Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2017 Issue

Edward Eberstadt & Sons: a story by Michael Vinson

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Edward Eberstadt. 1883-1958

Edward Eberstadt & Sons was in the 20th century, to quote William Reese who wrote the forward to Mr. Vinson’s interesting book, Edward Eberstadt & Sons, Rare Booksellers of Western Americana, “the largest and most influential dealer in important books and manuscripts relating to the American West.”  The firm, which was organized in 1908 would continue through two generations of Eberstadts ending in final disposal in 1975.

 

Many of the firm’s important catalogues were reprinted as a set in 1965 and today these records are included in search results in the Rare Book Hub Transaction Database.  Not many dealer catalogues have made this cut.*

 

Michael Vinson, the western Americana specialist, has written a book about the Eberstadts and in particular Edward Eberstadt.  He was a dealer and market-maker in a category of Americana that became a specialist area during the years he was a dealer in New York.  He handled very good books with the aplomb of a storyteller who knew both how to regale and sell.  He was a master and Mr. Vinson has brought him back to life based primarily on his correspondence that was given by his family to the Beinecke Library at Yale after his death.  This is a book well worth the read.

 

Mr. Eberstadt always wanted to be an honest man but when that failed he became a bookseller.  He wasn’t a crook and no, he wasn’t dishonest.  Not at all.  Rather he mastered the arts of finding the best material and charging the highest prices; something that would be harder to do today when copies and prices can be evaluated on the Internet.  So he checked other dealers’ catalogues and bought aggressively.  As I recall we have in our records the simultaneous catalogue runs of Midland Notes, Goodspeed’s and Eberstadt.  And when I looked at Goodspeed’s and Midland a few years ago you could see their copies moving into the Eberstadt stock.  And now it's clear where they often went:  into the best collections at the highest prices. 

 

As to how the Eberstadt descriptions and their determinations of importance have held up we now know for even under the intense scrutiny possible using the Internet, their references still appear.  But all skill sets have their day and the Eberstadts’ are most powerful when seen through the lens of a rear view mirror, the very mirror Mr. Vinson’s has provided.  Here’s how.    

 

Great dealers often have exceptional memories and Edward’s was among the best.  They are also sometimes graceful correspondents.  He was both.  The principal collectors and institutions in the category collected books and papers as well as the conversations, bon mots and ideas of the acknowledged master of the trade.  In some sense, if you were a great collector in his category in the day, you wanted to buy from him.  He was that good and it confirmed your connection with him.

 

His customer list would, in time, include many of the great collectors.  Huntington, Wagner, Streeter, Coe, the Beineckes, Graff, and DeGolyer, all of them serious players, all his customers as were many, perhaps most of the important collecting libraries of the era. 

 

The Eberstadt correspondence with institutions also suggests acceptance by scholars of his scholarship.  That is rare, possibly rarer than any of the books he sold them.

 

He and his sons, Charles and Lindley, today are remembered particularly for having produced extraordinary catalogues that became, even in their own time, essential documents for collectors, dealers, and institutions.  Not many dealers’ catalogues reach memorable status as theirs did.  Interestingly, Argosy, in New York, still has three complete sets of the 1965 collected reprint.  Serious collectors of the American west will, as five generations of readers already have, find them to be a powerful learning tool.

 

How and where to find this book?  On Amazon or Oak Knoll.

 

If you would like to contact the author here is his phone number and email address:

 

Michael Vinson Americana

P. O. Box 608

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

 

307.654.1185

 

m_vinson@silverstar.com

 

Or, meet Michael at the ABAA Fair in Oakland, California February 10 – 12.  He’s at booth 813 and will have a dozen or so copies with him.  Obtaining a copy at the show guarantees your show experience will be a success.

* RBH members, using the advanced search, can select Eberstadt in the Source section to see 21,456 original listings 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Adams (Richard). <i>Watership Down,</i> FIRST EDITION, author inscription on front free end paper, folded map tipped in, original boards, dust-jacket. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bowles (John). <i>Several Prospects of the Most…la Ville de Londres, avec des Remarques Historiques fort Succinctes, qui les Regardant,</i> 20 double page engraved plates only, of 23, 1724. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Auden (W.H.). <i>Our Hunting Fathers,</i> FIRST SEPARATE EDITION, 1 of 22 copies, COPY B OF 5 PRINTED ON NORMANDIE, original patterned wrappers, Cambridge, for Frederic Prokosch, 1935. £800 to £1200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Barrie (J. M.) & Attwell (Mabel Lucie, illustrator). <i>Peter Pan & Wendy,</i> FIRST EDITION, 12 chromolithograph plates, publisher's blue cloth, original printed dust jacket, [c.1920]; and 3 others (4). £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bartolozzi (Francesco). Genius Calling Forth the Fine Arts to Adorn Manufactures and Commerce; Agriculture (Husbandry Aided by Arts and Commerce), glazed and framed. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> A collection of engraved caricatures, including Gillray ([James]) Tales of Wonder!, 1802; Rowlandson (Thomas) Sports, Smock Racing, 1811;Irish Jaunting Carr, 1814. £400 to £600
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bennett (Charles H, illustrator). <i>Æsop’s Fables,</i> 1875; Buchanan (Robert). <i>Ballad Stories of the Affections,</i> [1866]; Douce (Francis), The Dance of Death, 1833. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Chinese Illustrations. A group of 6 Cantonese rice paper illustrations, depicting scenes of torture with different instruments, gouache, c.340 x 220mm, original wrapper boards preserved, [c. 1800]. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Dulac (Edmund). <i>The Queen of Romania, The Dreamer of Dreams,</i> 5 coloured plates, [1915]; and others illustrated by Edmund Dulac. £300 to £400
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Fronth (Per). Xingu Chronicles, the portfolio, comprising 30 plates, photogravues in colours, each signed, dated and titled in pencil, each numbered 10/35, on wove paper, 790 x 600 x 60mm, 1997. £300 to £400
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Pasternak (Boris). <i>Doctor Zhivago,</i> FIRST ENGLISH EDITION, original red publisher’s cloth, pictorial dust jacket, 4to, Collins & Harvill Press, 1958. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> 13 sepia photographs of visitors to the Thermes Nationaux d’Aix-les-Bains, c. 150 x 105mm, c.1890 (12). £300 to £400
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
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    <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>

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