Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2014 Issue

A Diamond in the Coal Mine


Recently, on eBay an item was offered that looked interesting.  The title, Guide Book to Lake Mohonk – New Paltz, Ulster Co., N. Y., and the date, 1875, marked it as very early in the history of the Smiley family’s development of the Lake Mohonk resort that would become over the next four decades the majestic attraction it remains today.


The 7-day listing was spare:



Guide book to Lake Mohonk New Paltz Ulster County New York State

Many photographs throughout the book

Book shows wear from age and use.  Marks on covers, foxing on pages, wear on edges.

See pictures for details.

The starting price was $14.95.


A look in the AED showed a series of records of this book, all from Goodspeed’s, in 1933 and 1935 for sixty-five cents and in 1968 for $10.00.  The two listings in the 1930’s were identical and the 1968 elaborated the listing but was hardly substantial.  It read:


[New York]

Guide Book to Lake Mohonk, New Paltz, Ulster Co., N.Y.

Illus.  [mounted photographs]




Providence [R.I.]


I didn’t initially realize that the “many photographs throughout” referred to images pasted on the pages.  Early, for Ulster County, photography usually merits some touting but the subdued description didn’t leave me expecting anything but printed images that would still be quite interesting.

A look in the OCLC identifieded 16 copies in the system.  That’s a small number but hardly excessively rare.  Here’s the list:

Yale University

American Antiquarian Society

Univ. of Michigan, William Clemens Library

University of New Mexico

Columbia University

Cornell University

George Eastman House

New York Historical Society Library

New York Public Library

New York State History Association

New York State Library

SUNY College at Plattsburgh

University of Rochester

Haverford College

University of Texas, Austin, Harry Ransom Library


These libraries are almost all in the first tier of historical printed collections, suggesting experienced professionals have thought the book important.


But here is the thing.  At the same time this book was published stereoscopic cards were becoming the next new thing and the images, 30 single images, in the Guide Book, match the double images [and descriptions] of the “first series” of stereoscopic images of Lake Mohonk issued by J. Loeffler, Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N. Y. that, though not dated, appear to be contemporary and identical. 


This suggests that although the book is undeniably rare the images, that make the book distinctive, are less so as evidenced by the fact they come up on eBay several times a year and sell for modest prices.  Granted, many of these Mohonk images appearing on eBay are later variations but some identical images also come up as some did recently and sold for about $10 an image in the stereopticon form.  To a collector this all may not matter much but for valuation purposes it certainly diminishes the book’s value.


But all is not lost.  In the Thompkins series that matches the Mohonk images, “Scenery of Lake Mohonk and Vicinity” first and second series, there are 62 images divided into two groups 1-31 and 32-62, each set briefly described on the back of the 62 double image cards.  The book, by comparison, contains 30 of these images and most are in near to stellar condition because they have not been much exposed to light.  The stereopticon images by comparison are badly faded, in some cases faintly visible.   


As well I have never seen complete sets of these images.  In most cases it’s just a few of them that come up for sale and they tend to be the same images.


So the pristine condition of the images pasted into the book and the fact that there are 30 of them restores some of the book’s luster.


Finally, there is some light water damage to a few pages and the back cover that does not affect any of the images but that, for some purists, will rule this book out.  For myself, it’s a gem anyway, valuable to me, but not necessarily valuable to others.


As to the text in the book it describes the hikes and routes through the Mohonk and Minnewaska holdings.  The descriptions, fresh then, remain durable today because these properties have been maintained in their original state, the roads then built for horses, today still are only horse and hiking paths.


For those who know Mohonk the scenery would be recognizable.  The structures have been rebuilt, the hotel is visually transformed and the Skytop Tower replaced, for it was wood in 1875 and in 1911 was rebuilt as a limestone monument to Albert K. Smiley who saw magic in the Shawangunk Mountain setting and brought it to life.


So what is its value?  In my view $1,500, a nice markup on the $37.00 I paid on eBay.  And more than that, to an Ulster County collector, it’s simply irreplaceable, even precious.


Here is a link to Lake Mohonk today.  It is a world class resort with a stong commitment to its history.

Posted On: 2014-08-01 16:50
User Name: ChristiesNew10

Here's a nice note, Bruce: I looked up an appraisal I did for Mohonk, six or so years ago, and included was an 1875 edition of the guidebook which I appraised for: $1,500. Proving once again, what they say about great minds!

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions