Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2009 Issue

A Glimmer in Time

4.11.61

America on the brink of War


By Bruce McKinney

Beneath the firm ground of books, long documented, recorded, saved and frequently valued lies an uncertain, quixotic mass of "un" material that is the emerging moveable feast of the collector of works on paper. This is the extraordinary mass of mostly unknown, unappreciated, undocumented and more than anything else, unexpected material that is the blood [oxygen] of the new collecting. It is easy to miss.


When collectors search the principal listing sites there are tens of millions of items available. Most are books. Checking one site or another, the sheer volume of books overwhelm all else. The occasional random pamphlet, broadside and ephemera simply disappear. The lack of author, title and sometimes even date and place often render such material mute. At first glance it's logical. Books were expected to survive and were printed and bound with that expectation. Pamphlets and ephemera were expected to perish and usually did. When such perishables did survive it has usually been random chance. Their connections to subjects were often slim, a movie program for a Rudolph Valentino opening in 1919, an im-memorium for a soldier killed at Gettysburg, family photographs from the 1870's with a town in clear view, newspapers and clippings of events, often marital or marshall. In truth pamphlets, broadsides and let's include maps here, dwarf the total of all known books by something greater than one hundred times. But most of this material is invisible, if it even still exists, because it is generally difficult to understand, is under-appreciated, difficult to contextualize and describe. Of these various non-book forms broadsides are generally the most highly esteemed. They have the briefest lives and slimmest chances of survival. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a broadside, also called a "broadsheet," as "a sheet of paper printed on one side only, forming one large page."

Broadsides are of course ephemera which Dictionary.com defines as "a short lived thing" and when specific to printing "printed matter of passing interest." So, by definition, ephemera isn't kept except in rare and unusual circumstances. Add to this its fragile nature. A distant aunt's graduation program from a hundred years ago, unless carefully protected, will yellow and fall apart. And in time, unless the names, relationships, places, circumstances and relevance are noted the once obvious often becomes obscure. "Something to keep" in a few generations often becomes "who's this" and "what's this about." Time erodes connection. So ephemera must overcome two frailties; fragile structure and uncertain relationship and so everyday is the victim of attic and basement cleanings. Books tend to go into boxes, ephemera into the trash. And it's a shame for such material sometimes tells us a great deal. Randomly, such material is purchased, when it can be found, by book scouts, eBayers and traditional dealers and then makes its way into collections, ephemera and book fairs, onto listing sites and increasingly [it seems to me] onto eBay.

So it was in January that I ran across several theatrical broadsides posted on eBay by Merry and Marty Lapidus of Brandon, Vermont [merrylap on eBay]. They had bought the broadsides as part of a mixed lot of Kingston and New Rochelle material at the JMW Gallery Auction Gallery in Kingston in November. The lot descriptions mentioned that these broadsides were the first of a larger group - all identified with that place, a place I know well. I both collect Kingston-Rondout as a subject and maintain a Wiki Bibliography about it [click here for wiki]. These first broadsides were advertisements of staged events in 1857 and 1858. Over the course of 6 weeks I bought all offered - 11 in total - for $172.97 plus shipping.

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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