• <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>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed "Love / Mr. Papa," to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Alexis de Tocqueville, Autograph Letter Signed, on the publication of <i> Democracy in America </i>, 1837. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Hart Benton, Autograph Manuscript, draft of <i>The Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting</i>, with sketches, 1926. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliot Erwitt, photograph of Kennedy & Eisenhower, signed by both,<br>c. 1960. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> John Adams, Partly-printed Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, 1798. $4,000 to $6,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Graphite drawing of Albert Einstein, signed by him & the artist, S.N. Swamy, 1950. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, London, 1888. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Partly-printed vellum Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State James Madison, 1809. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Agatha Christie, Autograph Manuscript notebook with early drafts for numerous novels, Baghdad, circa 1948. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed to Desmond Fitzgerald, in French, 1889. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Photograph of Fidel Castro, Signed & Inscribed, in Spanish, 1955. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Frederick Stuart Church, archive of 17 illustrated Autograph Letters Signed to Evander Schley, 1905-11. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <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

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2013 Issue

Death Comes to the Telegram

Titanictelegram

A good news telegram – all on board the Titanic are safe. There is no danger.

The news that flashed across the wires last month sounded definitive. The oldest form of long-distance instantaneous communications had come to an end, roughly 170 years after its birth. A form of works on paper that carried the most important news of its day at the fastest speed existed no more. The telegram was dead. Telegrams carrying such terrible news as the beginning of war, the sinking of the Titanic, or the assassination of Lincoln are highly sought after works on paper by collectors. The next great war will not be so announced, reason enough not to have one.

The telegram was the offspring of Samuel F.B. Morse. An obscure, virulently nativist political crank, Morse's scientific mind was as creative as his social one was frozen. He came up with the idea of sending electronic signals through a wire, concluding this could be done over great distances. He did not figure out that voice could be converted into such impulses. That would be left for Alexander Graham Bell to discern four decades later. Morse's idea was to send a series of long and short tones that would constitute a code. He worked on his idea in the late 1830s, and by the early 40s he had strung up some wires. By the end of that decade, small companies were sending messages through the wires, using Morse's short and long tones (dots and dashes) that signified letters. It was aptly known as “Morse Code.” On one end, an operator tapped on a device that punched out the tones; at the other end of the wire, another operator would hear the tones and quickly translate them by hand to letters and words on paper.

Lest anyone think this system is exceedingly primitive, it's worth noting that the Battle of New Orleans, in which over 400 people died and another 1,700 were wounded, took place several weeks after the War of 1812 ended. The problem was that it took longer than that to relay the news of war's end to troops in the field. Had it been the war of 1852 instead, none of these casualties would have occurred, thanks to Mr. Morse's invention.

As happens in all new businesses, there are many start-ups, but most get consumed by a few large companies. There were two companies in the process of consuming their smaller competitors in America in the early 1850s, and in 1855, the two combined. It became known as Western Union. Other countries undoubtedly had their large telegraph companies, but in America it was Western Union, though others competed. Western Union became one of the most important companies in America. It was one of 13 companies that were part of the original Dow Jones Industrial Average (only Western Union and Union Pacific survive today).

Of course, technology moves on and the telegraph as a means of fast communication would be surpassed by an even faster method of communication – the telephone. However, it was a very slow death. The telephone was instantaneous, but it provided no written record, and you had to be home to receive it. Additionally, it would still be many years before the long-distance phone call was as cheap as the telegram. So through all of the 20th century, Western Union had their couriers out delivering messages to your door by hand, after transmitting them electronically to your town where they could be printed out and delivered on paper.

While once the primary means of quick communications, by the second half of the 20th century, telegrams were used mostly for important messages, business deals or major family matters. Getting a telegram was often like getting a phone call at 2:00 a.m. Yes, it might be someone calling to tell you that you won the lottery, but more likely it was some dreaded news, such as a death in the family. The arrival of a telegram evinced feelings of both hope and fear.

