• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Andrew Wyeth, an archive of 43 unpublished letters. $80,000-120,000 [lot 1106]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Abraham Lincoln, signed document granting pensions to surviving Revolutionary War Veterans, 1865. $60,000-80,000 [lot 1058]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Forlani Map of North America, 1566. $40,000-60,000 [lot 1555]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> <i>Journal des Dames et des Modes</i>, 1912-1914. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1294]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, late 14th Century. $30,000-40,000 [lot 1162]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Schedel, World Map, 1493. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1589]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Sir Isaac Newton’s copy of <i>Le Grand’s Institutio Philosophiae</i>, 1675. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1308]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Muhammad Mu'min Husaini’s Tuhfat al-Mu'minin, 17th century Persian medical manuscript on paper. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1118]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Persian Calligraphy, an album. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1119]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Edgar Allan Poe, <i>Tales</i>, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. $3,00-5,000 [lot 1361]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> English New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1582, first edition. $10,000-15,000 [lot 1154]
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), An Original Manuscript Page of text from <i>Finnegan’s Wake</i>, the opening of the Anna Livia Plurabelle section. €7,500-10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Chamber Music,</i> 1907. First Edition of his First Book, First Issue. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Lady Gregory’s Copy Signed by W.B. Yeats, Cuala Press: Yeats (W.B.), <i>Poems Written in Discouragement</i>, 1913. Limited to 50 Copies Only. €2,500-4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> A Twentieth Century Masterpiece: O’Brien (Flann), <i>At Swim-Two-Birds</i>, 8vo, 1939. First Edn. €1,750-2,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> The Missing Log of the H.M.S. Liffey Manuscript Journal, 1867. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Exceptionally Rare First Publication: Gregory (Augusta Lady), <i>Over the River: An appeal for aid to a poor parish in South London</i>. 1887. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Ex. Rare Irish Broadsheet: An Irish Perspective on the Execution of Louis XVI, 1793 Broadsheet with engraving of the event, headed: “Massacre of the French King.” €500-700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Original Manuscript Poem, Heaney (Seamus), <i>The Schoolbag</i>. In Memoriam John Hewitt. Signed and dated November 8 1991. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Sowerby (J.E.), <i>English Botany; or Coloured Figures of British Plants</i>. Ed. by J.T. Boswell Syme. 10 vols, with 1696 hand-coloured plates. €750-1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Collection of Signed First Editions incl. Francis (Dick), <i>Nerve</i> (London 1964); <i>For Kicks</i> (London 1965); <i>Forfeit</i> (London 1968). €400-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Le Carre (John), <i>The Spy who came in from the Cold</i>, 8vo, 1963, First Edn., with author’s signature tipped in on t.p. €350-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Adams (Richard), <i>Watership Down</i>, 8vo, 1976, First Illustrated Edn., Signed on f.e.p. by Author & Artist, and also signed by Artist on hf. title. €200-300
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>Shaw & Nodder, <i>The Naturalist's Miscellany</i>, complete, London, 1789-1813. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Samuel Baker, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Island of St. Christopher</i>, London, 1753. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Henry Briggs, <i>The North Part of America</i>, London, 1625. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Herring Gull</i>, CCXCI, hand-colored plate, London, 1836. $7,000 to $10,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Montanus & Ogilby, <i>America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World</i>, London, 1671. $10,000 to $15,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Robert Cruikshank, portfolio of 25 watercolors, London, 1830s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Group of 55 French watercolors depicting the life and deeds of Napoleon, 1800s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Aaron & Samuel Arrowsmith, <i>Chart of the Sandwich Islands</i>, London, 1830. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Herman Moll, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain</i>, London, 1735. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Jacques-Nicolas Bellin,<i> L'Hydrographie Françoise</i>, Paris, circa 1770. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, <i>Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina</i>, London, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Arnold Colom, <i>Pascaarte van Nieu Nederlandt</i>, Amsterdam, circa 1658. $7,000 to $10,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2011 Issue

31 Laid Off at Powell's - But What Does It Mean?

Powell's03-11

Powell's main branch, their "City of Books."

