11 March 2007

Letters from a Mourning City. Axel Munthe, 1887.

Axel Munthe. LETTERS FROM A MOURNING CITY. John Murray, London, 1887.

Current Selling Prices
$250-$400 /£120-£200 Want level 15 - 25 Quite High

8vo size blue original publisher's cloth. Munthe's experiences during the 1884 cholera epidemic in Naples. Munthe (1857-1949), a Swedish-born doctor, psychiatrist, and writer, studied at both the Universities of Uppsala and Montpelier.

Known for using hypnosis to combat both the physical as well as the psychological symptoms of his patients, his renown was such that he was eventually appointed physician to the Swedish Royal family. More importantly he lived on Capri and in 1929 wrote a massive international best seller about it 'The Story of San Michele.'

His Naples book 'Letters from a Mourning City' was his first book and he revised the translation to his liking in the second English edition in 1899, Some words from it are worth quoting in these jittery times: 'The present generation, which has already outgrown belief in God, laughs at all this
'superstition.' But I agree with the lazzaroni, and, although I am told that one can live in prosperity and health without God Almighty, I begin to understand that it becomes much more difficult to die without Him . . . I should like to get a deputation of newly-made atheists out here, and to take them with me on my rounds in the poor quarters where sorrow and misery live. I would show them the peace which Faith brings to the closing eyes of even these poor creatures whom one really might excuse for feeling no special depth of gratitude toward their Creator; I would show them how the crucifix over the bed can better soothe the agony of death than the morphine syringe of the Doctor.'
He often treated poorer patients without fee and was known to endanger his life in order to assist the dying and war wounded. He was also a tireless advocate of animal rights, purchasing land to create a bird sanctuary near his home in Italy, advocating bans on painful traps, and keeping pets as diverse as an owl, dogs, and a baboon.

He willed Villa San Michele to the Swedish nation, and it is maintained to this day by a Swedish foundation. Some info from the Wikiman, for which many thanks.

VALUE? I saw a decent copy sell at a fair to a dealer at £130 (less discount) and another copy at £200 that used to reside on the web has gone. One only remains, a fascinating but poorish copy annotated by the great man coming out of LA at $275. (From notes written in 9/06).That too has gone and the only one remaining at $675 with, as often happens at Amazon, hardly a notion of condition. This price is troppo. A kind of mystery how someone arrives at such a price - think of a number double it and add $50 for luck? The book isn't scarce but as Munthe's first book it will always have some caché.


REB said...

Just wanted to say thanks for posting the info on this book. After reading about it I had kept it in the back of my mind as something to keep a lookout for - one turned up at an auction a couple weeks ago. It will need a bit of repair but with no other bidders I got it for a very happy price. I do love your blog, keep up the good work.

Crissss said...

Munthe did NOT use hypnosis to treat his patients. He was a fine psychologist, able to reach deep into human mind, just by talking to someone while looking into their eyes. He was thought to have hypnotized people, because in college he had prof. Charcot as teacher, who indeed used this method to treat patients.