Top Ten Books I’d Like To Find Under The Tree

John-James-Audubon’s-Birds-Of-America-3Cara/Andrea here,
With holiday shopping in full swing, I’ve been busy perusing the stores for the perfect gifts for those on my list. It’s fun to try to find something unique and special to match the interests of family and friends. But I confess, as I’ve been searching around for others, I’ve also amused myself by compiling a wish list for myself—assuming Santa Claus is feeling VERY generous. (Hey, I’ve been VERY good this past year!) So, here is my Top Ten list of rare book treasures that I’d love to add to my library:

Birds of America
John James Audubon’s first edition of Birds of America (known as the double elephant folio because of its size) is considered the finest book of ornithological illustrations ever created. It was a very expensive project to print—Audubon had to do a lot of self-promo around Europe to sell subscriptions to fund it. The cost was $1,000, a very princely sum in the 1820s. But it turned out to be a wise investment (A copy sold last year at Christie’s for $7.9 million)

HypnerotomachiaHypnerotomachia Poliphili

Printed by the legendary Aldus Manutius in Venice at the end of 1499, HP is the first illustrated book printed with Gutenberg’s newly invented moveable type. It’s strange, dream-like text has puzzled scholars over the centuries, but collectors agreed that it’s the most beautiful of all incunabula (books printed before 1500.) The perfectly proportioned layout, the lovely woodcuts and the elegant typeface—a classic design that is still in use today—make it one of the most famous examples of book design in history.  (A copy recently sold at auction for $473,321.)

MoxonAlfred Tennyson’s Poems 

Known as the Moxon Tennyson, this edition was published by Edward Moxon in 1857. It’s famous for its 54 beautiful wood engravings designed by eight noted artists of the day, including Pre-Raphaelites William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. One critic called it a “pocket cathedral. (A copy is available from a rare book dealer for $2,500.)

The Kelmscott Chaucer

Published in 1896, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer—known today as The Kelmscott Chaucer—was a joint labor of love by William Morris, a luminary of the artistic and intellectual scene in late 19th century Britain, who designed the typeface and intricate borders, and his good friend Edward Burne-Jones, one of the leaders of the Kelmscott_chaucer-largerPre-Raphaelite movement, who did the illustrations. It’s considered by many to be the most beautiful book ever published. (A copy was recently sold at auction for $160,000.)

P&PPride and Prejudice

Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s classic was released in three small volumes—and of course when on to become one of the most popular novels in the English language. (A copy is available on ebay for $65,000.)

The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St. James Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore

Writer/artist William Henry Pyne often collaborated with Rudolph Ackermann on projects for Ackermann’s magazines, but he became fascinated with book publishing and was inspired to create this book on Royal residencesthe royal residences, published in 1809. It includes 100 lovely color illustrations. (A copy is for sale at Bauman Rare Books in NYC for $17,000.)

The Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Four Gospels
GillDesigned and illustrated by the legendary 20th century graphic designer Eric Gill, the Four Gospels was his homage to the Medieval art of the illuminated manuscript. It’s considered one of the highlights of modern book design. (A copy, one of only 12 that were printed on vellum, recently sold at auction for $132,00. A paper first edition sells for about $4,700.)

Le Chant des Morts

A collaboration between poet Pierre Reverdy and his friend Pablo Picasso, the book—which was published in 1948—features handwritten poems written during World War Two, with bold graphic illustrations Mortby the master artist. (A copy recently sold for $7,500.)

Don Juan 
Lord Byron’s epic satirical poem, which had an unfinished 17th canto at the time of his death, is considered by many critics to be his masterpiece. (A complete set in original boards of the 16 Cantos in seven volumes recently sold for $16,800.)

The Fabulous Flight 

Written and illustrated by the great Robert Lawson, it’s a children’s classic that was first published in 194
9. I vividly remember it from my childhood—it’s a marvelous story that held me captivated, and Fabulous Flightlooking back, I think it was one of the reads that taught me the power of storytelling. The illustrations are delightful too, which appealed to the art side of my brain. (A collector’s first edition is available on Amazon for $75.)

So what about you? If you could find any book treasure among the brightly wrapped holiday gifts, what would it be? Or perhaps there's some other special treasure on your ultimate Wish List—please share it with Santa's elves!