Rare Books, Stamps and Maps sale 28.10.17

Posted in: News on July 28, 2017.

Dawson’s are excited to announce their Rare Books, Stamps and Maps sale on the 28th October. This sale has already garnered significant interest, and a number of interesting consignments. With books consigned so far spanning many different eras, our sale looks set to touch upon the whole history of the European book.

This is a history that began in Mainz, Germany in 1439. The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession who developed it by creating new, and adapting existing technologies. The Gutenberg Bible was the first ever publication to be birthed by this landmark contraption. From its inception, the printing press rapidly spread to over two hundred cities in a number of European countries. Before Gutenberg printed his first book, books were laboriously handwritten by scribes. It has in fact been estimated that there were perhaps 30,000 books in the whole of Europe before the invention of the press. In 1424 the University of Cambridge has one of the largest libraries in Europe with a less than staggering one hundred and twenty two books.

The power of the written word has never weakened. Spawning an era of mass communication, the printing press permanently altered the structure of society. It can be seen as the driving force behind the Renaissance. Although the majority of first books printed were popular religious texts, many classical Greek and Roman texts were also published, fuelling the rediscovery of the ancient world. Furthermore, in this period of religious and political domination, the invention of the printing press contributed to the widespread transmission of underground, illegal and often anarchic ideas and imagery (Reformation era Catholics and Protestants both spread their own propaganda and inflammatory imagery through print). The Renaissance is a period that can perhaps be seen to mirror our current online era. Both see censorship working in a desperate attempt to erase the uprisings of radicals, criminals and heroes who gather together in these ages of information. In fact censorship was introduced into the print shop as early as 1487, when Pope Innocent VIII decreed that Church authorities approve all books before publication. It is fitting to mention here our sale of a limited edition and signed copy of D.H. Lawrence’s explicit Lady Chatterley’s Lover. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the UK until 1960, where it became the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against its publisher Penguin. The written word continues to shock.

Consignments so far include an edition of Peter Pan and another of the Brother’s Grimm, both with exquisite Arthur Rackham illustrations, an English dictionary published in 1795, and a 1549 edition of the works of Thomas Aquinas.

This sale will also include stamps, maps, theatre programmes and other printed ephemera. So if you think it’s high time your bookcases had a clean out, we’d love to hear from you! Our next specialist book valuation day will take place on Thursday 3rd August from 10am until 5pm. It will be held by our resident book specialist Michael Elston. We look forward to seeing you.

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