• <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: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <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: 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
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Skinner: Early English Books<br>A Single Owner Sale. July 20, 2018</b>
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Cranmer, Thomas (1489-1556). <i>Catechismus, That is to Say, a Shorte Instruction into Christian Religion...</i> London, 1548. First edition. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Donne, John (1572-1631). <i>Pseudo-Martyr.</i> London: Printed by W[illiam] Stansby for Walter Burre, 1610. First edition. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Fletcher, Giles (1549?-1611). <i>The Russe Common Wealth, or Maner of Gouernement by the Russe Emperour…</i> London, 1591. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Gabelkover, Oswald (1539-1616). <i>The Boock of Physicke.</i> Dordrecht: Isaack Caen, 1599. First edition. $12,000 to $15,000
    <b>Skinner: Early English Books<br>A Single Owner Sale. July 20, 2018</b>
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Galileo, Galilei (1564-1642) trans. Thomas Salusbury (d. 1666). <i>Mathematical Collections and Translations the First Tome.</i> London, 1661. First edition of Galileo's works in English. $35,000 to $50,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Higden, Ranulphus (d. 1364). <i>Polycronicon.</i> Translated by John Trevisa, with the 1357-1460 <i>Continuation</i> by William Caxton. Southwark, 1527. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Randolph, Bernard (b. 1643). <i>The Present State of the Morea, Called Anciently Peloponnesus…</i> London, 1689. [Bound with] <i>The Present State of the Islands of the Archipelago…</i> $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> <i>The Great Herball Newly Corrected.</i> London, 1539. Folio, ESTC lists three U.S. copies; the last copy offered at auction was incomplete and sold in 1949. $25,000 to $35,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2017 Issue

California Bookseller Goes to Court to Overturn Hated Autograph Law

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Author Marilyn Skinner Lanier signs book at Book Passage (from Pacific Legal Foundation video).

A California bookseller has gone to court to overturn a law detested by many sellers of autographed books in the state. On January 1, a new law went into effect that places what many consider onerous burdens on the sale of autographed books. While the assemblywoman who wrote the law later issued a statement claiming the law does not apply to booksellers, such statements are not a part of the actual law. There is still enough unclarity in the writing of the statute to leave many dealers fearful of the risks in selling anything with autographs. And so Book Passage, a San Francisco area chain of three stores, with the backing of the Pacific Legal Foundation, has gone to court to rid the state of the law.

 

First, here's a brief history of it. Section 1739.7 of the California Civil Code used to apply only to sports memorabilia. That is a field in which an enormous number of signed items are regularly sold, and it is rife with forgeries. Last fall, the legislature extended that to cover anyone "who is principally in the business of selling or offering for sale [autographed] collectibles in or from this state, exclusively or nonexclusively, or a person who by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to [autographed] collectibles..." The intent was reasonable, even if the legislature's response turned out not to be so. Anyone in the book trade will tell you if a signed book has not been professionally authenticated, or lacks a clear chain of possession, nothing can be assumed about that signature.

 

The problem with the law is that the requirements are, to say the least, burdensome. Sellers have to provide a Certificate of Authenticity for signed items, including a description of the item and the name of the signer, the purchase price and date of sale, an express warranty of authenticity, whether it is part of a limited edition and specifics about such an edition if so, whether the dealer is bonded or insured and proof thereof if so, the last four digits of the dealer's resale certificate, whether signed in the presence of the dealer, when, where, and the name of a witness to the signing, whether obtained from a third party and the name of that party if so, and the serial number of the item if it has one. There are also requirements of signage at the store or a show, and required messages in advertisements, describing this law. Dealers must retain copies of the certificates for seven years. Penalties for violations include not only actual damages, but a civil penalty of 10 times actual damages, court costs, attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and interest. Additional penalties may be added if the court finds the dealer's conduct "egregious."

 

While California sellers are naturally those most affected, the law does apply to out of state sellers selling signed material into the state (and to sales made by California dealers to out-of-state consumers).

