The tail end of winter and beginning of Spring have been a busy time for the New York-based Swann Auction Galleries. Having concluded no less than five successful sales in the month of March, this month, the pace slows just a tad with three upcoming sales: African-American Fine Art on April 6th, Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks on April 20th, and Printed & Manuscript Americana on April 27th. Of the three, Printed & Manuscript Americana is most relevant to the focus of Rare Book Hub and its members, and as such, is the featured sale for this preview.
Taking place April 27th at 1:30 pm eastern, the sale features 371 lots, all considered Americana, but which cover a wide swath in terms of subject, locale, era, and price. High estimates top out in five digit figures, but the large majority of items are estimated $2,000 – 3,000 or less. With material from all over both American continents, there’s a lot to look at for interested collectors.
Hernán Cortés is a name most have heard. Remembered in history as the Conquistador responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the early 1500s, letters by the man are rare. Swann states that they found none have come to auction since 1984—until now. Lot 341, estimated $50,000 to 70,000, is a letter from Cortés addressed to his assistant ordering that he offer hospitality to a visiting bishop in December, 1538. The letter carries the sale’s highest estimate.
One hundred and thirty-one lots preceding Cortés’ letter is the sale’s second highest estimated item, and it is of a completely different nature. Lot 210 is a first edition of The Book of Mormon, printed in Palmyra, NY by E.B. Grandin in 1830. The first edition contains several traits that distinguish it from other editions (other than the year and place printed, and publisher): this was the only edition listing Joseph Smith as the “author and proprietor” rather than as the translator; it also is the only edition with a two-page preface by Smith; and this edition does not include index pages which were inserted into later copies. There are a number of different variants of the first edition. Swann includes specific descriptions of the parts of the text that can identify this specific printing. Any interested collector should consult Janet Jenson’s “Variations Between Copies of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon,” available here. The Book of Mormon is estimated $40,000 to 60,000.
Another highlight of the sale, again of a totally different nature than either of the first two lots mentioned, is lot 180, being a first edition of Esther Levy’s Jewish Cookery Book, which has the distinction of being the first Jewish cookbook published in the United States (1871). More than just a cookbook, Levy’s work provides instruction and tips for things like kosher dining, household economy, table-setting, and generalized “Hints for Housekeepers.” In its own time, the Jewish Cookery Book was printed in a single edition, but in recent years has been reprinted frequently. Some of the recipes contained within have been revived in modern cookbooks. The chance to own an original copy is estimated $8,000 to 12,000.
Other subjects and locations covered in varying levels of depth include American Indians, the American Revolution, California, the American Civil War, Hawaii, Judaica, Latin America & Caribbeana, American Presidents, and Peru. Examples of interesting material hand-selected by Swann Auction Galleries from the sale can be viewed directly from their slideshow advertisement on many of Rare Book Hub’s webpages.
Printed & Manuscript Americana takes place Thursday, April 27, 2017, at 1:30 pm eastern time. The sale’s catalog is available online here. Previews of the sale include:
April 22: 12-5pm
April 24-26: 10am-6pm
April 27: 10am-12pm
Interested bidders must register (if not previously registered for a previous sale) with Swann before the sale, which can be done so here.