• <b>Doyle: Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs. November 22, 2016</b>
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations. Est: $70,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> The Present State of the British Colonies in America / The Hillsborough Colonial Returns. Est: $100,000-150,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon. Palymra, NY: 1830. First edition. Est: $30,000-50,000
    <b>Doyle: Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs. November 22, 2016</b>
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Declaration of Independence - Early Newspaper Printing. The Pennsylvania Journal. Est: $125,000-225,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Space - Iran, Photographs and signed items from the Apollo-Suyuz mission, Skylab I, II & III, and the 1976 Tehran F.A.I. Conference. Est: $6,000-9,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Edward Sherriff Curtis, Canon de Chelly, 1904. Est: $10,000-15,000
    <b>Doyle: Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs. November 22, 2016</b>
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Simon Bolivar, An inscribed portrait of El Libertador. Lima: 1823. Est: $2,000-3,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Orson Welles, Signed color photograph of Welles smoking a cigar. Est: $2,500-3,500
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Bill Brandt, Henry Moore in his Studio, Hertfordshire, 1946. Est: $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle: Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs. November 22, 2016</b>
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> John Wilkes Booth, Autograph letter signed Washington: 14 Nov 1864. Est: $50,000-80,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, the Whale. New York: 1851. First American edition. Est: $20,000-30,000
    <b>Doyle Nov. 22:</b> The Beatles, Ed Sullivan Show cue sheet, signed by each member of the group. Est: $10,000-15,000
  • <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>Carte-de-visite 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). STONE, BALTUS. <i>Daguerreotype Portrait of Baltus Stone</i>. [Philadelphia], 1846
  • <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>The Library of Pierre Bergé<br>From the Pre-Romantics to 1900<br>November 8 and 9, 2016</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby's Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Gustave Flaubert. Par les Champs et les Grèves (Voyage en Bretagne). <i>[Croisset, 1847]</i>, 3 January 1848.<br>Est. €400,000–600,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Victor Hugo. La Légende des Siècles. <i>Paris, 1877</i>. Est. €60,000–80,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Charles Baudelaire. Les Fleurs du Mal. <i>Paris, 1857</i>.<br>Est. €100,000–150,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Arthur Schopenhauer. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. <i>Leipzig, 1819.</i><br>Est. €40,000–60,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>The Library of Pierre Bergé<br>From the Pre-Romantics to 1900<br>November 8 and 9, 2016</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. <i>Brooklyn, New York, 1855</i>.<br>Est. €40,000–50,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Oscar Wilde. The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by C.3.3. <i>London, 1898.</i><br>Est. €10,000–15,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Fyodor Dostoyevsky. [Crime and Punishment]. <i>Saint Petersburg, 1867.</i> Est. €30,000–40,000.
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Sotheby’s Nov. 8 & 9:</b> Leo Tolstoy. [War and Peace]. <i>Moscow, 1868-1869</i>. Est. €20,000–30,000.
  • <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through Oct. 27: Rare Autographs, Books, Sports and Art</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Important Aviation Archive w/The Contract For First Trans-Pacific Flight. Est. $30,000-$50,000.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Albert Einstein Signed Photo. Est. $2500-$3500.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Dodgson’s own copy of <i>The Hunting of the Snark</i>, signed and dated by the author the day after publication with original photo. Est. $10,000-$12,000.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through Oct. 27: Rare Autographs, Books, Sports and Art</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Abraham Lincoln Early Legal Brief. Est. $3500-$4000.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> The Beatles: Autographs of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison and more 60's Groups. Est. $3000-$2500.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Hector Berlioz Rare AMQS. Est. $4000-6000.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through Oct. 27: Rare Autographs, Books, Sports and Art</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Renoir, Autograph Letter Signed. Est. $2700-3500.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Ferdinand and Isabella, Manuscript Document Signed. Est. $6000-9000.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Lincoln-Douglas Debates Signed by William Howard Taft. Est. $1400-$1600.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through Oct. 27: Rare Autographs, Books, Sports and Art</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Stunning Vintage Amelia Earhart Signed Photo. Est. $2000-$2500
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Marilyn Monroe's Hair From her hair dresser. Est. $1200-$1800.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles<br>Now through 10/27:</b> Babe Ruth Signed Album with Others Sports and Entertainment Stars of the 20s. Est. $1800-2500.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2015 Issue

William Reese - Celebrates 40th Anniversary: The "expert's expert" known for his scholarship and finesse.


