The Award-Winning Novels and Short Stories of Bernard Malamud

March 19th, 2015

Bernard Malamud Rare BooksBernard Malamud’s story began like many self-made persons in America during his era, as a child born to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Malamud came of age during the start of the Great Depression and attended Erasmus Hall High School, a popular public high school at the time while Brooklyn’s population was rapidly growing. It was in high school that young Bernard fell in love with film, particularly the comedies of Charlie Chaplin, and enjoyed relating various plots to his school friends.

As an ambitious high school graduate, Malamud worked for a year as a teacher-in-training, and then attended the City College of New York on a government loan. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936 and a Masters degree from Columbia University in 1942 after writing a thesis on Thomas Hardy, a personal inspiration of his. Despite being raised Jewish, Malamud identified as an agnostic humanist. His work in writing carried similar themes as Thomas Hardy, though set in a different time period. While themes in Hardy’s novels involved the struggles between social classes living in Victorian England, Malamud focused on social issues of his day, including the conflict between bourgeois and artistic values.

Philip Roth once described Bernard Malamud as “a man of stern morality, [driven by] the need to consider long and seriously every demand of an overtaxed, overtaxing conscience torturously exacerbated by the pathos of human need unabated.”

The Natural by Bernard Malamud Signed Rare First Edition

Signed First Edition of The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Malamud’s writing career took off slowly, as he was often the harshest critic of his own work. He wrote his first novel in 1948, titled The Light Sleeper, but later burned the entire manuscript. Thus his first published novel came four years later, in 1952, and is remembered today as his most symbolic work. The Natural was based off the bizarre shooting and eventual comeback of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball player, Eddie Waitkus. The novel tells the story of a fictional baseball player, Roy Hobbs, who is considered a baseball prodigy playing for the made-up team, the New York Knights. After Hobbs is shot, his health suffers even as he returns to play baseball and in the end is faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to throw the game for a substantial bribe. Available in its signed, first edition copy, The Natural is modeled off the story of The Fisher King, where Roy Hobbs plays the role of the flawed but heroic knight.

The Fixer, a fictional novel that channeled deeper into the author’s familial roots, tells the tale of a Jewish handyman wrongfully imprisoned during the anti-Semitic regime of tsarist Russia. First published in 1966, the book was praised for its fashionable prose. Elizabeth Harding wrote in Vogue that the novel is “[b]rilliant and harrowing… Historical reality combined with fictional skill and beauty of a high order make [it] a novel of startling importance.” Available in its signed, first edition, The Fixer won both the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  

The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud Inscribed Rare First Edition

Inscribed First Edition of The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud

Malamud’s other award-winning book, The Magic Barrel, was his first collection of short stories. Most of the collection’s stories depict the search for hope and meaning in various desperately poor urban settings. Several of the stories involve the cooperation of two antagonists, whether it is a landlord and tenant or a matchmaker and daughter, learning from each other’s anguish. Famous stories within the collection include “The Last Mohican,” “Angel Levine,” “The First Seven Years,” and “The Mourners.” Available in its inscribed, first edition, The Magic Barrel went on to win the National Book Award.

The Prize-Winning Literature of V.S. Naipaul

March 11th, 2015

V.S. Naipaul Rare BooksSir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, also known as V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in the early 1930s. Naipaul’s father had emigrated from India with his grandparents in the 1880s, who sought work as indentured servants in Trinidad’s sugar plantations. Three years before Naipaul’s birth, his father began contributing to the Trinidad Guardian as an English-language journalist and joined the staff as Chaguanas correspondent in 1932, the year of Naipaul’s birth.  Naipaul’s father’s work and reverence for writers became the spark for his own aspirations as a writer later in life. When he was only 7 years old, Naipaul’s family moved to England and Naipaul himself would later enroll in Oxford for higher education.

In 1954, V.S. Naipaul moved to London and began his career as a presenter on a BBC weekly program called Caribbean Voices. During his time there, he wrote “Bogart,” his first story of Miguel Street that was inspired by a neighbor he knew as a child in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Feeling inspired, Naipaul finished the collection of stories that became Miguel Street in only five weeks. Though the stories were received well by many, his publisher Andre Deutsch, who also published books by famous authors such as Jack Kerouac and Philip Roth, did not think Miguel Street would be profitable for Naipaul, who was still unknown as an author. Deustch encouraged the writer to create a novel, and without enthusiasm Naipaul quickly wrote The Mystic Masseur in 1955. The novel is about a frustrated India-born writer living in an idealized colonial Trinidad, where cultural accomplishment is at the forefront of society. The writer rises from his impoverished background to become a successful politician due to his mystic talent to cure illnesses.

