• <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <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>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> <i>The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment,</i> 1789. Signed by George Washington. $28,000 to $32,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> George Washington Signed Letter to John Marshall. $12,000 to $14,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Picasso Signed “Vallauris” 1952 Exhibition Poster. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Military appointment commission document signed by both President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, dated January 27, 1803. $2,400 to $2,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Doris Ulmann and Julia Peterkin. <i>Roll, Jordan, Roll.</i> New York, 1933, deluxe edition, preceding first edition of the same year. No. 74 of 350. $5,000 to $6,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> John Marshall. <i>The Life of George Washington,</i> Philadelphia, 1832. Signed by author. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Samuel L. Margolies (American, 1897-1974). Aquatint and etching, "Builders of Babylon," 1937. $4,000 to $4,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Two Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) signed documents as President of Washington College. $3,000 to $3,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> William C. Harris. <i>The Fishes of North America That Are Captured on Hook and Line</i>, Vol I., New York, 1898. 40 chromolithograph plates. $2,000 to $2,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> $100 "Date Back" bank note 1902 from the Clarksville National Bank, Clarksville, Tennessee, depicting the portrait of John Jay Knox, Jr. $1,400 to $1,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and Monticello, Taken from Lewis Mountain, drawn and lithographed by Edward Sachse. $800 to $1,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Large Civil War photograph mounted on card stock depicting Rossville Gap in Missionary Ridge. $400 to $450
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 39: Presidential Pardon Signed by John F. Kennedy. November 1962. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 537: Marc Chagall. <i>Illustrations for the Bible</i>. Features 28 lithograph plates. First American edition, 1956. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 252: Jack Kerouac. <i>On the Road</i>. 1957. First edition. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 143: Arthur Rimbaud. <i>A Season in Hell</i>. With photogravures by Robert Mapplethorpe. The Limited Editions Club, 1986. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 72: Group of 11 Harry Truman Signed Letters. Typed & signed by the former President. 1962-1970. $1,500 to $2,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 157: Arthur Conan Doyle. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by The Limited Editions Club. 8 vols. 1950-52. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 173: Jacob Lawrence. <i>The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis</i>. Illustrated with silkscreens by Lawrence. 1989. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 239: William Faulkner. <i>Sartoris</i>. First edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 286: Walt Whitman. New Year’s Eve Postcard Signed, “Walt Whitman,” to the poet Gabriel Sarrazin. January, 1891. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 351: Pair of European Fine Bindings. Including Gesanbuch (1831) & Naboznych Vylevov (1911). $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 423: August Luben. <i> Naturhistorischer Atlas der Saugethiere </i>. Includes complete set of 30 loose plates. Leipzig: 1858. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 386: <i>Famous Monsters of Filmland No 1</i>. Art by Will Elder, text by Forrest Ackerman. Warren’s first monster magazine. Feb, 1958. $2,000 to $3,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2013 Issue

On the Rim of a Volcano

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An increasing percentage of lots will be bought by collectors and institutions

The following is a text version of a talk I gave at the California Rare Book School and the Book Club of California on Monday 4.

 

Printing in the western world is an old thing.  It traces to Gutenberg’s development of movable type, his first examples printed around 1440 and the most famous book ever printed, the Gutenberg Bible in 1454.  It was a remarkable moment as moveable type opened a path to the printing of multiple copies.  Early printing had a strong artistic component but the potential to communicate widely soon repurposed the invention leading toward efficient communication of ideas and information.  For the next 250 years literacy rates would remain low but the utility of reading become firmly established.

 

Until the mid-18th century most people in England, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, engaged in subsistence farming.  Those said to be literate mostly met a simple standard far below what we understand literacy to be today.

 

With improving farming techniques and a correspondingly greater food supply children in the mid 18th century began to live further into adulthood, some becoming excess to the requirements of maintaining family farms and plots from one generation to the next.  Family size would fall by the late 18th century but not as quickly as farm output increased.  Inevitably some children were encouraged into other endeavors and gradually cities became the destination of many.  The times were auspicious, the increasing food supply produced by an ever smaller farm population, setting the stage for the industrial revolution. 