Powell's Books, the large Portland, Oregon, retail store and online bookseller recently announced that it would be laying off 31 employees. This represents 7% of its unionized workforce. This number somewhat masks actual decline in employment according to a union representative who estimated a reduction of around 40 more employees over the past year due to attrition. Management concluded attrition was insufficient considering the decline in sales. Between attrition and this layoff, the drop in union employees over the past year would amount to over 15%.

 

Our focus here at AE is on older and collectible books, while this is primarily a story about new books. Nonetheless, the long-term implications for the collectible book trade raise questions.

 

In a press release, Powell's stated that "changing consumer behavior" is the primary cause for the downsizing. In particular, they pointed to the declining sales of new physical books, many of those sales now going to electronic editions. An email sent to employees was more blunt:  "Sales for this fiscal year are down and we expect this trend will continue. The largest decreases have been in new book sales. We see this as a clear indication that we are losing sales to electronic books and reading devices. Given the company's declining sales, combined with industry data on the rapid growth of electronic book sales, we expect to see continuing erosion of new book sales over the next few years. While we believe we can compensate for some of the loss with solid used book sales and growth in gift sales, the erosion of new book sales will continue to take its toll."

 

In addition to the lay off of 31 union employees, Powell's told its non-union workers that, while not being laid off, they will be subject to a one-year pay freeze as of July 1, and almost immediately company contributions to their 401k (retirement) accounts would be suspended for at least a year. Unionized workers not laid off will retain all current benefits.

 

Those in the old book trade may be able to take some solace from the claim of "solid used book sales." However, the press release included a statement from Powell's President Emily Powell that is particularly prescient, while at the same time vague:  "I feel it is critical to make some very difficult adjustments at this time, to address our current reality and to prepare the company for success in the future, a future that looks very different than our business today."

 

Certainly, Ms. Powell is correct that the future be will be very different from today. The problem is, no one knows exactly what it will look like. We can anticipate some changes, such as continued loss in sales of hard copies to electronic ones, but who could have foreseen this five years ago? We can predict based on trends we see, but technological changes represent hard to anticipate breakthroughs that can totally change the paradigm. Will there be more technological advances in the book field in the years ahead comparable to the development of the electronic reader? Undoubtedly.

 

What we can logically predict is the number of copies of printed books produced will continue to decline, perhaps at an accelerating rate. There will be fewer copies printed of future important books, fewer copies available for collectors. That part of the equation doesn't sound bad for those in the book trade. However, the other half of the equation is will future generations, particularly those who grew up reading electronic copies, have an interest in collecting printed editions? This question applies not only to books published in the future, but to all of those from the past lining our shelves. Whoever knows the answer to this question probably knows what the future holds in store for the book trade.

 

Perhaps the question is even larger than books. What (if anything) will people of the future collect as more "things" become electronic? Will people who love books be content with having a large electronic library, or will they want something they can touch? You might be able to build an interesting collection of electronic books in your field, but there is no rarity, no exclusivity in that. It can be duplicated with a click of a mouse. Will such ease of duplication dissuade or encourage collecting, and if it dissuades it, will people look for physical copies to collect or simply not collect books at all?

 

