• Christie's: The first four Folios of William Shakespeare’s collected works will be auctioned on 25 May.
    Christie's: The first four Folios of William Shakespeare’s collected works will be auctioned on 25 May.
  • <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 1. Silver coin (1455), celebrating expulsion of English people in 1451.<br>Est: € 12,000-20,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 7. Heures à l’usage de Coutances. Paris, last quarter of 15th century. Est: € 30,000-40,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 9.<br>TERENCE. Lyon, Jean Trechsel, 1493. Est: € 20,000-30,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 8. Biblia latina. Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 1478. Est: € 20,000-30,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 11. [Francesco Colonna]. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Venise, Alde Manuce, December 1499. Est: € 150,000-200,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 14. Marco<br>Vigerio della Rovere. Decachordum christianum. Fano, Girolamo Socino, 1507. Est: € 15,000-20,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 18. CONSTANTIN VII. De notevoli et utilissimi ammæstramenti dell’agricoltura. Venise, Gabriele Giolito de Ferrari, 1542. Est: € 40,000-50,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 19. TITE-LIVE. Latinæ historiæ principis. Lyon, Sébastien Gryphe, 1548.<br>Est: € 15,000-20,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 38. OTTOMAN CORAN. 17th century by Muhammad Hafiz (Imam Mehmed Effendi).<br>Est: € 20,000-30,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 45. Blaise PASCAL. Pensées. Paris, Guillaume Desprez, 1670. Est: € 100,000-120,000.
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 52. George EDWARDS. A Natural History of uncommon birds. London, the author, 1743-1751. Est: € 20,000-30,000
    <b>ALDE May 24:</b> Lot 59. Jean de LA FONTAINE. Fables choisies. Paris, Desaint & Saillant, Durand, 1755-1759. Est: € 40,000-50,000.
  • Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 18. Blaeu, <i>Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula</i>, 1660.<br>Est. $14000-$17000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 20. Pitt, <i>Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula</i>, 1680. Est. $9500-$11000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 65. Ortelius, <i>Americae sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio</i>, 1571. <br>Est. $6000-$7000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 84. Bailleul, <i>L'Amerique Divisee en Ses Principales Parties</i>, 1752.<br>Est. $19000-$22000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 99. Sayer & Bennett, <i>The American Military Pocket Atlas</i>, 1776. <br>Est. $10000-$12000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 269. Reid, <i>Plan of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia</i>, 1796. <br>Est. $2750-$3500
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 291. Carleton, <i>Map of Massachusetts Proper</i>, 1801. Est. $12000-$14000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 378. Keulen, <i>Pas Kaart vande Noord Oost Kust van Cuba en d'Oost Kust van Florida</i>, 1695. Est. $3250-$4000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 651. Ptolemy/Fries, <i>Tabula Superioris Indiae & Tartariae Maioris</i>, 1541.<br>Est. $3000-$4000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 688. Wit, <i>Nova Africa Descriptio</i>, 1660.<br>Est. $2750-$3500
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 706. Ortelius, <i>Maris Pacifici</i>, 1589.<br>Est. $8000-$9000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 727. Audubon, <i>Least Stormy-Petrel</i>, 1836. Est. $1400-$1700
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 741. Bordone, <i>Isolario</i>, 1547.<br>Est. $16000-$19000
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 747. Teesdale, <i>A New General Atlas of the World</i>, 1835. Est. $2000-$2750
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 752. Colton, <i>Colton's Atlas of the World Volume I and II</i>, 1856.<br>Est. $2500-$3250
    Old World Auctions (May 4): Lot 760. Prevost, <i>Histoire Generale des Voyages ... Tome Quatorzieme</i>, 1757. <br>Est. $2400-$3000
  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 23/24.</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> Mary Stuart. Ms. Parliament document (contemp. copy). 1567. <br>Est: € 2.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> Latin and French Book of Hours. About 1480. Est: € 65.000.
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> Book of Hours by Germain Hardouyn. 1533. Est: € 18.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> G. P. Gallucci, Theatrum mundi. 1588. Est: € 5.000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 23/24.</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> J. Hill, The vegetable system. 1761-75. Est: € 60.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>J. Honter, Rudimentorum cosmographicorum libri III. 1549.<br>Est: € 3.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> Two terrestrial and celestial globes by J. G. Doppelmayr. 1789 or later. Est: € 40.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>G. de Maupassant, Contes choisies. 1891-92. Est: € 6.000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 23/24.</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>K. Schwitters, HahnePeter. 1924.<br>Est: € 6.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>I. G. Chernikhov, Arkhitekturnye fantazii. 1933. Est: € 3.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>E. Baj, La Cravate. 1972. Est: € 3.000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May Auction:</b> <br>H. Bellmer & G. Bataille, Histoire de l'oeil. 1944. Est: € 3.000

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>Swann Auction Galleries May 5: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Anne & Margot Frank's copy of <i>Grimm's Fairy Tales</i>, in which Anne wrote her own and Margot's name, circa 1940. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Albert Einstein, group of 4 letters Signed to Helmut L. Bradt regarding Bradt's emigration to the U.S., one bearing Nazi censor ink stamps, 1939-40. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Archive of items from Ludwig Bemelmans to producer Mary K. Frank, concerning <i>The Street <br>Where the Heart Lies</i>, 1959-62. <br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Archive of correspondence to<br>Edwin A. Van Valkenburg from President Theodore Roosevelt and members of his family, 1913-21. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Oscar Wilde, manuscript notes panning a book on book collecting, circa 1886. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b><br>John Hancock, partly-printed document Signed as Governor of Massachusetts, Boston, 1781.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Franz Liszt, Autograph Letter<br>Signed to Carl Gille, Rome, 1869. $4,00 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b> Joseph Conrad, photograph Signed and dated, 1918. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 5:</b><br>Two Guns White Calf, photograph postcard Signed with his pictogram, 1929. $800 to $1,200.
  • Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, 8 June 2016, New York
    Bonhams June 8: ARISTOTLE.<br>384-322 B.C.E. De animalibus <br>US$ 300,000-500,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. Iconic signed Darwin photograph "I like this photograph much better than any other which ..."
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Autograph Letter Signed</i>. Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> WRIGHT, WILBUR. Experiments and Observations in Soaring Flight. Journal of the Western Society of Engineers 8, no. 4 (August, 1903).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Signed and dated Oxford 1931.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> GARDNER, ALEXANDER. Antietam Bridge, Maryland. "One of the memorable spots in the history of the war."

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