Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2006 Issue

Twenty-five Major American Items in William Reese's 250th Catalogue

Reese250

William Reese Catalogue 250 with a Catesby illustration on the cover.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has now issued its 250th catalogue. In a note, William Reese recalls that he began selling books 31 years ago, and issued his first catalogue 26 years past. Reese points out, "In that time many extraordinary books and manuscripts have passed through my hands." That is a serious understatement. Reese has long been noted for handling the most important and collectible of printed, written and ephemeral Americana. His catalogues match the quality of his offerings, including thorough descriptions of the items offered and explanations of where they fit historically. A Reese catalogue is an education in American history.

Reese notes that his catalogue 250 includes "some of the most important and interesting [items] that I have had the pleasure of owning." While a sizable catalogue, this one contains just 25 items. They are, as Reese says, very important works. These are some of the most significant pieces of Americana available in private hands. Those who collect at the very highest level, or manage significant institutional collections, will find these 25 items worthy of serious consideration. Here are some of the works being offered.

Item 12 is De Moluccis Insulis... by Maximilianus Transylvanus. For those not up on Latin, this is the first printed account of Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, the first trip ever around the world. Magellan sadly never actually made it around the world himself. He departed Spain in 1519 with five ships and 265 men. By the time the expedition returned in 1522, there was only one ship and 18 men left. Magellan was not one of them. The expedition sailed east, crossing what is now known as the Straits of Magellan below South America, and into a vast, uncharted, and calm ocean he labeled the "Pacific." He made it as far as the Philippines, which he had visited earlier traveling from the other direction, but was killed by natives. After the survivors returned, Maximilianus, a student at the time, was assigned by his teacher, the chronicler Peter Martyr, the task of interviewing the survivors and writing an account of their voyage. This is his account, and it is a first edition, published in Cologne in January 1523. Priced at $675,000.

Item 6 is a most interesting letter. It is one of recommendation from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, to Hernan Cortes, Spanish Conquistador who captured Mexico and destroyed the Aztec empire. Cortes had a testy relationship with the Spanish court, which appreciated his conquests, but frequently had a dim view of his personality. This letter of recommendation from Charles to Cortes contains some unusually strong language, as if the King needed to make clear to his subject that he was to follow the King's wishes. The letter to Cortes, as Governor of New Spain, dated August 19, 1524, is on behalf of one Gonzalo Ocampo. Ocampo would likely have hand carried this recommendation and handed it to Cortes. In it, the King demands, "...I command and charge you that, in all things pertaining to him, you shall regard him as recommended and will help and favor him and grant him appointments in your service, appropriate to his person, that he may be benefited; for in this I shall be well served." It is signed, "I, the King." Not much room for misunderstanding here. It is not clear who Ocampo is, but there was a Gonzalo de Ocampo serving directly under Francisco de Garay in Mexico in 1523. De Garay was a rival Cortes successfully neutralized, but perhaps this association required a forceful recommendation on his part. There was also a Gonzalo de Ocampo active in South America during the 1520s, though I cannot tell whether this is the same person. $75,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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
  • <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>

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