MLK Sermons

In the month of August 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and with a crowd of over a quarter of a million people, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” In that same month, King’s first printing of a collection of his sermons titled, “Strength to Love,” was published by Harper & Row.

The book has historical and religious importance. It is credited with changing the lives of numerous people by focusing on the central element of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence to overcome evil. His eloquent speech has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement, which, on July 2, 1964, ended segregation through The Civil Rights Act;  a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

In these short, timeless, meditative sermons, some of which were composed in a Birmingham jail, and, all crafted during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. King shared his vision of God and redemptive love. A basic idea in Christian theology is that God and mankind need to be reconciled. Theologians have long been debating on how the death of Jesus achieved this reconciliation. King preached and demonstrated that Jesus’ death on the cross meant to show us that the way to defeat evil is by nonviolence and surrender. In his own words,”…And oh, that cross to me is a demonstration of something. It is triumph, isn’t it? It is not only tragedy, but it is triumph. It is a revelation of the power of God to ultimately win out over all of the forces of evil”1.

First editions of the book Strength to Love, remain reasonably priced, except the ones that King had signed in person. True autographed copies are quite scarce as many of the signed first editions were signed by King’s secretary while others were stamped with a facsimile inscription. First issue dust-jackets are identified by the $3.50 price inside the front flap along with the code 0663 at the bottom right corner. Harper used dust jacket codes to establish the original printing date, which, prior to the Row merger was a non-descript sequential code. After the company became Harper & Row the nomenclature changed to become a four digit code representing the month and year of original publication. However, having the code alone does not constitute a first printing identification point, although it certainly is present on first editions. The first printing also has on the copyright page, underneath the “First Edition” specification, the Harper & Row publisher’s identification month-year code:  D-N. Harper & Row uses the following coding system:


(the letter “J” was not used)
A=January D=April G=July K=October
B=February E=May H=August L=November
C=March F=June I=September M=December



(the letter “J” was not used)
M=1912 B=1927 R=1942 G=1957
N=1913 C=1928 S=1943 H=1958
O=1914 D=1929 T=1944 I=1959
P=1915 E=1930 U=1945 K=1960
Q=1916 F=1931 V=1946 L=1961
R=1917 G=1932 W=1947 M=1962
S=1918 H=1933 X=1948 N=1963
T=1919 I=1934 Y=1949 O=1964
U=1920 K=1935 Z=1950 P=1965
V=1921 L=1936 A=1951 Q=1966
W=1922 M=1937 B=1952 R=1967
X=1923 N=1938 C=1953 S=1968
Y=1924 O=1939 D=1954  
Z=1925 P=1940 E=1955  
A=1926 Q=1941 F=1956  


It is important to point out that the date on the first issue dust jacket and the date on the copyright page were often times variably different with Harper & Row releases. The dust-jacket date on the front flap was trailing the copyright printing date by one or two months in numerous titles. This code printed inside the dust jacket was consistent between different printings of the same title, so it cannot solely serve as a first printing indicator. The two used in conjunction provide the most accurate indicator.

On March 31, 1968, Dr. King preached at the Washington National Cathedral.  It was his last Sunday sermon before being shot and killed on April 4 1968. Five years prior to that, at the Lincoln Memorial, George Raveling, a college basketball player at Villanova, was on the podium with King during his most important speech in history, having volunteered to provide security. Raveling asked King if he could have a copy of the speech. King handed him the original typewritten “I Have a Dream” pages which he currently has locked away. Its actual value is to be determined by the highest bidder if and when the historical artifact is made available for sale.

1"A Walk Through the Holy Land, Easter Sunday Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church"
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
March 29, 1959
Montgomery, Ala.


Wegener_sur_talonsTimes have changed and so have women, but not their innate ability to charm. Women possess the power to please or attract with their personality or beauty. Imagine living in another time, and, if it were to be the twentieth century, you would perhaps choose the hay-day of the 1920’s. It was a time for women to release femininity from trappings such as the corset and long, elaborately arranged hair, often kept under cover. Bobbed hair stood for an intriguing concept: feminine freedom whose participants became thrill-seeking adventurers, who, according to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “have a talent for living.” It was the Jazz Age mixed in with the imagination of Dadaism, Surrealism and Art Deco. Skinny was in, and many young women took to extreme dieting for leaner bodies in racy chemises. It was a time when the world shifted to a more overtly feminine direction.

It was also the time when Gerda Wegener became famous. Beginning with projects to produce illustrations for La Vie Parisienne, Le Rire and La Baïonnette, she drew figures of young ladies using pastel color-palettes to evoke girlish charm in her subjects and give them a glow of femininity. Gerda’s sensual images of eroticism left little to the imagination. Her playful nudes, including graphic illustrations in the memoirs of Casanova, were celebrated throughout liberal society for their groundbreaking ploy of depicting female sexual pleasure. But even her most shocking nudes – explicit, almost pornographic, were well received at the time, because they preserved a cherub-like innocence that kept them from vulgarity. It came as no surprise, when at the most important art exhibition of the era, the World’s fair in Paris in 1925, she won two gold medals and one bronze for her work.

Her works published in book form are quite scarce but still relatively undervalued.  “L’Anneau ou La Jeune Fille Imprudente” by Louis de Robert and “Amour Etrusque” by J.-H. Rosny aîné are two of the undated early works, published when she was less known. The latter contains 30 black illustrations in text and a color illustration on the cover. In 1918, she illustrated “L’Abdication de Ris-Orangis” by Léo Larguier for Édition Française Illustrée. It contains six full page drawings in black. The following year, the same publisher published “Contes de mon Père le Jars” by Eric Allatini, which contains twelve colorful illustrations set in delicate printed frames. The edition is limited to 650 copies, 100 of which are printed on hollande verge tiente and another 60 on japon. Her collaboration with Eric Allatini and G. Briffault produced “Sur Talons Rouges,” in 1929. The book has a frontispiece engraved in colors and 12 etchings in color. These works are quite scarce.



Sur Talons Rouges



Gerda’s most appreciated work which was produced in the middle of her career, is also the most sensually explicit. One of these most spectacular artworks came from the commission made in 1925 by the French polygraph, Louis Perceau: twelve watercolors of high erotic and lesbian content, illustrated the 350 copies of his book: “Les Délassements d’Eros.”  These paintings made her one of the most recognized erotic illustrators of all time. Her next work in 1927, was “Une Aventure d’Amour à Venise” by Giacomo Casanova, published in Paris for Le Livre du Bibliophile by Georges Briffaut. Gerda’s original watercolors were wood-engraved by G. Aubert and embellished in color by master engraver André Lambert. The edition was limited to 500 copies, of which 25 included 2 illustrations in black and yellow preparatory states, bringing the total to 10 illustrations instead of just the 8 aquatint printed plates. The following year, Georges Briffault published 2 volumes which included her work, titled “Les Contes,” and again in 1934, Briffaut published “Fortunio” written by Théophile Gautier. The book has 16 erotic colored etchings by Gerda, compiled in an edition of 392 copies printed on velin rives. The same book published by the same publisher in larger volume was illustrated by Paul-Emile Bécat. Collectors, however, have shown a preference for Gerda’s “Fortunio” illustrations which are now extremely scarce.

Gerda knew that to be a ‘real woman’ one must be beautiful and act in a feminine way. She was also quite aware that ‘femininity’ is performed, polished with makeup, mascara eyes, feminine lashes; exhibited with hairless legs, or in a uniform such as a prom dress, or a wedding gown. While, she herself, a woman of elusive power swathed in femininity, lived in Paris with her lover and model, Lili Elbe, who was previously her husband Einar. While technically married, Gerda and Lili lived as a lesbian couple after Einar’s sex reassignment surgery. Their story is portrayed in the film The Danish Girl. At a time when transgender issues are increasingly part of the wider culture, it’s vital to acknowledge the impact that Gerda’s art had in forging a path towards tolerance and acceptance.



The Jewels of Passover

April 17, 2019
Thumbnail image for The Jewels of Passover

At the start of this year’s Holy Week a terrible blaze engulfed Notre-Dame. As I watched the spire of the cathedral fall, I wondered how destructive smoke and flames have often been to books throughout history. Vulnerable older editions from the 16th, 15th and even 13th centuries must have survived the misfortunes brought about by […]

Read the full article →


February 27, 2019

Issued in the aftermath of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the Index of Forbidden Books maintained by the Inquisition became an obstacle to the circulation of books and ideas in Europe and its colonies well into the 20th century – it is only in 1966 that the Catholic Church formally abolished it. Among the famous […]

Read the full article →

Messy Interconnections of Innovation

February 23, 2019

  In 1986, the co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AI laboratory’s, cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, (1927-2016), published The Society of Mind.  The book describes a theory which attempts to explain how what we call intelligence, could be a product of the interaction of non-intelligent parts. He proposed that each mind is made of […]

Read the full article →

Sex: the single girl’s perspective

January 31, 2019
Thumbnail image for Sex: the single girl’s perspective

Two titles written a decade apart:  the first, in the early sixties, at the onset of the sexual revolution, which brought us increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships; and, the other, in the early seventies, during the post-pill and pre-AIDS period. These authors’ writings on the topic of sex in the single girl’s […]

Read the full article →

Fast Forward 50 Years

December 31, 2018
Thumbnail image for Fast Forward 50 Years

Another year is upon us with the usual hoopla about the abnormalities of current times. As 2019 makes its debut, many of the values and beliefs we hold dear are being questioned throughout the world. Truthful facts, science, humanity, diversity and equality are a few on the top of the list. In the US, denying […]

Read the full article →

The Importance of Language in Rare Books

October 13, 2018
Thumbnail image for The Importance of Language in Rare Books

How fortunate native English-speaking booksellers are to have English as their mother tongue! English is the lingua franca of global business. Not surprisingly, the official language of ILAB, (The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers), is English. However, the organization maintains that this stature is shared equally with French; hence the old ILAB motto “Amor librorum […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – Auctions

August 21, 2018
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – Auctions

When an auction generates astonishing excitement in view of both the quality and quantity of books being offered, the excitement is also reflected in the prices realized. Even if the prices are often unrealistic, for many buyers, the auction remains a remarkable event that is worth the extra expense. High emotions are exactly the ingredients […]

Read the full article →

The Seven Pillars of a Rare Book: The case of John William’s “Stoner”

July 1, 2018
Thumbnail image for The Seven Pillars of a Rare Book:  The case of John William’s “Stoner”

Factor #1: Scarcity in supply. The year was 1965; the war in Vietnam was escalating, the space race was in full swing, and the Rolling Stones were on a world tour. America’s counter-culture movements were embracing drug use, liberal sexuality and obscenity in their writings and works. It was during this year that a novelist […]

Read the full article →