William Reese, 60, the noted expert on rare Americana is celebrating his 40th year in the antiquarian book trade.

"Work hard for 20 years and then only buy things you've never seen before," says William (Bill) Reese, who will be 60 in July. Reese is one of the premier dealers in antiquarian Americana and considered the expert's expert in the buying and selling of rare books and manuscripts in that field. The quote is from Wright Howes, Chicago bookseller active 1920-60 and author of the standard reference work, U.S.iana. But the advice is pure Reese.

"In the modern scheme of things," he adds, "there are only three possibilities, the best copy, the least expensive copy, and the only copy."

Reese, who heads the antiquarian firm which bears his name, is based in New Haven, Connecticut. He is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the trade this year. His catalog to mark that occasion is filled with fifty stellar items including a manuscript copy of the 1765 Stamp and Sugar tax acts, authored by the English, which paved the way to the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution. Asking price $2 million.

Said Reese, "The two acts – the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, which are sold together – are the triggering points in the path to American Independence.  One might say these are the hinge of American history.  These are the original manuscripts.  Other American historical documents have sold for much more without having the significance of these documents. For example, Washington’s copy of the first Acts of Congress sold for over $8 million. For one of the most important pairs of documents in American history to be worth $2 million when one can hardly buy a painting of importance for that sum, does not seem extravagant."

Reese is noted for his cool authority and confident scholarship. Collectors and buyers trust his eye for innate value and knowledge, not only what to buy but when. One story he tells is about the Gettysburg Address offered in 2004 at auction at the 2nd Malcolm Forbes sale. Reese bought it for $300K, raised the price to $600K and then found an international university to take it at $850,000, and think it was well worth the price.

As he recalls, "Shortly after I bought it I was asked what I would take for it and said $600,000 on the theory of a quick turnover. But I always envisioned it as being worth more, so it’s not like I was raising the price beyond my original idea of value.  This auction was a perfect instance of what I call 'hiding in plain sight.'  At major sales, where the big buyers are trying for lots of expensive things, in my experience something always falls through the cracks because everyone is stretching to get what they most want."

Reese's career trajectory has been different from most of his colleagues. He started dealing from his dorm room as a Yale undergraduate. A $40,000 personal loan from his family allowed him to launch his business and purchase his first collection. "I paid it back within six months," he said, and has been going strong ever since.

Reese's association with Yale and Yale's Beinecke Library is also ongoing.

"I have worked closely with the Yale Library since my undergraduate years.  I endowed a number of fellowships at Beinecke, and annually fund fellowships there and to send Yale librarians to Rare Book School."

According to Reese he was on the committee for the new Music Library and personally raised the funds for its Rare Book Room. He served as the chairman of their friends group, Yale Library Associates, from 2005 to 2013 and has been a trustee for decades.  He is currently vice chair of the Library Development Council, which coordinates major gifts.  

"I served for some time as advisor to the Western Americana Collection in Beinecke.  When the Forbes Smiley map thefts took place, I was asked to take over the internal investigation, which I coordinated with Yale and the FBI."

His company has generally handled the Beinecke’s auction bids in the U.S.  When Reese served as the main appraiser and book advisor to the estate of Paul Mellon, he coordinated the transfer of all of the materials given to Yale.

He has also curated a number of exhibitions in the Beinecke, including the 1992 Columbian Quincentenary show and the Mellon memorial show in 2002 (both of which have published catalogues).

