• <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Euclid, <i>Elementa geometriae,</i> first edition, Venice, 1482. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Jean-Baptiste du Halde, S.J., <i>Description... de l'Empire de la Chine,</i> first edition, Paris, 1735. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Werner Rolewinck, <i>Dat boek dat men hiet Fasciculus temporum,</i> first edition in Dutch, Utrecht, 1480. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Eckenstein and Lorria, <i>The Alpine Portfolio,</i> first edition, London, 1889. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Johann Theodor & Johann Israel de Bry, <i>Pars quarta Indiae orientalis,</i> first edition, Frankfurt am Main, 1601. $1,500 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Charles Darwin, <i>The Descent of Man,</i> first edition, London, 1871. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Jonathan Swift, <i>Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World,</i> first edition, London, 1726. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Rodrigo Zamorano, <i>Compendio del Arte de Navegar,</i> Seville, 1588. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>William Shakespeare, <i>A Winters Tale,</i> first edition, London, 1623. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Pedro de Medina, <i>L'Arte del Navegar,</i> first edition in Italian, Venice, 1554. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Hans Meyer, <i>An Account of The First Ascent of Kilimanjaro,</i> first edition in English, London, 1891. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Sotheby’s Paris: The Hunting Library of the Counts du Verne. 5 October.</b> The Largest Collection of Hunting and Falconry To Appear on the Market for the Last Thirty Years.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Jacques du Fouilloux. <i>La Vénerie</i>. Poitiers, 1561. Est. €100.000 – 150.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Gaston Phébus. <i>Déduits de la chasse des bestes sauvaiges et des oyseaux de proye</i>. Paris, circa 1507. Est. €150.000 – 200.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Pierre et François de Gommer. <i>L’Autoursserie</i>. Chaalons, 1594. Est. €30.000 – 50.000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris: The Hunting Library of the Counts du Verne. 5 October. The Largest Collection of Hunting and Falconry To Appear on the Market for the Last Thirty Years.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Pierre Landry. <i>Quatre scènes de chasse à courre.</i> Paris, circa 1680. Est. €2.000 – 3.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Conte Henri de Vibraye - Baron Karl Reille. <i>La chasse à courre.</i> Paris, 1951. Est. €3.000 – 5.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Duc de Brissac - Paul Jouve. <i>Chasse.</i> Paris, 1956. Est. €30.000 – 50.000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various,</i> ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity,</i> signed by Einstein. London: Methuen, 1922
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CARTER, SUSANNAH. <i>The Frugal Housewife</i> (1772) 2d cookbook printed in America.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies.</i> The second impression. London: by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (BROOKLYN). <i>An Act to Incorporate and Vest Certain Powers in the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Village of Brooklyn, in the County of Kings.</i> Brooklyn: Printed by A. Spooner, 1816
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> PAINE, THOMAS. <i>Common Sense</i> (1776) first edition sheets.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2013 Issue

Seward's Folly? – What Happens When a Small Institution Realizes an Old Gift is Extraordinarily Valuable?

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Thomas Cole's painting of Portage Falls on the Genesee.

Bequests may be thought to last forever, but as we know, nothing lasts forever. Books and other valuables left to libraries, museums, universities, and other institutions, so welcome at the time, may become burdensome years into the future. Some may no longer seem as interesting. Others may become costly to maintain. Institutions don't always last forever either and their ability to maintain collections fades as their visitors decline. On the other side, items they possess may grow in value beyond anyone's wildest dreams, making the temptation to cash out irresistible. A copy of the first book printed in America, the Bay Psalm Book, will be auctioned this fall for an estimated $15-$25 million. The Boston church that owns it sees better uses for such value than holding a small book in a safe forever. This is a story about a similar item, a painting bequested to a small institution sixty years ago. Today, it is estimated to be worth around $20 million.

 

In 1823, 22-year-old lawyer William H. Seward, recently admitted to the bar, moved to Auburn, New York. He married, went into law partnership with his father-in-law, and moved into his father-in-law's house. This would be his home the remainder of his life. Seward was a supporter of progressive causes, including education of immigrant children, prison reform (Auburn is home to a state prison), and most notably abolition. His home became a stop on the Underground Railroad. Auburn was a fast growing community at the time, its location near the Erie canal making it a good location for manufacturing. Seward became friendly with political powerhouse Thurlow Weed, which led to his being elected to the state legislature and, in 1838, Governor of New York. The following year, his friends commissioned a painting in his honor. What Seward was given was a large painting called Portage Falls on the Genesee. The artist was Thomas Cole, today generally recognized as the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. It hung in Seward's house the remainder of his life.

 

Seward would go on to have one of the most storied political careers of the 19th century. By the 1850's, he was serving in the U.S. Senate, a leading abolitionist. He joined the new Republican party and by 1860 was their leading name. He was favored to receive their presidential nomination in 1860. However, his radical views made some party members concerned about his electability, and meanwhile, an obscure losing senate candidate from Illinois was garnering a lot of attention with his speeches. The Republicans decided to go with this perhaps safer nominee in 1860. They nominated Abraham Lincoln instead.

 

The disappointment did not stop Seward from loyally serving Lincoln as Secretary of State. The assassination plot that took Lincoln's life also targeted Seward. He was stabbed several times the same day Lincoln was assassinated, but survived his wounds. He continued his service under President Andrew Johnson, defending him when he was impeached and almost removed from office. It was during this term that Seward made his greatest deal, one not much appreciated at the time – “Seward's Folly.” For the seemingly excessive sum of $7.2 million dollars, he purchased Alaska from Russia. He did not realize there was an ocean of oil beneath its surface, but he nonetheless recognized that this would one day be appreciated as his greatest achievement. He was right.

 

With the end of Johnson's term, Seward returned to his Auburn home. He died there is 1872. He bequeathed his home and its possessions to his son, Civil War Brigidier General William H. Seward, Jr. When the latter died in 1920, he passed the homestead on to his son, William H. Seward III.

 

Family inhabitance of the homestead finally came to an end with the passing of William III in 1951. He left it and most of the possessions within as a memorial to his father and grandfather. It was placed under the care and ownership of The Fred L. Emerson Foundation. Fred Emerson was a successful shoe manufacturer from Auburn who set up a charitable foundation in that community in 1932. William III undoubtedly concluded this charitable foundation would be a logical owner for the home which was to be preserved as a museum. The Emerson Foundation owned and managed the home from 1951 until 2008.

 

In 2008, it was decided best if the Seward homestead officially become a museum under New York State law. The Seward House Museum was established and all of the Sewards' assets were turned over to it, all, that is, except the Cole painting. The Emerson Foundation retained ownership of the painting. It was becoming apparent that this item was of a value far exceeding other assets Secretary Seward once possessed. However, the foundation loaned it to the Seward Museum so it could remain on the wall. The local court, in approving the transfer of property from the foundation to the museum, specified that the foundation could not transfer the painting to anyone other than the museum without court approval.

 

In February of this year, the Emerson Foundation, with the approval of the Seward Museum, removed the painting from the house. They became fearful of such a valuable item hanging on the wall of a small house-museum. Thoughts such as theft, fire, and burst pipes ran through the officers' minds as they thought of this painting, now appraised at $20 million, hanging on the wall. They took it to an unknown though presumably safe location. They thought of securing it in some sort of vault in the house, but this didn't really make much sense. The Seward House just didn't seem a logical place for such a valuable painting. Ultimately, they decided the reasonable thing to do would be to sell the painting, with half of the proceeds to go to the museum and the other half to the foundation.

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