Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2014 Issue

Eight Days on the Road to Perfection

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A few weeks ago I flew to Boston for the three-day ABAA and one day Shadow Book Fairs and was well rewarded for they seemed the best New England fairs in quite some time.  The dealers were upbeat and the prices appealing.  ABAA fairs always feature the best material and price it liberally.  The Shadow Fair by comparison has only the 8:00 am to noon period on Saturday to get the buyer’s attention before the more powerful ABAA Fair opens for the second of its three days and draws the crowd away.  So while the ABAA feels like a courtship the Shadow Fair is more like speed dating.  I enjoy the speed dating approach and found some nice things that were immediately negotiable with buyers and sellers quickly engaging.  Neither fair, by itself, would be quite the regional draw.  Together they are close to magic.

 

Of course the ABAA shows are always more than just a selling experience.  On Saturday afternoon, in room 108 in the Prudential Center they presented an introduction to collecting that I found very useful.  For starters, there were more than fifty interested souls in the room, a wonderful turnout that strained the expectations of the folks who had put fifty seats in the room.  Book collecting is in the midst of a battle for relevance and the three speakers, Ken Gloss, Joe Phillips and Helen Kelly made a game effort to bring collecting to life for this and future generations.  The field came of age when dealers were essentially the only game in town and dealers were everywhere, so that collectors had guidance close by.  Today, most shops are shuttered and well over a hundred fifty million books [of all ages] are posted online.  Choices are everywhere and confusion rampant.  The ABAA uses such seminars at its book fairs to clarify grading, pricing and its policies and does a good job.  The activity then in room 108 was a close to best example of what a trade association can do when it accepts some of the responsibility for building a bridge to the next generation of collectors.

 

No story of the shows would be complete without my mentioning my own experience as a collector.  I buy from many dealers and saw many of them there.  My focus, the Hudson Valley in the state of New York, is not the kind of thing they bring to Boston but I did have the opportunity to reconfirm my interests.  I made purchases from two ABAA dealers and on Saturday two purchases from Shadow fair participants.

 

I’d also been in discussion for sometime with Vose Gallery [234 Beacon Street, Boston] and concluded the purchase of a lovely painting of Rondout, New York circa 1914 by Reynolds Beal.

 

A few days later I bid at Poulin Auction Company in Fairfield, Maine on a very nice copy of Sojourner Truth’s 1850 autobiography because she had strong Ulster County connections.  The estimate was $750 to $1,000.  I left a bid for $4,000 and it brought $4,000 but someone else was first to $4,000 and won the lot.  Congratulations.  It’s a nice copy.

 

The following week I was in New York and previewed sales at Doyle’s and Swann.  At Doyle the estimates were very low creating testosterone driven ideas of walking off with every lot at tiny fractions of their true value.  Unfortunately other people also had ample testosterone, and perhaps some ladies a good supply of estrogen for the sale went through the roof.  The estimate on lot 1 was $15,000 and it brought $65,000.  So much for sneaking off with the family jewels at eBay prices.  Doyle was masterful. 

 

The following day I bought four lots at Swann and came away well pleased.  In collecting you have to set limits and stick to them because some days the realized prices don’t really make sense.  At Swann they did and I spent $4,140 plus commissions.

 

In bidding at Swann’s I was represented by Bill Reese and Terry Osborne executed the bids.  I bid online at the Doyle New York sale myself and was shut out.  When in doubt:  be represented. 

 

Years ago, when first collecting I would have benefited from the ABAA’s Introduction to Collecting.  It can take years to understand what knowledgeable professionals can explain in an hour.  And even now, after more than 50 years in pursuit, it was still a worthwhile hour.

 

So it was a great show weekend with both shows reporting robust sales and a great week for me overall as I pursued material elsewhere as well.  I’m now back home and already looking forward to the New York Book Fair in April.

 

Taken together such experiences leave me mystified that book and sundries collecting could be thought endangered.  The opportunities are appealing and sometimes amazing.  Clearly the issue is we aren’t making the case effectively.  But we will.  There is a lot at stake.

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.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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