Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2015 Issue

In New York: A Rare Book Week

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For those lucky enough to visit New York City during rare book fair week the city was transformed [in a small but very good way] into the center of book collecting in the western hemisphere for seven straight days.  I was there and it was a terrific experience.

There were three fairs, the largest the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, the American Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s event that invites their counterpart ILAB, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers members to participate.  One of the other events was actually two, the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair and the Fine Press Book Fair, sharing space at the Church of St. Ferrer on Lexington at 66th a short walk from the main fair on Park at 67th.  The other event, by the organizer of the Boston Shadow fair, is the Uptown Book Fair, a 5-minute cab or brisk 15-minute walk straight up Park at 83rd.  The NYABF is a four-day affair beginning on Thursday the 9th at 5:00 pm and continuing, with changing hours each day, through to Sunday at 5:00 pm.  The auxiliary fairs are one-day Saturday events.  In their nine hours they will try to do for a few hours what the main fair does for four days.

The main fair always attracts thousands of visitors.  It’s the most important antiquarian book fair in the world and widely acknowledged as best in class.  ILAB is a international umbrella organization consisting of the national rare book seller associations of all countries including the United States.  Every year they provide a strong minority of the show’s 200+ exhibitors.

Opening night, Thursday the 9th at 5:00 pm, it’s show time.  It has been bigger in the past but it is still very big.  The tension is palpable because a lot is at stake.  Dealers have spent roughly $5,000 for their 8’ x 10’ [and more than $12,000 if they have invested for the largest, better positioned] temporary real estate in the old but still elegant Armory that dates to the American Civil War.  The show is important.  Shops have been closing at the speed of light and this fair is now one of the few bright spots in rare book retailing.

Today there will be three whales in the room.  These are the big buyers who, for some, are the make or break guys.  One whale a few years ago is said to have bought from more than forty dealers.  That’s buying at the pace of “I’ll take this” and “I’ll take that” while walking by.  People in the throes of bibliomania [and I am one] applaud such passion, our wives meantime suggest we seek help.  And we agree.  We’ll need help to carry everything out.

I do find two interesting items at Boston Rare Maps.  Michael Buehler [and a partner] have a pair of 18th century manuscript maps of Albany and nearby places.  The larger of the two is very large but unsigned, the smaller map, apparently in the same hand, is signed.  I revisit several times and have three others casually view the material.  They are asking $85,000.  These maps are very appealing.

Friday is an up and down day and some dealers begin to get antsy.  Their booth rent is about $200 an hour and a few are running the numbers and asking themselves the world’s second oldest question:  why am I here?  For dealers signing up for such shows, it’s like jumping out of a plane.  It’s a short trip, the landing softened only by sales, and it takes about $25,000 in receipts for American and Canadian dealers to land without a bruise.  For European, South American and Australian dealers the breakeven is a bit higher.  A few invariably make no sales.

But dealers also measure success in other ways.  The opportunity to buy from other dealers before the doors open is often successful and meeting potential clients once the show opens also precious.  So looking at shows exclusively on the basis of immediate sales is often misleading.  Dealers year after year sign up for these shows because they are very successful.

On Saturday morning all eyes turn to the shadow fairs.  At the big fair there are over two hundred exhibitors, at the shadow fairs between them, another hundred.  These smaller fairs are quick.  The main fair will open on Saturday at noon and quickly draw many of the interested away so discounts are immediate and deep.  The steady cadence of “I’ll give you” and “would you consider?” is encouraging.  These booths cost about $1,000 for the 9-hour day.  That’s $111 an hour for the entire day, double that for the busy morning when most sales are completed.  For many exhibitors, including some ABAA members who exhibit at both the main fair and one of the shadow fairs, these fairs work out.  This said, the Manhattan Vintage Book Fair is not exclusively a book event.   There used, rare book and ephemera dealers are on one side, modern [as in new] material dealers on the other.  Like oil and water the grey haired folks are on the old book side, the slimmer, younger folks both buying and selling on the other.  I would love to see the DNA of these two groups.  They are different species.