 

It would be hard to overstate the uproar from the bookselling community. We have heard more from our members and readers on this story than just about anything else, and it applies mostly to just one state! The requirements are challenging, to say the least, both for the bookseller with a few autographed items in inventory and those who specialize in autographs. Who was it that witnessed Abraham Lincoln sign that book?

 

The response was so great that the assemblywoman who introduced this legislation wrote a letter stating, "Both the letter and the spirit of the law are clear that AB 1570 does not apply to booksellers. I refer specifically to how 'dealer' is defined in Section 1739.7 (a)(4)(A) which states that a dealer is defined as anyone who is 'principally in the business of selling signed collectibles' [emphasis added]. Bookstores, both as they are understood generally and many who communicated with my office, are not principally in the business of selling signed collectibles any more than a convenience store. It is true that some booksellers’ inventory include signed merchandise, including books signed by authors during special signing events. However, it is clear, even taking those items into consideration, a bookstore would not meet the bar of being ‘principally’ in the business of selling signed collectibles."

 

Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang's letter is nice, but it isn't law. The law specifically says it applies to auctioneers and does not apply to pawnbrokers, but is silent on booksellers. Even if she is right that most booksellers aren't "principally" in the business of selling autographed items, they still could be considered "a person who by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to [autographed] collectibles." Her letter provided cold comfort to many concerned, even fearful booksellers.

 

So into this fray stepped Book Passage and co-owner Bill Petrocelli, with legal assistance from the Pacific Legal Foundation. For Book Passage, there is no question that they are subject to the law and its voluminous requirements. They specialize in signed material, hosting 700 author book signings in their stores each year.

 

Book Passage calls for the overturning of the law on constitutional grounds, specifically, the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The first amendment claims pertain to free speech. The law makes it more difficult to sell autographed books, an infringement on communicating words within. It also infringes speech by making it practically impossible for them to host author talks/signings because of the burdens, thereby silencing the writers. The autographs themselves, they say, are a form of speech which is silenced by these demands. Furthermore, if some sort of regulation is needed, these are way too broad in that they interfere with free speech far more than necessary to achieve the law's aims.

 

The other claim pertains to the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, guaranteeing equal protection under the law. Book Passage says that the exemption from the law for pawn shops and certain online retailers violates the equal protection rights of booksellers under the constitution.

 

We don't know where this all leads, but here are a few personal observations:

 

1. There is too much autograph fraud. It is way too easy. If something can reasonably be done, it should.

 

2. These rules are much too burdensome. They look like someone searched for remedies for every possible wrong and then wrote them up without considering the impact on honest business people. That letter by Assemblywoman Chang is essentially an admission of this.

 

3. This won't be an easy case. Constitutional claims against laws are really hard to win in court. Most court decisions involve disputes over facts, or interpretations of laws. Courts will willingly settle those, but are loath to overturn the "will of the people" as expressed by the laws of their elected representatives.

 

While the law makes it difficult for booksellers to sell autographed material, it does not prevent the sale of books as a whole, or even autographed ones if no claim or implied claim of authenticity is made. Nor does it prevent bookshops from holding author talks, although it may make such talks financially unprofitable. As for the equal protection claim, lots of laws affect people differently. There are probably laws in California that apply specifically to pawnshops but not booksellers. I, like many middle class people, have never understood why I am taxed at a higher rate than poor people, and at a higher rate than rich people. That doesn't sound very fair or equal to me, but welcome to the real world. I wouldn't get my hopes too high on this case, but I've been wrong before. This is in no way an endorsement of this flawed law, just an attempt to be realistic in expectations.

 

4. The legislature should scrap this law and get together with booksellers to see if something cannot be drawn up to reduce the problem without overburdening dealers. For example, the $5 minimum is ridiculous. A court case over $5? Someone who commits a $5 fraud should be reported to the authorities, but a civil suit to recover $5 is crazy. A $100 minimum would be more reasonable. Perhaps, instead of all the detailed requirements, a simple statement could be provided, one wherein the dealer can either state that the signature is authenticated and how, say there is no evidence to support authentication (and not advertise the book as autographed), or something in between, such as the provenance from the author's family may imply a connection but does not guarantee it. There must be a common sense answer.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <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.

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