RARE N.Z. BOOKS
(By Johannes C.; Andersen.)
It may be; though; that New Zealand books will never command the" high prices that English books do. Why not? At.one time-English books, now the most prized, might be bought almost -as waste paper. At one time; for instance, the first collected .edition of Shakespeare, the first Folio as it; is-called, could be purchased for £I—its published price. How many copies were printed is not known. Alfred :W. Pollard, a recognised authority, thinks 500; others think as-many as 750. These were issued in 1623, and there was no second edition till 1633, which means that for nine years 750 copies at most of Shakespeare were enough to go round and satisfy all demands. But even that is more than can be said of Ben Jonson, a popular contemporary of Shakespeare. His works were published! in 1616, and there was no second; edition till 16.41. In 1909 there were 156-copies of the Folio Shakespeare of .■■•1623 known to exist. ■ ■ ■■■. ■■•■. ■;.- ■■■■■■ ■ . THE 1623 SHAKESPEARE AT THE £10 MARK;. It, took more than a-hundred years forthe .value of this first Folio to advance in, value to.-Slo,:for which price •it could be\had'.between.l7oo and 1750. Then in 1790 .a copy !was? offered at auction, and the Duke, of Roxburgh, an astute collector, wanted ■ it, and commissioned an agent to buy it for him. The bidding started:at £5, and rose to the then enormous sum. of 20 guineas. As Dr. Bosenbach.who. makes a good story of this, says, "Everyone was astounded. The Duke's agent grew faint-hearted,, and passed a slip to him suggesting • that His Grace retire from the contest*. The Duke replied with these , memorable , and. appropriate ■words: :■ " 'Lay on, Macdufi; And • damn 'd be he that first cries, "Hold!- Enough!"' "The folio finally fell to the Duke for £35. How often, when I find myself weakening at, a sale," says Dr. Rosenbach, "do I:'think of the old Duke's quotation from Macbeth. It should be the motto of every auction, bidder." In 1812 the Duke's library was sold, when the same book fetched £100. That is not 120 years ago, and it produced a sensation; as Dibdin, a wellknown bibliophile and writer on old boks, said, the news "around' the world." There are four Folio editions of Shakespeare, published,in 1623, 1632, 1663, and 1685; and in 1905 a Glasgow dealer sold the four for £10,000.. He considered he was doing well, since he had acquired.them six, years earlier for £1700. Had,he waited a ■ few years he might even have doubled his £10,000.. The sequel shows this. In".' 1907, less, than a hundred years later than the sale- of the Duke of Roxburgh library,'another first Folio was offered,/and' Dr.'Eosenbach, who was then a .novice at collecting, wanted the volume' badly, > and-.after much hesitation: worked up courage to ask the great dealer Quaritch to bid tor him. ■ : ■ ■ v r , _ "He seemed surprised," writes Dr. Kosenbach, "and did not answer for some moments. Then he asked me, 'How much do you'intend to bid 11, warn you, if it's too low I'll buy v it answered weakly, «£5000.' ■__•;. ! "His eyes opened wide. 'That is a bid ' he said, 'and X'U ,get it for y OU '> >» ' ■" " " ■' The bidding started at- £500, and it was knocked down to Quaritch for £3600. What an advance on the £100 of 1812!— yet no more than twenty years later, in 1927-28, the price paid by Quaritch for a copy of the same book, not in mint condition either, was £8500—and the price is still rising I BROWNING PRICES SOAR. Take a lesser light—the next English poet in intellect to Shakespeare—that is, Robert Browning. The late Mr. Turnbull gave 130 guineas for a copy of the first edition of "Pauline," Browning's first book. That seems a ridiculous price—until one knows that a copy of the same book realised £3200 in America a year or so ago. The book is, of course, extremely rare, and the rarity is accounted for in tho following Browning'had written-the book, and an indulgent aunt bore the cost of the printing—only £30. To be exact, it cost £26 ss, but the aunt, Mrs. bilverthorne, gave him £30, the balance being spent in advertisements, lhis was in -1833, when Browning was 21 years old. He presented copies to a few friends, but there was no rush for this work by an-unknown author, and not a single copy was sold by the booksellers, and "a bale of unbound sheets was destined to bo sent home from the publishers," and these were destroyed. Thus it will be seen that very few copies survived; and when Browning rose to.famethoße few copies rose m price, until perhaps, eighty years later, Mr. Turnbull gave 130 guineas for one of these presentation copies, and less than a hundred years after publication another collector gave £3200. What will be givon in another twenty, years? The Turnbull copy has extra value in this—that it contains a long inscription by Browning himself, of which the following is the text: "'Pauline'—written in pursuance of a foolish plan I forget, or have no wish to remember, involving the assumption of several distinct characters: the world was never to guess that such an opera, such a comedy, such a speech proceeded from tho same notablo person Mr. V. A. (see page second) was Poet of the party and predestined to cut no inconsiderable figure. 