After completing the novel, Naipaul went home to Trinidad for two months, staying with his family. He came back with plans for writing The Suffrage of Elvira, described as a comic novella with slapstick humor surrounding a local election in Trinidad, creating a satire of the democratic process. After the book was published, Naipaul would hand-write his reviews to his mother in Trinidad. One by the New Yorker wrote, “V.S. Naipaul is a young writer who contrives to blend Oxford wit with home-grown rambunctiousness and not to do harm to either.” The New York Review of Books would later review The Suffrage of Elvira in 2001 and describe Naipaul as “ a master of modern English prose.”

V.S. Naipaul Rare First Edition The Mystic Masseur

First Edition of The Mystic Masseur by V.S. Naipaul, Signed

Meanwhile, with the help of his publisher Andre Deutsch, Naipaul’s collection of stories Miguel Street went on to win the Somerset Maugham Award, while his novel The Mystic Masseur was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

In early 1962, Naipaul made his first visit to the land of his ancestors, India. During his time there, the author for the first time felt faceless, unable to identify with a special ethnic group as he had in England and Trinidad. He was also distraught by the evasive Indian attitude toward poverty and suffering. When Naipaul wrote An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India, it was more of an effort to understand India than it was documentation of his time there. The New York Review of Books wrote about the book in 2001:

V.S. Naipaul An Area of Darkness Rare Signed First Edition

An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India by V.S. Naipaul, Signed

The world Naipaul sees is of course no void at all: it is a world dense with physical and social phenomena, brutally alive with the complications and contradictions of actual human endeavour… This world of Naipaul’s is in fact charged with what can only be described as a romantic view of reality, an almost unbearable tension between the idea and the physical fact…

Available in its first edition and signed by the author, An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India would go on to win the Booker Prize in 1971 and eventually the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other of Naipaul’s worldly novels and stories are available in their first edition, signed or inscribed by the author, including North of South: An African Journey, A Bend in the River, A House for Mr. Biswas, In A Free State, A Way In The World, and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples.

The Satirical Works of Kurt Vonnegut

February 23rd, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut Rare BooksKurt Vonnegut was an author who found humorous and imaginative ways to write about disconcerting realities that face us every day, from the plagues of war to the looming presence of technology. In his first novel, Player Piano, Vonnegut brings the two themes together in the setting ten years after a third world war, a time in which most American workers are replaced by automated machines. Player Piano is filled with irony, allusions to Marxist theory, and fears of a future dystopia laid out by other science fiction novelists of the period.

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. (Player Piano, 1952)

Described as a pacifist intellectual, Kurt Vonnegut was well loved for exhibiting through satire, gallow humor, and science fiction his humanist beliefs and counterculture ideals that arose from his time spent as a prisoner of war in World War II. As a POW, Vonnegut was held in Dresden in a building the Germans referred to as, Schlachthof Fünf , which translates to “Slaughterhouse Five,” the title of Vonnegut’s most famous novel:

Slaughterhouse-Five, perhaps Vonnegut’s most powerful novel, presents two characters who can see beneath the surface to the tragic realities of human history but make no attempt to bring about change… The central event is the destruction of Dresden by bombs and fire storm – a catastrophe that Vonnegut himself witnessed as a prisoner of war.

Kurt Vonnegut did indeed witness the horrible attack on Dresden, the aftermath of which he described as “utter destruction” to a defenseless city. He survived the attack with other POWs because they were locked in the underground meat locker that was Slaughterhouse Five. After the destruction, he and other POWs were ordered by the German guards to break into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for a massive burial. Though Vonnegut explained, “There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes,” (Brinkley, Douglas. Rolling Stone, 2006).

Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five First Edition Rare Book

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut, First Edition, Signed

Though the novel Slaughterhouse-Five­ is only semi-autobiographical, it brings to light many of the real tragedies prisoners of war and their families face during and after battle, tragedies actually lived by the author, in a style that engages readers in brilliantly poignant ways.

Kurt Vonnegut knows all the tricks of the writing game. So he has not even tried to describe the bombing. Instead he has written around it in a highly imaginative, often funny, nearly psychedelic story. The story is sandwiched between an autobiographical introduction and epilogue.

