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191 items found:

HIGGINSON, S.J. [Sarah Jane Hatfield Higginson]. A Princess of Java. A tale of the far east. Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1887. Octavo publisher's printed pattern cloth with paper labels (spine tips a bit chipped). Au$175

First edition of this sometimes thrilling romance, or sometimes romantic thriller. I can't decide whether Mrs Higginson ever visited Java. This begins more like a travelogue - and she wrote a travel book for children about Java a few years later - than a novel and it's the surfeit of local colour and language that makes me wonder whether it all comes out of Raffles.
There is a strong streak of feminism. Our heroine princess, infected by association with western women, rejects docile subjection to her arranged marriage and other distasteful traditions but the extraordinary culmination of this book is the celebration of not one but two interracial marriages. Admittedly the duskier half of each couple is the princess and a handsome young prince and the unions eventuate with some fairy tale inevitability. But the ordeals and dangers, the adventures of the heroines (there are three) are directed by their conflict with the cultural and racist demands of their parents.
In the end it's Mrs Higginson's brave appreciation of and close attention to the beauty of the Javanese that lends me to believe she spent time there; more than her cavalcade of murderous amok, Guwa Upas - Valley of Poison - and ular lanang, a king cobra that blows gusts of poison.


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Japanese illustration. Hanai Oume? Set of proof wood engraved illustrations for a Japanese serial story. n.p. n.d. [c 1887?] Oblong quarto by size (260x185mm ) contemporary plain wrapper; 41 wood engravings on 21 double folded leaves. A little browning. Au$475

A prime example of the strange casserole of Meiji Japan. In form, in technique, in content and in production these hold all the paradoxes of Japan embracing western modernisation while hanging fast to tradition. These are the illustrations for what seems a rollicking sword and sash thriller but ... it is set in a modern metropolis; bowler hats, suits and dashing mustachios are not out of place, neither is what looks like a railway station; and these are not ukiyo-e woodcuts for a popular novel, these are western wood engravings for a long serial - there are 41 after all - in a newspaper or broadsheet magazine; an illustration of such a paper helpfully holds a bough of blossoms in one illustration. The subject apart, the glaring difference between these and any western illustrations is the skill of artist and engraver, all but a few western counterparts are put to shame.
I'm convinced that these relate to Hanai Oume the celebrated Tokyo geisha-teahouse owner who, in 1887, stabbed her sometime lover and employee who, apparently in concert with her father, was trying to muscle her out of the business. The first illustration here shows two men holding umbrellas that, I'm told, advertise a restaurant or 'licenced pleasure quarter' remarkably similar to hers: Suigetsu. The umbrella was part of her claim of self defence: Minekichi attacked her with the knife, she disarmed him with her umbrella and then stabbed him.
Oume or O-ume - her professional name - was celebrity manifest, one of the three famous dokufu (poisonous women) of the Meiji. Her murder trial was public and though crowds unable to get in became irate every moment was covered in the press; books were published within minutes, kabuki plays and novels performed and published, and the newspapers made rich. Yoshitoshi produced a famous print of the murder as a supplement for the Yamato Shimbun but while there is plenty of violence in these pictures there is no murder. Spin-off or fanciful concoction, there's a good story here.
There is an owner's (maybe artist's?) seal which I make out to be 春耕慢虫 - I'm sure I'm wrong.


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LEFFINGWELL, Alsop. The Mystery of Bar Harbor. A melo-dramatic romance of France and Mt. Desert. NY, Dillingham 1887. Octavo publisher's cloth blocked in gilt and black (a touch rubbed); some natural browning but quite a good copy. Au$145

First (only?) edition.


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Hanai Oume. Utagawa Kunimasa IV (signed as Baido Kunimasa). [Hanai Oume]. Hasegawa Sonikichi 1888 (Meiji 21) Colour woodcut triptych, each sheet approx 37x25cm. Signs in the corners of removal from an album with a small bit of loss on a couple of corners. Quite fresh, with decent left and top margins. Au$450

I think this is the best of murder prints taken from the play 'Tsuki no Umekaoru Oboroyo' based on Oume's killing in the rain of her lover/employee in 1887. This made Oume one of the three greatest dokufu - or poisonous women - of the period. Yoshitoshi's small newspaper print of the murder has blood and a disturbing detachment between victim and killer and while Kunichika's triptych scene from the play is similar to this and makes more of the famous umbrella, this is more focused on murder and has the tension caused by the oblivious bystanders. Of course a serious dokufu collection needs them all but I'd be satisfied with this and Yoshitoshi.
Oume or O-ume - her professional name - was celebrity manifest. Her murder trial was public and though crowds unable to get in became irate, every moment was covered in the press; books were published within minutes, kabuki plays and novels performed and published, and the newspapers made rich.


