Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2006 Issue

An Upstate New York Perspective

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AAS is arguably the repository of American printing. Other institutions have some of this material. It's the Society's goal to have one of every printing. Over the years they have received as gifts and by purchase extensive examples of Joel Munsell's work and I'm hopeful of finding a substantial portion here. Joel Munsell was an Albany, New York, printer whose work spanned five decades in the mid-19th century. I'm tracking appearances of his material on the net as well as copies in libraries and comparing the quantities found to the print runs he recorded in his bibliography "Munselliana." In theory I should be able to develop a formula for predicting the frequency of future appearance of his many works once sufficient information is gathered. Even more significantly, I hope to use the ratio of copies printed to copies still held in libraries and on the net to estimate original print runs of all books for which this information was not recorded. Munsell's meticulous record keeping may make such an undertaking possible.

The AAS online inventory shows only about 375 Munsell items for the period 1828-1870 for apparently the same reason I'm having trouble finding much of his work elsewhere. It lacks printer identification. So for this trip I shift my attention to another AAS holding, Munsell's notes from his personal copy of Munselliana, his accounting of books and pamphlets printed during his first 40 years as a printer. Here he corrects entries and adds others while noting biographical information about authors and related parties. In two days I transcribe his entries for the period 1828 through 1857 and plan to return in the fall to complete the rest. Tom Knoles, Head Librarian, thoughtfully agrees to my adding these notes to AE's online catalogue of Munselliana.

Friday night sees us on the way to Albany and to the Crown Plaza Hotel at State and Lodge. It's an excellent location for exploring the downtown and only a few steps from several State Street addresses that Munsell occupied during his career. Jack's at 46 State is the concierge's dinner recommendation and it's a very good suggestion. Think meat when you eat here and you won't be disappointed. Around the corner after dinner we walk by the Capitol Bookstore, a rundown location with plywood over the door and a Munsell sammelband in the window. I may have been at Oz at noon but by dinner time it's strictly Ozzie and Harriet.

It's Saturday morning and I'm back to see Ozzie. It's 10:00 am and the lights are out but I knock anyway. In a few moments the door opens a crack and the current proprietor offers admittance in much the same way a carnival fortune teller might say "Welcome to the Casbah." The material is strange, old, mostly broken sets with an occasional glimmer of possibility. Is this where all broken sets go to die? He explains he doesn't really want to sell and as I look at his prices I believe him. God would need to mortgage heaven to buy vol. 17 of World Book. He tells me famous people come to buy here and when I press he says I can only tell you about people who are dead. To myself I'm thinking brain dead. Okay. Red Skelton. Hum. He mentions that his good material is upstairs but that the fire marshal prohibits second floor access. From outside I see the second and third floors are overflowing but he's adamant: no admission. I then begin to notice pornography sprinkled around and conclude the upstairs may have a different inventory than I'm expecting. After an hour I'm off, the mystery unresolved. Upstairs it's Captain Cook or Captain Kook -- I may never know.

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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