A generous patron, Reese has also given the Library numerous things, including comprehensive collections of the British World War I poets, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. "On the flip side," he said, "Yale has been a major customer of mine over the years, and I’ve sold them many wonderful things over the decades."


In Reese's view two of the most important ingredients for a successful dealer are "contacts and capital." Lacking capital he recommends: "1) more contacts, especially visiting customers in person to understand what they want; and 2) to seek to turn inventory over as rapidly as possible, which is a lot easier if you know exactly what your customers want."

In answer to the question "What advice would you give to others on how to achieve expert status and the credibility that comes with it?" he replied:

"Try to be a scholar, by which I mean issue catalogues with respectable research and good writing.  Take part in scholarly conferences.  If the spirit moves you, do research for publication."

As for the current debate on the values for items at auction vs. those purchased through dealers, in his opinion it's not where you buy but how:

"The most important part of any antiquarian business is buying right.  I see many dealers not thinking through before they buy what they think they can sell an item for. This is especially true at auctions, where it’s easy to get carried away and go one more bid. Iron discipline in what one will pay means you don’t buy a lot of things you’d like to.  But auctions are very imperfect markets, and there are opportunities."

One of the things Reese has done consistently since his earliest years is owning books in partnership with other dealers. He pointed out this practice, "halves the capital investment and opens up new potential customers.  I don’t think it doubles them because some customers, especially the big institutions, are known to all; but many private buyers deal with only a few dealers or the ones with whom they’ve established a good relationship."

In his own dealings Reese quoted JP Morgan's famous 1913 opinion, "Character outweighs collateral." In his view, "If you trust one another it can survive on a handshake."

"I believe successful partnerships rely on rigorous inventory control and bookkeeping," he continued," and that the partners must have absolute confidence in the honesty and reliability, personal and financial, of their partners.  Clarence Wolf of George MacManus Co., one of my primary partners, is someone I’ve known for forty-five years.  In all that time we’ve never had a misunderstanding over a business transaction."

After 40 years in the trade he noted that often times the same material previously sold comes to market again. The market, he observed, does recycle, but many of the best things are more or less permanently out of reach and the hardest part of his job is "finding the good material."

Reese didn't have a lot of predictions, but one thing he sees in the future is smaller and lesser special collections will eventually come to market:

"It’s inevitable that many institutions won’t be able to afford the luxury of a rare book collection.  The mission of city libraries should be to help people get access to information, and today that means computer terminals.  For a small college, if I were the librarian and had to choose between the cost of subscribing to online assets that would bring millions of books to my students, or special collections, I’d choose the former. These are not choices anyone wants to make. It’s easy to attack the de-accessioning institutions, but in the economic environment most of these places are in, the missions of access and education have to come first."

As for the trade itself, it's his view that it was "far easier to start in the business forty years ago.  The big advantage to an unknown dealer was the institutional buyers, who were generally very democratic: they bought from whomever had what they needed.  To private buyers, who now dominate the top end of the market, reputation and experience are most important."

"Bill Reese has been my dealer for 25 years," said one of his upscale clients who characterized him as “independently wealthy and very very smart."

With Reese, he continued, "money, per se, does not play the deciding role. Where the next dollar is coming from is never his motivation. As the seller he always takes the long view.  If he issues it in a catalog at $5,000, he’s not going to cut the price, and re-catalog it lower. He’s sure of himself on value and importance.  If he says it’s valuable it’s because he’s certain and his opinion is widely respected."

To which Reese responded "I guess I could be called independently wealthy now, but I wasn't when I started." As for taking the "long view,” he termed it "an advantage of accumulating some capital, which is hardly unique to the rare book business."

To dealers who haven't reached his own lofty heights, Reese gives the following advice:

1.      "The most important thing is buying right so you can sell right.

2.      Play to your strengths.  It’s better to be the master of some genre, no matter how small, and build out from there.

3.      Hit the road and see people all you can, not just at shows.  A personal visit builds relationships and helps you know what your customers really want.