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VESCELIUS-SHELDON, Louise. An I.D.B. in South Africa. NY, Lovell [1888]. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth (a couple of small spots); illustrations through the text. Minor signs of use but a good, bright copy. Au$125

First edition, there was a London issue using these sheets. I don't want to give away too much but this is complicated. We begin in a theatre box in the Kimberley diamond fields with Herr Schwatka divulging to an near stranger that the fascinating beauty in the box opposite has Zulu blood. Before the end of this short chapter Count Telfus has been arrested in that same box for having an illicit diamond (IDB is an illicit diamond buyer), handcuffed, locked up and has shot himself in his cell. The South African police frisk prisoners for diamonds, not guns. Donald Laure worships his part Zulu wife Dainty but has a guilty secret or two while she has not yet had the passion in her soul awakened. But she does have a black dwarf servant with a glass eye.


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NISBET, Hume. The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom; a yarn of the Papuan Gulf. London, Ward & Downey 1888. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth blocked in colour and gilt (tips worn, cloth a bit dull and discoloured); 23 full page ills by Nisbet. A second hand but quite acceptable copy. Au$185

First edition (only? there was an 1889 colonial issue and a 'new edition' in 1896 but I suspect these are re-issues of the same sheets) of Nisbet's first novel (of some 40) and one of the earliest novels of New Guinea from first hand experience. Nisbet insists on his accuracy of detail and was often criticised for proselytising at the expense of humour and excitement but his ideas have come into their own: "this is not a missionary tale, but the words of one who believes as ... Ruskin believes, that what the savage gains from religion and civilisation is not equivalent to his own beliefs when left alone."
Despite dire warnings that a trip to New Guinea was near suicide, and unlike most of his contemporaries and followers, New Guinea to Nisbet was not a dark, savage and desperate land and his bright and cheery sobriquet of a title shows a generous response and appreciative humanity but lousy marketing skills.


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BROCK, R.W. [ie John Alexander Barr]. Mihawhenua: the Adventures of a Party of Tourists Amongst a Tribe of Maoris Discovered in Western Otago, New Zealand. Recorded By R. W. Brock, MA, LLB. Edited By R. H. Chapman. (Being a Manuscript Addressed to the Editor, Found Attached to a Maori Kite on Mount Alta ... Dunedin, Wilkie & Co 1888. Octavo publisher's illustrated wrapper (spine chipped); 198,[2 adverts]pp. Used but a very decent copy. Au$600

A lost race thriller with the race being discovered in a lush world around a warm lake hidden in the mountains. Barr published a few novels all in a rush, including two thrillers - one Australian - under the name Gilbert Rock but his own story is perhaps more exciting than Moa riding Maoris, cannibals, and treacherous French sailors. A Dunedin lawyer, he petitioned in 1888 for a protective tax on all imported literature, assuring the government that he was "prepared to supply the colonial market with literature if inducement offers." All his known novels then appeared by November.
Soon after he did 'the Pacific Slope' (a great term I hadn't heard before), abandoning his family and absconding with many thousands of his clients' pounds either lost or in his pocket. Here Barr vanishes from view except for a startling piece in the Auckland Star of October 1 1894 in which is mentioned a letter just received by Sir George Grey from the author of Mihawhenua with a return address but an indecipherable signature. No-one could decipher the signature so Grey's secretary cut the signature from the letter and pasted it onto the reply. No connection was made between the author of Mihawhenua and the missing lawyer. A final glimpse is a London death notice in 1907 which identifies him as a former solicitor of Dunedin and tells us he has been living in England with his wife and family for five or six years. I wonder if it was the same family.
The dedication, to the colonial press in "grateful acknowledgment", of one of his thrillers, 'By Passion Driven', was declined on conscientious grounds by the Christchurch Telegraph who said, "What object Mr Gilbert Rock could have had we do not know". Perhaps his dedication was for The Daily Telegraph who described his 'Colonists' as "not a badly told story".


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MITCHELL, J.A. The Last American. A fragment from the journal of Khan-Li, Prince of Dimph-yoo-chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy. NY, Stokes 1889. Octavo publisher's dark blue illustrated cloth blocked in black and gilt (tips rubbed); 78pp, illustrations. A couple of minor flaws and signs of use but a pretty good copy. Au$175

First edition of this amusing (if pun spattered) account of a voyage of discovery to the ruins of Mehrika at the end of the 30th century; it is filled with anthropological and archaeological revelations. The street scene showing daily life in ancient Nhu-Yok is particularly good. The end though is sad.