Kurt Vonnegut God Bless You Mr. Rosewater First Edition Rare Book

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, First Edition, Signed

Though not autobiographical, Vonnegut’s novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater satirically remarks on social issues of the time. In the story, billionaire Eliot Rosewater, a name thought to be created out of those of T.S. Eliot, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barry Goldwater, develops a social conscience and travels across America visiting poor populations of small towns before landing in Rosewater, Indiana. The book critiques majorly critiques the presence of money and the American Dream as a dehumanizing force in the country. His fifth novel and comic masterpiece, Conrad Aiken describes Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater as “a brilliantly funny satire on almost everything.”

Other available first edition, inscribed copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s works include his anthology, Tomorrow the Stars, his novels Hocus Pocus, Breakfast of Champions, The Sirens of Titan, and his collection of short masterpieces, Welcome to the Monkey House.

The Famous Works of James Joyce

February 10th, 2015

James Joyce Ulysses Rare Books

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

Those words were famously written by one of the most influential writers in the 20th century, James Joyce. The quote comes from Joyce’s work Ulysses, an epic novel that was originally published in parts throughout continuous issues of magazine The Little Review in 1918. The publication series was halted after the Nausicaä episode of Ulysses was published, due to the graphic sexual nature of one of the scenes. As everyone knows, Joyce’s novel follows the epic of the The Odyssey, and that particular scene parallels Homeric themes of marriage, girlish desires, and male satisfaction that occur when Odysseus washes up on the shore of Phaeacia, where Princess Nausicaä tends to his laundry and embraces him in other ways.

Though Ulysses remains a staple in literature from the modernist, avant-garde period, it was not the first, nor the last of Joyce’s greatest works. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man preceded the epic and was known as Joyce’s “coming-of-age” novel. Employing techniques such as stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue, Joyce takes us through the story of Stephen Dedalus as he grows throughout his childhood and adolescence into a highly self-conscious artist.

It is in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that Joyce writes, “Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.”

James Joyce Ulysses Rare First Edition

The Rare First Edition of Ulysses by James Joyce

James Joyce was born in Dublin in winter of 1882, into a lower-middle class family. His family was often burdened with financial struggles and his father’s addiction to alcohol; but despite this, young James Joyce was a brilliant student that excelled in his studies. Anyone who has read Joyce’s literature knows that it most often contains stories taking place in Dublin, with characters that contain many qualities with family members, friends, and acquaintances from his own life.

“For myself, I always write about Dublin,” said Joyce, shortly after publishing his epic novel Ulysses, “because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all cities of the world. In particular is contained the universal.”

James Joyce W B Yeats The Dublin Book of Irish Verse First Edition Rare Book

First Edition of The Dublin Book of Irish Verse, with 3 Early Poems by James Joyce

Some of Joyce’s most celebrated depictions of “the heart of Dublin” come from his collection of short stories, Dubliners, as well as much of his poetry. Edited by John Cooke, The Dublin Book of Irish Verse contains 3 of James Joyce’s early poems and a selection of pieces by W. B. Yeats, another famous Irish poet of the time period. Bound in its original green cloth, the first edition of The Dublin Book of Irish Verse is preserved in near fine condition with only the lightest of rubbing.

Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s Finest 20th Century Architect

January 30th, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright architect rare books

Considered one of the greatest American architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright believed that structures should be designed in harmony with humanity and its environment. He coined this philosophy “organic architecture,”
and it would eventually become what distinguished his innovative work. The best example of this philosophy is the Fallingwater house he designed in 1935 and built partly over a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania. It is Wright’s most famous structure, and many still rate it as the best work of American architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright was strongly opinionated and his work captured the attention of many during his lifetime. In an autographed letter that
he wrote to his friend and architectural critic, Lewis Mumford, he said:

The Guggenheim has asked me for a recommendation for the new work she wants to do and I gave my best – but wrote her what I thought of her thesis. You know what I must think about that.

Three years later, in 1943, Wright would accept the contract to build the Guggenheim under the wish of Hilla Rebay, the curator, to design “a temple of spirit, a monument!”

Frank Lloyd Wright An American Architecture First Edition Rare Book

Rare First Edition of An American Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright

In 1926, Wright designed Graycliff, an estate on a high cliff overlooking Lake Erie, for Isabelle R. Martin and her husband, industrialist Darwin Martin. The estate was nearly demolished in 1997 by a developer who wished to build condominiums, but the public saved it from demise and it still exists today in its restored condition. Another framed rare letter sent to Isabelle R. Martin by Frank Lloyd Wright is available as well, printed with Graycliff’s address and written on Wright’s Taliesin letterhead.

