• <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 30:</b> Carte-de-visite album featuring a previously unrecorded image of Harriet Tubman, 1860s. Sold for $161,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Hovhannes Amira Dadian, first world atlas in Armenian, Venice, 1849. Sold for $37,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 16:</b> T.E. Lawrence, <i>Seven Pillars of Wisdom</i>, privately printed edition, inscribed, London, 1926. Sold for $62,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 14:</b> 22 large-format photographs from NASA missions, 1965-84. Sold for $43,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21: </b> Charles M. Schulz, <i>Here Comes the Big Polar Bear</i>, pen & ink, 4-panel Peanuts comic strip, 1957. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliott Erwitt, photograph of JFK & Eisenhower, signed by both, 1960. Sold for $32,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, first edition, London, 1668. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 30:</b> Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, Washington, 1880. Sold for $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> <i>Les Maîtres de l'Affiche</i>, 5 volumes, Paris, 1896-1900. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 16:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses</i>, first edition, number 724 on handmade paper, Paris, 1922. Sold for $33,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Single leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, Mainz, 1455, in a copy of Newton's <i>A Noble Fragment</i>. Sold for $52,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 27:</b> The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold for $52,500.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Online Sale of Cricket Books and Works on Paper. Now through July 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>Cricketers' Almanack for 1896</i>, original cloth, 1896. £15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>The Cricketers' Almanack for the year 1869</i>, excellent copy of the scarce sixth edition, 1869. £10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>Cricketers' Almanack for 1916</i>, with tribute to W.G. Grace by Lord Harris, original cloth, 1916. £5,000 to 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Online Sale of Cricket Books and Works on Paper. Now through July 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Lillywhite (Frederick) and Arthur Haygarth. <i>Cricket Scores and Biographies of Celebrated Cricketers</i>, vol. 1 - 16 [a complete run], 1862-2003. £750 to 1,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Trumper (Victor). Postcard of Victor Trumper, signed by Trumper on image, 1905. £300 to 400
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Crombie (Charles). <i>Laws of Cricket</i>, 1907; and 29 others. £150 to 200

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2014 Issue

Wessel & Lieberman Closing Forever

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The old book business is not the old book business.  Opportunities are opportunities because the underlying situation is fundamentally improving or because no predatory alternatives are undermining the current opportunity.  In 1991, when Marc Wessel and Michael Lieberman set up shop as used book sellers you could still make the case that the future of the traditional rare book shop was hopeful if not robust.  But the 1990’s would prove to be the seminal decade for change in a field that had, for the previous 200 years, measured change in very small increments.  The world was changing a bit more rapidly and there was everywhere heightened uncertainty but opening a rare bookshop in Seattle still seemed a safe and settled idea.

 

True, Seattle neighbor Microsoft was transforming itself into one of the most valuable companies on the planet by moving the world from paper to bits but the Internet, as a used and rare book sales tool was still a few years from launch while the electronic possibilities, still confined to computers connected together looked benign and interesting.  Seattle would be at or near ground zero in the breathtaking changes that would restructure bookselling over the next decade but in the early 1990’s, it wouldn’t be immediately apparent that new selling methods would eventually overwhelm almost all American bookshops.

 

So, starting a bookshop simply seemed the natural affirmation of a couple of fellows who had come of age in what we now know were the final moments of traditional bookselling and thinking the future was bright.  For the book business in fact it was Krakatoa on the 25th of August 1883.  The damage to those shops has since been incremental and ruthless but only slowly so.  A bad year could be followed by a good year but the good years would not recast the continuing cadence of decline.  The world would turn away from bookshops but Mark Wessel says and AE data supports him, the world has not turned its back on collectible books.  Huge and highly visible online inventories have simply provided more efficient collecting and purchasing as buyers have learned to prefer computer searches of inventories of millions of books to personal visits to see 10,000 or 20,000 examples.

 

For a time the romance and tactile experience of visiting bookshops seemed to give booksellers some immunity but it would turn out that the two principal communities of buyers would respond very differently to the changes in their retail options.

