Appraisal Video: (3:13)
Books & Manuscripts
Books and Manuscripts Dept., Senior Vice President
GUEST: It's my mother's pornographic book collection from the late 1800s and very early 1900s.
APPRAISER: How did your mother come to be a collector of pornography, as you say?
GUEST: Accidentally. She went back to France, Cannes, in France, in 1960, and moved into a 125-year-old apartment building. Didn't need the basement locker, which she gave to her neighbors, who brought up these books and said, "It's your locker. They were there and you're the only one in building who speaks English." So they became hers. And awhile later I was telephoning her from Seattle and she said, "You know, I have these pornographic books. Should I throw them away?" And I said, "Heavens, no." I went back and picked them up myself.
APPRAISER: Well, these, as you pointed out, mostly have imprints of Paris, but they were probably printed in London. They're late 19th, early 20th century, but this is the real gem of the collection.
GUEST: Although it's undated, it has a bookseller's mark, which says "1866." And it has a Cruikshank drawing in it. It's a very unusual one, because I bought a book of Cruikshank etchings and wrote to the professor who had written it and he had never heard of this one-- so I sent him a copy.
APPRAISER: I would actually call this more "sensationalism" than "pornography," but just to give people a flavor of what the book is, it's a lengthy title, but I think it's worth reading: "The Surprising Adventures of a Female Husband, Containing the Whimsical Amours, Curious Incidents and Diabolical Tricks of Miss M. Hamilton, Alias, Mr. G. Hamilton, Alias, Minister Bently, Alias Doctor O'Keefe, Alias Mrs. Knight, the Midwife, etc., Who Married Three Wives and Lived With Each Some Time, Undiscovered For Which Acts She Was Tried in the Summer Session, in County of Somerset, in the Year 1752, Found Guilty and Whipped Several Times," which is what we see in the frontispiece. It was actually printed in 1813, and you can look down here-- and why someone would've erased it, I don't know-- but you see that little abrasion?
APPRAISER: That's where the date appeared. Do you have any idea who wrote the book?
GUEST: Really, I don't.
APPRAISER: It's actually a famous author, um, Henry Fielding.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: Who is, uh, better-known for, uh, Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. Now, another interesting point is, you said you looked, uh, in a Cruikshank bibliography and then spoke with an expert and couldn't find any record of this. I did some checking, as well, and couldn't find any record of it. And I suspect that this is probably not a Cruikshank etching, even though it has his name there. He was so famous during that period that other artists would copy his style and sign his name to give a little bit of legitimacy to the publication. But I'm not sure that Cruikshank, though he was a little bit of a wild liver himself, would necessarily want to be associated with something quite like this. Uh, the condition is, uh, a little water-stained, but despite that, it's such a fun item. I certainly think at auction it would sell for between $1,500 and $2,000.
APPRAISER: There's still an insatiable appetite for this sort of thing.