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WOOD, H.F. [Harry Freeman]. The Englishman of the Rue Cain. London, Chatto & Windus 1889. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth blocked in black and grey (spine faded and a bit rubbed). Publisher's catalogue for October 1888 at the end. Canted but rather good and fresh inside. Au$135

First edition of this murder mystery set in Paris involving a missing heir, cross dressing villains, a cavalcade of detectives and all manner of complications.


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HUME, Fergus. The Dwarf's Chamber. London, Ward Lock [189-?]. Octavo publisher's colour illustrated glazed boards with cloth spine (this a touch faded); illustrations by Percy F.S. Spence and others. The title page - on cheaper paper - a bit browned, a bit of a lean, a little wear to corners and edges, a rather good copy. Au$185

A re-issue of the original 1896 sheets with a cancel title page and part of the appealing Ward Lock 2/- Copyright Novels series. This is the copy illustrated in John Loder's survey of the 2/- series. This is sort of intriguing as an exercise in marketing. The "other stories" - ie The Dwarf's Chamber and Other Stories as it was first titled - have been dumped - from the title, not the book. Perhaps a glut of short story collections on the market. The Dwarf's Chamber is the longest by far piece in the book but there are some other useful titles in there: Dead Man's Diamonds - too many diamonds in the thriller market ... Tale of the Turquoise Skull - too obvious a short story ... the Green-Eyed God and the Stockbroker - again too obvious as is the Ivory Leg and the Twenty-Four Diamonds - and there's diamonds again.


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WHITE, Caroline Earl. Love in the Tropics. A romance of the south seas. Philadelphia, Lippincott 1890. Octavo publisher's decorated cloth (spine a bit dull and rubbed). What looks like a smear on the front cover is part of the design. Au$85

Only edition. A Pacific thriller that sees a shipwrecked sailor cast ashore on an imagined island somewhere near Tonga where love, treachery and murder are almost overshadowed by the man eating Kaukevara Tree.


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MOLLOY, J. Fitzgerald. How Came He Dead? NY, Lovell [1890?]. Octavo publisher's decorated cloth blocked in silver and gilt. Cover a touch marked, stitching a bit loose; quite good. Au$300

First edition, it seems, of a now obscure and rare thriller that may well be among the most widely read novels in late colonial Australia. I don't say it was a best seller - I find no evidence that any copy of this book ever reached Australia - but it was serialised in newspapers in, at least, Brisbane and Gippsland and likely in provincial papers yet to be unearthed. It was also serialised in at least one New Zealand paper and in the US, which is presumably how Lovell got hold hold of it.
This is an English tale of modern villainy populated by London society and ornamented with an Irish dungeon, mysterious Indian poisons and brazen coincidence. In all, satisfying verandah reading from Queensland to Victoria. Other Molloy syndicated serial thrillers did make it to book form in England but I can't discover that there was ever an English edition of this.


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BRADLEY, Charles. The Red Cripple. A Tale of the Midnight Express. Melbourne, George Robertson & H.W. Mills 1891. Octavo publisher's colour illustrated wrapper; [6],186pp. Price changed by hand from one to two shillings. An outstanding copy. Au$1500

First edition of this scarce, busy murder mystery, a tangle of disguise, false identity, astounding coincidence and extended comic relief. Despite the often repeated note this has nothing to do with a diamond robbery but in passing near the end. Almost all of this takes place on the Manchester-London train - though the unsolved murders started seven years ago - with hair-raising action, comedy, tragedy and mystery piled upon mystery.
An all round Melbourne production though disguised as the account of detective Medway of Scotland Yard sent to Bradley in Melbourne. Bradley was in theatre - manager of the Walter Bentley company's tour of Australia and New Zealand at about this time. He was busy in 1891: he published another thriller, had plays produced and, at the end of 1892 went off to conquer America with his plays. He puffed the forthcoming New York production of 'The Gold Escort' - the introduction of Australian theatre to American audiences. I can't discover that America ever saw the drama, action and slaughter promised but Bradley does surface here and there over following decades as a manager, producer and maybe playwright. If he'd managed to carry off setting the whole thing on the train this would now be hailed as a pioneering modernist work.


