Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2010 Issue

It's in the Mail

Spink-1

A letter from Stephen Austin ...


By Bruce McKinney

Shame steals into town in the dark of night, pride and ambition strolls down Main Street at high noon. And then there is the Floyd E. Risvold Collection - American Expansion & The Journey West, a collection of Postal History and related materials that over three days in New York in late January brought $8,128,264. This one was an open top Duesenberg with Miss America holding roses and waving to the crowd on New Year's Day. This doesn't happen often. The sale was organized by Spink-Shreves Galleries and held in New York.

Floyd Risvold was a serious collector of the American Westward Expansion who saw that postal history, the envelopes, postal cancellations and the letters sent- together contained an emerging portrait of America that collectors would someday value highly. That the someday would be January 2010 is probably surprising to some, given the difficult economy. While he was buying [1970 to 1990 roughly] the field was nascent, the buds in April that become the fruit in September. He was a prescient collector with good taste, his judgment reconfirmed 1,296 times as all but one lot sold.

He did not live to see his collection sold for he passed away at 97 a year ago. But he wrote two books late in life: Minnesota Territory in Postmarks, Letters and Covers, and A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Conspiracy of 1865 that now trade in the used book market.

The sale makes it onto the pages of AE Monthly and into the AED as part of the permanent search because about a hundred lots were books, most bought for reference, some collectible. Mr. Risvold wasn't a skilled book collector but his judgment about stamps was exceptional.

The sale was interesting because it was marketed as postal history. The promotion was extensive and finely tuned to stamp collectors and those interested American history. It was not pitched to book collectors mainly because the 149 lots of books and ephemera [of 1,294 lots in total] were almost an after-thought, not the focus of the sale but rather an adjunct. Ultimately the books and ephemera, 11.5% of the lots, would amount to only 7.3% of the outcome, or $589,958. In the postal history portion, which included both rare cancellations and important manuscript content, single items brought a third as much.

By dollar volume pride of place went to lot 330, a letter written in 1836 from Stephen F. Austin, at that point in Tennessee, to Gen. John McCalla to raise troops for Texas. The letter has a portion torn away but never mind. It is an important Texas artifact and brought $207,100. Three other lots brought more than $100,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <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…

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