Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2009 Issue

More than Meets the Eye

Curtis-c

An Edward Curtis image from Christie's on the 10th


By Bruce McKinney

Two sales this year by libraries in the United States illustrate how procedure may influence public response when material is deaccessioned. The two libraries are the Wilmington, Delaware Public Library and the Gleeson Library at the University of San Francisco. The purposes in both cases were the same: to sell material to raise money to invest in their physical plants. For the Wilmington Public Library they hope to pay for a new roof, heating and air conditioning system. In the case of USF it is to pay for rare book library upgrades that their spokesman has described this way:

"The room that currently houses our collection is inadequate: it does not offer proper controls for humidity, temperature, lighting or protection from fire. Expensive upgrades are necessary to ensure our collection's long-term survival."

In both cases, the material sent to auction was donated decades earlier by distinguished donors, Lammot du Pont to Wilmington, Reinhard Timken-Zinkann to the Gleeson. Neither donor restricted deaccession. The University of San Francisco offered some of Mr. Timken-Zinkann's Durer prints at Bonham's & Butterfield's on May 11th, the Wilmington Public Library a complete set of the Curtis Indian Portfolio on October 8th at Christie's in New York.

Here the similarities end.

The Durer prints, although valuable did not do well. The Curtis brought $775,000, a good price in the current environment.

The sale of material from the Gleeson Library was not announced, neither was its provenance included in the lot descriptions. Neither did the material, as is often the case at public auction, identify the seller. As luck would have it though, in the days leading up to the sale, the material's history as part of the Gleeson archives was discovered by members of the Gleeson's Friends of the Library and an extraordinary debate subsequently ensued.

The upshot was bruised feelings all around. The university felt it had the right to dispose but did so in a way that made obvious its embarrassment. The Friends of the Gleeson Library felt betrayed and both past and future donors were left angry and concerned.

The recent sale of the twenty volume set of Curtis by the Wilmington Library was a very different experience.

The Wilmington Delaware Public Library's Board of Overseer's publicly authorized the sale this past spring and then consigned the set to Christie's who issued an announcement on May 5th, fully five months ahead of the bidding. The owner was identified and the sale's purpose explained.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
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  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

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