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ROBERTSON, Andrew. The Kidnapped Squatter and other Australian stories. London, Longmans 1891. Octavo, fresh in publisher's fawn cloth (spine rubbed and a touch worn at the tips). A 24 page 1891 publisher's list at the end. A pretty good copy, uncommon as such. Au$200

First (only?) edition of Robertson's first book, a gathering of four stories. Austlit separates the Rev Andrew Robertson, essayist, from our author; they had been blended by Miller and Macartney. The Spectator, relieved to find no bushrangers, gave this a good, barely patronising, review - remarkable treatment for a colonial book. I'm less forgiving. It is outrageous providence - a lazy author I say - that catches the miscreants in the title story, not a 'tec or bloodstain in sight. Jack Reeveley, the long piece of the book, does have a detective - one who quotes Shakespeare in his report - violence, convoluted mystery and outrageous coincidence enough for any three books.


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FALK, David G. Rick; or, The Recidiviste. A Romance of Australian Life. London, Trischler 1891. Octavo publisher's textured pink cloth blocked in black (spine and around the edges faded). Patterned endpapers browned, signs of use but a pretty good copy. Au$375

Only edition of this elusive thriller set in and around Melbourne that exploits that timeless Anglo-Australian characteristic - fear of foreigners. In this case it's the Recidivistes, escaped French convicts from New Caledonia. Falk prefaces the book with an extract from the Melbourne Argus noting the disquieting increase of French convicts in Australia. Rick and the Recidiviste are not the same person, Rick is an orphaned young woman with a mysterious past and the Recidiviste is Ranq, by name and nature. The young detective Sprowde solves both problems before the most overstretched deathbed scene I've skimmed in years and a gently melancholic but happy enough ending.
Falk appears to have written a fair bit for papers and journals but only two novels were published as far as I can work out. Trischler & Co. used to be the Hansom Cab Publishing Co and published a few Australian authors during its brief life.


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GROWDEN, Oliver H. Matthew Redmayne. A New Zealand Romance. London, Melbourne &c, George Robertson 1892. Octavo publisher's red cloth (spine a touch faded or rubbed). Quite a good copy. Au$350

Only edition. A thriller involving a woman falsely accused of murder, an insane sister, secret correspondence, bigamy and much more. "To give an outline of the plot would be difficult, owing to its complexity, devious windings, and numerous bypaths" writes The West Australian (14th July 1893) who gives it a good review and notes that the author is believed to be a young public servant resident in Perth. Growden published more fiction in The West Australian and the Western Mail but this seems to be his only book.


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BERRY, Edward Payson. Where the Tides Meet. Boston, Arena Publishing 1893. Octavo publisher's cloth; a most misleading nautical extra illustrated title. A rather good copy. Au$400

First (only?) edition? A New York novel that isn't in Hubin and should be. Mostly set in the grimmer parts of New York and featuring a wealthy young do-gooder - fitting the Arena imprint - we have a murder, a detective, a scheming lawyer, a pickpocket with a monkey accomplice ... what else do we need? A gunfight? a crushed and bloody corpse? a river of blood? Yes indeed.
Being published by Arena may not have meant your novel was doomed to dark and perpetual obscurity but it got you well on the way.


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[CAMERON, John?]. Wulla Merrii. The Fire Stick: Incidents in the shearer's strike. A tale of bush life. n.p. [Brisbane 1893?]. Octavo publisher's illustrated boards. A few small knicks, a rather good copy. Au$150

The attribution to Cameron seems fairly well accepted. A virulently anti-union novel so it's no surprise that neither the printer nor author dared put their name on it (both the title and last leaf appear to be cancels - redone without colophon or any other details). Can we presume that fear of retribution also accounts for the fact that so many copies were clearly never circulated until recent decades? Surely it couldn't be the writing, plot, paper thin characters: villainous unionists and cartoon blacks? Plenty of other novels have done well on worse.
Cameron was a pastoralist and politician, a leader of the anti-union movement (they "aimed at nothing short of REVOLUTION") and a central figure in the strike. A confirmed White Australian he was known to declare, I gather while campaigning for office, that "I have never believed in the principle of one man one vote, and nothing will ever convince me that men should have equal voting rights".


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COBBAN, J. Maclaren. A Soldier and a Gentleman. NY, Lovell, Coryell [c1893?]. Octavo publisher's grey cloth blocked in gilt & black. Au$125

A thriller. First edition? The copyright date is 1891 - the year it was serialised in Chambers Journal - and the adverts date this copy about 1893 or 94 but this still predates Hubin and the BMC by a decade and appears to predate a Street & Smith issue.


