Shapero Rare Books has issued a catalogue titled Bearing Gifts. No, it is not too late to give gifts. It's never too late to give gifts. They will be accepted any time of the year, even if you give them to yourself. Shapero has some fine book gifts, conveniently arranged into five subheadings: Fiction, Poetry & Prose; Children's & Illustrated; Visual & Performing Arts; History & Natural History; and Special Interest & Sports. Here are a few selections of the varied gifts from the world of books being offered.
We begin with a book that might have been a bit of an image piece when published in 1945: The Royal Family in Wartime: The Illustrated Story of the Activities of the Royal Family in the Service of People and Empire. It looks at the activities of the royals during the Second World War. Naturally, the King was not going to be on the front lines, so sacrifices would not be like those serving in the military. Nonetheless, polishing of their image was probably not necessary. King George VI was an unexpected King, ascending to the throne only when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorced American woman. George was not a great speaker, suffering from a stutter. Yet, in his own way, he inspired many of his nation's people, and this was a time for unity as well. The Royal Family made a point of staying in London, even during the bombing, when Buckingham Palace was hit several times. Their willingness to stick it out despite the risks was appreciated by his countrymen. This book recounts their service during the war, including over 100 photographs. Profits went to support King George's Jubilee Trust Fund, a charitable organization. This copy has been inscribed by Queen Mary, widow of George V and the mother of Kings Edward VIII and George VI, at this time officially Queen Mother. Item 87. Priced at £275 (British pounds, or about $341 U.S. dollars).
This next man was more intimately involved in Britain's role during World War II. Indeed, he was the man who devised Britain's strategy, inspired his people to resist when his nation stood alone, and then wrote the war's biography when victory was finally achieved. That, naturally, would be Winston Churchill, Britain's war time Prime Minister, who wrote the account of that terrible conflagration after it was over. He had access to inside information. Item 90 is The Second World War, six volumes published 1948-1954. £1,750 (US $2,170).
Here's one more for Queen Mary, and one more King George, except this is Mary's husband, George V, instead of no. 6. Item 94 is a set of three photographs taken by W & D Downey. Both George V and Mary have signed their photographs, Mary dating hers 1927. The back of George's picture says "George Xmas 1904." The third photograph is of their first five children, whose ages make it look as this could also be from 1904, prior to the birth of their sixth child. Two kings-to-be are among the children. £1,750 (US $2,170).
Next up is a remarkable book. For those who obsess on bread, and there are many of us, this is your book: The Book of Bread, by Owen Simmons, published in 1903. Simmons has much to tell us about bread, but what is most extraordinary about this book is the photographs. Simmons commissioned 28 photographs of bread, herein reproduced in full-page illustrations. In the process, he unintentionally created a work of art, and of a most delicious sort. Item 115. £800 (US $988).
Enrico Caruso is remembered as one of the great tenors of the 20th century. Born in the 19th century, he lived just long enough to make it into the recording era. As a result, his voice has been preserved on some old 78's. What is not well known about Caruso is he was also a talented caricature artist. Item 76 is sort of a self portrait, and caricature Caruso drew of himself, circa 1910. It shows Caruso was not a man of great vanity, the behatted Caruso exaggeratedly portraying his double chin. £1,350 (US $1,668).
Here is a novel that has been made into a film four times. The book is The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney, published in 1955. It is a tale of some invading seed pods that fall to earth. They perfectly duplicate sleeping people, while turning the actual humans into dust. Since these duplicates live but five years and cannot reproduce, they must wipe out the Earth and quickly move on. Eventually, human resistance convinces the seeds to seek another planet. We can chalk this tale up to the category of science fiction. Item 146. £1,100 (US $1,358).