Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

Don Heald: A Perspective

Dheald

Donald Heald in his domain

When Lewis and Clark went west, they did not go alone.  They had a guide.  When astronauts go into space, they have a team.  They are not always sure what they will find but prepare for what they may encounter.  For serious collectors of printed materials, the greatest have also sought guides; Sabin to help William Menzies and Henry Murphy, Wilberforce Eames for James Lenox, George Smith and A. S. W. Rosenbach to help Henry Huntington, Peter Decker for Fritz Beinecke, H.P. Kraus for his brother Edwin, the Eberstadts for Thomas Streeter, Ken Nebenzahl for his son Frank.   These and many others relied on one or a few dealers to chart their collecting paths.

Such collectors are themselves rare.  They embrace a perspective and pursue it for decades. More try than succeed, though, because the pitfalls and chimera are many.  Success requires steely discipline and patience, coupled with the belief that relevant material eventually will come to market.   When less disciplined, collectors often broaden their perspective to accomodate less germane material, and in that way lose focus that once undone, is difficult to restore.

Three years ago, I had a cup of coffee with Donald Heald, the important American rare book dealer, at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles during the ABAA’s biennial show in Southern California.  His memory is storied, but that morning he spoke of an unusual skill—of being able to inhabit a collector’s perspective and, without notes or references, turn the collector’s interests into a sequence of printed items to be pursued over a lifetime, presenting exhilarating challenge, and in time, become a remarkable collection.  Armed early with such perspective, a collector’s first decisions could lay the foundation for serious pursuit.  Without such perspective, the sheer volume of possibilities makes success less likely.

About this, some dealers may say this is not particularly unique, that many competent dealers can outline a strategy and fill in spaces, if not from memory, then from diligent study.  But how often will they place a collector’s interests ahead of their own, suggesting goals and possibilities that defer rather than encourage purchases?  In my experience, this is uncommon but not impossible and is often crucial to collecting successfully.

Such an approach—getting the collecting map laid down early—potentially sets the path, if not the arc.  Along the way, life will intervene, but if the path is true, the other variables, time, opportunity and money, will be simpler to manage.  Absent a plan unchecked collecting ambitions will sprout like weeds.  It's that important then to have a plan. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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