Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2009 Issue

A Benefit for Collectors: Eternal Life

Tmd

The man dies. The books go on.


By Bruce McKinney

For those with a love of reading the value of a book is in its content. It's condition often hardly matters. In fact a well-worn copy passed down and around in some families is one way of conveying bond and perspective. For years I have kept a library of books I read against the day my son and daughter would ask for a good read or an angle on history or life. In that way I have been able to pass along to them some fifty or so books one or both later read. Someday they may speak of me to their children as someone who could be understood by the books I read and suggested. That a small piece of my perspective may endure for a generation or two is an appealing, if perhaps not an entirely realistic thought. Most of us would cheat death if we could but leaving some tell-tale evidence of existence is probably about the best we can hope for. The books I read and recommended are potentially part of their intellectual inheritance.

I believe book collectors hope to do a similar thing when they add their bookplates to material they value in the hope their intellectual DNA will, once and again, in future, land in the libraries of the like-minded and hence be carried on the shoulders of future collectors on into a world where they and I hope, and almost expect, reading will still matter.

For bonds between yesterday's, today's and collectors-yet-unborn to be forged however evidence of ownership needs to survive. The collector needs to add a bookplate or notations and their books need to run the gauntlet of multiple dealers' potential desire to suppress the information because it too easily identifies a copy purchased at auction on the cheap.

As a consequence, while headstones tend to last, bookplates too often disappear. Among the more than 125,000 items posted on the AED during the first six months of 2009, almost all of it collectible, a portion of it rare, just 2% contain references to bookplates. Just today, in the 7,781 September auction lots already posted on AE in upcoming auctions, just 298 contain 'bookplate' in their descriptions. Collectors, once they become serious, should make an effort to design, or have designed, a bookplate. Life will end, the collector's connection may endure and may even add value.

One reason that book collecting has suffered over the past half century is that ownership information has been suppressed. No one wants to take credit for this but it is clearly both dealers and consignors to auction who suppress this information because they wish to break the bonds that connect older [and lower priced] auction records with material returning to the market with much higher expectations. Where collectors do not see that collecting and collectors are respected their enthusiasm stands to be diminished.

Of course, the selection of a bookplate can negatively impact value. A quick Google search for 'bookplates' unearths quite a few of them. They are absolutely scary. But there is also the Bookplate Society which actually focuses on bookplates to the point it's likely some collectors have actually removed them from books. In other words, putting your bookplate into your important volumes assures only that you tried. If your books at auction go cheaply your bookplate will disappear to obscure the ignominy. If the plate is superb some bookplate collector is going to try to excise it. It's probably best to approach it as if you are racing carrier pigeons. Send out twenty and hope seven arrive.

Of course, if you succeed too well some enterprising forger will duplicate your [now assumed famous] bookplate thus raising questions in the centuries ahead as to how your bookplate shows up in material published after your death. If it happens, the chances are you won't know and, perchance if you do, you probably won't care.

If you are achieving eternal life based on something you read in a book while on earth please send a sign. Something discrete. You can reach me at the Americana Exchange.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
  • <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

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