• <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A patriot who fought with George Washington Superb Daguerreotype of Baltus<br>Stone at age 101 (1846).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Edward Curtis portrait of Honovi, Walpi Snake Priest "Honovi was one of the author's principal informants" (1910).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Execution of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators by Alexander Gardner (1865).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the other siblings with their father Lyman Beecher. By Mathew Brady (1850s).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> From Slaves to World-Famous Entertainers Millie-Christine, "The Two-Headed Nightingale" (c. 1868-71)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Goldfield, Nevada Photograph Collection Fabled Western Mining Boomtown (1905-1906)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Tycoon-Collector Benjamin Richardson poses with his great-grandson as appeared in parade.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Alexander Gardner portrait of Lincoln the only known copy, ex-John Hay (1863).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Magnificent Niagara Falls album with a strong provenance (1867).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Spectacular American West Album From Yosemite to Salt Lake City to San Francisco.
  • <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 14. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection... 1859.</i>. US$ 60,000-80,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. Smith, Adam. 1723-1790. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 224. CIVIL WAR. Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War [1865-1866]. US$ 120,000-180,000.
    255 — add to caption: First Edition, Subscriber’s Copy
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 270. Serra, Junipero. 1713-1774, ET AL. Pangua, Francisco. Letter in Spanish, 1775. US$ 60,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 77. Apple 1 Motherboard, with label "Apple Computer 1 / Palo Alto. Ca. Copyright 1976." US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. The 1934 Nobel Prize Medal for Physiology or Medicine. Presented to George Minot. US$ 200,000-300,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 39. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. Autograph Letter Signed ("Ch. Darwin"). US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 4. Lubieniecki, Stanislaw. 1623-1675. <i>[Theatri Cometici pars posterior] Historia Cometarum...</i> US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 3. Vera rare George III mahogany and engraved brass orrery. US$ 200,000-250,000.
  • <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 163. Stéphane Mallarmé. An autograph manuscript for <i>Un coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le Hasard</i>. [Avril Ou Début MAI 1897]. Est. 500,000-800,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 109. Manet, Edouard - Edgar Allan Poe - Stéphane Mallarmé. <i>Le Corbeau. The Raven. 1875</i>. Est 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 152. Edgar Degas. <i>Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé and Auguste Renoir</i>, [16 Décembre 1895]. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 15. Baudelaire, Charles. <i>Les Fleurs du Mal. Paris, Poulet-Malassis et De Broise, 1861.</i> <br>Est. 80,000 - 120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 137. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Vers Sur un Galet D'Honfleur. [Eté 1892 OU Été 1894.] Est. 5,000-8,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 48. Gide, André - Maurice Denis. <i>Le Voyage d'Urien. Paris, Librairie de L’Art indépendant, 1893.</i> Est. 20,000-30,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 103. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edgar Allan Poe. Manuscripts Autographs. [1870-1875 ET 1869]. Est. 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 107. [Revue - Stéphane Mallarmé] La Derniere Mode. Gazette du monde et de la famille. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 110. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edouard Manet. <i>L’après midi d'un Faune. Églogue. Paris, 1876.</i> Est. 30,000-50,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 160. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Premier état D'un Un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard. Manuscrit Autographe. [1897].<br>Est. 60,000-80,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 164. Mallarmé, Stephane. 6 jeux d’épreuves Pour un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard De l’édition définitive chez Vollard. Est. 100,000-150,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 198. [Méry Laurent] <i>Liber Amicorum De Méry Laurent</i>. 1875-Fin Des Années 1890]. Est. 50,000-80,000 EUR.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2014 Issue

Master Adam, Craftsman-Poet: If I had a hammer...


Master Adam.

If I had a hammer, or rather a brace, I would write verses to add my humble kingpin to the magnificent work of poetry—just like Master Adam Billaut did. In the 17th century, this carpenter-poet from Nevers, France, though deprived of all literary education, as Voltaire put it, turned poet in his workshop. But he was born a commoner in 1602, and was then reduced to create verses in the middle of his tools and bottles, to quote Chaudon’s Dictionary (Lyon, 1804). This situation lasted until he was 32; then he met the Abbot of Marolles who read his verses to the Duchess of Nevers, and then decided to promote them. “I was more than willing to expose his poems to the public who would undoubtedly like them as much as I did. The following year he came to Paris where he became acquainted with many people of quality,” wrote the Abbot. Mr. Adam’s life changed for the better—but during the Grand Siècle, a leopard couldn’t change its spots, or a commoner turn a respectable poet.


From Nevers to Paris


Adam Billaut came to Paris where he eventually became a relative of Saint-Amand who introduced him to several literary salons. The court soon grew infatuated with this carpenter who prided himself on writing verses. Adam got some recognition but could never rise above the rank of burlesque or Bacchic writer. As a matter of fact, noticing he had afterwards sunk into oblivion, the 1731 edition of Moreri’s Dictionary underlined: “It was quite inevitable for an author of his rank.” Adam used his social position as a selling point, entitling his first collection of poems-The Kingpins—and got trapped. But he was probably ready to endure a certain amount of mockery, or humiliation, to finally get the recognition he wished for.


In The Kingpins, he sought the Approbation of the Parnassus and published a hundred pages of dedicatory epistles from various poets.He loved praises, and begged for dedicatory verses,” read Moreri’s Dictionary. Everyone complied, and those who couldn’t write them had them written by friends.” Most of them were just basic plays on words about his ambivalent condition. Saint-Amand, his mentor, wrote he could build verses as well as furniture; Scarron said he was writing verses with a plane-pushing hand. Corneille, Benserade or Quinet were among the numerous writers who said a silly word about this silly work—Mr. Scudery even wondered whether he was a genius or a monster. The then famous painter Mr. Chauveau drew the portrait of the author that was added as a frontispiece to the first edition of The Kingpins (in-4°, chez Quinet—1644). A few months later, every one in Paris was singing along his song As soon as the light comes back to gild our hills—his most popular piece of work ever. “It is said,” continued Moreri’s Dictionary, “that he obtained a pension from Monsieur Duke of Orléans, Gaston Jean-Baptiste.” He became a curiosity at court where he was called the planing Virgil, and even ventured into politics. Indeed, in 1651, he published a Mazarinade—a text against Cardinal Mazarin—entitled Le Claquet de la Fronde, as well as an epigram on the same topic. “These pieces that brought nothing to his reputation,” underlined C. Moreau in his Bibliographie des Mazarinades (Paris, 1850), “were first re-published in the 1840 edition of his works.”




When I first came across Adam’s works, I thought it was a joke—or a literary fraud. A craftsman-poet from the 17th century who entitled his works The Kingpins or The Plane? Come on... History recalls a few working-poets, though; such as Burns, a peasant; Hans Sacks, a shoemaker; or a pastry cook from the same period, who even stated that Adam’s works made more noise, but that his own were more fiery. They were the first working-artists in a time when education was the privilege of a few, and when birth was of the utmost importance. To come from a dignified family would place you above the rest, and insure you respect and privileges. To come from the rabble, on the contrary, made a vulgar man out of you; not even good verses could save you from such damnation. No doubt these working-artists were regularly mocked and made fun at in society. Furthermore, Adam could be trivial at times. As a matter of fact, Jean Pinet, who published his complete works in 1842, cut off the incriminating passages to print them separately. Adam wrote about wine and its consequences, about farting too; some asses and whores would also pop up every now and then. Worse, some of his poems lacked polishing—or should we say planing? Ferdinand Denis, who wrote the Biographic and literary notice of the Pinet edition, blamed it on the lack of time. Several persons of quality including Richelieu and the Prince of Condé generously promised Adam a pension—but talk is cheap, and most of these pensions were never honoured. Therefore, Adam was reduced to earning a living as a carpenter.


