Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2009 Issue

The Case for Collecting

Tcm.golf

[right] Tom McKinney in the 1940's, an accidental collector


By Bruce McKinney

Everyone collects something. It's a strong human instinct. Most such collections are random and casual, often the initially inadvertent accumulation of seashells or whatever. Something was interesting or pretty and seemed worth retaining. My father was not a collector and again he was. Over his forty years of playing golf he rarely threw away his score cards or bag tags. In time, as clips and rubber bands gave way this ephemera would land in a drawer that became "Dad's golf stuff." It wasn't a collection and yet it was. On a rainy summer Saturday or in the dead of winter he'd occasionally reorganize the material into groups while talking about a course, round, or playing partners. Piles of more than 4 inches, the height of the drawer, were divided by place and era. In time his golf photographs emigrated from the family albums into the golf drawer. It was an inadvertent collection.

My mother would have said she wasn't a collector but she bought a lot of clothes and never seemed to throw anything away. Her sister and aunt shared her passion and locked themselves into her bedroom every few months to try things on. "I'm about five pounds away on that one." Her clothes were not only her history, they were also an element of her discipline. She would not have called her clothes a collection but I think they were.

Neither golf nor clothes ever meant much to me. My interests were history and place. I wasn't born with it but I was introduced early.

By a simple stroke of luck, that would have been arranged by my Mother, I spent an afternoon in 1956 with Bill Heidgerd, then President of the New Paltz [New York] Historical Society. He was an "old book" dealer and I ten. His book shop was his living room, his house one of the "old stones" on Huguenot Street. His books were on shelves, their fragile bindings, aged paper and fecund aroma together the single seed that sprouted into a lifelong interest in old material, their secrets and histories. He showed me some of what he had and spoke of what he dreamed of finding. His dream became mine, the pursuit of the "known to exist" but, for him, the yet to be discovered. His two elusives were pamphlet-books: The Indians by Abraham Bevier, printed in Rondout in 1846, and Tom Quick, The Indian Slayer published in Monticello in 1852. Had he lived a few more decades he would have seen, as I did, these Hudson Valley incunables arrive in the auction rooms and appear on the internet. Today I have three copies of the Bevier and two of the Tom Quick. The Bevier became a study of Rondout and today a collection of this place which today exists mostly in memory.

It might have been different for me if, instead of spending an afternoon with an old bookman, I had spent it with a mechanic. If so, today I might own some old cars or possibly their manuals. Living in a small town fifty years ago the options were fewer but almost everyone 'accumulated' something. The subject interested me and I continued.

These days many dealers are concerned if there is a new generation of collectors. There is. They come and go on AE in an often invisible way. By the time they arrive most have settled on a subject, if not a methodology, and their challenge become the pursuit of it as information and sometimes object. Just a few days ago a collector, who is an AE Monthly reader, was exploring Google Books that I've written about recently. References to an auction catalogue of his family's history led him to search for it online and it turns out to be one of about 1,600 auction catalogues I list in Books for Sale. It's the dispersal at Anderson Galleries in the 1920's of a book collection of a distant family member. It's his Tom Quick.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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
  • <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.

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