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In the past, the club has had its headquarters in a Los Angeles hotel, the University Club and, until 1991, in the Doheny Memorial library on the campus of the University of Southern California, but for the past eight years the books have been in storage and the club’s meetings have been held at a variety of venues.

Nearly all the books contain the Zamorano Club’s bookplate, along with those of earlier owners and donors, but a number also contained a small pencilled SB on the rear pastedown or endpaper, a reminder of a temporary and less distinguished provenance. These indicate Zamorano books that were among the enormous numbers stolen by the notorious book thief Stephen Carrie Blumberg and retrieved when the FBI arrested him at his Iowa home. In 1990 Blumberg was convicted of having stolen rare books and manuscripts worth some $20m and imprisoned.

Among those which Blumberg ‘borrowed’ from the Zamorano collections were a 1683 first edition of T.J. van Almeloveen’s biography of the printer Robert Estienne, in a slightly discoloured but period vellum binding, which sold at $1700 (£1030) and a copy of the only Kelmscott Press book to bear an American imprint, one of 300 (of 520) copies of the 1895 edition of Dante Rossetti’s Hand and Soul produced for America and the Chicago publisher Irving Way. This copy, in an elaborately gilt morocco binding by Rivière but with the original front vellum wrapper and spine bound in, was signed by Way to the flyleaf and sold at $1400 (£850).

Other highlights included an 1892 first issue of William Osler’s The Principles and Practice of Medicine, in re-backed period sheep*, which sold for $1500 (£910) and one of 265 sets of the three vol. edition of Florio’s translation of the Essays of Michael Lord of Montaigne produced by Bruce Rogers at the Riverside Press in 1903, in the original half cloth and boards, dust wrappers and folding boxes, which reached $1200 (£725).

Sold for $5500 (£3335) was the ‘Baby Reliance’ hand press that the printer and bibliographer Carl Wheat had used for his Wheatstalk Press productions and which was presented to the club in 1956. An example of Carl I. Wheat’s monumental carto-bibliography on the Mapping of the Transmississippi West... 1540-1861, a five volume (in 6) first edition set of 1957-67, was sold at $3750 (£2270).

The Western Americana section of the sale saw one of 750 sets of the 32 vol. collection of Early Western Travels, 1748-1846, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites and published 1904-06, sold for $4000 (£2425).

Antarctic exploration was another specialist area and a 1901 first of Louis Bernacchi’s To the South Polar Regions..., a bright copy of this account of Borchgrevink’s 1898-1900 expedition in the ‘Southern Cross’, the first to overwinter in the Antarctic, sold at $2500 (£1515) and a folder of six large Charts of the “Discovery” Antarctic Expedition compiled by the surveyor and cartographer on Scott’s first expedition, George Mulock, sold at $2250 (£1365). Issued by the RGS, the latter was complete with the 8pp text booklet, but some of the charts were darkened at the edges.

Top lot in its category was another work relating to that Scott expedition of 1901-04, Gerald S. Doorly’s The Voyages of the ‘Morning’.
Telling the tale of two relief expeditions undertaken on the ‘Morning’, it was not published until after WWI because the vessel’s commander, William Colbeck, had announced his intention of writing a book and Doorly, who was only the third officer, felt obliged to wait his turn. It was only when Colbeck’s book failed to materialise that Doorly published, in 1916.

It is now regarded as the rarest of the primary accounts from what is known as the “heroic period” of Antarctic exploration, but it is the second or third that I have seen recently. Nevertheless, in the original blue cloth with a penguin on the front cover, this copy sold at $4250 (£2575), which may be a record.

[In the Swanns sale of African-Americana reported in Antiques Trade Gazette No.1382, a signed 1912 first edition of A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson, who accompanied Peary on several polar expeditions – and, it is claimed, was actually the first man to reach the North Pole, not Peary – was sold at $1900, or £1150].

The second day’s sale was devoted to author collections, the most important of which was a 55-lot Steinbeck collection.

One of two inscribed copies of his first book, Cup of Gold: A Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History, a 1929 first issue in a faded, chipped and restored dust jacket, was sold at $6000 (£3635).

That result was slightly below estimate, but the second example, which lacked the jacket but had greater association value in the eyes of the cataloguer and a higher estimate, was unsold.

That same sum was paid for a 1932 first issue of The Pastures of Heaven in a tape repaired jacket, one of only 650 copies of an early work that did not enjoy much popularity at the time, but one bearing a warm inscription to ‘Dook’ – Carlton Sheffield, a college classmate and lifelong friend – and his wife, Maryon.

The first ten of the 60 limited edition copies of The First Watch printed at the Ward Ritchie Press in 1947 were presented to Steinbeck. He gave some to his friends but five remained at his death and these were sold by his second wife. One of these, in the printed buff wrappers and still in the original mailing envelope, made $4250 (£2575).

* The sheep binding on a copy of Osler’s book which made $4500 (£2725) in last October’s Haskell F. Norman Pt.III sale at Christie’s was described as original.

Pacific Book Auctions, San Francisco, Swanns, New York,
Buyers’ Premium: 15 per cent
Sotheby’s, New York,
Buyers’ Premium: 15/10 per cent
Exchange Rate: £1 = $1.65