Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2012 Issue

George S. MacManus:  a source of inspiration

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Clarence Wolf of George S. Macmanus

Several months ago we approached Clarence Wolf of George S. MacManus Company in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania for permission to include the company’s catalogues in the AED.  He agreed and we have since been building a MacManus resource file.  As of today we have added 24,965 of their records dating from the late 1930’s to the early 1980’s and in time expect to include about 75,000 records reflecting the ebb and flow of their almost 8 decades as booksellers.  These records tell an interesting story of intensifying specialization, growing interest and rising prices.

Mr. MacManus’s history in the trade traces to Philadelphia in the 1930s.  The initial effort was modest, the economy dismal.  You sold what you could for what price you could get.  In 1937 Ben Wolf, Clarence Wolf’s father, joined the firm and the company began a gradual transition from generalist to rare book specialist, a transition whose forward progress can be seen in the firm’s decision in 1949 to become a founding member of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America.  From then on the firm would sell both plebian and patrician volumes and become architect to many of the important American collections built over the following 50 years.

In 1967 George died and the firm continued under Ben Wolf.  Clarence, the firm’s president today, assumed control in 1972 and a stronger, deeper antiquarian thread emerged in the cataloguing, an emphasis that continues today.

Clarence Wolf, in looking back, recalls the salad days - in the 1960s-1980s, “when we could issue a catalogue, sell half within 3 months, another third over the balance of the first year and then sell most of the rest in the second year.  We could do this over and over year after year.  We spent our energy searching, knowing that if we found good material we could sell it.”   “Norman Kane, today an important dealer in Americana, was with our firm for ten of these years, establishing the MacManus presence in important literature.   “The MacManus Company has been fortunate to have a great team.”
   

In the modern era the rules have changed.  “The field has become a world of the impossible to get and easy to sell on the one side and the less appreciated, often overlooked that is selling for modest prices.  Great material is the currency today, the lesser, but not necessarily unimportant or uninteresting material, the loose change.” 

This transition has not been without its benefits.  “In my view it has never been more possible to build complex, ground-breaking collections with greater depth and at lower cost.”  More inventory and complex databases have made it possible to quantify subjects.  “Our challenge has been to find a place in this emerging thinking.”

“We at MacManus have been privileged for 80 years to be part of the history of rare books.  We look to future to be part of its future.”

AE members using the advanced search and selecting MacManus as the source will find the history of the firm and its books on full display.  For others searching the full AED we are providing, at last count, 3,659,647 records, up 160,000 in the recent quarter.
    

On the MacManus website provides the following background:

For nearly 80 years, the George S. MacManus Company has bought and sold rare and important books. Based in the Philadelphia area, our clients span the globe. Our inventory of over 45,000 catalogued titles focuses primarily on 18th and 19th century Americana with specialties such as Voyages and Travels, Local Histories, Indians and the West and the Civil War. Also included in our collection are English and American literary first editions, Limited Edition Club selections and Books about Books. 

We are charter members of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and we are members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. 

We issue catalogues on various subjects several times throughout the year and frequently customize special lists for our clients. Upon request we are also able to generate smaller lists. We are always interested in purchasing good individual books or entire libraries.
 

Here are links to their website as well as their email and telephone number.

The MacManus website

The MacManus email address:  books@macmanus-rarebooks.com


Telephone No. 610-520-7273

Address

12 Water Street
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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