Some of his poems also happened to be boring—mostly those never-ending flattering epistles from his second collection, The Brace. “Among a lot of dull verses, we find a few happy lines,” stated Chaudon. Moreri’s Dictionary added: “His works did good to him, but can’t make him a good poet.” In 1842, mentalities had evolved regarding working-artists, and Ferdinand Denis justified the author: “The centuries have been misled; Voltaire himself saw in Master Adam nothing but a cabaret poet (...). But we must speak up now! To say that Adam Billaut was a disheartened poet with elevated thoughts (...) who was forced to sing Bacchic songs, and to liven up some noisy orgies where, a miserable host, he excited both mockery and admiration.” But Master Adam genuinely enjoyed the cabaret, as confessed to a Lord who complained of his not attending his dinners: “In this place (...) everything pleases my belly, / Here I despise war heartily, / And the bottom of a whore / Ain’t worth a glass of liquor.” There was something melancholic about him too—probably since the death of his beloved mother. “Ever since the sad and fateful hour, / When the messenger of despair came to tell me: (...) Your mother has died from the plague, / I haven’t stopped sighing, I haven’t stopped crying.” Death is omnipresent in his poems, and he had morbid images reminiscent of the poetry of the middle age. He was far from the fashionable love epigrams of the time—he knew it, and didn’t care. Ronsard was his model, but he saw a rose withering with tenderness, if not with pleasure: “Even though you are but a withered flower, / How happy I am, proud Rose / To see these changes chasing my rivals away forever.


Adam’s favour only lasted for a time. He was in an uncomfortable position, so he walked away and came back to Nevers. As Chaudon put it: “He stuck to mediocrity to preserve his happiness.” In his dictionary, Pierre Bayle wrote he was then living in poverty, which sounds quite exaggerated as his protector, Marie de Gonzague, appointed him bailiff of the court of accounts of the Nivernais before she left for Poland. The Duke of Nevers, from his part, graciously sheltered him until his death in 1662—Mr. Adam’s house still stands today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Cowan's: American History. Timed Online Auction, Bidding Opens on October 15, 2015.
    <b>Cowan's Starts Oct 15th:</b> Abner Chapman, First Schoolteacher & Storekeeper in Union County, Ohio, Early 19th Century Store Ledger .... Est $250-$500.
    <b>Cowan's Starts Oct 15th:</b> Samuel Broadbent, Finely Hand-Painted Ivorytype of a Gentleman.<br>Est $750-$1000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to Senator John William Clark Watson, Richmond, 1865. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph poem by John Quincy Adams from an album kept by Abby Smith, w. inscription signed by her grandfather, John Adams, 1820s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Typed letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt to assemblyman Michael A. Schapp, New York, 1913. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Richard Wagner to Hofkapellmeister Max Seifriz, Zürich, 1853. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to librettist Paul Collin, 1888. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> <i>Katalog der Wiener Kunstschau</i> signed and inscribed by Egon Schiele, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Letter signed by Mohandas K. Gandhi to Dr. John Haynes Holmes, Sevagram, 1940. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to Dulce Brito, circa 1957. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Two typed letters signed by William Faulkner, Los Angeles, 1943. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 52. Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Snoopy Baseball Strip, U.S.A, 1964. Starting price $16,000.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 6.<br>Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), 'Max, Where the Wild Things Are', Pen & Ink, 2012. Starting price $1,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 13.<br>Leo Rijn after Dr. Seuss, Cowfish Maquette, U.S.A, 1998. Signed on stand. Starting price $1,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 17.<br>Dr. Seuss, Untitled, Color Pen & Ink, C. 1940. Signed ‘Dr Seuss’ lower left. Starting price $4,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 19.<br>Dr. Seuss, ‘I wonder how I offended George…’ Pen & Ink, C. 1930. Starting price $7,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 29.<br>Disney Studios, 'Queen, Snow White', Concept Sketch, U.S.A., C. 1937. Starting price $3,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 30.<br>Marc Davis, 'Sleeping Beauty in a Meadow', Production Cel, 1959. Signed. Starting price $1,200.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 50.<br>Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Daily Strip, USA, 1966. Signed 'Schulz'. Starting price $10,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 58.<br>Chuck Jones, Signed, hand-painted Production Cels from Duck Dodgers, 1952. Starting price $4,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 77.<br>Stan Lee, Marvel Studios, Bishop,<br>X-Men, Production Cel, C.1995. <br>Starting price $240.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 79.<br>Warner Bros, 'New Adventures of Superman', C. 2000. Production Cel. Starting price $300.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 84.<br>Tim Burton, Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas, C. 1993. Starting price $1,500.00.

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