• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed "Love / Mr. Papa," to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Alexis de Tocqueville, Autograph Letter Signed, on the publication of <i> Democracy in America </i>, 1837. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Hart Benton, Autograph Manuscript, draft of <i>The Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting</i>, with sketches, 1926. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliot Erwitt, photograph of Kennedy & Eisenhower, signed by both,<br>c. 1960. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> John Adams, Partly-printed Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, 1798. $4,000 to $6,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Graphite drawing of Albert Einstein, signed by him & the artist, S.N. Swamy, 1950. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, London, 1888. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Partly-printed vellum Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State James Madison, 1809. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Agatha Christie, Autograph Manuscript notebook with early drafts for numerous novels, Baghdad, circa 1948. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed to Desmond Fitzgerald, in French, 1889. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Photograph of Fidel Castro, Signed & Inscribed, in Spanish, 1955. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Frederick Stuart Church, archive of 17 illustrated Autograph Letters Signed to Evander Schley, 1905-11. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2008 Issue

Collecting in the Known and Unknown World

Newb.1913

History is in the details.


By Bruce McKinney

This is an article written to accompany this month's issue of the Comet - whose focus is Pamphlets, Broadsides and Ephemera.

History is the imprecise masquerading as the certain. Read history and it always contains opinion dressed as perspective because history is not all the facts, it's specific facts selected by writers. To dress up the text and confer credibility the occasional statement of uncertainty is included implying the rest of what's said is "known." What would history look like without perspective? Possibly something like a Google devoted entirely to all of history's disparate facts. It might tell us everything and nothing. Interpretation is that important. But because history is interpretation it is always subjective. It is also immense in scope and thereby provides finite opportunities for the amateur and the interested to understand specific history uniquely, even perhaps better than experts do. Just don't expect to find consistent confirmation of your research in the big books. The popularizer of history, often an adept story teller, employs an impressionistic approach to tell a coherent story that both explains who we were and by extension who we are. The historian looks intensively into the underlying facts and often clarifies, even debunks conventional wisdom. Between them we have the story leaning toward myth and the facts converted into story. The reader is in the middle.

We of course prefer myth masquerading as fact although it says more about us than it does about the past. When we do confront the past, for safety and convenience, we first separate ourselves from it. It isn't us; it's never us. When confronted we most often omit and what we cannot omit we sometimes deny. Our popular histories hence are more comforting than accurate. It's them. It's not us. Throw a thousand grains of sand into the air and see the sparkle of a few. Writers of popular history write of these while the darker grains are left to academics, lost, forgotten and ignored. What Al Gore characterizes as "inconvenient truths" about a planet under siege it turns out is also applicable to our approach to history. In wilfull ignorance we lose much, not just much of the crucial facts but also the opportunity to understand who we were, what we did, and why we did it. The past wasn't necessarily bad but neither will the future be necessarily better unless we come to terms with it.

This is relevant today because it has become possible, even easy, to reconstruct the past from the enormous volume of ephemera of all types - pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers and magazines, that is increasingly visible. The detailed stories that emerge may confirm, deny or elaborate what we believe. The outcome hardly matters. The principal difference is between believing and knowing. We can learn from what we know. We can only hope from what we believe. Anyone with computer access can do it and the scale and scope of such collecting is always under the control of the collector/researcher. The flow of material is constant. The collector engages and disengages and reengages when time permits.

Looking intently into the past will certainly confirm a substantial portion of mainstream historical narrative be it forms of transportation, demographics or attitudes toward alcohol in the 1840s. At the same time, in the details, the story is always different, perhaps true but not true enough. Other aspects of our understanding and expectation will emerge as fiction. What's compelling today is the opportunity to parse the details in ways inconceivable just a decade ago. And it doesn’t require special access and passes. It simply requires imagination, experience and awareness that unknown material regularly crosses our horizon at unpredictable times, is present briefly and disappears quickly. Those who understand and are interested in aspects of this lost history will pursue such material.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Ackermann, Rudolph—Uwins, Thomas. A collection of 240 drawings for Rudolph Ackermann's <i>Repository of Arts</i> magazine, 1809-1828. £20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, and Joan. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Sive Atlas Novus in Quo Tabulae et Descriptiones Omnium Regionum.</i> 1640-1654. £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Mercator, Gerard and Jodocus Hondius. <i>L’Atlas ou Méditations Cosmographiques de la Fabrique du Monde et Figure Diceluy.</i> 1613. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Speed, John. <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isles Adjoyning...</i> £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Wit, Frederick De. [General Atlas], With The Engraved Title For Atlas Maior. Amsterdam, [C.1688-1696]. £50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Kuntz, Joh. Rudolph. <i>[Abbildungen Königlich Württembergischer Gestütts-Pferde von Orientalischen Racen.</I> Stuttgart: Ebner 1823–1824]. £30,000 – 40,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Lawrence, T.E. Ivory Silk Thawb, Or Under-Robe, Presented by Lawrence of Arabia to a family friend. £10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Archipelagus Orientalis Sive Asiaticus</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £200,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Asiae Descriptio Novissima</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Japanese bird paintings—(Rinchô Zu). A Pair Of Painted Scrolls of Birds. [Japan, Late 18th Or Early 19th Century]. £25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Huang, Qianren. Da Qing Wannian Yitong Tianxia Quantu [Complete Map of the Whole Unified Country of the Great Qing]. [1803]. £80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Sôkaku or Ryôsei Jôkei. Da Ming Sheng Tu, [Map of (China Under) The Great Ming Dynasty]. (1691 Or 1711). £80,000 – 120,000
  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Book of hours, manuscript on vellum. Around 1520. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum</i>. 1493. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br><i> Biblia germanica</i>. 1475/1476.<br>Est: € 140,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum</i>. 1574. Est: € 26,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>L. de Varthema, <i>Die ritterlich und lobwirdig Rays</i>. 1515. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. H. van Linschoten, <i>His Discours of Voyages</i>. 1598. Est: € 70,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. G. Stedman, <i>Narrative of Surinam</i>. 1806. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. von Menzel, <i>Armeewerk Friedrichs d. Gr.</i> 1850-1860. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>G. Heym, <i>Umbra Vitae</i>. 1924.<br>Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Master binding by G. Levitzky. 1914. Est: € 2,500
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>R. Char, <i>A la santé du serpent</i>. 1954. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Nam June Paik, <i>Fluxus Testament</i>. 1975. Est: € 18,000
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions