Here at Peter Harrington Dover Street we like to showcase the very best in rare books, encompassing everything from the keenest heights of political economy to the most nostalgic depths of children’s literature. There really are some astounding things here and, since it would be a little selfish to keep them all to ourselves, we have decided to share a special selection of three exceptionally interesting items every week with the wider world. I hope you enjoy reading about these books from time to time – you can click through from the picture to the full entry on our website, where you can also browse our entire gallery and rare book stock. Additionally, if you find yourself in the area, please drop by 43 Dover Street and I’d be happy to show you around.
I am a lifelong devotee of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – and I am generally very fond of left-wingers, particularly those of the vaguely compromised, champagne-stocked ivory tower variety. Beautiful books, too, I consider no bad thing. As such, here is a book almost achingly attuned to my tastes:
The Doves Press edition of Shelley’s poems, inscribed by the printer Cobden-Sanderson to the philosopher Bertrand Russell (author of, among many other things, the superb History of Western Philosophy, 1946 – recommended reading), and further inscribed by Russell to his then-lover the Bloomsbury hostess Ottoline Morrell.
It’s a wonderful association – Russell once noted that Shelley was “the poet I have loved best … he is constantly in my thoughts”. The print-date, 1914, is timely too. Russell, who shared Shelley’s uncompromisingly well-expressed conviction that: “Man has no right to kill his brother, it is no excuse that he does so in uniform. He only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder”, was imprisoned for his pacifism during the First World War. Ottoline Morrell was also a conchie-enabler, she and Russell notably helping Siegfried Sassoon to draft and distribute his explosive “Soldier’s Declaration” against returning to the Front in 1917.
The Doves Press edition, it must be admitted, pulls Shelley’s more political punches, printing mainly his lyrical poems of love and sublimity. I hope above all that Shelley’s irresistible pick-up poem, “Loves Philosophy”, worked its magic for this love-struck philosopher.
A MOOMIN ODYSSEY
We recently acquired a treasure trove of Moomin first editions, some in the original Swedish. Like all things Moominous, the books are joyous and disturbing in equal measure. None more so than this vividly illustrated story (appropriately entitled Hur Gick Det Sen?, meaning “What Happened?!”), which uses cut-out pages to give a “down the rabbit hole” feel to the progressing adventure. Should you dare to follow Moomintroll and that incorrigible termagant Little My on their surrealist odyssey, here are some pictures:
Seriously, what happened?!
“THE SEDGE IS WITHERED FROM THE LAKE, / AND NO BIRDS SING.”
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is a hugely influential book, and should be more so. She kick-started the environmentalist movement with this urgent popularisation of a relatively new realisation: that mankind had the capacity to seriously damage the environment. She showed how this was beginning to happen, particularly in the decimation of the bird population (hence the title) through the use of DDT and other pesticides. This revelation shook (or at least attempted to shake) the triumphalist foundations of post-war capitalism. It’s over half a century since Carson’s book came out – and its lessons are only just beginning to be learned. Here’s a signed copy (quite uncommon since it was published in the year before her death) of the first edition – one of the many excellent books in our recent Summer Catalogue.