04 March 2007

The Lion's Paw. Robb White. 1946

After yesterday's highspot of highspots something more modest. I had an email from someone who seemed to know his (or her) onions suggesting other works of 19th Century literature of greater or comparative value to Emily Bronte's masterpiece - they suggested another Poe from 1843 'The Prose Romances' which apparently made $230K in 2000. Must look out for that one. Also Yeats's Mosada (1886) which made twice as much as Wuthering Heights when they were in auction together in the late 1990. Autres temps, autres moeurs. Looking back at that sale it appears that the playing field was not even - Mosada was pretty nice, 'Heights' was a bit crap. Also the Communist Manifesto which can make £100K but to my mind isn't a work of literature. A good read however.

On the subject of Russia it is conceivable that with the oligarchs on the prowl Tolstoy or Dostoevsky ('the supreme novelist') could make massive sums. However a runner who sells to their buyers says that they favour blingy books that are beautifully illustrated. A first of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal (one of 22) was also suggested and that impossible and most likely non existent book that Joyce is said to have written when he was 9 - the bitter broadside poem against Parnell's betrayers entitled "Et tu Healy," which John Joyce said he had printed - the holy grail of rarities. Et tu Healy? A likely story.*

Robb White. THE LION 'S PAW. Doubleday, NY 1946.

Current Selling Prices
$250-$400 /£120-£200 Want level 25-50 Highish

Good yarn of two children, Nick and Penny, who escape from an orphanage and help Ben, a boy who refuses to accept the status of an orphan. The three sail away on Ben's father's ship to the Gulf of Mexico, in search of an elusive shell, the lion's paw. They find Ben's missing father, who has been rescued from "the Japs"; they discover the shell they are seeking; and they are all very happy -- reminiscent of Arthur Ransome , lively children, adventures and sailing.

Robb White based it on his travels as a naval officer in the Phillipines WW2. He wrote about 20 books incIuding PRIVATEER'S BAY (1939) an autobiographical book about buying a small island in the British Virgins, reissued in 1953 as OUR VIRGIN ISLAND. Many of his books are fairly common, even in Britain.

VALUE? An ebay special. A jacketless reprint from 1992 signed by the great man is a BIN at $200 as we speak and 3 copies are on ABE at $300 - $575. one of which would appear to be a reprint. Doubleday books almost invariably state 'first edition' on the back of the title page. Nota Bene -- the dust jacket picture is courtesy of Grove Antiquarian specialists in the works of Robb White. Many thanks!

*The Joyce family always insisted they sent a copy to the Vatican for their library and some keen runner actually tried to find it there but failed. The intriguing thing is that there is said to be a printer's receipt for the item. Thomas J. Wise would have run up a copy if Joyce had been valuable in his time!

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