Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2005 Issue

Collecting has its Moments

Hothc

An absurdly rare New Paltz item


By Bruce McKinney

For the past three years we have been building AE. The experience has been tough and fascinating. We thought we were simply going to capture information about books and put it in a database. In fact, we ended up developing a process that encompasses both finding the books in the marketplace, and running them through a filter of data that enables the buyer to make intelligent decisions. The AED (Americana Exchange Database), our original project, provides the data needed to make those decisions. It contains almost 1.2 million records, most including prices. The later project, MatchMaker, enables the buyer to find even obscure books and ephemera from the mass of offerings now available. Here are a few of my own recent purchases on eBay and ABE that further confirm the value of the AED as a database and MatchMaker, our suite of collector premium services, as a process.

On eBay two unique Ulster County [New York] items were offered by a merchant who usually sells lingerie and swimwear. In this case it was the descriptions that were scanty. These pieces are among the rarest Hudson Valley printed materials in existence but were offered with barely a line of description. One is the "History of the Huguenot Church and Settlement at New Paltz" by Rev. Charles H. Stitt, a 29-page pamphlet printed in Kingston, New York in 1863. The other is "Collections of The Ulster Historical Society, Volume I - Part 2" with a Kingston indicia and dated 1860.

The Stitt history is rare to the point of invisibility. The Lefevre History of New Paltz, first issued in 1903 and revised and enlarged in a second edition in 1909, mentions Rev. Stitt's tenure as Dominie of the Dutch Reformed Church but makes no mention of this history in its index. Neither of the historical societies in New Paltz and Kingston have copies or even awareness of it. Neither was it in the AED nor mentioned in the indexes of local and county histories. The item basically didn't exist until MatchMaker found it.

Both items came up as ten day auctions, closing 15 minutes apart, and I saw them both on day one. Until the final day nothing much happened. An occasional eBay bidder placed initial low bids, meeting the seller's minimum bids to open [$8.00], essentially agreeing to buy each item if no one else stepped in. With a few hours to go on day 10 I tested my ability to bid. I placed a small bid on the Stitt's over the then current bid, and soon saw the other bidder go to $20. With a minute to go, I placed a bid for $175 and bought the item for $32.99.

Fifteen minutes later the second item, Part 2 of Volume I of the Collections of the Ulster Historical Society was completing its 10 day run. This volume was described as 177 pages and in fact was not. The pagination begins on 77 and runs to 177 but the seller apparently only looked at the last page number. I suppose this gives me the right to return or to complain but I'm nevertheless satisfied. I knew the print run of the vol. II to be 50 but found no mention in the AED and specifically in Munselliana [Munsell was the printer] for the print run of the first volume. A few minutes later this second piece was sold to me for $42.99 against a bid I placed in the final minute for $200.

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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