 

Experienced book buyers, long used to the ambiance and camaraderie of bookshops grew up with the personal experience they have long provided, sometimes appreciating the experience as much as the books themselves.  But more recent generations did not acquire the bookshop experience in such a personal way and increasingly they have opted to buy what they wanted online, often on the basis of price.  For the bookshop this has meant a slow decline and an aging and smaller clientele as younger prospects drifted away.  For Wessel and Lieberman it turned out that the rare book business, like so much in life, is about timing.

For Mark, now the single principal in the company, the prospect of personal freedom now trumps the continuing contretemps of maintaining the business.

He has been busy but recently answered some questions I emailed him.  Here are my questions and his replies.

 

 

What prompts the closing?  Is it a decline in the efficiency of open retail?  Are there other factors?

The predominant reason for closing is that, selfishly, my time is over. I honestly believe that bookstores still can, and in fact do thrive - especially those able to offer non-new books in an interesting environment. However a bookstore - like any small business -- requires the right combination of will, vision and luck/ good fortune. We've been granted more than our share of the third; I still have a bit of the second, I think- but not nearly enough of the first to see it through.

 

Do you own the property and if so, do you plan to sell or lease it or use it for another purpose?

We do not own our space; unfortunately never have been in that position. We have a tentative agreement to sublease and then turn over our lease to a tenant in the "front half" of the footprint that our space occupies - and they will 'expand' and take over our space - much as we did in 2006 w/ a previous tenant

 

You are relatively young to be cashing out.  Is there another career ahead or simply a recasting of your career as a bookseller?

 

I appreciate both of those thoughts "young" (if relative) & "cashing out" (if only...).  Seriously though, I honestly have no idea what lies ahead. Even after the doors close to the public for good (Sept 6) there will be a couple of month’s worth of tying up a variety of loose ends. As for bookselling, I think my bookselling days will be put behind me; but I would not rule out a future involvement with books (in different environment.)

 

There are two names in the company name.  Are you currently working together?  Please remind me of the history of the partnership.

 

The bookshop was faced with an expiring lease in our current location ~ 2 years ago. . At that time Michael Lieberman & I explored a number of options for moving forward.  What we eventually settled on was my assuming sole ownership of the business over time while he pursued his work with the blog he successful runs (bookpatrol.net) along with some other consulting in the book business. We started the business together almost 23 years ago and I've never had the desire to change the name, regardless of the ownership situation. We remain good friends.

 

If doing it over again [opening the shop] what would you do differently and what would you double down on?

 

That's a difficult question because I rarely (if ever) think in those terms or entertain those scenarios (for better & worse). What I have often said to people is that we were fortunate to begin in the book business when we did (the store opened in 1992) because I would never have tried if it were later. I had worked in books since 1989 - before the Internet was even remotely thought of or apprehended as a potential reality (much less its applications). I don't know if I would have started a bookshop had our timing been different, say even 5 years later (late 1990s). Interestingly (perhaps) it is only just recently that I've thought the idea of having a bookshop might again have legs.  But that brings us back to the will + vision + luck equation.... And essentially it’s a non-starter at this point, for me. 

 

6.  You are selling the entire inventory?  How have you been doing it?

 

Yes, we are selling it all (including reference books) - or, at least, attempting to - and have only been doing so at discounted prices for the last month+. The final part of our sale begins Saturday Aug 23 and will continue until Sept 6; everything in the shop & online will be 70% off.  After the doors close there will still be work to do (and some books to dispose of) but I will cross that bridge next month.

 

So the bookshop will close and the final day is September 6th.  Old friends and customers will want to stop by.  New customers are of course just as welcome but the experience will be brief.  To quote Groucho Marks “hello I must be going.”  Bookshops have always been the temples where the gospels of literacy, curiosity and interpretation have been taught.  To lose even one is a profound loss but it has been a game fight.