4.      Do right by others and it will mostly come back.  That’s a maxim for all business.  I’ve gone out of my way to help many colleagues and scholars without expecting any return, and it’s come back to help me in ways I never would have expected."

While he stressed the importance of "continued application of knowledge," he was also quick to point out the role played by "the lucky chance, serendipity, you may want to believe in a perfect market but …. books are as imperfect as possible."

"The Internet has flattened the steep learning curve and made information accessible that formerly was only cult knowledge.  Know what you do, figure out what is important, many people miss things because they fail to see the significance, there will be some bargains, wait - watch."



William Reese Company, New Haven, Conn.: www.reeseco.com

All Reese catalogs links: www.williamreesecompany.com/shop/reeseco/catalogs.html

40 years a Bookseller Catalog #322 (2015) 50 items -- pdf file: www.williamreesecompany.com/reeseco/images/pdfs/cat322.pdf

(Video) William Reese interviewed by Michael Ginsberg for 2010 ABAA video (about 24 minutes): www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4H9HC18OL0

Grolier Club, Books in Hard Times, 2009, includes papers by numerous contributors including Reese


Reese's contribution: Rare Book Market Today www.grolierclub.org/Files/2.1.ReeseDESIGNED.pdf.

Reach William Reese and his staff via email at: coreese@reeseco.com.



Posted On: 2015-06-19 21:26
User Name: npzinos

Thanks for the advice. Mr. Reese. As a relatively young rare book dealer I find this type of information very helpful.

Nick Zinos of Zinos Books
St. Paul, Minnesota

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Civil War-era album with more than 130 signatures, including 18 presidents, 1864-2010.<br>$60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed, to friend and art critic Gustave Geffroy, 1891.<br>$6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>George Washington, partly-printed Document Signed as Commander-in-Chief, a military discharge, 1783. $7,000 to 10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Clarence Darrow, Typed Letter Signed, inviting attorney Frank Spurlock to join him during the Scopes Trial, 1926. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>J.D. Salinger, Autograph Letter Signed, "Jerry," offering consolation, 1972. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Poster Signed by each member of The Beatles near the inkblot he most resembles, 1964. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Photograph Signed by The Three Stooges, additionally inscribed by Moe, 1930s. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Jules Verne, Photograph Signed and Inscribed, 1900. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Thomas Jefferson, Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State, admitting Vermont into the Union, 1791. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>George Washington, lottery ticket signed "G:Washington," 1768.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Muhammad Ali, Signed & Inscribed Photograph and Typed Letter Signed, 1967. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b><br>Lou Gehrig, Photograph Signed & Inscribed (lower signatures printed), 1931. $3,500 to $5,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
  • <b>Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers: Fine Books & Manuscripts.<br>October 30, 2016</b>
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> Cook’s <i>Voyages</i>, 1773-1785, complete set with Atlas volume. $40,000-60,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> Henry Warre, <i>Sketches in North America</i>, 1848, first edition, hand-colored.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> Catlin’s <i>North American Indian Portfolio</i>, 1875. $40,000-60,000
    <b>Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers: Fine Books & Manuscripts.<br>October 30, 2016</b>
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> John Torrey Morse’s <i>The American Statesman</i>, autograph edition, extra-illustrated with original signed documents.<br>$35,000-55,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> McKenney & Hall’s <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America</i>, folio, three volumes, 1837-1844. $35,000-55,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> John Webber’s <i>Views in the South Seas</i>, 1820, hand-colored plates. $30,000-50,000
    <b>Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers: Fine Books & Manuscripts.<br>October 30, 2016</b>
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> A Collection of Eight Signed Letters, Some Men of Fame Autograph Collection.<br>$35,000-40,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> George Washington Signed Letter inviting Senator John Laurance to John Adams’s Presidential swearing in ceremony. $30,000-40,000
    <b>Skinner Oct. 30:</b> Elizabeth, Empress of Russia Coronation Festival Book, St. Petersburg, 1744. $30,000-40,000

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