The Vinegar Bible "B"

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 various artists. Some of the initial letters are similarly engraved. Unfortunately the book contained many misprints and earned the nickname A Baskett-ful of Errors…. From the misprint The parable of the vinegar (for vineyard) in the headline above Luke XX, this edition is commonly known as the Vinegar Bible.” 1

Darlow/Moule identifies two varieties of the book:

A. The additional general title, engraved by Du-Bose, represents Moses writing the first words of Genesis; below is the imprint Printed by Jn. Baskett at the Clarendon Printing-house in Oxford. The other general title has a view of Oxford by G. Vander Gucht. The New Testament title bears an engraving of the Annunciation. 490 x 307 mm.

B. The additional general title, engraved by Sturt, represents a church interior, with figures of Moses and Aaron, etc.; and dated 1716. The other general title and New Testament title have small engravings. In the text the columns are separated by a double rule. The engravings differ significantly from those in A; many represent allegorical subjects, and others are merely ornamental pieces, and do not, as in A, generally illustrate Bible incidents. 503 x 305 mm. 2

While both scholars and collectors today esteem the Vinegar Bible as one of the most beautiful and legible editions of Scripture ever published, the distinctions between the two variants are harder to spot. The difference in the measurements, for example, is unreliable since most of the surviving copies were rebound and sometimes cut. Even the most important difference between the two variants, the copper-engraved artwork, is mixed up with some volumes containing engravings by du-Bose as well as Sturt, and others. This was the case with a copy of variant “A”, sold by book dealer Bauman Rare for $18,500. This copy, in addition to the general title depicting Moses’ writing of the first word of Genesis, includes the general title page engraved by Sturt, depicting a church interior with figures of Aaron and Moses, generally found in Variant “B”.

Another configuration of mixed volumes (Old Testament variant “A” and New Testament variant “B”) is much less desirable, despite Variant “B” being rarer. Such a copy, having the additional setback of separated covers and some loss to the gilt dentelle, was sold in May of 2014, by Liveauctioneers, for a mere $1,300.

Prior sales are primarily of  variant “A”. In November of 1997, Christie’s auctioned a fine copy of variant “A” in red morocco title-label binding, with hand-marbled endpapers for GBP 3,220 or USD 5,389. A year later, Christie’s sold, at the McKenna Library Sale Part II event, another copy with all of the characteristics of “A”; with contemporary dark blue morocco binding, and a few repaired tears, for GBP 4,600 or USD 7,608. In July of 2000, Christie’s sold yet another copy of the ‘A’ variant in a contemporary Oxford black goatskin binding. This copy, which was in average condition with the lower corner torn from title, occasional heavy browning, tears and some holes, sold for GBP 4,112 or USD 6,185.  A much less desirable copy, in a contemporary red morocco, featuring the engraved view of Oxford, by G. Vander Gucht, and having the top edge of the title trimmed, browning and spotting throughout, with small stains, marginal repairs, joints splitting and detachment, sold in 2013, for GBP 1,875 or USD 3,015.

John Baskett’s Bibles with the mistakes corrected are not very exciting to collectors. At the end of 2016, a later edition in below average condition with internal tears and holes, some leaves missing, but with the correct wording of “vineyard” after a press change, sold at Sotheby’s for $2,750. During the same time, Doyle Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs, auctioned the two volumes of variant “A”, bound in contemporary dark-blue goatskin with joints discreetly repaired at the head and foot, with the bookplates of Sir John Hynde for $12,500 (including buyer’s premium).

The scarcity of variant “B” relative to variant “A” is not necessarily attributed to differences in production sizes. Demand for the artistic ornamentation of John Sturt, who also illustrated The Pilgrim’s Progress, was quite high at the time. Another well known contributor to the artwork in “B” was artist engraver, James Thornhill, one of the most important English exponents of Baroque decorative painting, and the first English-born artist to be knighted. The Vinegar Bible was a true landmark in English graphic art, celebrated by the monarchs/owners of the time, for the beauty of its ornamentation and typographical design, errors and all aside.


Vinegar Bible ornamentation

Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Library Bible House, 1903 Volume 1, p.259.

Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Library Bible House, 1903 Volume 1, p.259-260.





Manso Casino Royale

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 the town’s art history. I was surprised to find out that artists such as Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Leo Manso, Fritz Bultman, and Hans Hofmann, among others, took part in shaping the town’s cultural past.

One remarkable event was Forum 49, a 1949 summer-long series of sophisticated programs, that included forums from the basic “What Is an Artist?” to the controversial “French Art vs American Art today,” with participants such as Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock and Leo Manso. Record crowds attended the exhibits of paintings with a focus on the avant-garde, held at a gallery at 200 Commercial Street, less than a mile down the street from Julie Heller’s Gallery.

The work of Leo Manso (known for his fluid composition and rich use of color), is on display at the Julie Heller’s Gallery, with some of his seductively beautiful work done in collages. Vintage pulp collectors may be more familiar with the artist’s cover work on paperbacks and pulp magazines produced after the Second World War. Through his work with Simon & Schuster, he became involved with Pocket Books, for whom he produced a large number of covers during the years 1943-45.

