A Question on 1886 Longfellow's Hyperion

from one of our readers, Lisa Hutton:

About 30 years ago I picked up a copy of Longfellow’s “Hyperion” at a
library sale.  Lately I’ve been trying to document some of my books for
insurance purposes, and I’ve just found out that the edition I have was
published in violation of copyright – there was a lawsuit by the authorized
publisher (Houghton Mifflin) against John W. Lovell Co. over this book (I
have a copy of a NY Times article from Jan. 1886 about the case.)

I was wondering if you might have any insight into how something like that
might affect the value of the book?  Nowhere near a first edition, not a
particularly interesting book otherwise (I actually bought it because there
was an old flower pressed in the pages!) – but an interesting detail in the
book’s publishing history.

I don’t know if a good bibliography of Longfellow’s works would help – but
if you might know of one, please let me know!

3 thoughts on “A Question on 1886 Longfellow's Hyperion”

  1. I ought to first post a disclaimer that I’m a booklover and part time bookseller but in no way an expert on the valuation of books. I only run on what other booksellers are asking for a particular volume but I do love to check the history of books. This topic you brought up is one of the things I love about bookselling.

    This looks like another case of, “Just because a book is old doesn’t make it valuable.” Doing a bit of research of some booksellers online stock it looks like John W. Lovell Co. had printed issues prior to the date 1886. Some are listed below $20.00. Plus there are many copies/editions of “Hyperion” that were printed and are currently for sale which of course lowers it’s value.

    Sometimes the history of a volume might increase it’s value but that has some variables such as how many copies were printed and the quality of the printing. For instance a new set of illustrations in a book by a famous artist might raise the value of a later printing.

    As far as the interesting history of your book (and, as said, I do love points such as this) I’m afraid it does little to increase it’s value.

    • Prying1 – thanks for the feedback. I suspected as much, so no surprises there. Would still welcome any input anyone else cares to offer.

      After I sent the original question to Bruce I went back and re-read the NYT article about the lawsuit (more carefully this time)- turns out I had misinterpreted what it said: Houghton Mifflin only ASSERTED copyright infringement (in what forum I don’t know – somewhere public enough that Lovell caught wind of it), and it was Lovell who brought the suit, saying HM was smearing his good name! His story was that the version he was printing was a previously unpublished draft and the rights HM held didn’t apply to it. HM established that there were changes in Lovell’s version from the unpublished draft, and the judge ruled in their favor. From other reading I’ve done around this, it looks like Lovell was somewhat notorious for this kind of sneaky behavior.

  2. I have a copy of Henry wadswoth longfellow’s Hyperion A Romance and it is 156 years old plus it is a first addition and i want to know how much it is worth…so can anybody help me?

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