You can learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s life work and philosophies by reading the inscribed first edition of his book, An American Architecture. Wright inscribes the book to his granddaughter, Anne Baxter, a well-known American actress. Frank maintained a loving relationship with his granddaughter throughout his life, as evidenced in a playful, rare letter to her in which he wrote that she ought to come see him and his wife in their new playhouse.

The Life and Works of Honoré de Balzac

January 27th, 2015

Honore de Balzac Complete Works

Known for his magnum opus, The Human Comedy, Honoré de Balzac was one of those natural born talents that constantly went against the mold. As a child, his headstrong personality caused him much frustration as he navigated his way through grammar school. Shortly after graduation, Balzac took an apprenticeship in a law office but soon deemed the whole study of law to be inhumane and commonplace, causing him to pursue other career paths.

Before establishing his legacy as a writer, Honoré de Balzac attempted become a businessman, publisher, printer, critic, and even politician. After failing at all other occupations, Balzac delved into reflection on his life’s frustrations and challenges, the end result of which was The Human Comedy.

One of the great novelists of all literature… Balzac’s genius consists of his dynamic, unflagging, creative vigour; his superabundant imagination… his masterly portrayal of passions and his grasp of such widely differing subjects.

In his early literary career, Balzac was known for collaborating with other writers over the course of writing nine novels and several short stories, all of which he published under pseudonyms. When the author finally had the idea to create an enormous series of books that would offer a wide spectrum of all aspects of society, it is said that he ran into his sister’s apartment shouting, “I am about to become a genius!”

Honoré de Balzac The Human Comedy Rare Complete Works

The Rare Works of Honore de Balzac, The Human Comedy

The Human Comedy was the first time Honoré de Balzac published under his actual name, and the total collection would become the lifetime achievement for which he was best known. Bound in full blue leather, the complete work consists of 91 finished stories, novels, and essays, and 46 unfinished works.

Balzac was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy as he wrote The Human Comedy, but still wrote the work in the style of a realist novelist. As such, many other famous authors have based their own work off of The Human Comedy, some of which include Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Émile Zola, Karl Marx, and many more.

Honore de Balzac The Human Comedy Rare Works

The Human Comedy by Honoré de Balzac


Top 5 Rare Holiday Books

December 19th, 2014

1. The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens

First Edition set of Dickens' Christmas Books

First Edition set of Dickens’ Christmas Books

The only reason to shout “Bah! Humbug!” at this collection is when you’re trying to decide which book to read first! The entire first edition set of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books include A Christmas Carol (first issue), The Chimes, The Battle of Life, Cricket on the Hearth, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain. Generally considered the “Bible of Christmas,” A Christmas Carol tells the heartwarming story of bitter, penny-pinching Scrooge as he travels through time with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, renewing his faith in the spirit of the holiday along the way. These famous novellas by Dickens make for a fantastic celebration of both the English language and the holiday season.

2. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

First Edition of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss

First Edition of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss

Another non-believer redeemed in the end, the Grinch is easily the best Christmas villain since Scrooge. Surprisingly, Theodore Seuss Geisel revealed that he wrote the book because he identified with its main character:

I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December [said Seuss] when I noted a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote a story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.

Who would have thought that the lively Dr. Seuss could be considered a Grinch? But we suppose all authors relate to their characters somehow. Choose a holiday book the whole family will treasure with the very rare first edition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

First Edition of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Charles Shulz

First Edition of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles Shulz

The best holiday books are those that we grew up reading, such is A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz. Similar to the anti-Christmas villains in the previously mentioned books, the story starts out with Charlie Brown in a not-so-joyful mood. Of course, we all relate to the holiday blues that Charlie feels in lieu of the over-commercialization of Christmas, and find our hearts warmed as the young boy’s friends come together to revive his little tree in the end. Signed by Charles Schulz, this very special first edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is easily a top 5 pick for rare holiday books.

4. Poems by Clement C. Moore 

First Edition of "Poems" by Clement C. Moore

First Edition of “Poems” by Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

            Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

In the beautifully bound first edition of Poems by Clement C. Moore lies the famous holiday poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This rare book was the first appearance of Moore’s poem, which was originally titled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” The author originally wrote the poem in 1822 for his children, after a snowy winter’s day during which he went sleigh shopping. Moore did not claim authorship of the poem for over 20 years, and instead published it anonymously. Moore’s reason for this was that he was a professor and intellectual, and did not want the unscholarly poem attached to his name. Today, the famous poem is what Clement C. Moore is most remembered by, and it serves as a holiday classic for children and poetry lovers across the world.

5. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

First Edition of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas

First Edition of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas

One of the most popular works of acclaimed poet, Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales evokes all of the emotional nostalgia many of us feel about experiencing Christmas as a child. The prose was originally written for BBC radio and recorded by Thomas in the early 1950s. Within the verses, Thomas describes a simpler time when the snow of the holidays seemed much brighter and more exciting. The story has since been adapted into theatrical, film, and animated versions. Inspiring laughter and idyllic memories of Christmas by all who know it, the first edition of book is a wonderful fit for our list of top 5 rare holiday books.

“The Republic of Plato” In Ten Books.

December 7th, 2014

plato-raptis-rare-booksWritten in 380 BC, The Republic is considered one of the Plato’s best works and a major staple for Western philosophical and political thought. The work was alternatively titled On Justice by ancient readers, as the main theme aims to find the perfect definition of justice in regards to both the individual and the city-state.

“That Plato should be the first of all the ancient philosophers to be translated and broadcast by the printing press was inevitable. Plato’s central conception of a universe of ideas, Perfect Types, of which material objects are imperfect forms, and his ethical code based on action according to human nature, developed by education, which represents the authority of the State, fitted in as well with the philosophical, religious and political thought of western Europe in the 15th century, striving to free itself from the shackles of scholasticism, as it did with those of the Byzantine Greeks, by whom Plato was repopularized in the western world…” (Lowndes, 1878).

Man has been quarreling with the notion of justice since the beginning of society. Within the ten books of The Republic, Socrates repositions his understanding of justice based on various human virtues and systematic powers he encounters, including freedom, government, family, class, money, power, wisdom, courage, friendship, and the soul. As Socrates finds the various ways by which man is corrupted by power, he discerns that the just city-state is one ruled not by the rich, but by philosophers. As PMM analyzes Socrates’ discoveries, it is an undisputable fact that “the dialogues are pervaded by two dominant impulses: a love of truth and a passion for human improvement.”

In addition to Socrates’ journey for justice, The Republic contains a number of metaphors highly respected amongst philosophy and literature critics, such as the famous allegory of the cave. In this allegory, Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave their entire lives. The only reality these people know is their view of a blank cave wall, which will occasionally project elongated shadows of people walking past, sometimes carrying objects. Once a prisoner is released from the cave, he sees real people for the first time and comes to understand that the shadows were never a reality. The freed prisoner can never un-see the true world again, making a powerful statement on the human condition, as man’s reality is so greatly dependent on individual experience through sensation and perception.

Plato's The Republic of Plato, Rare Book

Plato’s The Republic of Plato. In Ten Books. Translated from the Greek by H. Spens. With a Preliminary Discourse Concerning the Philosophy of the Ancients by the Translator.

Printed in 1763 by Robert and Andrew Roulis, the ten-book set of The Republic is easily Plato’s most famous, highly valued, and well-read philosophical dialogues.

It influenced societies throughout the centuries, beginning with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Various translations have been interpreted and received differently throughout time as well. Lowndes writes of Harry Spens translation, “very faithful… containing not only a general epitome of the Republic of Plato, but an accurate delineation of the characters, manners, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks.”

Raptis Rare Books’ first edition in English Plato’s The Republic includes all ten books, beautifully bound in period style full calf.

Alexander Pope & His Famous Translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

November 17th, 2014

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope taught the world that to be inspired by greatness could earn you your own name in history. In addition to his credentials as the third most quoted literary figure by The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, topped only by Shakespeare and Tennyson, and a celebrated poet and essayist, Pope is best known for his translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. On the translation of the Iliad, Garry Wills of The New York Times writes:

In 1713, when he was only 25 years old, Alexander Pope assumed a momentous risk. Barred by his Roman Catholic religion from the normal apparatus of Government and private patronage, he took subscriptions for a large-scale project that filled his life for the next seven years and established his absolute pre-eminence among the poets of his time. The result was a version of Homer’s ”Iliad” that Samuel Johnson pronounced the greatest translation ever achieved in English or in any other language.