The paperbacks of those days have so much personality. By examining them, you become quite aware that they had been the creation of human hands, rather than marketing. Artists of that generation viewed their works as an expression of themselves as artists, serving an audience of fans who shared a similar view of their work. Leo Manso’s symbolic design for the Maltese Falcon, for example, was later dustjacketed with a Stanley Meltzoff illustration of a half-naked woman, in an attempt by Pocket Books’ marketing to sell more books.


Leo Manso Pocket Book art

Leo Manso paperback art










After 1947, during the sex era of the paperback, publishers produced more blatant sex covers on which beautiful women could be admired in varying stages of undress, regardless of the contents of the book. During this period, realistic illustrator Robert Stanley, was using the images he drew of his wife, model Rhonda, often having her blouse unbuttoned or her panties showing.

Leo Manso, with a group of cover designers that included calligrapher and designer George Salter, recognized the new threat presented in their field, and saw the need to establish the Book Jacket Designers Guild. The Guild, took a stand against burlap backgrounds, airbrush doilies, illustrations mutilated to fit a jacket, and cover art that was unrelated to the title, among other things. They began holding annual events to advocate the production of quality covers. After a brief period of operation, however, the number of stimulating book covers being produced had gone up and the Guild realizing defeat ceased to exist1.

Perhaps the most desirable paperback cover art promoted by the Book Jacket Designers Guild, appeared between 1942 and 1945, on cover illustrations of Pocket Books, that had the image placed within a rectangle with rounded-off corners. This design suggested that the book was a window through which the reader could look to another world. The art of Leo Manso was often surrealistic and carried symbolic objects – daggers, open books, photographed hands, and matched the Guild’s protocol perfectly. Collectors of this period in graphic development are often attracted by the exuberant and colorful covers of the artist.


Leo Manso Pocket Book art

Leo Manso paperback art






Developing a pricing methodology for vintage paperbacks is quite tricky. Appraisers do not know how much these types of books are worth, nor do they really want to deal with the hassle of managing them. Mass market forces are at play, which renders the usual gauges of supply and demand, somehow useless. There is a lack of data, such as impression quantities, trading records, (such as collections generated during auction events), or high profile sales. The paperback market offering is lacking behind the smaller quantity production of hardcovers, not only in information but also in stability.  Market availability is very unpredictable since there is a great deal of volume traded in small transactions, and new additions continually enter the market with newly made available copies.

Collectors of the gigantic paperback offering do well when they narrow their target selection down significantly. Specialization pays off at such a bigger scale. Lack of information requires a specialist collector who conducts thorough research investigations and has the dedication to learn and follow the targeted category closely. In addition, because of the fragile nature of paperbacks, fine quality is difficult to come by. Furthermore, the well-defined criteria common to the dust-jacketed hardcover collectibles, are non-existent in paperbacks, i.e. no missing, torn, price-clipped, chipped dust-jackets, etc. Condition evaluation is reduced to the pages being clean and intact, and a very, very close examination of the covers. It is a rare phenomenon by itself, to come across a cover that has not suffered some minimal wear on the edges caused by rubbing or creasing! Quite honestly, what is the difference between heavy creasing and creasing that appear in descriptions for the condition? The standard definition that declares 2 creases or more, with at least one tenth of a millimeter in width, as “heavy”, is yet to be drafted.


1 Schreuders, Piet (1981).  “Paperbacks, USA. A Graphic History, 1939-1959”. San Diego, CA : Blue Dolphin Enterprises Inc.



Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 1st Quarter, 2017

April 24, 2017
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 1st Quarter, 2017

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.  […]

Read the full article →

Interview with Laurent Ferri

March 21, 2017
Thumbnail image for Interview with Laurent Ferri

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 […]

Read the full article →

The First Dystopian Novel

February 27, 2017
Thumbnail image for The First Dystopian Novel

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 […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2016

January 27, 2017
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2016

  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 […]

Read the full article →

Pleased to Meet you, Hope you Guess my Name

January 10, 2017
Thumbnail image for Pleased to Meet you, Hope you Guess my Name

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 […]

Read the full article →

The Ingredients of the Rarest Christmas Book

December 15, 2016
Thumbnail image for The Ingredients of the Rarest Christmas Book

At a local book trade show not more than three months ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with a few old friends and exchange some provocative conversations relating to my favorite topic – books.  The antiquarian book dealer in this particular conversation was delighted to bring up some quite interesting points on the […]

Read the full article →

Tarantula by Bob Dylan

November 25, 2016
Thumbnail image for Tarantula by Bob Dylan

What do T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Pearl Buck, Elias Canetti, Gunter Grass, John Steinbeck, Harold Pinter, Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan have in common? They have all been honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, the world’s most prestigious and coveted award. The 2016 winner, Bob Dylan, […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 3rd Quarter, 2016

October 22, 2016
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 3rd Quarter, 2016

In terms of total dollars, global auction sales of rare books in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2016 were slightly down from the same period in 2015; this year’s $87 million figure, for the period, represents a 6% decrease compared to last year. But a closer look at the top three markets – the […]

Read the full article →