Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen (Blackheath) and Scott (Glebe), our secondhand managers, every month here as they takes a closer look at a couple of titles from their shelves.

November 2018

Gleebooks Bookshop - Monday, November 12, 2018
The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov ($120, HB)
Collins and Harvill Press, London, 1967. First UK Edition. Condition: Good. Original hard cloth in the dust-jacket which has a short tear and minor chipping to the bottom edge. Light spotting to endpapers, boards and DJ. Previous owner’s name in pen to front endpaper. Translated by Michael Glenny, jacket design by Alex Jawdokimov.
The devil makes a personal appearance in Moscow; his retinue includes two demons, a naked girl & a huge black cat which talks, walks upright, smokes cigars and is a dead shot with a Mauser automatic ... Mikhail Bulgakov gave up the practice of medicine in 1920 to devote himself to literature. As censorship became stricter in Stalin’s Russia, his work ceased to be produced and he had to earn his living as an assistant producer and literary adviser at the Moscow Arts Theatre. Depressed by this stifling of his creativity, Bulgakov appealed to Stalin to be allowed to emigrate. Stalin answered him by telephone—denying him the right to leave Russia, but that the ban on some of his work would be lifted. He worked for ten years The Master and Margarita, applying the finishing touches in 1938. In 1939 he went blind, and he died in 1940. Master waited a further thirty years for publication, and when it appeared it caused so great a stir in Moscow that public readings had to be held because the magazine issues in which it was printed were instantly snapped up.

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer ($100, PB)
Visual Editions, 2010. Soft cover. Condition: Very Good. 1st Edition. Light crease to front endpaper and title page. One light mark to bottom edge.
Jonathan Safran Foer decides to exhume a new story from an existing text—his ‘favourite’ book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz. He uses Schulz’s story quite literally as a canvas—cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story. I’ve never been quite able to piece together the story, but as an object this book is unput-downable. And utterly one of a kind—physically a cross between a book that’s been attacked by an inventive child with a pair of scissors, and a censor’s redactions carried out with a razor instead of a black pen.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E Lawrence ($75, HB)  Jonathan Cape, 1935. Hardcover. Condition: Good. 1st Trade Edition. Large Thick Quarto. 672pp. Original brown buckram, gilt titles. Illustrated. Sporadic mild foxing.

‘Mr Geoffrey Dawson persuaded All Souls College to give me leisure, in 1919–1920, to write about the Arab Revolt. Sir Herbert Baker let me live & work in his Westminster houses. The book so written passed in 1921 into proof: where it was fortunate in the friends who criticized it. Particularly it owes its thanks to Mr & Mrs Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value & diversity: and for all the present semicolons. It does not pretend to be impartial. I was fighting for my hand, upon my own midden. Please take it as a personal narrative pieced out of memory. I could not make proper notes: indeed it would have been a breach of my duty to the Arabs if I had picked such flowers while they fought.’ So starts Lawrence’s intro to his adventures. As an editor I love his mention of semicolons, and perusing the volume, I love the illustrations—not to mention the process as mentioned on the copyright page—‘photogravure’—what a lovely word.

The Thousand Nights and a Night—Sir Richard Burton
London H. S. Nichols & Co. 1894. 12 volumes. First edition of the Nichols/Smithers ‘Library Edition’, with all passages restored which had been omitted from Lady Burton’s edition of 1886. 8vo, black cloth decorated with elaborate Islamic design filling the top cover, gilt lettered on spine. Gilt bright and attractive. Some bumps to outer corners; some tissue guards creased or loose. Some covers lightly scuffed or worn. Page edges yellowed; nicks and soft creases to spine ends. No owner names, tight in the bindings. Volume 1 contains an inserted Publishers Notice.
A Very Good set. PRICE—$950.00.  The Thousand Nights and a Night—often called The Arabian Nights—are a collection of Middle Eastern stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic between the 8th and 13th centuries. When Persian King Shahryar is betrayed by his wife, the vengeful ruler believes all women are unfaithful. Thus, every night for three years, he takes a wife and has her put to death the next morning, until he marries his vizier’s daughter, the beautiful and clever Scheherazade. For 1,001 nights she regales the King with enchanting tales of mystical lands, fabulous creatures, magical beings, the adventures of heroines and heroes. Each time Scheherazade stops at dawn, leaving the story incomplete, thus forcing Shahryar to spare her another day so that she can complete the tale the next night. At the end of the stories, King Shahryar has changed into a merciful, wise ruler and Scheherazade has saved her life.
Sir Richard Burton (1821–1890) was one of the foremost linguists of his time (he mastered some 29 languages and 11 other dialects). He was an explorer, poet, translator, ethnologist, and archaeologist—and he probably travelled through more of the world than any other of his 19th century contemporaries, publishing over 40 books of his travels. His translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night is his masterpiece. This famous work revealed Burton’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Arabic language, daily life, customs, and sexual practices that were considered too obscene to publish at the time. The original translation of this work was privately published by the Kamashastra Society, in 10 volumes in 1885—‘for private subscribers only’. This edition gave Benares—in Uttar Pradesh, India—as place of publication. In reality, the Society had only two members—Burton and close friend and fellow Orientalist, Foster Arbuthnot—and was a legal device for avoiding prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. The work itself was actually published in Britain by Miller and Richard (a Scottish firm) at Stoke Newington, London. The original 10 volumes were followed by a further six, entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (1886–88), thus completing, over twenty-five years, what Burton called: ‘A labour of love, an unfailing source of solace and satisfaction’. In 1886, Burton’s wife, Lady Isabel Burton, lent her name to the publication of a six-volume edition which reprinted the first ten volumes only (of the original sixteen) and was ‘prepared for Household readings’ by omitting 215 pages from the 3,215 of the original text. In the 1894 edition, edited by publisher Leonard Smithers, the omitted material has been restored and the sixteen volumes published in twelve. In his Editor’s Note, Smithers stated that this edition upheld Burton’s pledge to subscribers that ‘no cheaper edition of the entire work should be issued. The reader has therefore the most complete edition of the Nights that can ever be published’. Smithers hoped that this edition would permit Burton’s translation of the famous tales to ‘take its proper place on the library shelf alongside Cervantes and Shakespeare’.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney ($65, BX)
Folio Society 2010. Quarter-bound in leather with cloth sides. Condition: Near fine. Light wear to rear of slip-case—otherwise ‘as new’ condition.
‘When I was an undergraduate at Queen’s University, Belfast, I studied Beowulf & other Anglo-Saxon poems & developed not only a feel for the language but a fondness for the melancholy & fortitude that characterised the poetry. Consequently when an invitation to translate the poem arrived I was tempted to try my hand. While I had no great expertise in Old English, I had a strong desire to get back to the first stratum of the language & to ‘assay the hoard’. This was during the middle years of the 1980s when I had begun a regular teaching job at Harvard & was opening my ear to the untethered music of some contemporary American poetry. Saying yes to the Beowulf commission would be (I argued with myself) a kind of aural antidote, a way of ensuring that my linguistic anchor would stay lodged on the Anglo-Saxon sea-floor. So I undertook to do it.’ Whenever Folio Society editions come into my purview the collector in me starts salivating—oh for another wall of empty shelves to fill.
This ‘as new’ edition has illustrations by Becca Thorne.

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