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first publications. On being offered for sale, it was knocked down to Quaritch at £226.
Poems by Two Brothers,' a small octavo published at London in 1827, will bring you thirty pounds if you are so fortunate as to come across it. The brothers were Alfred and Charles Tennyson. Then there is a slim octavo of some 150 pages which appeared at Newark in 1807, entitled Poems on Various Occasions.' It is by Lord Byron, and is worth fifty pounds at least ; if in the original boards, almost double that amount. 'King Glumpus : an Interlude in one Act,' a pamphlet consisting of some twenty pages, was probably by John Barrow; but it was illustrated by Thackeray, and is usually to be found under the heading' Thackerayana.' It was printed in 1837, on blue writing paper, and issued privately in buff wrappers. Recently it has fetched £153, but you may have a hundred for it any day.
Shelley's ‘Adonais : An Elegy on the Death of John Keats 'was first published at Pisa in 1821, a large quarto in blue wrappers. It has recently fetched £125 in America, and you may have nearly half that amount for a perfect copy, in the original state, of his ''Zastrozzi, a Romance' which appeared in duodecimo at London in 1810. Both are exceedingly scarce. Another rare book of Shelley's is 'Original Poetry, by Victor and Cazire,' which was put forth at Worthing in
1810. The poet wrote it in his youth, and although it was known that such a volume had been printed and that it had been suppressed by
its author immediately before publication, it was · considered a lost work until its rediscovery in 1897.
Byron’s ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers' one can purchase in the second, third, or fourth editions (all in octavo) in the original boards, for as many pence; though the first edition, in duodecimo, undated, is scarce. It was published in 1809, and has but fifty-four pages of verse. The fourth edition appeared in 1811, though some copies are dated 1810, and has one thousand and fifty-two lines of verse in eighty-five pages. But the next year another edition was put forth containing eighteen additional lines. For this (fifth) edition the title-page of the fourth edition was used. It was not merely rigidly suppressed by the author, but immediately prior to publication it was destroyed by him, and, so far as weare aware, only one copy has, till now, been recovered. 1
For Burns' 'Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect,' published at Kilmarnock in 1786, you may have a hundred pounds at least; if in the original boards, considerably more. A copy has realised so much as £210. Of Shelley's ‘Alastor : or the Spirit of Solitude, and other Poems,' octavo 1816, Keats’ ‘Endymion,' 1818, Fitzgerald's 'Omar Khayyam' published by Quaritch in 1859, and a large number of others, you will learn from time to time. Mr. J. H. Slater's 'Early Editions . . . of Modern Authors,' which appeared in 1894, will be of value to you, though like all works which deal with current prices it now needs revision. From the bibliographical standpoint it is excellent, but the safest guides to mere market values are the quarterly records of auction-sale prices entitled “Book-Auction Records' issued by Mr. F. Karslake, and the bi-monthly publication known as “Book-Prices Current edited by Mr. J. H. Slater and issued by Mr. Elliot Stock. In addition there are bibliographies of almost all the greatest Victorian writers.
1 The various editions and impressions of this book have given rise to confused accounts respecting them. The British Museum Catalogue gives five distinct impressions of the third edition and five of the fourth edition. Of the fourth edition, some large-paper copies were issued; they are scarce and worth thirty shillings or more, which is about the present value of the first edition.
There is no doubt that the early editions of the English classics will get more and more valuable as time goes on. In the case of many it may be years before any decided rise in their sale-room price takes place; but as the number of book-collectors increases with the population, while the number of copies of these desiderata tends to become less owing to the absorption of certain of them in the public libraries, so it is only natural that increased competition should result in a corresponding increase in their value.
The early editions of Massinger, Beaumont and Fletcher, and of the later Elizabethan and Stuart dramatists, which command but a few pounds today, will run, in all probability, well into three figures during the next half-century. A good copy of the first issue of Milton's Comus,' printed in 1637, could be had for £36 in 1864. In 1898 one with the title-page mended brought £150. Ten years later £317 was not thought excessive for it.
Other books there are which have had even more meteoric rises in value. The first edition of Walton and Cotton's ‘Compleat Angler' was published in 1653 at one and sixpence. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the average price for a fine copy seems to have been between three and four pounds. In 1850 so much as fifteen pounds was paid for a copy in a similar state. Thirty years later it had risen to eightyfive pounds, and during the few years following, the demand for it seems to have increased its value considerably, for in 1887 a copy realised no less than £200. But eight years later even this sum was easily doubled. Then came the Van Antwerp sale at Sotheby's. A perfect copy, in the original sheepskin binding, was offered ; the hammer fell at the enormous figure of £1,290. This sum has not yet (1919) been eclipsed; but that it was not a fancy price is shown by the fact that in 1909 a copy not in the original binding realised no less than £1,085.
In the collection of these early impressions of the great writers, however, you must exercise considerable caution and judgment. The examples which we have quoted will show you that it is not always immediately, nor even within a lifetime from their death, that the works of our greatest authors become valuable. 'Fame is a revenue payable only to our ghosts,' wrote Sir George Mackenzie, and for literary fame Time is indeed the ordeal by fire. We may iook upon the auctionroom as a Court of Claims to Literary Fame, but it is public opinion, backing the authorities who sit round the table, that determines each claimant's case. It is the book that makes the price, not the price that makes the book. Doubtless those who, relying upon their own judgment alone, gave fifty pounds for Tennyson's 'Helen's Tower'(1861) some twenty years ago, thought they were safe in their investment. Yet twelve years later it could be had for thirty shillings. Fitzgerald's ‘Polonius,' 1852, was once thought cheap at five guineas. To-day you may buy it for a sovereign.
It is a risky business, this collecting of the early editions of authors dead but a generation ago; and he would be a bold man who ventured to assert that the present prices of the first editions of the Victorian authors may be considered as stable. Bargains are bargains, and the temptation to buy is often great. But what constitutes a bargain from the collector's point of view ? You