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[GAMES]. Dissected Tables of Roman History Chronologically Arranged.
London: E. Newbery & J. Wallis, 1789. Engraved pictorial table, mounted on mahogany
and cut into interlocking puzzle pieces. Housed in publisher’s mahogany box, engraved
chronological chart mounted to box interior, engraved pictorial paper label mounted to
sliding lid. Title label toned, lightest occasional toning to pieces. $2200.
Historical puzzle depicting thirty-two portrait medallions of the rulers of Rome
“from the foundation of the City to the Augustan age.” Beginning with the city’s
legendary namesake Romulus, “fabled to be the son of Mars,” the table follows
the Roman Republic through the reign of Julius Caesar, who “adorns the city,”
and Marc Antony, who “falls into a state of debauchery” thanks to Cleopatra.
The sequence culminates in the triumph of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.
JohnWallis was the leading board game manufacturer in London; he collaborated
on this puzzle with Elizabeth Newbery, who carried on the family business
founded by pioneering children’s publisher John Newbery. Produced before the
invention of the jigsaw, these early “dissected tables” were cut into pieces by
hand, and marketed as teaching aids rather than toys. Percy Muir notes that this
particular puzzle was unusual in taking historical figures as its subject, rather
than the traditional map (
Children’s Books of Yesterday
). A remarkable survival,
bright and complete.
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Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven and Other Poems.
New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845.
Octavo, early twentieth-century full russet calf by Zaehnsdorf. Bound without wrappers,
half-title, and ads. Joints reinforced, a few light scratches to lower board. $12,500.
First edition in book form of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the single most
famous American poem of the nineteenth century. Partly inspired by the early
lyrics of Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning), to whom he dedicated this volume
of poems, Poe composed “The Raven” in trochaic octometer, with a deranged
musicality all his own. The elements are unforgettable: the “midnight dreary,” the
silk-curtained chamber, the raven perched upon the bust of Athena, the relentless
refrain that drives the narrator mad. “‘Leave no black plume as a token of that lie
thy soul hath spoken! / Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my
door! / Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’ /
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’” Even before publication, Poe knew he had a
sensation on his hands.When a friend described an early reading of the poem as
“fine, uncommonly fine,” Poe responded: “Is that all you can say for this poem?
I tell you it’s the greatest poem ever written.” The publication of “The Raven”
paved the way forWiley and Putnam’s publication of Poe’s
Tales
, the collection
that introduced his pioneering detective fiction to a wider audience that same year.
A near-fine copy of a landmark in American literature.
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