Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2006 Issue

Retirement is a Four Letter Word

Bem.r.8.06

If we are not busy being born we are busy dying.


By Bruce McKinney

On turning 60 -- Sixty I'm told is kind of old but I beg to differ. From where I sit, and yes I sit, this feels like the catbird seat and I'm the cat, not the bird. What matters, of course, more than numbers is the intellectual stimulation that keeps us engaged. These days I have my hands full with the ever evolving possibilities and challenges of AE, tasks Byzantine enough to ensure full employment for several more decades. It's what I need to live. Too often we succumb to thinking that retirement is the goal. It's at most the baton handoff to the next and sometimes final lap. Life is a race we want to run, not watch because, in the final analysis it's the race that keeps us alive.

Retirement has its place and you can identify it by the stones laid out in rows. Many seniors [you're one if you get a discount at the movies] do jobs they do not like but stay because it's familiar, the pay and benefits satisfactory. For those in this circumstance the next stage will in time become the welcome option and hopefully not the final choice. After all, not doing the same old job is not the same as giving up. It's simply a shift. For all of us, by whatever routes we arrive at these gates of change, these final chapters will read better if we are intellectually engaged.

The very good news for those involved with books is that remarkable, if different opportunities, are every day emerging. These new ideas are lions roaming where for decades only squirrels were found. What was thought seismically stable is in fact the Vesuvius of our generation: the transforming awareness, display, market and marketing of books electronically. To us, to some the over-the-hill gang, falls the opportunity to pan the nuggets, map the fields and file the claims to what is becoming an interesting amalgam of the very old and the very new -- in the emerging world of printed material.

Why us? It's true the race is to the swiftest but it is also to the interested. Technologically we do not match up with rank and file youth but never mind because they aren't interested in this opportunity and don't think over-much about books and history. They will of course in time be as avid and committed as we are. For the time being though their disinterest is useful for it leaves the field open to we who have the knowledge to shape the field for future generations.

So, as I turn 60, I see an interesting opportunity. The world of rare and collectible books daily comes more into view. In a sense we are all heirs to Columbus: every amateur and professional book person a spectator or participant to a story not yet written, simply unfolding. For those who love books, words, phrases and paper is there a better place to be than on the rim of Vesuvius as the world is transformed?

For myself all this is quite enough.

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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