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Neil Pearson Rare Books

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Red Comet : A Tale Of Travel In The USSR

TREASE, Geoffrey Small 8vo, pp. 211. Original cream boards, lettered in black to front panel and spine. Maps to endpapers. Illustrated dustwrapper. Boards browned and with a little historical dampstaining to front panel near spine. Contemporary ownership inscription to front free endpaper. A very good copy in a very good dustwrapper, rear panel browned, some wear to top edge and spine ends. Black and white illustrations by Fred Ellis throughout text. First edition. Geoffrey Trease [1909-1998] was a prolific children's author best known for Cue For Treason (1937), set in Elizabethan England. His books kick against the usual jingoistic tone of children's literature of the period, and often feature girls in leading roles. His radical politics are nowhere more overt than in Red Comet, written as result of a visit to the USSR to collect the royalties from sales of his books there. A mixture of science fiction and travelogue, Red Comet was the first British book aimed at children to describe life in Soviet Russia, and '.was designed to inspire British children to want to create a socialist state at home. The rich lives of the Soviet children they meet are contrasted with how [the book's protagonists] Peter and Joy live in England. At fourteen Peter has already left school and, like his father, is unemployed. Soon Joy's education will also end because the family cannot afford for her to stay on at school. Their prospects are bleak, but the Soviet children they meet are in school and eager to learn because, they say, "we've got something to get on to".' [Kimberley Reynolds, Firing The Canon! Geoffrey Trease's Campaign For An Alternative Children's Canon In 1930s Britain]. Trease sought to write for children in a way which would stimulate their intellect as well as their imagination. George Orwell was a fan, and in a book review published in Tribune he wrote of Trease: 'He is that creature we have long been needing, a 'light' Left-wing writer, rebellious but human, a sort of P.G. Wodehouse, after a course of Marx.' The historian Philip Grierson took Treece seriously, too, and lists Red Comet in his Books On Soviet Russia 1917-1942 (1943). Red Comet was published by Lawrence and Wishart in the UK in 1937, but this is the true first edition, issued in English but published in the USSR in 1936. It is extremely scarce: we can find no copy in any UK institutional library, and only four worldwide (Yale; Amherst; Neilson Library and Staatsbibliotek Berlin). The presence of the dustwrapper on this copy, well-preserved and in good order, makes it truly rare.
Playpower : Exploring The International Underground

Playpower : Exploring The International Underground

NEVILLE, Richard 8vo, pp. 361. Original pale yellow boards, lettered in black to spine. Pouch containing Headopoly game to rear pastedown. Top edge black. Illustrated dustwrapper. A near fine copy in a near fine dustwrapper with just the lightest of edgewear. Dustwrapper and title page design by Martin Sharp. First edition, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR TO THE FILM MAKER, AND AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF OZ, TONY PALMER: 'Richard Neville Nov 20. 71. (Free, despite T.P.'s best friend, Brian Leary).' In 1967 Richard Neville [1941-2016] founded Oz, the infamous underground magazine which had never stayed underground enough for the Establishment's liking. (The magazine's graphic designer was Neville's close friend Martin Sharp, the designer of this book's dustwrapper.) The May 1970 issue of Oz was edited by schoolchildren (one of whom was Charles Shaar Murray), and featured images of a priapic Rupert the Bear. The result was prosecution, and the Oz trial became one of the longest -- and certainly one of the silliest -- obscenity trials in British legal history. The defence was not helped by its choice of expert witnesses: Marty Feldman declared the Bible to be far more obscene than Oz, and George Melly helpfully explained the concept of cunnilingus to the presiding judge; 'In the navy we called it 'yodelling in the canyon', Your Honour'. (The defence had planned to call Germaine Greer, but as she'd just had her anus photographed by Suck magazine it was decided her appearance might be counterproductive.) Neville and his co-defendants were found guilty, sentenced to up to fifteen months' imprisonment but, after an outcry, were released on appeal. The writer and film maker Tony Palmer had first met Neville in 1968 when, as producer of the BBC show How It Is, Palmer had recruited him as co-presenter of the show. (The other presenter was John Peel.) Palmer attended the Oz trial every day as both supporter and researcher: he wrote The Trials Of Oz, published in 1971. Needing the full story, Palmer spent a lot of time with the prosecution during the trial -- including prosecuting counsel, Brian Leary, which explains the book's tongue-in-cheek inscription. Neville began writing Playpower in 1968, but given the above its appearance was delayed. An insider's survey of the counterculture, it was pushed by uber-agent Ed Victor, published by the usually rather stuffy Jonathan Cape, annoyed all the right people, and was widely and favourably reviewed. The Headopoly poster, often missing, is present in its pouch at the back of this copy. A near fine copy, with a right-on association.
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A Christmas Story

BURTON, Richard 8vo, pp. 31. Original orange three-quarter boards, snowflake device to front panel, lettered in black-on-red and silver-on-red to spine. Printed dustwrapper, photographic portrait of the author to rear panel. Grey endpapers. A fine copy in a very good dustwrapper with some edgewear, 1cm closed tear to lower edge of front panel and a little creasing to top edge near spine. First edition. INSCRIBED BY BURTON TO NEVILL COGHILL: 'February 1965, Dublin. To Neville [sic] with great admiration and respect and affection, Richard. If I can persuade Elizabeth to keep me free for three months I'll write a book of bulk and prove, I hope, that actors can be literate. R.' The literary scholar Nevill Coghill [1899-1980] was Tutor of English Literature at Exeter College, Oxford, for more than thirty years. The two men first met in 1944, when Burton studied English at Oxford for six months while doing his National Service in the RAF. Coghill was Burton's tutor, and also directed him as Angelo in an OUDS production of Measure For Measure after Burton had auditioned with a rendition of Hamlet's 'To be or not to be.' speech which Coghill later described as 'the most perfect rendering I had ever heard.' Later, Coghill paid tribute to Burton's intellect as well as his talent: 'I have had students of very great gifts and many of very little. But I have only had two men of genius to teach: W.H. Auden and Richard Burton. When they happen, one cannot mistake them.' Burton's regard for Coghill was equally strong. The two remained in constant touch down the years, and in 1964 Burton drove to Oxford to introduce Elizabeth Taylor to his old tutor and friend. During the visit the plan was conceived to stage an OUDS production of Doctor Faustus to raise funds for the University Playhouse. Burton was as good as his word, and in 1966 the show ran at Oxford for three weeks, directed by Coghill, and starring undergraduate members of OUDS alongside the most famous couple in the world. (The production was filmed in Rome the following year, financed by Burton, directed by Coghill, and featuring the same cast.) This book -- memories of a childhood Christmas in Wales -- was inscribed during Burton's ten-week stay in Ireland in 1965 while shooting The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. (He received one of his seven Oscar nominations for the film, though he never won.) Burton knew his worth as an actor, and -- God knows -- enjoyed the life it gave him. But he always hankered for the life of the mind, and revered writers and academics to the point of envy. The inscription here speaks both to the depth of Burton's affection for Nevill Coghill, and the profound and permanent effect Coghill had on Burton's life.