HerlandCharlotte Perkins Gilman, (also known as Charlotte Perkins Stetson), was born in New England, in 1860; a descendant of the prominent and influential Beecher family. Her mother, Mary Fitch Westcott, had married a second cousin, the well-known librarian and bibliophile, Frederic Beecher Perkins, grandson of Lyman Beecher, nephew of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. With sporadic formal schooling consisting of a total of four years between the ages of 7 and 15, two years at the Rhode Island School of Design and a course with the Society for the Encouragement of Studies at Home, Gilman had little formal education by today’s standards. She did, however, have a talent for speaking–and especially preaching–with an ease and power that was often attributed to her Beecher heritage.

Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression in the months following the birth of her daughter. The story is about a woman who suffers from mental illness after three months of being closeted in a room by her husband for the sake of her health, who becomes obsessed with the room’s revolting yellow wallpaper. The narrator in the story, perhaps her husband, or perhaps her doctor, who had tried to cure her of her depression through a “rest cure”, did not address the true need — mental stimulation and the freedom to escape the monotony of the room to which she is confined. Masterfully, Gilman combined socialism and feminism to provide a coherent theory of women’s oppression. First published in January 1892, in The New England Magazine, the magazine series that includes The Yellow Wallpaper , usually trades for a few thousand dollars, while the rest of the series can be bought for less than $50.

The Yellow WallpaperWomen and Economics

A few years later, based on lectures she gave and dependent on her own income, she wrote the book Women and Economics. Published in 1898, it was a foundational text of early feminism, and made her famous almost overnight. The work’s argument that women needed economic independence — and not just the ballot — to be truly free and equal, and that society as a whole would be better for their full participation, resonated clearly to women’s social needs of the time. With its publication, and its subsequent translation into seven languages, Gilman earned international acclaim. During this period, Charlotte had a long affair with Adeline Knapp, an author, journalist, and suffragette associated with the San Francisco Bay area. After their affair fizzled out, Charlotte married her cousin and second husband George Houghton Gilman, “a man supportive of her career goals and willing to accept them.” The Small, Maynard & Company, 1898 first edition, of Women and Ecomomics, trades presently for a few hundred dollars.

Gilman’s works of fiction represented the psychological impact of traditional female roles as housewives and mothers. She approved of birth control as a means to greater freedom for women and to improvement of the race, but disapproved of it as promoting sex for pleasure rather than procreation.  Her utopian novel, Herland (1915), in which three swaggering male explorers discover a lost civilization populated entirely by women who use parthenogenesis to reproduce, formed some of the first imaginings of science fiction. The book inspired Dr. William Moulton Marsten to create his character, Wonder Woman, as a model of “strong, free, courageous womanhood.” Herland first appeared in The Forerunner, a monthly magazine produced by Gilman herself.  Volume 6 of the magazine which was published in 1915, with Herland serialized in twelve parts, trades for a few thousand dollars.

The Forerunner - HerlandArt Gems for the Home and Fireside

Long unknown to Gilman scholars, Art Gems for the Home and Fireside written by Mrs. Charles Walter Stetson [Charlotte Perkins Gilman], is now recognized as the pioneering feminist’s first book. The roughly 100 page, illustrated volume covers forty-nine artists, each work accompanied by commentary written by Gilman. At a glance, the volume appears little more than a Victorian American parlor book, with little relation to Gilman’s later feminist, socialist and utopian ideologies. But, careful examination reveals that, whether she wrote about race, suffrage, or art, Gilman was a sensitive social critic. Her commentary on the images in Art Gems is frequently sarcastic, occasionally biting, especially in regard to the representation of women in the artworks that she included. The first edition published in 1988, Providence, RI: J.A. & R.A. Reid trades for a few thousand dollars.

 

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Price of SaltThere is no doubt that 20th-century genre novels which inspire unforgettable film productions, are on collectors’ target lists. And there is no better group of novelists that continue to inspire an endless procession of films than the ones that include Stephen King, J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick, Elmore Leonard, and of course, the ringer of American women crime writers, Patricia Highsmith. The fact that a number of her works were adapted into successful film productions, with A-list actors has helped make posterity’s cut with editions that are still in print, and first editions that are scarce and pricey.

Patricia Highsmith, who is primarily remembered for having written “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in 1955, and its four sequels: “Ripley under Ground” in 1970, “Ripley’s Game” in 1974, “The Boy Who Followed Ripley” in 1980 and “Ripley Under Water” in 1991, started her novel-adaptation career in 1951, with “Strangers on a Train.” Hitchcock directed the film which was based on Highsmith’s book with the same title, published a year before. The success story, however, remains with the books of the “Ripliad” saga, with the first three books in the series having been adapted into films five times:

In 1960, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” was adapted as the French film, Plein Soleil, (Purple Noon) , directed by René Clément and starring Alain Delon as Tom Ripley.  Then, in 1977, the German-language film Der Amerikanische Freund ,(The American Friend), based on “Ripley’s Game” and a fragment of “Ripley under Ground”, directed by Wim Wenders, with Dennis Hopper as Ripley.   Again in 1999, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, was adapted as an American production, directed by Anthony Minghella, with Matt Damon as Ripley.  “Ripley’s Game”, was adapted in 2002, in an English-language Italian production, directed by Liliana Cavani ,with John Malkovich as Ripley. And finally, in 2005, “Ripley under Ground,” directed by Roger Spottiswoode, with Barry Pepper as Ripley.

