• <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CURTIS, EDWARD. <i>Original glass plate photograph, Honovi – Walpi Snake Priest, prepared by Curtis for the printing of The North American Indian</i>, c.1910
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various</i>, ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Darwin Family Photograph Album</i>. Down, Kent, 1871-1879
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (SECRET SERVICE). <i>The photographic archive, papers, and relics of William Kennoch, Secret Service Agent</i>. Various places, 1870s and 1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN REVOLUTION). <i>Daguerreotype Portrait of Baltus Stone, the earliest photo of a Revolution veteran,</i> 1846
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 1:</b> Friedrich Nietzsche, <i>Also Sprach Zarathustra</i>, Leipzig, 1908. Sold for $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 1:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk</i>, Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 17:</b> Arthur Middleton, manuscript notes from Congress, Philadelphia, 1782. Sold for $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 17:</b> Joseph Smith, <i>The Book of Mormon</i>, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. Sold for $67,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 10:</b><br>L. Frank Baum, <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz</i>, first edition & issue, Chicago & New York, 1900. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 10:</b> Mark Twain, <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer</i>, first American edition, Hartford, 1876. Sold for $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b> George Washington, Partly-printed Document Signed as Commander-in-Chief, 1783. Sold for $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b> Album with more than 130 Civil War-era signatures, including 18 presidents, 1864-2010. Sold for $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks</i>, first edition & issue, London, 1704. Sold for $87,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b> Euclid, <i>Elementa geometriae</i>, first edition, Venice, 1482. Sold for $62,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>The Winters Tale</i>, first edition, London, 1623. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 25:</b> Edward Ruscha, set of 14 first editions, 1963-78. Sold for $45,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.</i> Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1916.<br>$80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in English, Signed Integrally ("Isaac Newton"). $50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</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>. London: John Murray, 1859. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.</i> London: Benjamin Motte, 1729.<br>$20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEISENBERG, WERNER. Autograph Manuscript entitled "<i>Entwicklung der Theorie der Elementarteilche,</i>” [1964].<br>$15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> BERNOULLI, DANIEL. <i>Hydrodynamica, sive De viribus et motibus fluidorum commentarii.</i> Strasbourg: Johann Heinrich Decker for Johann Reinhold Dulsecker, 1738. $5,000 – 7,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> [TARKOVSKY, ANDREI ARSENIEVICH.] STRUGATSKY, BORIS AND ARKADY. Typed Manuscript for <i>Stalker</i>, being the director's working script, 1977. $150,000 – 200,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. Typed Manuscript of "Marlin Off the Morro: A Cuban Letter," n.p., [1933]. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> SALINGER, JEROME DAVID. 4 Autograph Letters, 2 of which Signed ("Jerry") and 6 Typed Letters, 2 of which Initialed ("J"). $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> PASTERNAK, BORIS LEONIDOVICH. Typed Manuscript Carbon, "Doktor Zhivago," with some typed corrections, Moscow, 1948. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> MILNE, ALAN ALEXANDER. Autograph Manuscript Signed 3 times ("A.A. Milne"), entitled "Peace with Honour: An Enquiry into the War Convention," 1934.<br>$30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Robert Frost"), titled "Gold for Christmas," 1952. $15,000 – 20,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2015 Issue

Looking Ahead

6a086826-a853-40ec-be4f-0528f57e6050

Cartoon by Rex F. May

Paul Krugman in his book The Conscience of a Liberal, published in 2007, describes the economic history of America since the Civil War as a succession of changing perspectives on taxation. This led me to wonder if tax rates, which are unusually low today, are having an impact on book collecting and rare book valuation.

The Gilded Age that emerged in the 1870s and that lasted until the Great Depression was a time where wealth was highly concentrated, easily maintainable, and not taxed on the top 10% of taxpayers at unusually onerous rates.  During the Depression, after FDR became President, his goal became to radically shift wealth back to the masses though the gradual escalation of tax rates. This lead over the next three decades to greatly elevated tax rates on the wealthy, eventually topping out at nearly 80% around 1955. Twenty-five years later, Ronald Reagan undid this high tax paradigm, replacing it with a two-tiered approach that reduced the rates for all taxpayers but particularly reduced the rates on high incomes.  These tax cuts, now embedded in the American tax system, continue to vastly favor the wealthy.  As a result, the percentage of assets held by those with the highest income has soared while income earned by the middle class has eroded. 

