G.F.Sims bookseller

G. F. Sims (d. 1999) was a rare book dealer and writer of crime thrillers who your Jotter last wrote about five years ago. His catalogues were always full of tasty items. Indeed, they are now appreciated and collected in their own right. Sims specialised in nineteenth and twentieth century books and letters and the catalogue of c 1980 that we found at Jot HQ the other day contains some choice pieces.

1) Pulped ,burnt and otherwise destroyed.

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Ezra Pound

Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti ( Steven Swift 1912). The bulk of this edition was destroyed by fire at the binders. Some escaped the fire, including Sims’ copy, which he had at £75. Another in Abebooks is priced at £375.

Vladimir Nabokov

Other Shores. Translated and revised by V.N.( Izzdatel’stvo imeni (Chekov Publishing House 1954). Only one copy can be found at Abebooks. Sims says ‘Rare—many copies were pulped.’ In the Abe description there is no mention of this book being pulped. Today you’d pay £228 for a copy. Sims has his at £75.

D. G. Rossetti.

The Blessed Damozel By D.G.Rossetti. nd. (?1904)

“Excessively scarce”. The edition was destroyed at the binders. Funny that you don’t hear of such fires nowadays. I blame Edwardian pipe-smokers. Anyway, according to an inscription by the printer at the Pear Tree Press ‘This is one of the best copies after the fire in which the whole edition of 250 copies were destroyed. One copy remained as sample binding and five more made up from sheets not sent to binders, making six copies in all. There were also five vellum copies which had not been sent to the binders.’ In the words of Sims ‘One of the few books to which the description “ excessively scarce “ might well be applied. He accordingly priced it at £75.

Edwin Muir

We Moderns: enigmas and guesses by Edward Moore (Allen and Unwin 1918).

Some copies were destroyed, according to the Muir bibliography by Mr Elgin Mellown. ‘This is the original blue pebble-grained cloth ‘, declares Mr Sims. The copy in Abebooks retains its dust wrapper and is therefore priced at an eye-watering £975. Your Jotter is surprised that anyone would want to pay that much for a book by Muir, whose poetry, in his opinion, is overrated. Sims’ copy is priced at a more reasonable £50. 

2) Autographed copies

C. H. B. Kitchin

The Secret River. Secker and Warburg, 1956. First edition. Presentation copy inscribed by the author: ‘ To Brian Hill with grateful; thanks for his kind collaboration on p. 270, from Clifford H .B. Kitchin. June ’56.’ The collaboration referred to was a translation of a poem by Verlaine. Loosely inserted is a letter from the author to Hill, part of whose library was bought by Sims. Kitchin ( 1895 – 1967) is an intriguing character. He was a former public school master who became a stockbroker and novelist. He is known for his crime fiction, but he also wrote five novels with gay themes. Francis King and J. R. Ackerley, whose works also appear in Sims’ catalogue, were mentored by Kitchin. A few years ago your Jotter was asked to describe an anonymous MS novel about a boy’s erotic adventures at a public school (A Child Went Forth). He attributed the authorship to Kitchin, using clues in the narrative, including a veiled reference to Clifton College, where he was educated. Sims’ copy of The Secret River, though not rare, is priced at £20. Two other presentation copies of books by Kitchin, both from Hill’s library, and containing loosely inserted letters to him from Kitchin, feature in Sims’s catalogue. Along with Verlaine, Hill translated Rimbaud, de Nerval and Gautier.

To be continued…


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