Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2015 Issue

All is well that ends well

C7d698f0-9fe3-493c-8c8f-2db86401a9ef

Two lifetimes ago Clare Van Norman’s father, Clarendon Van Norman Sr., was a serious and respected Lincoln specialist in Illinois.  His business, the Van Norman Book Company, founded in Peoria in the late 1920’s and soon after relocated to Galesburg would live on into the 1980’s.  His son Clare, as a youth, enjoyed his father’s shop spending countless hours absorbing his father’s work ethic and esthetic taste. And had he not been a musician of exceptional talent he might have entered the book trade.  But his path led to Juilliard in New York and from there to the Buffalo Symphony for two years, next joining the Metropolitan Opera and then the Chicago Symphony, each for two more years.  When he then returned to the Metropolitan he was 35 and would in time become their first principal French horn player.

 

Over the next 28 years as his career evolved he married Linda and had a child, May, who today is in the musical field herself.  In 1982 they bought a home in Sullivan County, the goals to be both near New York and live in the country.  Linda became a schoolteacher and he a New York commuter.  In many ways he had moved well beyond Galesburg and in others not.  For his love of father and appreciation for the material that so intrigued his father he decided, after his father passed away, to move the entire remaining stock from his father’s business, some 1,800 boxes, to two outbuildings nearby his home where the inventory would masquerade as a bookseller’s stock but in equal measures be an investment and homage to his father’s taste. 

 

So how would he do this?  When Clare was growing up he saw that his father kept the material he was willing to sell on the first and second stories of the shop and the best objects, be they ephemera or books on the 3rd.  The material he viewed as exceptional he sent to the 3rd floor, not to be sold but to be kept.

 

In then bringing his father’s inventory, some 30,000 books to Neversink in the early 1990s he followed his father’s thinking.  He organized himself as Wantagh Rare Book Company.  Pristine copies of somewhat common material were available, by appointment, to browse and buy.  The best material would be invisible, shelved in the back room away from dealers and other adventurers.  And in this way, for the next twenty years the Van Norman/Wantagh collection continued to increase.  Clare was issuing catalogues, collecting, and quietly consigning to some of the best auction houses in the United States.  He was dealing quietly and liked it that way.

 

With the passage of time his best opportunities to sell slipped by; increasing volume of copies on the web, the economic downturn in 2008 and age all conspiring to make sales more difficult.

 

In life there is always luck so for the better part of the past 10 years Peter Luke has been visiting Clare every month or so.  Peter is a book scout/dealer with a keen sense of what sells and what does not.  So he would trek from his home near Albany to see them and return with items to sell.  And in those years he obtained something else, the trust of the Van Normans, earned book by book, his offers fair and they comfortable with his honesty.

 

In the past year it became clear to the Van Normans that Clare now 84, should sell his stock and for this he turned to Peter who bargained to buy all but 40 cartons of what had grown to 2,500 cartons while this collector/dealer was explaining to his wife he was selling.  “Do we need to build another warehouse to house this shrinking collection?” 

 

To handle the purchase Peter partnered with Rich West of Periodyssey, himself now a respected friend of the Van Normans, and they formed a new business, Partners in Paper.  They packed cartons over the course of a month and shuttled truckloads from New York to Massachusetts.  The material is now being sorted in Periodyssey’s Easthampton, Massachusetts warehouse and divided into two categories, material to keep and material to dispose.  That which they will not keep is going to be sold over three days, April 17-19 as a Dutch auction shelf sale, that is, all material will be $25.00 each on the 17th, $15.00 each on the 18th and $5.00 each on the 19th.

 

It should be an exciting event, open to all on a first-serve basis - to collectors, librarians and dealers.  Beyond the basic stock there are also selected books and paper, separately priced, in Partners in Paper’s permanent space that the interested may ask to see.

 

Bookshops close and their managements slip away.  But booksellers are a unique and resilient breed; the instinct to acquire in their blood, their last words almost inevitably “I’ll take it.” For those who visit Partners in Paper to buy you will simply be marking yourself as members of the same clan, those who value the printed word in all its forms and can not live without more and better copies.

 

To all this then the Van Normans wish to add:  we thank Peter and Rich for acquiring the stock and working so well and diligently to make it available to others.  And they mean it.

 

In that ethereal association somewhere high up on a prominent wall there will inevitably be a plaque that remembers the father and son and the Van Norman name.  Such is the way it is.  You buy, sell and trade works on paper and occasionally as is the case here, find lasting recognition.  The name today is a noun.  In time it should become a verb, its meaning the act of steadfast devotion.

 

The opportunity to buy myriad examples with connections to the trade, to authors, important readers and collectors begins on April 17th at 9:00 am.

 

Here is a link to the Partners in Paper website and to Peter and Rich:  [PartnersinPaper]

 

Peter Luke (518) 505-0840

Oldluke50@hotmail.com

 

Rich West (413) 527-1900

rwest@periodyssey.com

 

Address:  

116 Pleasant Street

Easthampton, MA 01027

413.527.1900

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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
  • <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