Creating characters that are believable in a world of bruised romanticism, lies the enduring attraction that film noir thrives in. There is no better example than Highsmith’s 1952 second novel, “The Price of Salt”, published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, and republished as “Carol”, in 1990, under her true name. The Oscar-nominated film adaption also titled Carol came in 2015, written by Phyllis Nagy and directed by Todd Haynes, and starred Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Because Highsmith wove such intricate tales of abnormal psychology with terse and declarative language, her work lends itself easily to cinematic interpretation. In the 1954 novel,“The Blunderer” for example, the protagonist and tormentor are drawn against their wills into a co-dependent relationship; a condition known by therapists as folie à deux.

Successful film productions that are based on novels often have the effect of steering awareness towards the author’s work, despite a lack of readership immediately after publication. Unlike most women crime writers of the time, Highsmith was fortunate enough to gain exposure from Hitchcock’s production of her “Strangers on a Train,” right after the book got published by Harper & Brothers. Furthermore, a large number of films which were based on her books were produced in foreign languages, which helped boost international awareness of her work:  In 1963, “The Blunderer”, was adapted as the French-language film, Le Meurtrier; in 1977, “This Sweet Sickness”, was adapted as French-language film, Dites-lui que Je l’aime; in 1978, “ The Glass Cell” was adapted as German-language film, Die gläserne Zelle; in 1981, “Deep Water” was adapted as French-language film, Eaux profondes;  in 1983, “Edith’s Diary” was adapted as German-language film Ediths Tagebuch;  in 1986, “The Two Faces of January” was adapted as German-language film Die zwei Gesichter des Januars; in 1987, “The Cry of the Owl” was adapted as French-language film, Le Cri du Hibou; and,  in 1989, “The Story Teller” was adapted as German-language film Der Geschichtenerzähler.

Beyond film production, collector interest is also fueled by censorship. Highsmith’s only major work that does not contain actual murder, is the “The Price of Salt”,which was published by Coward-McCann in 1952, at a time when it was illegal to publish or distribute content about gay people. Originally published in small numbers, the novel sold more than a million copies after being released as a 25-cent Bantam paperback. For decades Highsmith publicly disavowed the book, though she agreed to a new edition in 1990, without the pseudonym.  The semi-autobiographical work, noted for many years as the first love story between two women with a happy ending, is the scarcest of all of her titles. Of the 20 copies held in US institutions, fewer than 15 are in special collections. GRIER p.111 1.

Highsmith’s rare book  track record provides the ideal exhibit of the influence that the factors of: film adaptation, censorship, and internationalization can exert on collectible book price appreciation.

Lesbian in Literature: A Bibliography (Paperback), Grier, Barbara. Naiad Pr; 3 Rev Sub edition (January 1981)

 

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 2nd Quarter, 2017

August 11, 2017
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Factsheet: Rare Books as an alternative investment: Tangible assets, such as Rare Books, are by nature, illiquid. Collectible books of interest have shown value appreciation over the years. Many more collectible books of less interest have not appreciated or have declined in value. Supply outstrips demand for all but the rarest books. Tangible alternative investments […]

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The High Price of Baskett’s Mistake

June 8, 2017
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In 1709, John Baskett, purchased the exclusive, royal patent to print Bibles in England. His edition of the Bible is also his most important work and is described by Darlow/Moule as: “A magnificent edition, printed in large type. With many plates at the beginning and end of books, engraved on steel from the designs of […]

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I am a pre-1950 Pocket Book with Leo Manso cover art, paperback collector

May 17, 2017
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  During a recent visit to Provincetown MA, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Julie Heller Gallery.  Provincetown’s rich heritage as an art colony was quite unexplored by me, up until I took this walk through the gallery’s walls filled end to end with striking treasures of artists who helped develop […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 1st Quarter, 2017

April 24, 2017
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Rare book sales in the first quarter of every year are usually kept in balance by a slow auction season start on one hand, with two major book fairs on the other. The California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place in February, is the world’s largest, both in terms of attendance and dealer participation.  […]

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Interview with Laurent Ferri

March 21, 2017
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We recently had the opportunity to speak with Laurent Ferri, Curator of the pre-1800 Collections Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, at Cornell University. RBD: Within the scope of your definition of a book [“a closed/bound container of ideas and symbols which reflects and supports the intentions and worldview of its “author(s)”], what are some […]

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The First Dystopian Novel

February 27, 2017
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Before Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, George Orwell’s “Ninteen Eighty-Four” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, there was Yevgeni Zamyatin’s “We”, the first dystopian novel ever written. The book is a satire on life in a collectivist futuristic state, “One State”, located in the middle of a wild jungle.  It is surrounded by a wall […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2016

January 27, 2017
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  Last quarter’s coverage of the big rare book auctions, focused almost entirely on the new price record set by a first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, which has become the most expensive printed scientific book ever sold at auction after a winning bid of $3.7m (£3m), nearly two and a half times […]

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Pleased to Meet you, Hope you Guess my Name

January 10, 2017
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I was born in Mainz, Germany. I lived for the first month of my life in a printing plant before being brought to a merchant. I can remember very little about that time, for as soon as I left the plant I was securely stored away in a bookcase outside of town.  I was very […]

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