When Pope decided to take on the enormous prospect of translating Homer’s Iliad, he did so in subscriptions, offering one volume of the work each year for six years. Before Pope’s translation, the English translation of the Iliad was available in a long-line ballad metre version by George Chapman in 1958. The original version was praised for its “great rhetorical power,” as it left room for Homer’s figures of speech as well as new ones, while offering explanations in parenthesis throughout the work.

Though the Iliad and the Odyssey were Homer’s works originally, each translation to English creates a poetic work in its own right. Alexander Pope’s translations of the works introduced to the world the heroic couplet, a syntactical form that would become famous for future translations as well as other epics. The Rare Subscribers Issue: First editions of the celebrated translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey by Alexander Pope fully captures the transition of Homer’s into Pope’s storytelling by his own hand, with pencil annotations and notes throughout.

First Edition of Pope's Translation of The Iliad and Odyssey, Rare Book

Rare, First Edition of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

In his lectures On Translating Homer, Matthew Arnold identifies four essential poetic qualities of Homer which the translator much honor:

[i] that he is eminently rapid; [ii] that he is eminently plain and direct, both in the evolution of his thought and in the expression of it, that is, both in his syntax and in his words; [iii] that he is eminently plain and direct in the substance of his thought, that is, in his matter and ideas; and, finally, [iv] that he is eminently noble.

Alexander Pope’s fascination with Homer’s poetic style carried out into his own writings. He began his own epic work, The Rape of the Lock, in the style of the Odyssey, which was to enter the story in the middle of the plot, or en media res. During his translation of the Odyssey, Pope was assisted by Elijah Fenton and William Broome, which is clearly captured the pencil notes of multiple hands. The subtleties of each tactical decision made within the entire process of Pope’s translations of Homer’s works, in which he ultimately makes them his own, is fabulously highlighted throughout the first editions of these timeless tales.

First Edition of Pope's Translation of The Iliad and Odyssey, Rare Book

Rare, First Edition of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

You can view our rare, first editions of Alexander Pope’s translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey here.

The Works and Life of David Ricardo

November 11th, 2014

David RicardoDavid Ricardo’s name belongs on a list the most influential classical economists in history, including Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and James Mill. Born as one of seventeen children, Ricardo learned about competitive business interactions early on from his father, Abraham Ricardo, a successful stockbroker in London.

After being estranged from his family for eloping with a Quaker woman and converting to Unitarianism, Ricardo became a self-made man as a successful broker himself. It has been speculated that he used methods that today would get him prosecuted, such as insider trading and market manipulation, to earn his generous personal fortune from the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo.

Ricardo’s interest in economics sparked after reading Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. His inspiration led him to publish his first economics article at age 37, a time in which he also bought a seat in the U.K. Parliament. Ricardo’s theories on taxation and comparative advantage were known to have a determining role in the economic development of England and the modern western world.

David Ricardo is without doubt the greatest representative of classical political economy. He carried the work begun by Adam Smith to the farthest point possible… Ricardo, writing 50 years later than Smith, showed a greater insight into the working of the economic system… In the opinion of his own contemporaries at home and abroad, Ricardo was acknowledged the leader of the science…

As a classical economist, Ricardo developed theories that expanded on the concept of absolute advantage. Using simple mathematics, he made the argument that international trade should have a greater purpose than accumulating gold or silver. Instead, Ricardo proposed that industry specialization combined with a free international trade market would always produce positive results.

First Edition of On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Rare Book

First Edition of Adam Ricardo’s First Edition of On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

… The fundamental groundwork of the Principles is based on the theory that, given free competition in trade, the exchange value of commodities will be determined by the amount of labor expended in production… [a thesis] which was given new force by the theory of distribution with which Ricardo reinforced it 

In Ricardo’s On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, he suggests that nations should concentrate their resources only on industries with the highest competition. Theoretically, in the market of international free trade, this reliance on comparative advantage would lead to increasing economic prosperity for all nations involved. We carry a rare, first edition of this work here.

While Ricardo’s theories have been challenged by economists who followed, they remain a cornerstone in the concepts of international trade. One of only 750 copies, the first edition of David Ricardo’s On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation documents the groundbreaking theories that greatly shaped the international trade market we know today. Without any of the publisher’s advertisements at the end, the book is a fine example of the once innovative work written by arguably “the first ‘scientific’ economist” to have influenced our world economy.

First Edition of The Works of David Ricardo, Rare Book

First Edition of The Works of David Ricardo

You can read more about Ricardo’s fascinating life and theories in the rare first editions of On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation,  The Works and Correspondence and The Works of David Ricardo with A Notice of the Life and Writings of the Author.