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HUME, Fergus. A Knight of the Road. A Romance. in the 1894 Christmas Number of Household Words. Quarto publisher's printed wrapper; pp5-35 (of 64pp including adverts). Au$175

Probably the only printing of this tale - no other has been traced - a thriller of almost 50,000 words involving a 'modern Dick Turpin'; with an amateur gentleman detective, a somewhat slow police officer and a twist at the end. I think this was turned into the novel 'Claude Duval of Ninety-Five' (1897) which would account for its disappearance from the Hume canon.


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MURPHY, G. [George] Read. Beyond the Ice. Being a story of the newly discovered region round the north pole. Edited from Dr. Frank Farleigh's diary. London, Sampson Low & Melbourne, Hutchinson [1894]. Octavo publisher's illustrated blue cloth (two small blobs of wax on the front cover, marks on the back). Somewhat canted, not a bad copy of a book guaranteed to respond badly to handling. A signed presentation, dated March 1894, from Murphy to Geelong lawyer Aurel Just, "gentleman, Dremanist and possessor of other titles," with a quote from his character Vernon Dreman. Au$950

Only edition of this polar utopia and dystopia which Geelong author Murphy - I suspect simple perversity - took to the opposite end of the world in defiance of the usual Australian practice of heading south. Heaps of scientific advances and flying machines as expected but reform and enlightened progress can only go so far: adult women are enfranchised until they marry, then the possible conflict between husband and wife is not worth the candle.
"The chief characters seem to spend a deal of unnecessary time in consuming oysters and brown bread" warned the North Melbourne Courier and West Melbourne Advertiser in an otherwise warm review
while suggesting it would be commercially more canny to set the book in central Australia.


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FARJEON, B.L. [Benjamin Leopold]. Something Occurred. [and] Something Occurred. Third edition. London, Routledge 1894. Two volumes colour illustrated glazed boards; the first with wear to edges and quite good the other more rubbed and worn about the edges. The first with 331pp and adverts dated July 1894; the second with 328pp on noticeably cheaper paper and adverts dated August 1896. Au$250

I want to make it clear that this is not my discovery, the work here was done by Rowan Gibbs. Now. The first copy here is, I believe, first edition - 1893 - sheets with a cancel title. There our interest might end except the next copy - the 'third edition' is revised and reset. The revisions aren't dramatic as far as I can see but they are there. That a publisher would take this on for a cheap yellowback reprint is a surprise to me. Something Occurred is a light fantasy involving magical snuff which owes more than a bit to the identity exchange and transformation novels of F. Anstey.


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MacDONALD, Rev. J. Middleton. Thunderbolt. An Australian Story. London, Hurst and Blackett [1894]. Octavo publisher's dark green cloth. A rather good, bright copy. Au$225

Only edition of this thriller - a somewhat sticky novel mixing history into the bushranging thrills - in which we meet the chivalrous and dashing Thunderbolt and equally dashing Major in pursuit, the well bred but unspoilt young ladies, and the rough but true bushmen and diggers. Appended is a short glossary of Australianisms.


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VANDAM, Albert D. The Mystery of the Patrician Club. Philadelphia, Lippincott 1894. Octavo publisher's red cloth. A little used: the cloth a bit smudged, the tips a little worn, but pretty good. Au$85

First American edition, contemporaneous with the English but being such a British mystery preference must be given to the London edition.


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TUCKER, Horace. The New Arcadia. An Australian story. London, Melbourne &c, George Robertson 1894. Octavo publisher's brown cloth titled in black. Spine canted, minor signs of use. Floridly inscribed and signed by Tucker in 1897 to John Cuthbert Traill and "dedicated without permission to Mrs Traill." Au$350

First edition. More romantic thriller - with murderous, will tampering, downright communist villains - than utopian polemic but a serious utopian novel none the less; unusual for the time in that it is not set in the future, a lost world or another planet. It's the story of a number of idealistic settlements, including Amazona, a women’s community; makes short work of the attempted communist society and ends with the triumph of co-operation. But not so much personal triumph, quite a bit of melodramatic death occurs before then. As one reviewer noted, "the author has an unpleasant knack of killing amiable people."
All this is bound to a material if unsuccessful scheme. Tucker and Charles Strong promoted the resettlement of the unemployed in country areas and between 1892 and 1894 some 200 families were established in Tucker Village Settlements in Victoria. They failed for the usual reasons - lack of capital, a declining economy and mismanagement - but did see the Settlement of Lands Act (1893) enacted. Not in Hubin; it should be.


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