This question may depend on to what extent people see books as physical things. Records, tapes, even CDs went through this change sooner than books. Some people do collect old records, and vinyl is still produced in small quantities, but this does not appear to be a particularly vibrant field. Some people do appreciate old album art and plastic disks, but to most these seem to be simply older means of conveying sound, rather than something to be appreciated in themselves. On the other hand, you can now get digital art, electronic screens one can hang on the wall with a work of art - even the Mona Lisa if you so desire. The reproduction may be good, but I have seen little evidence that such electronic art is making serious inroads on the collecting of physical paintings. Where do books fall in this line between music and paintings, appreciated as physical objects or not so much appreciated? I don't know, though it will probably determine the long-term value of those bound volumes of paper currently resting on our shelves. The collectibility may rest on something as simple as ability to display. Paintings can be displayed fully on the wall, records, with their narrow spines, barely at all. Books on a shelf fall somewhere in between.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> The 1936 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, Presented to Victor Franz Hess for His Discovery of Cosmic Radiation. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Sangorski & Sutcliffe: Jewelled Binding. Byron, Lord [George Gordon]. An illuminated manuscript on vellum, being Byron's <i>Ode to Napoleon.</i> $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Ruscha, Ed. Complete Set of 16 Artist's Books by Ed Ruscha. Various Places: Various Publishers, 1968-1973. All first printings, seven signed or with early inscriptions. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> McKenney, Thomas L. and James Hall. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America.</i> Fine and unsophisticated subscriber's copy in early state. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Williams, Thomas Lanier ("Tennessee Williams"). Producer Charles K. Feldman's file on the production of <i>The Glass Menagerie</i>(Warner Bros., 1950). $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Lee, Harper. Archive of correspondence including 35 autograph letters signed (mostly "Harper", but a few "H", "H.L." or "Nelle Harper"). $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Tocqueville, Alexis de. <i>De la Démocratie en Amérique.</i> First editions of both parts of Tocqueville's classic <i>Democracy In America</i>. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Complete set of all periodical publications of The Royal Geographical Society 1831-1948, comprising 203 volumes with thousands of plates and maps, many folding. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Alchemy. Loewens and Richard. <i>Universal Medicin ex regulo stellato.</i> Original alchemical manuscript written in German and Latin, ink on paper. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Bray, Anna Eliza. <i>Life of Thomas Stothard, R.A. with Personal Reminiscences.</i> Remarkable 10-volume collection of Stothard's work, expansively extra-illustrated. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Algren, Nelson. Producer Charles Feldman's extensive production archive of <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i> (Columbia 1962). $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Elliot, Daniel Giraud. <i>The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America.</i> First edition, one of only 200 copies printed. $10,000 to $15,000
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Columnis (Guido de). <i>Historia destructionis Troiae</i>, first edition, 1477-79.<br>Est. £30,000 - 40,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Modus versificando. Extraordinary sammelband of 21 works collected by a German humanist, 1492-1519. Est. £40,000 - 60,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Mary I & King Philip II. Letter signed to Lord Paget signed "Mary the Quene" and "Philipp R" and endorsed "By the King and the Quene", 1p., Westminster, 29th January 1555.<br>Est. £18,000 - 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Pontanus (Ludovicus). <i>Singularia</i>, Lyon, 1517. Est. £4,000 - 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Confidential Agent</i>, first edition, 1939. Est. £1,500 - 2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Dodgson (Rev. C.L.). <i>The Hunting of the the Snark</i>, presentation copy inscribed by the author, 1876. Est. £2,500 - 3,500
    <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Bacon (Sir Francis). <i>The Tvvoo Bookes of Francis Bacon</i>, first edition, 1605. Est. £1,000 - 1,500
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Metcalf (John Henry). <i>Armorial Sketches</i>, manuscript 1850. Est. £2,000 - 3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Firdausi (Abu'l-Qasim). <i>Shahnama [The Book of Kings]</i>, with 20 minaitures, probably Kashmir, [late 18th/early 19th century]. Est. £2,000 - 3,000
  • <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Hobson, R.L. <i>A catalogue of Chinese pottery and porcelain in the collection of Sir Percival David</i> (London, 1934). Est. € 8.000-10.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Chagall, M. <i>Drawings for the bible</i>. (Paris, 1960). Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Delft kabels</i> (Delft, 1933). Est. € 20.000-30.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Normalieënboekje</i> (Delft, 1924-1926). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Russian children's books]. Mayakovsky, V. Kem byt'? (What to be?) (Moscow, 1932). Est. € 500-700
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Léger, F.]. Cendrars, B. <i>La Fin du Monde filmée par l'Ange</i> N.-D (Paris, 1919). Est. € 2.000-3.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Roche, E. <i>Indische Baukunst</i> (Munich, 1921-1922). Est. € 3.000-5.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> Blume, C.L. <i>Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium./ Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium </i> (Brussels, 1828). Est. € 7.000-9.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> <i>Description de l'Égypte (…) pendant l'expédition de l'armée francaise</i> (Paris, 1820-1829). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Fontaine, J. de. <i>Fables choisies, mises en vers </i> (Paris, 1756).<br>Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> [VOC and WIC]. Pelsaert, F. <i>Ongeluckige Voyagie, Van 't Schip Batavia, Nae de Oost-Indien</i> (Amsterdam, 1647).<br>Est. € 40.000-60.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions June 2:</b> Goya y Lucientes, F.J. de. <i>La Taureaumachie </i> (Paris, 1876), 40 etchings and aquatints. Est. € 8.000-10.000

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