 

In cities idle hands, wanting for food, provided a steady supply of cheap labor. Experiments in rudimentary manufacturing led to rising production through the substitution of increasingly complex machines for repetitive mechanical processes.  These changes in turn required a better-trained work force.  Education became entwined with economic advance and over time the English working class became its middle class, emerging first as process workers and later as builders of the efficient machinery that transformed national economies around the world in the 19th century.  Less noticed in the changes sweeping the country, the emergence of libraries, book collectors and booksellers were the byproducts of increasing education and rising economic stability.  ˜It was a trend that would take hold and in time sweep the world.  Books, essential to the exchange of information, were sometimes also collectible.  Every family had them and almost every family kept them safe and valued.

 

The success of the English economy brought moderate wealth to the middle class and it was this portion of England’s population and the populations of many other advancing countries that would make book collecting a respected field dependent more on intelligence and intellectual diligence than financial capability.  Books were interesting, sometimes complex, often bibliographic jigsaw puzzles.  They were satisfying to own and widely appreciated, interesting and complex but not terribly expensive.  Great collections would be built with determination rather than money and many were. 

 

Wars would ravage periodically and economic uncertainties plague the western world.  In the pre-Keynesian world economic bubbles and collapses happened regularly and there seemed little could be done to avert them.  Keynesian thinking and the post-Keynesian world embraced compensating government action to offset periodic economic decline.

 

This change created a more stable world and one that increasingly permitted the building of great collections, most of them by stalwarts of the middle and upper-middle class, this possible because the distance between the middle class and the top of the economic pyramid, while significant was, as late as the 1960s, only about 40 times, that is the difference between the janitor and the company president 40 times.

 

In the post World-War II period a surge in higher education brought wealth to colleges and universities and an outpouring of desire among faculty and administration to have great libraries and great collections.   For the rare book business this was the beginning of an exceptional era, one of steep imbalance between supply and demand and lead, over the next 40 years, to prices achieving unimagined and ultimately unsustainable levels.  The rise would be exhilarating, the decline unnerving, today unfolding into what is turning out to be a perfect storm of rising online visibility of full texts and copies for sale, declining institutional purchases, and a lost generation of collectors for whom collecting opportunities often never sufficiently materialized between 1970 and 2000 to impassion them to fight over and for the never imagined fresh heaps of material that drift into the market every quarter now.

 

In the 1990s, for dealers in the mid-range and lower, the chickens would come home to roost. Higher prices began to bring more copies out and it became difficult for sellers to maintain the illusion of ever-higher prices in the face of declining institutional interest and weak collector demand.  Material in this sector held but volume declined until the Wall Street crisis in 2008 broke the decades-old 10-7 relationship between retail prices and auction realizations leaving us today with a 10-5 reality for solid but otherwise unremarkable copies that are common today.

 

This has left the market casting around for a direction and propelled a strong trend among dealers to refocus on unique material for which price is less defined by auction realizations.  For premium dealers the adjustment has been less.  Many, for a decade, prepared for what to them seemed obvious, that the markets for the best material would continue to prosper while the mid and lower levels fall into a buyer’s bonanza that is now daily re-defined in the auction rooms.

 

 

For less than exceptional material overall we are now in the stage where broad categories, once thought to be valuable only because no one would sell theirs’ cheaply, now find such material regularly re-priced in the auction rooms at steep discounts and attracting the serious interest for the first time in years. 

 

Lower prices are having a positive effect.  Buyers who years ago grew cautious now increasingly buy at auction.  Auction volume has surged, increasing on average around 15% a year over the past decade.  Through this period dealers have been boarding up shops while new auction houses have been opening and existing firms adding events and increasing the size of their sales.  It feels as if the shift portended for years, and only recently a trend, is becoming permanent.  Price it turns out matters.

