Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2003 Issue

Sold! Auctions Review


Title page of Atherton’s Splendid Idle Forties, Zamorano #1.

By Everett Wilkie

Of the Americana auctions that took place during the period 20 January 2003-20 February 2003, no doubt the Dorothy Sloan—Rare Books sale on February 5 of Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.’s complete collection of first editions of all titles listed in The Zamorano 80 was the most important. The sale, her #12, marked the second time in a decade that Sloan has sold a complete set of The Zamorano 80. (Although comparisons between the Volkmann Sale and her 1994 Clifford sale would probably be invidious, they will be made anyway.) Also on February 5 immediately preceding the Volkmann sale, Sloan held sale #13, “A Few Good Maps & Manuscripts Touching upon the History of Texas, California, the Southwest, Mexico & The Borderlands.” All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.

In the Volkmann sale, with few exceptions, the prices for materials written by women remained fairly steady. Among such authors were the first two lots in the sale. Lot #1, estimated at $100-200, was Gertrude Atherton’s The Splendid Idle Forties. This copy contained a manuscript note by Volkmann’s mother noting that she had purchased it at a rummage sale. It fetched $115. The Clifford copy, which was an author’s presentation copy to G. W. Lyman, who ironically helped guide Volkmann’s mother in her collecting and reading, fetched $143.75. Lot #2, Mary Austin’s popular The Land of Little Rain, estimated at $250-500, brought $287.50. The Clifford copy fetched, on the other hand, $1035, probably because it had a letter and photograph concerning the author with it. Ella Sterling Cummins’ The Story of the Files, here lot #24, estimated at $100-200, brought $287.50, a slight increase over the $173 it brought in the Clifford sale. The same is true of Helen Jackson’s Ramona, here in lot 46, estimated at $300-600, which brought $402.50 here and $345 in the Clifford sale. Ina Coolbrith’s Songs from the Golden Gate, the only poetry in the entire sale, was lot 21, estimated at $50-100. Here the copy brought $80.50. In the Clifford sale, the lot was knocked down for $316, but in that case the lot included an author’s presentation copy of the second edition with an Autograph Letter Signed by her to the recipient. On the other hand, here lot 21A, a copy of the fourth impression with an author’s presentation to artist Maynard Dixon and his wife, fetched $373.75 on an estimate of $75-150. The most spectacular but yet most explainable price swing in this category was Louise Clapp’s “California” series, here in lot 69, estimated at $2000-3000. These articles, all of which were printed in The Pioneer; or, California Monthly Magazine, have long been recognized as important descriptions of California life during the Gold Rush. The 24 issues of the magazine had been bound into two volumes but still brought a respectable $10,350, which may well reflect the value in which people hold this author and the vehicle. In the Clifford sale, however, the lot fetched $32,200, primarily, one suspects, due to the fact that the issues were all separates in their original wrappers and perhaps because two bidders may have gotten into a shouting match. In any case, none of these titles were so uncommon that Volkmann had to buy any of the Clifford copies.

Rare Book Monthly

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