Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2005 Issue

Remembering Rad Curdy, an Exceptional Collector

Radcurdy3

Rad Curdy, an exceptional collector


By Bruce McKinney

In the 1960's and early 1970's I frequently attended the Saturday night auctions that Cal Smith of Pleasant Valley, ran. I was selling advertising at the time and Cal would let me run his two column 5 or 6 inch ads in my family's newspapers just across the Hudson in southern Ulster County. These ads were always at least a little effective because my brother and I used to go, and if there were interesting books, we would bid. These auctions were a place to see, if not necessarily speak with, other "book people." Some were friendly and some not. One of the bibliophiles I used to see before I knew the term, was Rad Curdy, a very interesting character.

Rad, born Radford B., who died in 2002 at 67, was a dozen years older and many times smarter than I was about books then. He had a disheveled appearance. His clothes could look like Good Will throwaways and I remember that his belt had once fit someone much larger for it tucked around the quarter pole. He was friendly in a distant way. He first approached me at Cal's wondering what I was after. A week later he was at my door with several boxes of material he wanted to convert to cash and it was impossible to ever turn him down. The material he brought was always in exceptional condition and he could, with no prompting or preparation, deliver the story of John Burroughs, a local deity, Frederic Goudy, once a local resident, or the grainy details of Poughkeepsie history. He simply lived a life inside of history and the printed word was one of the ways in which knew and collected his passion. As we now know he collected more than books.

You could not visit his house and he would not tell you where he lived. To reach him you called the paper where he worked. Once, when calling the Peekskill Mountain Star, I asked "What's the story with Rad?" "I've no idea but he's good." This person knew no more than me. Rad's explanation about his house was that he collected Revolutionary War material and that it was very valuable. Its location was and today remains a secret.

For years after I moved away in late 1974 I used to ask my brother if he had seen Rad. He would say "yes, but it's been a while. I saw him at the so and so auction." The last time my brother saw Rad was about a year ago. He died in 2002 but if you knew Rad or my brother you would understand. Death was not going to keep Rad out of the auction rooms.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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