Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2005 Issue

Auctions: The Perfect Storm

Jbbody

The dark side of collecting.


With more than 45,000 lots set to sell between November 1st and year end the auction inquirer needs to impose personal perspective on the ocean of material.

You do this by identifying terms and phrases that capture the essence of your collecting interests and periodically run them against the upcoming lots. It's free and located at the top of every page on this site (including this one!): Rare Book Search and Research. Put in a term and search. If you are looking for Proust there are 10 lots coming up. The search looks across 41 sales today and all 25,000 lots and delivers the complete answer in 1/10th of a second. Suffrage finds 4, Beethoven 9, manuscript 437, Vespucci 2, and Botswana 0. If you actually try to locate Botswana in all these catalogues you will spend a lot of time and find nothing. This way you are instantly on to your next search. Elephant finds 26 though some are elephant folios, four in fact which I identify with a search for this term. Kenya finds 1 and Africa 217. Searching this way I save $10,000 to $15,000 a year on catalogues and a thousand hours of catalogue perusing so now I have both the time and saved money to visit Africa and write my own book. I'll call it "Netting Big Game."

Reading catalogues is absolutely fun and they are the hook that many collectors become impaled on to become seriously interested in collecting. But they are also an anachronism. In the past collectors tended to bid locally. They received catalogues, visited venues and bid in person or by proxy. Many collectors still do it this way but auction houses now live with feet in two worlds. They continue to cater to traditional auction buyers while seeing their business transformed by the emerging electronic quorum. Absentee and telephone bids are the norm. The traditional catalogue is expensive to produce and absolutely unyielding when post-printing errors are detected. It reaches only those who order and requires would-be buyers speculate its purchase will be justified by the knowledge gained even if nothing to bid on is identified. In the emerging paradigm the emphasis shifts from costly printed to exhaustive electronic presentation. In the printed catalogue material is differentiated with multiple page layouts and costly color images. On the net there is essentially no added cost for images so 5, 10, even 20 pages can be shown. Cataloguers can now write until the cows come home. Most importantly, the presentation can be instantly sent anywhere in the world or alternatively viewed from anywhere on the globe. The auction house's audience is no longer limited to those who know in advance about the sale and order the catalogue. In short, the presentation improves and distribution increases exponentially.

Now all we have to do is learn to use these new tools. A song comes to mind: "Mama said there will be days like this." The person going from New York to Los Angles now expects to fly. If someone told you they are walking to LA you would narrow your eyebrows, take a deep breath, and ask them what such a trip is like because you won't be traveling that way yourself. The world moves on and we with it. Changing the way we approach our avocation with books saves us 99% of the time we spent looking. Now we use this time to plunge deeper. Our focus narrows. We move beyond bibliographies, learning more about our areas of interest than has ever been known. We do it at our desks, at lunch hour, in the evenings and weekends at home, on the road and on vacation. Anywhere we can get to the net, we can get to extraordinary resources. It is immensely interesting. It is the land of the midnight sun so start thinking about terms that define your collecting interests and run them in Search and Research. With 45,000 lots up between November 1st and December 31st there has never been a better time or better way to do this.

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 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.
  • <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

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