Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2009 Issue

We Shall not Pass this way Again

Deorbe77b

Hakluyt: The Virginia map


By early August it became clear, from the general results at auction, that the market was holding, stabilizing if not recovering. By the end of the month, when major sales for the fall season were committed and many announced it became apparent consignors, many unconvinced, had withheld some or all of their commitments. What the market then needed was a collection of significant material with low reserves to be sold at public auction to establish the current valuation.

At that moment, looking at the shortage of premium material and statistics suggesting an emerging market recovery, I decided to send the de Orbe Novo Collection into the rooms in December.

As to where to sell I gave some consideration to selling in England but the material, though of European interest, was clearly American. I thought initially about sending $250,000 each to Sotheby's, Christie's, Bloomsbury and Swann but, when the discussion opened with Bloomsbury they quickly sent two experts, Tom Lamb and Richard Austin, to San Francisco to spend two days evaluating material. Within a few hours they offered a single owner sale in November [later changed to December].

In consigning I requested, and Bloomsbury subsequently agreed, to provide in their online version the full text electronic footnoting we have developed on AE - to directly link items offered with substantial portions of their auction history.

As the consignor I could insist that reserves be set low enough to engage multiple bidders. Consistent with this I asked E. M. Granger of 42 Line to create a bookplate specifically for the eighty-one items in the sale. It reads simply Liceat Decernere Foro which translates as "Let the market decide."

In keeping with my belief in clarity I set one further requirement: that purchase information for each book be included in the description. The source, be it dealer or auction house, the year purchased and the price paid be given. I bought this material from the best sources, often with the advice of others. I believe their involvement adds substantially to the appeal of the material.

Providing this information also invests in this sale a sense of drama. Whether a collector, rare book librarian, dealer or bystander the inner workings of the world of books at the highest level, will for a few hours, be on public display.

I believe, because of the clarity provided, that this sale will be written about, discussed and ultimately remembered as a benchmark. When any of the eighty-one items in the years to come return to the rooms, auction houses will invariably note and auction scribes pay attention to how such copies have fared through time. They'll pull out their abacus, slide rules and calculators and exhale a hummmm. What the hummmm will mean I don't know. But if you live long enough you will.

For myself I expect a future footnote in auction and dealer catalogues will from time to time raise the questions "what's this and who was that?" In that way this story will come to light again. My name isn't on the book plate although my illegible signature is. It will be only the most diligent that look and an even smaller group that acquire the facts to recreate the story generations hence. But it will happen and it will be the very people, who in life I most admired, who will sort the facts from the distance that passing times provides, and render a verdict that I will accept.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <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>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <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>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions