Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2014 Issue

At Swann: Important and Eclectic Americana on the 8th

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As has become usual, spring is a great time for buying rare books and printed material at auction. If you’re a collector of Americana, look no further than April 8th at Swann Auction Galleries. Their sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana contains 321 lots covering a wide range of subjects: the American Revolution, Native Americans, the Civil War, and railroads are well-represented in the Americana portion (lots 1-285), and the sale concludes with 36 lots of Latin Americana and material from the Caribbean. Swann reserve prices have been historically modest to encourage bidding and the consistent outcome has been a 90% sell through rate—right near the top among all auction houses worldwide.  

Let’s take a look at some of the highlight items.

Lot 2 requires a particular niche collecting theme, but might appeal to more and more people going forward as drug and alcohol addiction become more and more mainstream thanks to headlines featuring recent victims Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger and others. The item in question is a pamphlet entitled “A.A.” and is the first pamphlet issued by the organization after it published its main volume the “Big Book.” The item is estimated at $400 – 600.

Native Americans are a popular subject of collecting, and lots 3 through 18 are a series of books, pamphlets and photographs dating from 1727 to 1934. Experience Mayhew’s Indian Converts: or, Some Account of the Lives and Dying Speeches of a Considerable Number of the Christianized Indians of Martha’s Vineyar [lot 8, $2,500 – 3,500], published in London, 1727, is “unprecedented in scope and content… the most extensive information we have about any Algonquian community during the early English colonial period,” according to Laura Leibman in her introduction to the 2008 edition. Of the photographs for sale, Herman Heyn’s Kills on Horseback, Ogallala Sioux [lot 17, $800 – 1,200], a hand-colored platinum print jumps off the page in contrast to the traditional black and white photography. The Sioux in question, Kills on Horseback, was brother-in-law to the well-known chief Spotted Tail and his image is magnificent.

For collectors of New York ephemera a particular pair of photographs [lot 34, $1,000 – 1,500] might pique interest. The subject in question is an early test flight of Glenn H. Curtiss’ Flying Boat. Curtiss was an aviation pioneer, and the model shown would become the first hydroplane in wide production. The images depict the plane just before flight and just after rising from the water.  An Atlas of the State of New York [lot 194, $3,000 – 4,000], printed in New York in 1829, is also for sale and features engraved hand-colored engraved maps. It is the second engraved atlas of a single state, printed four-years after Robert Mills’ South Carolina atlas.

Lots 48 through 54 are each an individual lithographer letter sheet, printed in San Francisco in 1851 and 1852, and depict life during the California Gold Rush. While they would probably fit best when kept together, the seven lots are each for sale with variable estimates ranging from $800 – 1,200 to $1,200 – 1,800.   These letter-sheets are highly desirable.

Among the most important items for sale is a particular signed document. An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States [lot 144, $50,000 – 75,000] is signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State in 1792. This is the first printing of the Coinage Act, which defined the American currency system and established the dollar as legal tender. Only two copies are known at institutions in ESTC and OCLC, neither of which is signed.  According to Swann “No complete signed copy has been seen at auction since 1917, and this copy may be the only complete signed copy in existence.” 

The subjects and authors of the auction’s lots are presented alphabetically, and with such a wide-range of Americana, collectors will not be disappointed by what they find nor will they lament the estimates.  But be prepared to bid higher.  This is why these sales almost always sell a high percentage of their lots.   The estimates are low.

For bidders whose interests lean more toward Astronomy and Science there is a Swann sale on the 3rdAstronomy & Science Books from the Library of Martin C. Gutzwille.  For collectors of photography there is a sale on the 17th:  The Vernacular Eye: Photographic Albums, Snapshots & Objects will be of interest.

 

For the Americana sale on the 8th here is the link.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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