Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

ALDE: A Book Auction Sale at Rossini’s in Paris

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“I run the one and only French auction sale house exclusively dedicated to books and manuscripts”, proudly states the 39-year-old Jérôme Delcamp. As a matter of fact, the name of his auction house, Alde, is a tribute to the Venetian printer of the Renaissance, Aldus Manutius - known in France as Alde Manuce. “When I created my business in 2004, I decided to stick to my first love, books.” As a matter of fact, Mr. Delcamp tries not to mingle too much with other specialities and chose, for the sale of October the 31st, not to rent a room at Drouot. He went just across the road instead, at “ la salle Rossini ”. “It is an independant venue, he says. The idea is to avoid the flood of curious during the exposition. People who know nothing about old books keep on coming at us with annoying questions and create disturbances during the sale itself. At Rossini’s, we enjoy a quieter atmosphere.”

On that very day, the items of the sale were stored in glass chests, at the back of the room. The buyers would constantly take a look at them, as if trying to compensate for the photographs projected on a wide screen. Books used to be shown by handlers, one by one, as called for by the auctioneer - it is now over. A voluble sexagenarian architect sitting beside me, just can’t get used to it : “ It is so far from the spirit of old books”, he sighed. There was a time when you could even walk to the stand where the physical books were exposed and take a look at them while the auction was going on. Some items would even pass from hand to hand across the room. Other times, other customs.

“First of all, says Mr. Delcamp, the less you manipulate an old book, the better. Handlers, for instance, are not always careful enough – they have damaged many books over the years. Plus, it creates disturbances.” The cruel march of modernity... Another sign of the times is the increasing number of absentee bids collected via the internet. “We also send a lot of pictures by email,” says Mr. Delcamp. “It has become as important as the printed catalogue itself. Of course, you can still freely look at the books at my bookshop before a sale.” His bookshop is called Giraud-Badin, it is located right in front of his auction house, close to the Parc du Luxembourg, not too far from La Sorbonne, in the heart of Paris. Mr. Delcamp bought it two years ago.

THE SALE

The sale of October the 31st was an ordinary one, composed of 300 items coming from 20 or so different clients. “It was a good sale”, says Mr. Delcamp. But some prices seemed to be quite low and my voluble architect friend felt the same : “ Some even say old books will sell less and less until the day nobody buys them any more. What do you think ?” Indeed, books seem to be losing of their glory. The elites used to consider them as the source of their knowledge and power. Nowadays, mathematics rule – and the power of books slowly fades away. To Mr. Delcamp, the market remains “steady ”. He admits, nevertheless, that whereas books of exception tend to sell pretty good, it has become hard to sell the “ordinary” ones. Our architect giggled : “ The cheaper the prices, the better... for me ! ” As long as buyers think this way, old books have bright days ahead.

Ups and downs of a sale

- Conestaggio (Girolamo). De Portugalliae... Francfort, 1602. In-8, full contemporary red-morroco with a provenance. Appraisal : 3,000 / 3,500 euros.

“It was disappointing, says Mr. Delcamp. This is an interesting book, relating the conquest of Portugal by Spain in 1580. The binding was attractive, though...” The book never met the reserve price – but it was not in the best of condition : it had foxing all through-out and the binding was not that tight.

- Heures à l’usage de Paris [Paris, circa 1500]. On vellum, 162 pp, 79 hand made figures by Le Maître de la Chronique Scandaleuse and Le Maître d’Etienne Poncher. Appraisal : 60,000 / 80,000 euros.

One of the two main items of the sale, a XVIth century book of hours with gorgeous figures. Seven pages of the catalogue were dedicated to this beauty from another time but it did not go over 60,000 euros. To Mr. Delcamp, it is not a bad result : “ The book was simply very justly estimated. ” As a matter of fact, an expert from Paris, Bertrand Meaudre, had been specially called upon for this particular book. The other items had been expertised by Dominique Courvoisier.  

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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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