Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2008 Issue

A Perspective on Maps and their Place in the Heavens

Lan

The 1513 Tabula Terre Nove by Waldseemuller [offered by Martayan Lan]


By Bruce McKinney

The April Comet

When people think about books and look online they seem at first glance to be a single universe. Fiction and non-fiction exist side by side as do books just published and those printed five hundred years ago. Illustrated books, childrens books, illustrated material, autobiography, books on ants and others on elephants are all one click away. This is because online listing sites tend to arrange material alphabetically by author or title and sort it in ascending or descending price order. The difference between an original printing and a reproduction of the Gutenberg Bible therefore will be price and the distinctions sorted out by the listing-reader. These differences are of course extraordinary but for many, perhaps even most, works on paper these variations are less apparent and therefore more difficult to understand. Such difficult to understand but important distinctions coupled with the public's collecting interest, are the principal drivers for the development of specialist dealers, the polar opposite of the generalist bookseller upon which the book business has been built. The generalist can be said to know the distance from Palm Beach to London, the specialist the depth and temperature of the water. In the map field, a narrow category and the subject of this month's Comet, there is plenty of room for both perspectives because while there are always collectors seeking the Everests there are more that climb the Shawangunks, the Catskills and the Piedmonts and feel well-compensated if they find an item of personal interest. The very existance of AE is evidence of this broad based interest for here, while we are focused on rare and collectible works on paper, we understand the fun is unearthing the right item whether it is $40 or $40,000.

Within the world of collectible works on paper one of the strongest and perhaps even the strongest segment is cartography [it's a map if its says Esso, cartography if it costs more than $1,000]. This field manages to win the trifecta because it's often interesting and attractive to both the collector and their spouse for whom the collection is history and attractive presentation. A library of course will do this too but libraries do not announce themselves so well as maps [and images for that matter] that can tell their story when framed and mounted on walls. Maps also gain from the multiple communities that offer them. Some maps are independent productions but many others begin life as an image in an atlas or book and hence are bought and sold in the world of books. Even as recently as the 1950's Howes' Usiana accorded little additional value to books with maps. Content, maps and images had parity. Today maps live on the other side of the rainbow, a pricing trend that Graham Arader, the exceptional map dealer, recently explained this way:
"Map prices have increased at a 400% rate per decade over the past 40 years. With Smiley [the Edward Scissorhands of library map plundering now in jail], others out of the picture and map librarians more diligent and protective, the artificial liquidity in exceptional maps evident the past 10 years, is passing and prices are rising. Looking ahead I expect as much as a 30 fold increase over the next 10 years in the value of important maps as scarcity increases. Even pedestrian material will do well. Images are in their moment."

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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