The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair on 83rd is in its first year.  Organized by Marvin Getman he has brought a group of New England dealers that exhibit with him in Boston in November.  But neither he nor his dealers, although new to New York, are turnips fresh fallen off a truck.  The line outside for the 8:00 am opening is long, those about to enter expectant.  Within an hour or so many are smiling and hailing cabs for the other shadow fair.

By Sunday morning the shadow fairs are history, the unsold material back in boxes and on the road home.  I’m up early because there is an interesting auction in Freehold, New York at Carlsen Galleries.  That’s a place near to the Catskill Mountains and they are selling 48 lots of mostly Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain Currier & Ives prints.  I’m interested and registered to bid by 9:30 am.  A few minutes before 10:00 the phone rings and I’ll bid by phone on about half.  Forty-five minutes later I have bought 13 lots for $10,045.25 [all in].  For a collector of Hudson Valley material this is a nice buy.

An hour later the New York Antiquarian Book Fair begins its final day.  In deference to religions and hangovers the show doesn’t open until noon.  We are now approaching the finish line; the well heeled are already out in the Hamptons, the stalwarts on both sides of the counters, the gatekeepers and the emotionally ensnared expressing in their body language desire or contempt.  Sunday is liar’s poker played under an expiring clock.

By the end of the day the votes and totals are in.  In Europe they disclose such numbers.  In America they extrapolate, extend, divide and multiply according to whether they are buying or selling.  Everyone claims to win and I hope it is so.

On Monday Bonhams, a few blocks away, will sell some interesting material.  An Alan Turing notebook of computations he developed to solve the enigma code [as seen and explained recently in The Imitation Game], brings a million big ones and the sale overall $2.6 million.  In the afternoon I go downtown to Swann’s at 104 E. 25th Street.  They have an early Fishkill [New York] imprint of the first printing of the New York State constitution.  The copy looks like Mohammed Ali had it in his back pocket when he fought Joe Frazier in Manila.  Nevertheless I will try.  I give my bid to Bill Reese whose RHM will execute the bid the next day.

Twenty-four hours later I tie for first but get there second.  My max bid is $2,200.  Someone else takes it home.

In the afternoon I go up to 87th Street to view the Doyle New York sale of a portion of the library of the New York Bar Association.  There are two lots, 20 and 31, that include material relating to Poughkeepsie and Fishkill.  They are very old, complex and to some extent infirm.  I tell Bill to go as far as he feels appropriate.  On Wednesday I buy them for $5,750 plus the house commission.  These are nice buys.  I’m in the auction room observing and the chemistry between bidders is complex.

On Friday I’m back home in San Francisco and speaking to Rick Stattler at Swann’s about their Tuesday sale.  He mentions that an 1807 bound volume of the Hudson, New York magazine, the Balance and Repository failed to sell.  He offers it to me at the start price, $200, and I take it.

Two days later I bid on lot 134 at the Arader Galleries Sale on Live Auctioneers, The Age of European & American Exploration.  The lot is two small Hudson River watercolors.  I bid to $900, they sell for $1,500.  Graham Arader is one of the few American dealers determined to establish his own auction house.  He will succeed but it takes more than ambition and material.  It takes time.

The only possibility still open is the two manuscript maps of Albany and the surrounding area that I saw in the Boston Rare Maps booth.  The larger map is very detailed but unsigned, the smaller map signed and seemingly in the same hand and dated.  Price is the issue and I can’t quite make it work.  Someone else will though.  They are very nice.

So that’s it.  Three book fairs and a handful of auctions, all compelling.  If you were there I hope you found what you came for.  If not, there is always next year.  It’s very worthwhile.