In a comparison between tax rates and rare book pricing as expressed in AE’s auction outcomes over the past 150 years, it is difficult to correlate prices and tax rates in the United States in any of these periods, at least in part because other events consistently intervened; in particular, the Great Depression followed by World War Two, both extraordinary economic periods of stimulus, with the war years also a period of enforced personal saving.  Post WW2, these earnings surged into the economy providing a solid ten years of economic stimulus and creating an enormous middle class that often used the GI Bill to attend college, thus supporting and encouraging institutions to build monumental libraries with vast and important special collections that over the next fifty years would dominate rare book acquisition.

Today such broad based rare book acquisition is in decline, many institutions now maintaining but no longer aggressively building their collections. Their focus has shifted to gifts, narrowing collections and repurposing facilities. 

Since the early eighties in addition to lower tax rates we also have seen the rise of the Internet, the extraordinary connectivity tool that makes inventories and the contents of printed material accessible.  Both aspects have transformed the world of old and rare books.  Whether declining tax rates or increasing access is the most important factor is unclear.  Databases such as Abe Books now warehouse the descriptions and prices of material from all over the world – permitting in a few keystrokes the searching of more than a hundred million books that are available for purchase.  As well, Google Books and others now provide full access to the texts of out of copyright material. 

These changes have then led to a redefining of what is rare and also made it appropriate to ask librarians if their job is to provide fully searchable text or the original printed texts.  About ten years ago librarians by a margin of 70/30 said their job was to provide the searchable text.  A few years ago the numbers shifted to 85/15, and one well-placed dealer said the numbers were shifting to 90/10.  The role of rare books is changing.

The cost to maintain such collections is also rising, while the flow of visitors is declining.  The costs of rising security, preservation, and personnel are now being gauged against traffic that is falling as researchers increasingly use electronic access to full texts rather than make time consuming and sometimes expensive trips to view printed copies first hand.

This will eventually lead to the dismantling of many library collections. Not all, but many will be redistributed within the library world and/or sold to dealers or sent to auction.  The cost of maintaining such libraries is becoming too high to justify the many related and unavoidable expenses that are attendant to such collections so it seems a certainty that many will be disposed.   But the stages of acquisition, holding, refocusing, and dispersal will be measured in decades, not years.  Most of what will happen will happen well into the future, and the reasons seem less to do with economic periods than with increased information and changing technologies that recalculate the access/ownership equation and increasingly favor access over object.  This suggests a tsunami of new collectors will be needed over the next twenty years to offset library outflows, something I think is achievable because collecting possibilities have probably never been better. 

But how do we make the case to the book collectors of tomorrow once they are identified?  It will require every hand; the booksellers associations, the auctions, the listing sites, the libraries, and the rare book research sites all to play their part.  Those involved with old and rare books understand its power.  The challenge is to convey that power.  