 

The number of lots passing through the rooms seems destined to further increase and I have prepared a chart of what I think may lie ahead.  Most booksellers hope to quickly sell but are prepared to wait for the buyer willing to pay up.  But older booksellers facing the additional issue of declining time are being forced to decide now because it takes time to wrap up a rare and used book business, the probable number now north of five years.  Those that adjust pricing aggressively now stand a reasonably good chance to sell in that time.  For those who chose to hold the line time may simply run out.  This is a field that many have enjoyed but it is not the same field today it was when today’s greys and whites were in their primes.

 

History suggests that when the bookseller dies, so too often does the community comity that provided reassurance through the tough times.  His or her material too will quickly go somewhere, the most desirable easy to place, and the balance to be carted away.  Much of it was backdrop anyway.  A significant aspect of bookselling has been the dealer’s personality.  When that spark is gone there is only the scenery without Othello to command our attention for the best have been and always will be magicians who can summon, as in a time machine, the author and his circumstances as he wrote a book or penned a letter.       

 

The shifting of focus from dealers to the rooms comes at a cost.  For decades most collectors’ introduction to the field has come through the ministrations of dealers, who spotting a serious prospect, nurtured such possibilities.  Booksellers of substantial intelligence and prodigious memory have always been able to talk birds down from the trees.  In their once plentiful shops they had the opportunity to perfect salesmanship in their main street mahogany groves of rare volumes of rich bindings, wonderful illustrations and quaint and appealing histories.  Today book fairs are their pale replacements and printed catalogues their less frequent emissaries.  The rare book field struggles for better choices.

 

And the audience changes.  Buyers at auction today appear to be about 10 years younger than typical dealer clients and there are many more of them than there used to be.  Routinely hundreds of bidders sign-up and many bid at what is becoming a hundred sales a month.  Realizations are consistent, less than what dealers ask for mid-level material and comparable for the best.  These days the majority of the lots go to collectors and institutions, while the majority of the value goes to dealers who better understand the power of quality and are emerging as what the French style “les experts”.  They are

 

So to the question that has been the burning issue for more than twenty years in the trade, “where are the new collectors?”  We have the answer.  They are in the rooms in surprising numbers and buying the best material dealers offer and showing a preference for prices confirmed in the marketplace.

 

As to the future it is difficult to say with clarity.  We are at the end of the Gutenberg era and at the beginning of the Google search.  Prices became terribly inflated and are returning to earth.  We have a taste for printed works.  Our heirs too will be collecting but whether they will appreciate what we like is a question yet to be answered.

 

What we will bequest to them is a market far more efficient than any prior iterations have been.  Our contribution may ultimately be that we weathered the dealer – library bacchanalia and have emerged in tact and still in love with the material.

 

For some dealers the choices will be severe.  Many will seek to avoid markdowns, see their sales decline as customers die or are weaned away, and still hold out, maintaining their above the market prices until the bloody end.  And this is just as well because too much inventory, too soon, would weight down the market mightily.  We estimate that a continuing 15% annual increase in auction volume can be absorbed with little disruption and know this because we have seen steady increases in auction volume for years while prices have remained reasonably steady.

 

Looking ahead we are in a delicate balance with rising auction volume and an aging dealer population on the one side and an increasingly efficient market on the other, Stalwarts of the passing generation that will sell the way they always have or not at all while an increasing proportion on both sides adjust to the emerging value consensus established in the auction rooms. 

 

We have made it into the new world.  All the books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera will too, if not immediately, then in time.  Our grandchildren may look back upon our efforts and wonder what it was we liked so much.  I hope so and further hope they see it as we have, that there is wisdom and perspective in these old things.  About that there should be no debate.  That then leaves only one variable to discuss:  price.

 

And this is being established in the rooms as we speak.