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
  • <center><b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII :<br>XIXe siècle (1840–1898)<br>First editions – Reviews – Autograph letters and manuscripts<br>Auction in association with Binoche & Giquello on October 9th.</b></center>
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> LAUTRÉAMONT. <i>Les Chants de Maldoror.</i> 1869. First edition, unbound, one of the rare copies dated 1869. €100 000 to €150 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> PAUL VERLAINE. Poème saturnien. March 31st -June 1st, 1885. Autograph poem signed and illustrated. €12 000 to €15 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ. <i>L’Après-midi d’un faune.</i> 1876. Inscribed to Paul Gauguin. €30 000 to €40 000
    <center><b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII :<br>XIXe siècle (1840–1898)<br>First editions – Reviews – Autograph letters and manuscripts<br>Auction in association with Binoche & Giquello on October 9th.</b></center>
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. <i>[La Cloche fêlée,</i> 1851–1855.] Signed autograph manuscript of one of the poems of Les Fleurs du mal. €25 000 to<br>€35 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ. <i>Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe.</i> Circa 1889. Signed autograph manuscript inscribed to Edmund Gosse. €40 000 to €60 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> GÉRARD DE NERVAL. Manuscrit autographe. 1855. Rare manuscript fragment of Aurelia with corrections. €20 000 to €30 000
    <center><b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII :<br>XIXe siècle (1840–1898)<br>First editions – Reviews – Autograph letters and manuscripts<br>Auction in association with Binoche & Giquello on October 9th.</b></center>
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> PAUL VERLAINE. <i>La Bonne chanson.</i> 1870. First edition. One of 20 copies on Hollande paper in a mosaic binding by Noulhac. €15 000 to<br>€18 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> ARTHUR RIMBAUD. Autograph letter to his sister, July 10, 1891. One of the most beautiful letters by Rimbaud, about his last moments, illustrated with drawings of his leg. €80 000 to €100 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> GUSTAVE FLAUBERT. <i>Salammbô.</i> 1863. First edition. One of 25 copies on Hollande paper, this one inscribed to Théophile Gautier. €30 000 to<br>€40 000
    <center><b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII :<br>XIXe siècle (1840–1898)<br>First editions – Reviews – Autograph letters and manuscripts<br>Auction in association with Binoche & Giquello on October 9th.</b></center>
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. <i>Les Fleurs du mal</i>. 1857. First edition, unbound.<br>€15 000 to €20 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. Barbey d’Aurevilly caricature. Original drawing (208 x 130 mm). 1865.<br>€20 000 to €30 000
    <b>Bibliothèque R. & B. L. VII, Oct. 9:</b> OSCAR WILDE. <i>The Ballad of Reading Goal by C.3.3.</i> 1898 First edition, publisher’s binding, one of 30 on Japan paper. €10 000 to €12 000
  • <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>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cartwright (George). <i>A Journal of Transactions and Events, during a Residence of nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador...,</i> first edition, with A.L.s. from the author, 1792. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World,</i> 2 vol., first edition, Teerink's "A" edition, Printed for Benj. Motte, 1726. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Fourier (Jean Baptiste Joseph). <i>Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur,</i> first edition, Paris, chez Firmin Didot, 1822. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Boccaccio (Giovanni). <i>Genealogiae Deorum,</i> additions by Dominicus Silvester and Raphael Zovenzonius, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1472. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mary I. Letter signed at the head "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, 1 page, 7th June 1556. The recall from exile of nine persons opposed to the Marian regime. £10,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Nelson (Horatio). Autograph Letter signed "Horatio Nelson" and written to Francis Drake, British Minister at Genoa, discussing the disposition of his "Cruizers" near Genoa. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Darwin (Charles). Unpublished Autograph Letter signed to Walter Raleigh Browne, playing down his scientific knowledge of comparative anatomy, 1881. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Murphew (J.). <i>The fair in an uproar, or, the dancing-doggs.</i> As they perform in Mr. Pinkeman's New Opera in Bartholomew Fair, 1707. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Chaucer (Geoffrey). <i>The Workes,</i> by [Nicholas Hill for] Thomas Petit, dwellyng in Paules churche yarde at the sygne of the Maydens heed, 1550. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Austen (Jane). <i>Emma: A Novel,</i> 3 vol., first edition, 1816. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>Stamboul Train,</i> first edition, first issue, 1932. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Churchill.- Fearon (Percy Hutton) "Poy". “Eat More Beef,” pen and ink cartoon with shading in blue pencil, [July 1928]. £400 to £600

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