Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2017 Issue

Exploring the World and Collecting Books

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Material coming to auction in Christies' sale of The Martin Greene Library

Editor's Note: On December 7, Christie's will host a sale of Russian America & Polar Exploration: Highlights from the Martin Greene Library. The following is an introduction written by the collector, Mr. Greene.

 

Reading, traveling and collecting books – great hobbies that have filled empty hours and enriched my life. What a privilege it was in 1998 to go with legendary book dealer Bill Reese to the Beinecke Library at Yale to collate four copies of the Sarychev 1802 texts and plate books, two belonging to the library and two of ours. I could not understand why The Library of Congress listed 56 plates, which, if true, meant that all the copies we had were defective. This question sent me on trips to the Library of Congress and to many libraries in the USA and Russia to look at 15 other known copies of this rare work. Sure enough, the Library of Congress copy was the “defective” one, with six plates from another book added to the 50 plates from the Sarychev.

 

My parents’ families came to the USA from Russia in the 1890s, settling in Nebraska and Minnesota. By age 16 I had visited all 48 of the United States, later adding Alaska and Hawaii to the list (admitted as states in 1959). After moving to Seattle in 1969, I visited Alaska many times, climbing mountains and collecting more books. Visits to Sitka, former home of the Russian-American Company, to Fairbanks to see the wonderful collections at the University of Alaska Rasmuson Library, and climbing Mount McKinley (Denali) and other mountains were highlights of my life.

 

In London, in June of 1999, I waited in the queue for the opening of the Olympia Book Fair and went immediately to Reg and Philip Remington’s booth. Philip asked if I would be interested in a Kruzenshtern atlas that had come into their shop the day before. The answer, of course, was a very definite “yes,” and I sat down and spent the next two hours with this incredible set. In time, other dealers wandered by, and soon the whole room became a-twitter that there was a Kruzenshtern atlas at the fair. But I did not let it out of my hands until I confirmed with Philip that I would indeed purchase it. What a find! No other copy of this work has been on the market, to my knowledge, since that memorable day.

 

An enjoyable aspect of collecting for me was that I could make my own rules. I decided to collect books on Greenland, but not on Iceland. With our Russian background, and with two children and a granddaughter who spoke Russian to assist me, I set a goal to acquire the 161 titles in Valerian Lada-Mocarski’s Bibliography of Books on Alaska published before 1868 (New Haven and London: 1969).

 

Lada-Mocarski included books which he considered most important in telling the story of the exploration and settlement of Russian-America before the U.S. purchase of Alaska in 1867. His own collection was sold in 1971 by San Francisco book dealer Warren Howell to Elmer Rasmuson of Alaska. I believe the present sale includes the most extensive privately held collection of Lada-Mocarski titles (135 lots representing 98 of the 161 Lada-Mocarski entries) since that author’s own collection was described and sold nearly 50 years ago.

 

The search for these rarities has been exciting, educational, and a lot of fun. I thank my book dealer friends and the sellers at auctions for helping me along this road. The story of the 1844 Sherman edition of Wilkes’s Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 (lot 295) is fascinating. Apparently, a book scout found this set in a pile of books scheduled for deaccession by the State Library of Iowa in Des Moines. He called Greg Gibson in Massachusetts, who then called me. The bindings needed work but apparently the books had never been opened by the good people of Iowa. All the tissue guards were present and the pages had virtually no wear or foxing. Only one other set, the one belonging to Wilkes himself, has ever come on the auction market. The remaining 71 copies (after an early fire destroyed 27 of the original 100 printed) were given to States or foreign governments, and are very difficult for collectors to obtain. I was very lucky indeed.

 

For this auction, we selected titles that I would like to be in the hands of other collectors. They tell the stories of some great explorations – of Alaska, important Pacific Voyages to America, the Northwest and Northeast Passages, the search for Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition, and of Arctic and Antarctic explorations. I smile when I look at these books, and I will smile when I think of others enjoying them in their collections.

 

Martin L. Greene
Seattle, WA, USA.
December 2017

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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