Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2007 Issue

<b>AE</b> Bibliographic Database Passes 1.5 Million Records

Lewis

Some recent AED records on early "Lewis and Clark" editions.


By Michael Stillman

The beginning of the new year marked a milestone here at the Americana Exchange. The crown jewel of our services, the Americana Exchange Bibliographic Database ("AED" for short), passed the 1.5 million record threshold. We are impressed by this achievement, as when the AE opened its doors in 2002, the database consisted of just 190,000 records. Of course a few readers, maybe even more than a few readers, may still be wondering "just what is the AE Database anyway?" We are glad you asked (even if you didn't). Hopefully, those of you who do not subscribe to the AED will read this article to see what it is, as someday you too may want to subscribe. There's nothing to lose by learning about it. That way, even if you choose not to subscribe, it will still be an educated decision.

Here, quickly then, is what it was and what it is today. The Americana Exchange Bibliographic Database was intended to be what the name suggests, a database of Americana bibliographies. It started with some of the most important of those, such as Sabin, Evans, Howes' USiana, and most of the very hard to find issues of the American Imprints Inventory. These are still in the AED, but the remaining 1,310,000 records cover a far more vast territory of collecting. We quickly outgrew the moniker "Americana," but once you choose a name, you are more or less stuck with it. Feel free to just call us "AE." That seems to work for "KFC" since they realized having "Fried" as a middle name wasn't such a good idea anymore.

What the AED is today is a collection of 1,500,000 records pertaining to books, manuscripts and ephemera. Some are from traditional bibliographies, but the great majority are now priced records, from auctions and classic booksellers' catalogues. "Priced" is the operative word here, because while standard bibliographies provide important information, the critical piece of data for many collectors and sellers is value. This is necessary data to buy and sell intelligently, yet it can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle to find.

Okay, I can hear some of you saying you can get your values from Abe. If it is a cheap, common title, you are probably right. If there are ten copies available on Abe for $1 each, you can readily estimate its value, confident that you are not off by more than a dollar. However, when it comes to collectible material, Abe pricing can be galaxies removed from reality, presuming the item is even offered on Abe. Often, the prices seen on Abe reflect what a book cannot be sold for, rather than what it can. That's why listings can stay there for an eternity. Anyone who relies on Abe pricing to price their own books for sale needs to be prepared to own them for a very long time. Anyone who relies on Abe pricing alone to purchase a valuable book is out of their mind.

At the heart of today's AED are auction records. The auction is the only true open market, the one place where the market determines a book's value. As anyone with a knowledge of elementary economics can attest, this is a book's monetary value, not some invented, possibly dreamland price pulled from thin air. If you want to know for what price a book is likely to sell in a reasonable amount of time, or what a rational price is to pay for one, there is no better guide than the auction. Sure you may be able to sell for more, you may be willing to pay more, but get too far out of line from the open market price and you are asking for heartbreak.

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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