In 2015, and in the years ahead, we need to make that case clearly and with conviction.  It will be an act of kindness to them and to ourselves.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Excessively Rare Benjamin Franklin Imprint. Estaugh (John). <i>A Call to the Unfaithful Professors of Truth</i>, Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin, 1744. €7,000 – 10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Original Signed Volume from the Dean Swift's Library. [Swift (Dr. Jonathan)] Grotius (Hugo). <i>De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres</i>, Amsterdam: (J. Blaeu) 1670. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Cresswell (Samuel Gurney). <i>A Series of Eight Sketches in Colour; together with a Coloured Map of the Route</i>, London: (Day & Son) July 25, 1854.<br>€15,000 – 20,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Of Legendary Rarity - First Printing of Shakespeare Outside England. Shakespeare (Wm.). <i>The Works of Shakespeare</i> In Eight Volumes. Dublin: 1726.<br>€7,000 – 10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Lewin (W.). <i>The Birds of Great Britain</i>, 8 vols in 4, with 335 hand-coloured plates, 1795 – 1801. €1,500 – 2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> 18th Century Manuscript Relating to Massachusetts Bay, c. 1750.<br>€350 – 500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Alexander (Wm.). <i>Picturesque Representations of The Dress and Manners of the Chinese</i>, with 50 hand-coloured plates, 1814. €600 – 800
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Manuscript Estate Atlas - Neville (Arthur Richard). <i>The Estate of Sir John Coghill Bart</i>, 1791. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Unique Collection of Ballads by Brendan Behan Behan. €3,000 – 4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Original Manuscript of Edith Somerville's Unpublished Children's Book. Somerville (Edith). <i>GROWLY-WOWLY. Or, The Story of the Three Little Pigs</i>. €3,500 – 5,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Full Set of Cuala Press Broadsides with fine hand-coloured illustrations by Jack B. Yeats, 1908 – 1915. €4,000 – 6,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Eyzinger (Michael). <i>Ad Leonis Belgici Topographicam atque Historicam Descriptionem</i>, [Cologne:] 1586. €3,000 – 4,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 202. Geronimo - Apache. £600-800
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 225.<br>A Chief of the Desert - Navaho. £1000-1500
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 267.<br>An Oasis in the Bad Lands. £600-800
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 303.<br>The Scout in Winter - Apsaroke. £800-1200
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 320.<br>Sitting Bear - Arikara. £500-700
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 475. <br>A Nakoaktok Chief's Daughter. <br>£600-800
  • <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [ARTILLERY]. KITCHEN, D.C. <i>Record of the Wyoming Artillerists.</I> Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania: Alvin Day Printer, 1874. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> UNITED STATES AND MEXICAN BOUNDARY COMMISSION. EMORY, William Hemsley. <i>Report of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Made under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior…</i><br>$3,000-6,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> RICHARDSON, William H. <i>Journal of William H. Richardson, a Private Soldier in the Campaign of New and Old Mexico…</i>. Baltimore: John H. Woods, 1848. $3,000-6,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> GARCÍA CONDE, Pedro. <i>Carta geografica general de la Republica Mexicana…</i> $30,000-60,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> EMORY, William Hemsley. <i>Map of Texas and the Countries Adjacent: Compiled in the Bureau of the Corps of Topographical Engineers; From the Best Authorities…</i> [Washington, 1844]. $7,500-15,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> THORPE, Thomas Bangs. <i>Our Army at Monterey. Being a Correct Account of the Proceedings and Events which Occurred to the “Army of Occupation”…</i> Philadelphia, 1847. $400-800
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> <i>The Rough and Ready Songster: Embellished with Twenty-Five Splendid Engravings, Illustrative of the American Victories in Mexico…</i> New York; St. Louis, Mo [ca. 1848].<br>$500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> CURRIER, Nathaniel (publisher). <i>The Brilliant Charge of Capt. May At the Battle of Resaca de la Palma (Palm Ravine) 9th of May…</i> $150-300 
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [RINGGOLD, SAMUEL]. WYNNE, James. <i>Memoir of Major Samuel Ringgold, United States Army: Read Before the Maryland Historical Society, April 1st, 1847.</i> Baltimore, 1847. $500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [TAYLOR, ZACHARY]. <i>Life of General Taylor from the Best Authorities.</i> New York: Nafis and Cornish; St. Louis, Mo.: Nafis, Cornish & Co., 1847.<br>$500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> TILDEN, Bryant Parrott, Jr. <i>Notes on the Upper Rio Grande, Explored in the Months of October and November, 1846, on Board the U.S. Steamer Major Brown…</i> Philadelphia, 1847.<br>$5,000-10,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [WORTH, WILLIAM J.]. <i>Life of General Worth; To Which is Added a Sketch of the Life of Brigadier-General Wool.</i> New York: Nafis & Cornish; St. Louis, Mo.: Nafis, Cornish & Co., 1847.<br>$200-400

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions