Friday, January 25, 2019

John R. Payne Reviews Catalogue 1: Rara Eros

by John R. Payne

John Payne’s most recent book is Great Catalogues by Master Booksellers, published in 2018.  He is also the bibliographer of the English ornithologist and novelist, W. H. Hudson.  John collaborated with the book collector, Adrian Goldstone, to compile a bibliographical catalogue of his collection of works by and about John Steinbeck that was published by The Harry Ransom Center in 1974. I am honored by his kind words -SJG.

First Catalogues
 First catalogues by booksellers are always cause for celebration.

“There is never anything elusive about a dealer’s catalogue,” wrote Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern.  “If it is a good one it will be its maker’s earthly representative and hopefully remembered.  A catalogue is a dealer’s showcase.  In it he displays his wares, parades his knowledge, offers his expertise.  His first catalogue is extremely significant.  He has made his public début before a critical group of connoisseurs.  This, his first catalogue, occasionally becomes his hallmark, stamping him as a specialist in Western Americana, medieval arts and letters, or modern firsts.”

Stephen Gertz’s Catalogue One: Rara Eros 16th-20th centuries is a sensitive, thoughtful, and bibliographically carefully described selection of 16th through 20th century imprints. Each title is illustrated in color, some with multiple illustrations. Prices range from $100 to $4,500.  At the lower end is Claire Willows’ Modern Slaves: A Profound Study of the Forces of Destiny ….  With ten full page illustrations.  New York: issued Privately for Collectors by The Gargoyle Press, no date (1931).  Limited edition of 1,350 copies.  $100

Books illustrated by Mahlon Blaine are priced $400 to $3,000, the later price being for a copy of Venus Sardonica. 50 Extravaganzas …  New York: (Jacob Brussel), 1929 (1938).  Limited edition of 160 copies numbered and signed by Blaine.  This is considered by Blaine and critics to be his finest work.

The least expensive item in the catalogue is Issue No. 1 of Exotica.  New York: Selbee Associates [Leonard Burtman], n.d. (1960), Second Series in large format of Leonard Burtman’s classic fetish magazine published subsequent to Exotique.  (Catalogue item 25).  $35

Mr. Gertz gained his expertise with rare books the hard way: by working with other well-established booksellers, first from 1999 to 2007 with Bill Dailey, as head cataloguer and later as manager of his shop.  After Bill closed his shop in 2007, Stephen worked for David Brass, as head cataloguer and later as Executive Director of David Brass Rare Books.  He now describes his experience as running the gamut from incunabula through 20th century vintage paperbacks.

“My interests as a collector have always been erotica and drug literature, which I bring to bear as a seller.  But one cannot live on sex and drugs alone—too risky in real life, too narrow to depend upon as a bookseller.  So, while those are primary specialties, I will be offering, as the subscript to Booktryst states, ‘interesting and curious rare and antiquarian books, etc.’ I have an eye for the unusual, provocative, and controversial. My uncle, famed Chicago First Amendment and civil liberties attorney, Elmer Gertz, won Tropic of Cancer’s first victory in the U. S. in 1962.  I must carry on the family tradition!”

You can access Rara Eros here.

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