'Only this crab' (I find set down in my copy) 'remains of the shapely Tree of Life in my fpols' Paradise? "(I cannot muster resolution to deal with the printer's blunders after the American fashion, and bid people 'for "jocularity" read ''synthesis^ '' *« *« end of the chapter.') Dec. 14, 1838." To be sure, we have no Brownings in. New Zealand, but we have lesser lights whose turn will come. They will not attain such altitudes as Browning for many a year—for which the slenderer antipodean purses will be devoutly thankful. NEW ZEALAND BALLADISTS. To mention Thatcher after Browning is like following Milton with Tom D'Urfey; "O Hamlet What a falling oft was there!" Yet even Tom D'Urfey had his vogue and his wider audience than Milton, and his songs, collected or single, are sought for by specialists and collectors. This "Bob Thatcher" was a man of the D'Urfey type who toured New Zealand in the days of the gold rushes, prospecting for dust not by digging but by singing. He composed his own songs and sang them to well-known tunes, and he "had a tongue with a tang," and his songs were extremely popular because he took off well-known people, inquiring into the history, chiefly the disreputable history, of prominent individuals in the towns he visited, and making songs thereon, singing them in public to the great disgust of the victim's and the equally groat delight of the rest of the audience. One Christchurch man, smarting under his sting, called him "the travelling mountebank"—but vituperation was dangerous, for vituperation was a weapon with which
Thatcher was particularly handy. "The inimitable Thatcher" was his usual title in the newspapers. He would have had many a pummeling, only he was handy with his. fists as well as with his tongue, and a sizeable man to boot. ■ In every town in which he sang he published a booklet of his songs, of from 16 to 36 pages, issued in coloured paper covers, brown, or green, or yellow. There are "Thatcher's Otago Songster," 1862; "Thatcher's Invereargill Minstrel," 1862; "Thatcher's Canterbury Songster," 1862; "The Auckland Songster," 1864; "Thatcher's Local Songs," 1869. There may have been others —I have heard of a "Westland Songster," but these are all I have seen; copies are very few indeed. They have an historical value, too, on account of their topical allusions. . There was another comic singer about the same time^ —Joe Small, who published "The New Zealand and Australian Songster,"' 1866. He was an Irish comedian, and sang his comic songs in a lugubrious broken-hearted manner' that made them irrestibly fuany; both artists created boisterous merriment in entirely different ways. I learned a good deal about both men from the late Mr. Freeman, a wellknown pastrycook of Wellington. When I mentioned their names to him it was a pleasure to watch the irradiation thatspread over Mr. Freeman's face as recollections stirred his thought to speech. He began by singing, with appropriate actions, one of Thatcher's hilarious songs. A man of quite different standing who could 'also sing many of tho songs was the late Mr. Martin Chapman, brother of Sir Frederick Chapman—showing how wide was Thatcher's appeal.. Then there was a series of booklets started about the same time, say, the late 'sixties, called "The . Colonial Songster," or. occasionally "The New Zealand Songster," published by Joseph Braithwaite in Dunedin. I have seen Nos. 1 to 6, but no more than six, and the Number 1 I have i 3 the fifth edition. Those booklets, of about 100 pages, contained popular songs and recitations, and while most of them were old favourites, some of Thatcher's songs were included, also some of Bracken's. These booklets, too, are very scarce; and lest any collector should think of inquiring of the successors ,to Braithwaits, of Dunedin, I may say their inquiry would be labour in vain; I have already tapped that source, without success, j ■ THE ILLUSTRATED ANGAS. No doubt these booklets have gone the way of such perishables; no doubt some remain; but collectors .■ will find them worth while, but harder to secure than Angases—and Angas they know of. I heard of one in an out of the way place two or three years ago, and offered £25 for it —then a fair price— but the owner replied that he wanted £50. An impossible price, I thought; but it has since reached £50, though the usual price is still something less than that. .'■ A short while ago I was offered an Angas in the original parts, and closed for £30, providing it was complete. On examination it was found not to be complete; some plates were missing, others were torn. Tho true collector will have nothing to do with an incomplete set—except as I shall later on specify. A good Angas in parts is a book seldom met; a desirable thing.
Angas' "The New Zealanders Illustrated," a big folio of coloured pictures each with a page of text,' usually called Angas'"New Zealanders" was published in 1847 in ten parts at £1 Is a part, each part in paper wrappers, each wrapper having: the frontispiece done in red monochrome. There are 60 large, coloured plates besides the coloured frontispiece, and the volume is one of the good things in New Zealand books. The-illustrations have been copied over and over again, perhaps faithfully, perhaps horribly as in the illustrations to White's "Ancient History of the Maori." Angas' smaller book, two octavo - volumes, "Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand," forms a-descriptive text accompanying the. .pictures, and these descriptive volumes the collector is, lucky if he gets for £2 or fifty shillings ; the big ■ book from £35 to' £40. For. the big book there were 188 subscribers; how many were printed I do not know;
These perhaps seem small fry after the leviathans of the North Sea; but New Zealand is beginning to come into its own; and for the sake of our purses we may be thankful it is only beginning. But the lesson of the opening of this article should not be forgotten.
Permanent link to this item
RARE N.Z. BOOKS, Evening Post, Volume CXII, Issue 150, 22 December 1931
RARE N.Z. BOOKS Evening Post, Volume CXII, Issue 150, 22 December 1931
Using This Item
Fairfax Media is the copyright owner for the Evening Post. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Fairfax Media. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.