 

Store location and hours

 

Wessel and Lieberman Booksellers

209 Occidental Avenue South

Seattle, Washington 98104

 

Everyday through the 6th:

11:00 am to 5:00 pm

 

Their website:  www.wlbooks.com

 

Telephone Number:

206 682-3545

 

Email address

read@wlbooks.com

 


Posted On: 2014-09-29 21:47
User Name: laurelle

A very interesting article and and insightful interview. May I suggest a future article for AE on the frauds and misrepresentations of the auction houses, past and present.

Jeff Elfont
Swan's Fine Books


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Roland de Lassus. [Songs and madrigals]. Album gathering three collections of secular music for tenor. 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Richard Wagner. <i>Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.</i> Original edition corrected and annotated by Wagner. 60.000-80.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Claude Debussy. <i>La Damoiselle élue</i>. Lyrical poem, after D.-G. Rossetti. Limited edition of 160 copies. 6.000-8.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Stéphane Mallarmé. Handwritten notebook made by Geneviève Mallarmé. No place or date [circa 1910]. 10.000-15.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Henri Sauguet. <i>Les Forains</i>. Ballet. Reduction for piano. Original edition. 20.000-30.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Athanasius Kircher. <i>Musurgia Universalis sive Ars Magna Consoni et Dissoni in X. Libros digesta.</i> 1650. 30.000-40.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> François Villon, & Clément Marot. <i>Les Œuvres de François Villon de Paris, Reviewed and gathered by Clement Marot.</i> 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Rainer Maria Rilke. <i>Larenopfer</i> (Offrande aux dieux Lares). The second collection of Rainer Maria Rilke, containing ninety poems. 6.000-8.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Paul Éluard. <i>Capitale de la douleur.</i> One of the most beautiful poetic collections from the first surrealist wave. 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Pierre de Ronsard. <i>Les Amours</i> ... newly augmented by him, and commented by Marc Antoine de Muret. 40.000-60.000 €
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin. July 11, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Austen, Jane. Autograph letter, written in the third person, to her niece Anna Austen (later Lefroy), 1812. £80,000 to 100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Smith, Adam. <i>An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations</i>. London: Printed for W. Strahan; And T. Cadell, 1776. £50,000 to 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. John Murray, 1859. £50,000 to 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin. July 11, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Dickens, Charles. Autograph draft manuscript of "Mrs Gamp with the Strolling Players,” 1847. £40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Shepard, E.H. Two drawings from <i>Winnie-The-Pooh</i> comprising “Why, what’s the matter?” and “He was taking the balloon out…” £40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Blake, William. <i>Illustrations of the Book of Job. Invented and Engraved by William Blake. Published as the Act Directs...By William Blake, 8 March 1825</i> [1826]. £20,000 to 30,000
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Walter Gibson's Complete Run of The Shadow. 48 bound volumes, 1931-44. $8,000-12,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Frederic Shoberl, The World in Miniature: Hindoostan. 6 volumes. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> A Rare Copy of the Earliest Chicago Newspaper to Report on the Great Fire of 1871. $6,000-8,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Broadside Proclamation by Mayor Roswell B. Mason for the Preservation of Good Order Following the Great Fire of 1871. Chicago. $4,000-6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page. Scarce and highly collectable. $15,000-20,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> John Quincy Adams. The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse. First edition. Inscribed. 1839. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Cuban Revolution: Expedicion y Desembarco del “Granma.” Havana, ca. 1959. With portraits of the Castro brothers & Che Guevara. $150-250
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Osuna Ramos. A group of 28 photographs of the Mexican Revolution & aftermath in Mexico City, 1910-1920. 4½ x 6”. $400-600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Charles Bukowski. Hot Water Music. First edition with original signed painting. 1983. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Alan Ginsberg. Five Page Autographed Letter. Signed. February 10, 1971. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Andy Warhol’s Children’s Book. Featuring 12 color illustrations. Signed 5 times. 1983. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Albrecht Durer. The Martyrdom Saint John the Evangelist. Woodcut, 1511 edition. $1,000-2,000

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