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Captain Ahab's Rare Books

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MURDER STALKS THE WAKELY FAMILY

Derleth, August W. First Printing. Octavo (19.5cm); orange cloth, with titles stamped in black on spine; dustjacket; [x],239,[7]pp. Spine ends gently nudged, hint of offsetting from jacket flaps onto endpapers, else a fresh, Near Fine copy. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $2.00), shelfworn and a bit dust-soiled, with several small nicks, tears, and attendant creases (one of them tape-mended on verso), and a 1" loss at upper spine panel, costing several letters; unrestored; just Very Good. Derleth's first book, and the first of ten novels he'd write featuring his recurring character, Judge Peck. "In this first novel of the Judge Peck series the Judge and his friend Dr. Jasper Considine work together to solve the mysterious slaying of Satterlee Wakely, which has roots in his dark, sinister past" (Wilson 328). In a July 27, 1933 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, Derleth confessed that he'd broken his previous speed record by writing Murder Stalks the Village (the novel's original title), "a complete mystery-detective novel, 70,000 words long, in seven days flat, not counting afternoons spent across the river on my beloved hills reading, and writing poetry" (Schultz & Joshi, Essential Solitude: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth: 1932-1937, p.596). Derleth's publisher, Loring & Mussey, released the book at the beginning of 1934, with a very modest print run; by June 4th of that year, he'd reported to Lovecraft "L&M's latest report puts sales of MURDER STALKS at 1100. This is gratifying, being 200 over the average sale of a first mystery novel" (ibid, p.640). An important debut, apparently rare in dustjacket (this is the first we've seen), with none available in commerce (Jan.2024) or in the auction record. OCLC shows 20 holdings. Hubin, p.115; Barzun & Taylor 1077.
  • $1,500
  • $1,500
book (2)

GIRL WITH CURIOUS HAIR [TOGETHER WITH] INFINITE JEST: A NOVEL – INSCRIBED TO BRIAN SIMPSON, WITH A TLS LAID IN

Wallace, David Foster 1. Girl With Curious Hair: First Printing. Octavo (21.5cm); bluish-gray paper and black cloth-covered boards, with titles stamped in metallic blue on spine; dustjacket; [x],373pp. Inscribed by Wallace on the title page: "For Brian with enormous collegial affection / David Foster Wallace." Base of spine gently nudged, else very Near Fine in a Near Fine dustjacket, unclipped (priced $17.95), showing some light surface wear.2. Infinite Jest: A Novel: First Printing. Thick octavo (24cm); blue two-tone paper-covered boards, with titles stamped in silver on spine; dustjacket; [iv],[2],3-1079pp. Inscribed by Wallace on the title page: "For Brian with all best wishes / David F. Wallace." Base of spine gently nudged, some offsetting to gutter along the front hinge, with a small, faint scuff to front cover; Near Fine in a Fine, unclipped (priced $29.95) first state dustjacket.Together with a computer-generated typed letter from Wallace to the recipient, dated 6-30 [1994], on white bond (measuring 8.5" x 11"); 23 lines (230 words), signed Many Thanks / David Foster Wallace" in blue ink. Two horizontal folds, with a small holograph correction and a brief note by Wallace at upper margin; Near Fine with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked "30 Jun 1994." A compelling trio of items, comprised of Wallace's first collection of short fiction and his second novel, inscribed to Brian Simpson, long-time owner of Babbitts Books in Normal, Illinois. Wallace was a regular patron there while teaching at Illinois State University. He would often do readings and signings there, which brought in no shortage of new customers, and in an article for Condé Nast Traveler, he named it his favorite bookshop. His letter to Simpson is insightful, in which he outlines his required reading order for the Fall, 1994 semester. He asked Simpson to order the following titles for his two sections of "English 102 -- Literary Analysis 1: Prose Fiction": Black Sunday (Thomas Harris), The Big Nowhere (James Ellroy), Rock Star (Jackie Collins), Where Are the Children? (Mary Higgins Clark), Carrie (Stephen King), Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry), The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris), and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis). He concludes with a request for Simpson to include a small Xerox packet to sell to students coming in for their books ("The English Dept. uses only mimeo, and it looks like shit. If you don't care for the hassle I can arrange something else"). A copy of Wallace's syllabus for this course, held by the Ransom Center, reveals the following aims of the course: ".In less narcotizing words, English 102 aims to show you some ways to read fiction more deeply, to come up with more interesting insights on how pieces of fiction work, to have informed, intelligent reasons for liking or disliking a piece of fiction, and to write -- clearly, persuasively, and above all interestingly -- about stuff you've read.If the course works, we'll end up being able to locate some rather sophisticated techniques and/or themes lurking below the surface of novels that, on a quick read on airplane or beach, look like nothing but entertainment, all surface." He follows this up with a warning, more than likely after anticipating the students' reactions to the reading list: "Don't let any potential lightweightish-looking qualities of the texts delude you into thinking that this will be a blow-off-type class. These "popular" texts will end up being harder than more conventionally "literary" works to unpack and read critically. You'll end up doing more work in here than in other sections of 102, probably."
  • $18,500
  • $18,500
book (2)

THREE WHO DIED: A JUDGE PECK MYSTERY – INSCRIBED TO H.P. LOVECRAFT

Derleth, August W. First Printing. Octavo (19.5cm); lime green cloth, with titling and decorative elements stamped in black on spine and front cover; dustjacket; [10],11-252,[4]pp. Inscribed on the front endpaper in a contemporary hand to H.P. Lovecraft: "For Howard Phillips Lovecraft, dean of U.S. writers of the weird – with the unqualified admiration of August W. Derleth." Beneath this inscription is a shorter one, written at a slightly later date, with an arrow pointing at the inscription to Lovecraft: "Stodgy as the devil, eh? Grandpa from the south / August." On the verso of the front endpaper appears a third inscription by Derleth: "For Ethel and Walter – this copy – one of the first six issues of the novel, originally bestowed upon an old and dear friend whose death makes it possible to add this one to your shelves – Cordially, August." Spine ends slightly nudged, with a few spots on spine ends, upper corners, and front right fore-edge skillfully (but unnecessarily) re-touched, and some mild tanning to endpapers; Very Good+. In a supplied dustjacket, unclipped (priced $2.00), gently spine-sunned, showing modest shelfwear, scattered foxing, small tears, and a few spots of restoration at spine ends, corner tips, and lower right corner of rear panel; Very Good. Derleth's third book, and the third of ten mystery novels featuring his recurring characters Judge Peck and Dr. Considine. Set in Sac (Sauk) City, 20 miles from Madison, Wisconsin, Peck and Considine look quietly into the sudden death of a young man, his wife, and their doctor. Derleth began working on Three Who Died in January, 1934, revising it throughout the year, and discussing it off and on with Lovecraft in their correspondence. In a February 16, 1935 letter to Derleth, Lovecraft mentioned "I shall hail "Three Who Died" with the keenest interest & appreciation – who knows but that I may recover my childhood interest in the detective tale!" By mid-March that year, he would again write Derleth "I shall surely be on the lookout for "Three Who Died", & fancy it will prove even more entertaining than its predecessor. Glad the later members of the series continue the upward curve." In the time it took him to write that letter, this copy – evidently one of the first six copies of the novel to land in Derleth's hands – arrived at Lovecraft's home. He read it within five days, and offered Derleth the following assessment in a March 20, 1935 letter:"Well – I've read "Three Who Died" – & certainly enjoyed it to the limit! It's a tremendously clever piece of work, & far ahead of "All Fours" in point of construction – although the latter is a fine book, none the less, & vivid in atmosphere & narrative value. This one is a straight enigma, frankly presented as such, & I didn't get my suspicions straight till around p.145. It wasn't until the 160's that I felt reasonably certain. This tale is much more convincing than its predecessor. Melodrama & the grotesque are absent, so that the case sounds as if it might have come out of the papers. The various solvers go about their work in logical fashion, & the crimes themselves are natural – implicit parts of the pattern & in no sense artificially dragged in.it's a splendid book of its type, & I only hope the later volumes sustain the same standard.as I'm sure they do & will. I genuinely enjoyed it, & couldn't interrupt my original sitting till it was done." Over the years we have seen any number of books from Lovecraft's library bearing his ownership signature, but genuine presentations to him – particularly from anyone within his inner circle – are exceedingly rare in commerce. An extraordinary copy, conveying both the great esteem Derleth had for Lovecraft, and the admiration Lovecraft had for his younger disciple. Schultz & Joshi, Essential Solitude: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth: 1932-1937, pp.678, 683-686; Wilson 334; Hubin, p.115; Barzun & Taylor 1080.
  • $17,500
  • $17,500
book (2)

MURDER BY EXPERTS – SIGNED BY 11 CONTRIBUTORS

Queen, Ellery (editors) First Printing. Octavo (24.5cm); dark blue cloth, with titling and decorative elements stamped in gilt on spine and front cover; blue topstain; dustjacket; [xii],387,[1]pp. Signed on the front endpaper by the following 11 contributors: Thornton Wilder, Clayton Rawson, Hugh Pentecost, Edward D. Radin, Lawrence Treat, Helen McCloy, Brett Halliday, "Ellery Queen" (signed by Frederic Dannay), Lawrence G. Blochman, Leslie Charteris (beside which he has added a tiny Saint drawing), and Robert Bloch. Gentle sunning to spine, light wear to spine ends and extremities, with some subtle fading to lower front cover, and the front hinge very slightly over-opened; contents clean; Very Good+. In a supplied dustjacket, unclipped (priced $3.50), gently spine-sunned, with moderate wear along the upper edge and front flap, with several losses (none affecting lettering), and numerous tears, many of which have been neatly and archivally strengthened on verso; Very Good. The second Mystery Writers of America anthology, originally published by Ziff-Davis in 1947, in which 18 short stories are selected by MWA members, with each of them offering an introduction to their selection. Here, Clayton Rawson selects "The Locked Room" by John Dickson Carr; Mabel Seeley selects "The Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie; Margaret and Ken Millar on "The Hound" by William Faulkner; Anthony Boucher introduces "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" by Thomas Burke; Leslie Charteris on G.K. Chesterton; August Derleth on R. Austin Freeman; Vincent Starrett introduces Frederick Irving Anderson; et al. A round-robin copy of an important anthology, with an exceptional collection of signatures from distinguished contributors.
  • $2,850
  • $2,850
book (2)

TWO-PAGE ALS TO HARFORD POWELL ON “THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON” – TOGETHER WITH THE ORIGINAL COLLIER’S MAGAZINE APPEARANCE

Fitzgerald, F. Scott Two-page autograph letter, written from St. Paul, Minnesota, and composed in brown ink on white bond (measuring 8.5" x 11"). 27 lines (132 words), and signed "Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald" on p.2. Rubber-stamped date of April 19 [1922] at upper margin of p.1. Old folds smoothed out, some toning, light wear and handling, with numerous tiny nicks, tears, splits, and attendant creases (chiefly to p.2); a few faint spots of soil; upper left corners on both pages show staple holes, with a rust stain and attendant loss to upper left corner of p.1 from a removed paperclip; Very Good. Offered together with a copy of the May 27, 1922 issue of Collier's magazine, Very Good and complete. Housed in a custom clamshell case. A significant unpublished letter from Fitzgerald to Harford Powell, his editor at Collier's, concerning what is arguably his most famous short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." The letter, dated over a month prior to its publication in the May 27, 1922 issue of Collier's, was written shortly after Powell bought the story. Fitzgerald deftly makes a pitch to his editor concerning how the story could potentially be introduced to readers: "Reynolds writes me that you have bought Benjamin Button. I would like to make a suggestion. Couldn't you run a short blurb between the title and the story something on this manner: "Mark Twain once remarked that it was a pity that the best part of life came first and the saddest part afterward. He thought that old age should be run through with first and childhood saved as a reward. What do you think? Perhaps when you've finished this extraordinary story you'll agree with him – and perhaps not." This is only a suggestion but I feel quite sure that something like that would enormously stimulate the reader's interest. Can you give me some idea as to when it will appear?"The story was one of Fitzgerald's few forays into fantasy, his pitch shows a keen awareness and sensitivity to how it would be framed and marketed. It also shows the clear influence of Twain (who also has his forays into fantasy) on his work. Regardless of how compelling Fitzgerald's pitch was, Powell ultimately chose to run the story without an introductory blurb. Unfazed, Fitzgerald did not abandon the idea, but rather reworked it significantly. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was one of four fantasy stories included in his collection Tales of the Jazz Age, released four months after the Collier's issue was published. In the Table of Contents, Fitzgerald writes a paragraph-long introduction to each story. He introduced "Benjamin Button" as follows: "This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial." (p.ix). An extraordinary letter with significant literary content, charting Fitzgerald's interaction with his introductory text from concept to execution.
  • $32,500
  • $32,500
book (2)

THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS – TWO INSCRIBED COPIES, WITH RELATED CORRESPONDENCE

Lovecraft, H.P. (stories); Finlay, Virgil (design) First Printings, one of 1,268 copies. Two octavo volumes (24cm); black cloth, with titles stamped in gilt on spines; dustjackets; xiv,553,[5]pp. The present offering consists of two unique copies:- Copy 1: Trivial wrinkling to cloth at crown, else Fine. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $5.00), gently spine-sunned and lightly edgeworn, with shallow loss to base of spine, and some light dust-soil and waviness to rear panel; Very Good+. Inscribed vertically along the left margin of the rear flap by dustjacket designer Virgil Finlay: "This jacket is a photographic composite of early Weird Tales drawings, probably only one or two were for HPL stories - I wish I might have found time for more of his work which I did admire / Virgil Finlay." Housed in a custom half-morocco clamshell case. - Copy 2: Trivial wear to lower board edges, faint dust-soil to upper edge of textblock, with mild offsetting and some faint, scattered foxing to endpapers; Near Fine. Inscribed by Arkham House co-founder Donald Wandrei on front endpaper: "For Priscilla – and the goon – Donald Wandrei / Christmas, 1939." In the apparently unique trial dustjacket, printed in green instead of blue, with the flaps and rear panel without text; light wear and a few tiny tears to extremities, hint of sunning to spine, with a faint vertical fold along rear joint, and some mild dust-soil to rear panel; holograph printer's measurements (in ink) across base of spine panel; Very Good+. For the sake of completion, offered together with a Fine copy of the replica dustjacket produced in the 1970's by specialty publisher and collector Gerry de le Ree, from Finlay's original plates. Folded and laid into this copy are examples of the publisher's original prospectus (measuring 7.25" x 7.75"), as well as an earlier, mimeographed announcement letter (measuring 8.5" x 11"). Housed in a custom half-morocco clamshell case. The first major collection of Lovecraft's weird fiction and the first production by the legendary Arkham House - a landmark in 20th century genre publishing. The 32 stories written for various pulp magazines were gathered and preserved by Lovecraft's friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who founded Arkham House in 1939 to preserve and publish the best of Lovecraft's fiction. The stories "range from early exercises in Dunsanian pastiche to the mature and highly distinctive tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, which construct a horrific cosmological and historical context for human history. Luckless protagonists who stumble upon various dire intrusions of Cthulhu and his kin, or who unwisely pursue dangerous inquiries in the appropriate revelatory tomes, are inevitably brought to repulsively stick ends. Lovecraft became the consummate master of the confirmatory ending, in which what has been suspected all along finally becomes manifest" (Barron, Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide 3-132). It took Derleth and Wandrei nearly five years to sell through the modest print run, and The Outsider has not been reprinted since. Enclosed with the present copies are a five letters (written between May 10, 1937 - November 26, 1939) between the Arkham House principals, detailing both the publication history of The Outsider, as well revelatory background information concerning the dustjacket design by Virgil Finlay (1914-1971). In his time, Finlay was among the most in-demand illustrators of fantasy, science fiction, and horror literature in the United States, and his panoramic composition for The Outsider's dustjacket remains among the best executed and most desirable examples in the genre. According to a letter to Derleth from Adolph J. Hyson (of the George Banta Publishing Company), proofs for the dustjacket were struck in three colors - black, bronze blue, and a dark olive green. Both the black and green versions of the dustjacket were vetoed by all involved – the black on account of having "a strangely flat and monotonous effect, without depth or life. Second, and more important, certain of the figures, such as the monkey-like and ass-like creatures to the right of the topmost star containing the woman's figure behind the lettering "By", faded away to almost absolute imperceptibility in black, but stood out with fairly well defined clarity in the blue" (DW to VF, Nov.14, 1939). The green jacket was dismissed right out, and described by Wandrei as being "a peculiarly detestable and odious color." It is not clear how many examples of either the black or green trial state dustjackets survived after being scrapped, though all of the predictably few extant examples originated with the personal collection of Donald Wandrei, sold close to four decades ago. Joshi 15.
  • $65,000
  • $65,000
book (2)

EKSTASIS – WALLACE BERMAN’S COPY, INSCRIBED TO HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW

Lamantia, Philip One of 950 copies. Octavo (17.5cm); original unprinted cream card wrappers, glued into the printed dustjacket; [48]pp. Almost certainly Wallace Berman's own copy, gifted to his brother-in-law, Donald Morand, and inscribed to him on the preliminary leaf a month following publication: "Don – Think you will like this work – you met Philip once up here – have a crazy birthday – see you later – W+S+Tosh / July-59." Offered together with the original announcement (measuring 6.75" x 3 5/8"), with the text set by David Haselwood, and photograph of Lamantia taken by Berman (with the printed credit being his pseudonym, Pantale Xantos); verso is postmarked June 17, 1959, addressed to "J. Edgar Berman" by the publisher. Wrappers and contents clean and Near Fine; outer jacket is irregularly sunned, edgeworn and lightly dust-soiled, with some biopredation to upper front wrapper, and a small nick to lower right corner of same; Very Good. Prospectus shows some light finger-soil and a few tiny ink spots, else well-preserved. Both items housed side-by-side in a custom clamshell case. An extraordinary copy of the Italian-American poet's second collection of verse. "For California's poetry community of the 1950s and 1960s – and for Wallace Berman, in particular – Philip Lamantia served as a direct link to European Surrealism. More than any poet of his generation, Lamantia shared the Surrealists' enchantment with the irrational and he hungered for ecstatic experience. Lamantia was willing to pay the full price of admission for experiences demanding a conscious disordering of the senses, too, and his life was marked by drug addiction and the periodic bouts of depression that invariably afflict those who fly too close to the sun" (Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle, p.206). His connection to Berman was a significant one: Berman would include Lamantia's work in Semina 4, his photos of Lamantia shooting heroin would end up on the cover of Lamantia's first book, Narcotica. The inscription here by Berman to his brother-in-law is among the longest of the few such things we've seen or handled. Provenance: From the estate of Donald Morand, Berman's brother-in-law. Auerhahn 3.
  • $2,750
  • $2,750
book (2)

COMPLETE COLLECTION OF STORIES FOR BLACK MASK – 11 ISSUES (1933-1937)

Chandler, Raymond Eleven small quarto issues (25cm); original pictorial pulp wrappers; illus. Publication sequence as follows: December, 1933 ("Blackmailers Don't Shoot"); July, 1934 ("Smart-Aleck Kill"); October, 1934 ("Finger Man"); January, 1935 ("Killer in the Rain"); June, 1935 ("Nevada Gas"); November, 1935 ("Spanish Blood"); January, 1936 ("Guns At Cyrano's"); March, 1936 ("The Man Who Liked Dogs"); June, 1936 ("Goldfish"); September, 1936 ("The Curtain"); January, 1937 ("Try the Girl"). The December, 1933 issue is a Fair copy, with the text complete, but lacking the rear cover. Remaining issues are Very Good and complete, with some losses to paper at spine ends, six issues with tape (in varying degrees from light to moderate – to spine, covers, cover interiors, and a few opening and closing pages), and small loss to rear joint on the January, 1937 issue. Raymond Chandler's stories for the pulp magazine Black Mask mark a cornerstone in American crime fiction. Among the hundreds of pulp magazines churning out cheap fiction in New York, Black Mask stood out from the pack; under the watchful eye of editor Joseph T. Shaw, the magazine became fertile ground for top-notch crime fiction written by Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Carroll John Daly, Paul Cain, Frederick Nebel, and Cornell Woolrich, to name a few. By Chandler's own admission, he read and studied the stories submitted by Hammett, a man he admired greatly, who "took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it in the alley." What Chandler did was take the very best parts of Hammett's writing, and added poetry and style. Perhaps the greatest compliment of his work came from Shaw himself, who declared: ".there was no wordage fat. You could not cut. Every word had to be there." As a testament to their staying power, seven of the eleven Black Mask stories were immortalized by The Library of America in Raymond Chandler: Stories and Early Novels (1995). A perilously difficult set to complete, with relatively few holdings in OCLC member institutions. See: MacShane, Frank. The Life of Raymond Chandler, pp.44-54; Bruccoli C40-47, 49-51; Hagemann 347-357.
  • $25,000
  • $25,000