Posted On: 2013-12-03 21:09
User Name: tenpound

Bruce - How well do you think the consumer is served by the greed of the auction houses, with buyers' "premium" now up to 25%?

Greg Gibson
Ten Pound Island Book Co.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 15:</b> Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 1:</b> Vintage Posters Featuring Highlights from the Gail Chisholm Collection
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 8:</b> Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 13:</b> 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 29:</b> Printed & Manuscript African Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 12:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 26:</b> Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 3:</b> Graphic Design
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 15:</b> 19th & 20th Century Literature
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 7:</b><br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 21:</b> Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III
  • <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Snowy Heron, Plate 242. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Great Blue Heron, Plate 211. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> The Clouded Leopard. Charles Robert Knight (1874-1953). Oil on canvas.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> A Bouquet of Daffodils and Other Flowers with a Butterfly on the Stem. Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). Black Chalk, Watercolor And Gum Arabic On Vellum.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> CELLARIUS, Andreas (ca 1596-1665). <i>Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et Novus</i>. Amsterdam: Pieter Schenk and Gerald Valk, 1708.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> HOMANN, Johann Baptist (1663-1724). <i>Grosser Atlas über die gantze Welt</i>. Nuremburg: J.H.G. Bieling for the heirs of Homann, 1737.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> LEVAILLANT, Francois (1753-1824). <i>Histoire naturelle des perroquets</i>. Paris: Levrault frères (later Levrault, Schoell & Co.), 1801-1805.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> FUCHS, Leonhard (1501-1566). <i>De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. adiectis earundem vivis plusquam quingentis imaginibus</i>… Basel: Michel Isingrin, 1542.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Original Manuscript Map "Plano De Una Parte De La Provincia De La Luisiana..." AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT MAP SHOWING THE ORIGINS OF THE STATE OF TEXAS AT THE TURN OF THE 19TH CENTURY.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State by Robert Creuzbaur, Houston. Hand-colored lithograph. New York: J. Atwood, 1850.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Texas. David Burr (1803-1875). Engraved Map with original hand color in full. New York: J. H. Colton & Co., 1834. Second Edition.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Map of Texas with Parts of Adjoining States Compiled by Stephen F. Austin. Engraved Map with original hand color. Philadelphia, 1830. First Edition.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> <i>Verve: Revue Artistique et Littéraire/An Artistic and Literary Quarterly,</i> nos.1-38 in 26 vol [a complete set], numerous colour lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse & others. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Wesley (John, Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism, 1703-91). Autograph Letter signed to Rev. John Bredin, 1782. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Austen (Jane). Brock (Charles Edward). A group of seventeen ink and watercolour drawings for Dent's edition of Jane Austen's <i>Sense and Sensibility,</i> 1908. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Tibullus (Albius) and Gaius Valerius Catullus. <i>Elegiae, sive Carmina,</i> Venice, Andreas de Paltasichis, 1487. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Doves Press. English Bible (The), 5 vol., one of 500 copies, signed and inscribed by Laurence Hodson, Doves Press, 1903. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Africa. Smith (Andrew). <i>Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,</i> 5 vol., first edition, original cloth, [1838-50]. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Longitude. <i>An Act for providing a Publick Reward for such Person or Persons as shall Discover the Longitude at Sea,</i> first edition of this highly important act, John Baskett, 1714. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Shirley (James). <i>Six new playes, viz. The Brothers. Sisters. Doubtfull Heir. Imposture. Cardinall. Court secret,</i> first edition, 1653. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Ugolino,</i> number 77 of 125 copies, Dublin, Dolmen Press, 1979. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Lasinio (Carlo, 1759-1838). <i>[Ritratti Originali de Pittori Esistenti Nella Reale Galleria de Firenze],</i> 99 engravings, circa 1791-96. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Japan. Kusakabe Kimbei. Photograph Album, 50 hand-coloured albumen prints, oblong folio, [c.1890-1900]. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Polar. Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, printed flyer, 1852. £1,000 to £1,500

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