Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2008 Issue

Bookselling in a Red and Blue World

Passion

One of our more controversial books.


By Renée Magriel Roberts

I'm at the computer today and should be doing something for the bookstore: entering a quantity of Ben Franklin-related materials, or putting together our pretty amazing catalog of Henry Lord Brougham bronzes, signed letters, books, and engravings. Or perhaps I should be making headway on the tens of thousands of really good books (that have been screened at least three or four times) and are sitting in boxes waiting to have their moment online.

I could be on eBay, looking for that next great buy (like the very first edition published in 1869 of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, snatched in the middle of the night from a Spanish bookseller), or conversely, putting some of my for sure materials up for sale, like the 1795 first English edition of George Washington's letters to Congress.

If I'm feeling like we don't have enough books, I could be scheduling visits with the estate sales in our area. With an unusually high population of elderly citizens, you don't have to go far to find books for sale privately. Not likely on this one though, as we have totally run out of space for mass acquisitions.

I could be doing personal searches for those special clients, you know the ones that account for a disproportionate amount of our sales. Since many of them already know how to use the used book search engines, we have to get creative. For example, once I found a scholar who had cited a hard-to-find early edition in his research paper and was happy to sell it (he was just interested in the content, not its rarity).

Instead, I'm finding myself obsessing, during business hours, over our politics. Not only the national races, but also local stuff, and of course the effect that this economic disaster (this seems like too mild a word for the implosion of the financial services industry) will have on our business and the businesses and lives of those we know.

For example, we just received a phone call from our payroll company for the weekly payroll numbers. Not difficult, as we only have two employees. But when I got to speaking with my rep, she told me that a lot of businesses she works with have gone out of business. She's worried about her own job.

I've had similar conversations with suppliers. All of them - both large and small - seem extremely anxious not only to get additional business, but to get paid as quickly as possible to improve their cash flow. We don't offer credit-based transactions either through the bookstore or through the publishing company, with a very few exceptions. We didn't want to have to maintain an accounts receivable, and in times like these, that policy appears to be almost prescient.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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