Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2014 Issue

Books In The News

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Bob Dylan's manuscript of Like A Rolling Stone (courtesy of Sotheby's).

Old books regularly show up in the news. Something old, something new. A few such stories caught my eye this past month.

 

The first story involves the all too common subject of book theft. Usually, these cases involve a “customer” at a bookstore, or a “researcher” in a library. This one is a different level of violation of trust. It came from a friend.

 

The alleged thief is a next door neighbor of Bethesda, Maryland, bookseller Julia Jordan. The bookseller kept some valuable books in her home. She and Christina Wimmel, the alleged thief, became friendly. The latter would visit her home, and the trust was evidently sufficient for Ms. Wimmel to be able to move about the house without being watched.

 

Ms. Jordan was not aware that some of her books were missing until she heard from a fellow bookseller who had purchased two titles on eBay. The books seemed very similar to two he knew Ms. Jordan owned. That was when she realized her books were missing. That led to a check of eBay records related to the seller, which in turn showed that she had sold several more books that belonged to Ms. Jordan. The next step was a search warrant for Wimmel's home, which revealed another Jordan book in a closet, and shipping receipts for others. Finally, the trail led to another bookseller who had purchased some books from Ms. Wimmel. According to the website of television station WJLA, the dealer purchased 7 books “worth an estimated $4,275” for $300. Apparently, items were sold on eBay for a similar ten cents on the dollar. Some have been recovered, but it appears that many may not be.

 

Next up we have a new book about some old books, or old maps to be more precise. This too involves theft, but on a much grander scale. The book is The Map Thief, by Michael Blanding. It is the story of E. Forbes Smiley III, the map dealer who undoubtedly wishes people would just forget about him. Smiley was a Cape Cod map seller whose expenses outpaced his income, and turned to the worst way of reducing his merchandise cost. He visited various important libraries, X-acto knife neatly tucked away, and excised many extremely valuable maps from their books. One day while “visiting” Yale University's Beinecke Library, he dropped one of the blades by his feet. There were already some concerns about his behavior. Smiley was later followed out the door, his belongings searched, and his life of crime was over. During that career, he had stolen some $3 million worth of maps, maybe more. He was later convicted and sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison (he has since been released).

 

Nothing defined a generation more than rock and roll. The music was the subject of a recent auction at Sotheby's that took in over $4 million. The top price, over half of the total proceeds, was bid for the autograph manuscript of Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. Not all consider it his best song. Runner up in this auction was the manuscript for A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, which will have its share of takers as a favorite, but it only brought a quarter of the price. Rolling Stone was Dylan's first and biggest pop hit, and the one that turned him from a niche folk musician to a rock superstar. Rolling Stone took in $2,045,000, Hard Rain $485,000. This one has nothing to do with books and paper, but out of curiosity, Elvis' peacock jumpsuit took in a cool $245,000.

 

This final story comes from Vietnam, a land whose name can bring back all sorts of dark memories to Americans and French. This time roles have been reversed. Vietnamese researcher Ho Tan Phan is selling two books written by journalist Bernard B. Fall in the 1960's, Street Without Joy, and its French edition, La Rue Sans Joie. The English edition has been inscribed by Fall to a Major Gillig. The book concerns the First Indo-Chinese War, when the French unsuccessfully attempted to quell the rebellion in their Vietnamese colony. A decade later, it would be the Americans who made the mistake of becoming bogged down, finally achieving the same result as the French so many years and lives later. Fall recognized the mistakes of the French, and though being supportive of the American mission early on, quickly realized they did not understand the land and its people either and the outcome would end the same. Fall died in Vietnam in 1967 when the Jeep in which he was riding struck a mine.

 

Phan is auctioning his two books and has set a starting price of $380 for the English edition, $230 for the French one. Interestingly, he plans to use the proceeds to support Vietnamese fishermen exercising their claimed rights to the Paracel Islands and surrounding seas. The enemy this time is not the French or the Americans, but Vietnam's ally in those earlier wars – China. What comes around goes around.


Posted On: 2014-07-04 17:56
User Name: MiRIAMGREEN

The part played in this by Second Story Books, who should have known better, is mentioned in one sentence. Who are we trying to protect? His involvement should be somewhat more noteworthy than a single sentence. I want to know what 8 books he paid $300 for--this should give all dealers pause, and a bit more explanation from Second Story. Not the first time.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cartwright (George). <i>A Journal of Transactions and Events, during a Residence of nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador...,</i> first edition, with A.L.s. from the author, 1792. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World,</i> 2 vol., first edition, Teerink's "A" edition, Printed for Benj. Motte, 1726. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Fourier (Jean Baptiste Joseph). <i>Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur,</i> first edition, Paris, chez Firmin Didot, 1822. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Boccaccio (Giovanni). <i>Genealogiae Deorum,</i> additions by Dominicus Silvester and Raphael Zovenzonius, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1472. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mary I. Letter signed at the head "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, 1 page, 7th June 1556. The recall from exile of nine persons opposed to the Marian regime. £10,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Nelson (Horatio). Autograph Letter signed "Horatio Nelson" and written to Francis Drake, British Minister at Genoa, discussing the disposition of his "Cruizers" near Genoa. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Darwin (Charles). Unpublished Autograph Letter signed to Walter Raleigh Browne, playing down his scientific knowledge of comparative anatomy, 1881. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Murphew (J.). <i>The fair in an uproar, or, the dancing-doggs.</i> As they perform in Mr. Pinkeman's New Opera in Bartholomew Fair, 1707. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Chaucer (Geoffrey). <i>The Workes,</i> by [Nicholas Hill for] Thomas Petit, dwellyng in Paules churche yarde at the sygne of the Maydens heed, 1550. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Austen (Jane). <i>Emma: A Novel,</i> 3 vol., first edition, 1816. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>Stamboul Train,</i> first edition, first issue, 1932. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Churchill.- Fearon (Percy Hutton) "Poy". “Eat More Beef,” pen and ink cartoon with shading in blue pencil, [July 1928]. £400 to £600
  • <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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