Western Union sensed the impending doom of their business long ago and wisely branched out into other areas. Nevertheless, they barely survived. In 2006, 155 years after it began, Western Union announced that it would carry telegrams no more. The decision was hardly a surprise. In 1929, Western Union transmitted 20 million telegrams. In 2005, the number was down to 20 thousand. It was time. A spin-off company, iTelegram, continues the service, sort of. You can go online and fill in a message to be delivered as a telegram, but outside of a few large cities, they will be dropped in the local post office to be delivered by mail, not courier. Western Union had long become involved in other areas, mainly financial services, and is best known today as a place to wire money rather than messages to someone far away.

The news that hit the wires last month came from India. Not as technologically developed as the West, telegrams continued to be more widely used in this nation, particularly between family members living in the countryside and the city. So they soldiered on until last month when the state operated telegraph company, in operation since 1850 when India was a British colony, called it quits. That was 163 years worth, a longer run than even Western Union.

While this was a notable event in the decline of the telegram, it really isn't its death. Then again, it wasn't really alive anymore either. This is part of the final stages of the end to a moribund industry that technically still survives in India as it does through iTelegram in the U.S., but is not even a shell of the business it once was. If you collect telegrams, or collect other events immortalized in a telegram, hold on to them. Printed books are being produced in smaller numbers today, but they are still being produced, and undoubtedly will for a very long time. Telegrams, however, now officially join the same category with real estate – they aren't making them anymore.  


Editorial Note:  Good news! The folks at iTelegram have informed us that they do provide national courier service in the U.S. for telegrams, good news for those who still appreciate the urgency of the medium. Here is what they tell us:

I wanted to clear up a mistake in the article. iTelegram does deliver all first-class (priority) telegrams by courier in the USA, not just to a few cities. This information is published on our web site: www.itelegram.com/telegram/send.asp?recCountry=US.

Colin Stone
Director of Operations
International Telegram



Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Ackermann, Rudolph—Uwins, Thomas. A collection of 240 drawings for Rudolph Ackermann's <i>Repository of Arts</i> magazine, 1809-1828. £20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, and Joan. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Sive Atlas Novus in Quo Tabulae et Descriptiones Omnium Regionum.</i> 1640-1654. £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Mercator, Gerard and Jodocus Hondius. <i>L’Atlas ou Méditations Cosmographiques de la Fabrique du Monde et Figure Diceluy.</i> 1613. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Speed, John. <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isles Adjoyning...</i> £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Wit, Frederick De. [General Atlas], With The Engraved Title For Atlas Maior. Amsterdam, [C.1688-1696]. £50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Kuntz, Joh. Rudolph. <i>[Abbildungen Königlich Württembergischer Gestütts-Pferde von Orientalischen Racen.</I> Stuttgart: Ebner 1823–1824]. £30,000 – 40,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Lawrence, T.E. Ivory Silk Thawb, Or Under-Robe, Presented by Lawrence of Arabia to a family friend. £10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Archipelagus Orientalis Sive Asiaticus</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £200,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Asiae Descriptio Novissima</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Japanese bird paintings—(Rinchô Zu). A Pair Of Painted Scrolls of Birds. [Japan, Late 18th Or Early 19th Century]. £25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Huang, Qianren. Da Qing Wannian Yitong Tianxia Quantu [Complete Map of the Whole Unified Country of the Great Qing]. [1803]. £80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Sôkaku or Ryôsei Jôkei. Da Ming Sheng Tu, [Map of (China Under) The Great Ming Dynasty]. (1691 Or 1711). £80,000 – 120,000
  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Book of hours, manuscript on vellum. Around 1520. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum</i>. 1493. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br><i> Biblia germanica</i>. 1475/1476.<br>Est: € 140,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum</i>. 1574. Est: € 26,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>L. de Varthema, <i>Die ritterlich und lobwirdig Rays</i>. 1515. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. H. van Linschoten, <i>His Discours of Voyages</i>. 1598. Est: € 70,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. G. Stedman, <i>Narrative of Surinam</i>. 1806. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. von Menzel, <i>Armeewerk Friedrichs d. Gr.</i> 1850-1860. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>G. Heym, <i>Umbra Vitae</i>. 1924.<br>Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Master binding by G. Levitzky. 1914. Est: € 2,500
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>R. Char, <i>A la santé du serpent</i>. 1954. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Nam June Paik, <i>Fluxus Testament</i>. 1975. Est: € 18,000
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000

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