
London : Secker & Warburg, 1949. First edition. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen ...”. The most compelling and chilling novel of the twentieth century – not least in that it can no longer be wholly regarded as fiction.
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SELLAR, W.C. (Walter Carruthers), 1898-1951 & YEATMAN, R.J. (Robert Julian), 1898-1968 : 1066 AND ALL THAT : A MEMORABLE HISTORY OF ENGLAND COMPRISING, ALL THE PARTS YOU CAN REMEMBER INCLUDING ONE HUNDRED AND THREE GOOD THINGS, FIVE BAD KINGS, AND TWO GENUINE DATES.
London : Methuen & Co., (1930). The first edition of this enduring classic – “the result of years of research in golf-clubs, gun-rooms, green-rooms, etc. ... for Pheasant read Peasant, throughout”. Illustrated by John Reynolds (1909-1935).
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STEVENSON, Robert Louis, 1850-1894 : UNDERWOODS.
London : Chatto & Windus, 1887. First edition. A celebrated collection of fifty-four poems, thirty-eight in English and the remainder in Scots – the latter including the first appearance in book form of both “A Lowden Sabbath Morn” and “The Scotsman’s Return from Abroad”.
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[TENNYSON, Alfred (Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron), 1809-1892 & TURNER, Charles Tennyson, 1808-1879] : POEMS, BY TWO BROTHERS.
London : for W. Simpkin & R. Marshall and / Louth : J. & J. Jackson, 1827. First edition. Tennyson’s uncommon first book – an anonymous collaboration (although the 102 poems were individually written) with his elder brother Charles, who later adopted the surname Turner – locally printed at Louth before the brothers went up to Cambridge. A former owner has neatly and carefully ascribed the poems to A.T. or C.T. in pencil, correctly noting that some are of uncertain authorship and that a few are in fact by a third brother, Frederick Tennyson.
WAUGH, Evelyn (Evelyn Arthur St. John), 1903-1966 : [SWORD OF HONOUR – THE CROUCHBACK TRILOGY].
London : Chapman & Hall, 1952-1961. First edition set of the separately published "Men at Arms" (1952), "Officers and Gentlemen" (1955) and "Unconditional Surrender" (1961).
[WILDE, Oscar (Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills), 1854-1900] : THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST : A TRIVIAL COMEDY FOR SERIOUS PEOPLE. BY THE AUTHOR OF LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN.
London : Leonard Smithers & Co., 1899. First edition : limited to 1,000 copies – this copy not numbered and out of series. Wilde’s most famous and most enduring play, published quasi-anonymously after his fall from grace, just eighteen months before he died. “If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated”.
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WOOLF, Virginia (Adeline Virginia), 1882-1941 : NIGHT AND DAY.
London : Duckworth & Co., (1919). First edition : [one of 2,000 copies printed]. Her second novel – an intriguing exploration of contemporary mores – love, marriage, happiness and success.
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