Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2007 Issue

The William E. Boeing Library from Restoration Books

Boeing

The Boeing Library (William Boeing holds a mail sack in the photo of the first international mail flight -- Victoria, B.C. to Seattle --1919).


By Michael Stillman

We recently received an exceptional catalogue of the library of an exceptional man: Selections from the Library of William E. Boeing. Even those not familiar with the man will instantly recognize his name, synonymous with air travel. Boeing actually began his career in the timber business, where his late father had built substantial wealth. This led him to move to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, now home of his namesake company's airplane manufacturing facilities. It was there that he witnessed an air show in 1910, which generated his interest in aviation, and determination to improve upon the technology.

By 1915, Boeing was in the business of designing airplanes. This led to an early foray into carrying airmail, from which he would buy out other carriers, unifying operations under the name United Aircraft. This in turn led to passenger travel and parts manufacturing as well. However, following a scandal concerning mail routes in 1934, the government forced a separation of all manufacturers from airlines. United was broken into three companies, United Airlines, United Technologies, and Boeing Airplane. William Boeing was disgusted by the government's action and essentially retired from the aircraft industry, concentrating his energies on thoroughbred horses, ranching, traveling on his spacious yacht and, of course, his library. He died in 1956 aboard his yacht, just as it was returning to Seattle.

This half-inch thick catalogue has been prepared by Restoration Books of Boeing's hometown of Seattle. This is Part I of what will be two major catalogues: Polar, Maritime, and Overland Travels and Explorations. There is a notable number of travel books whose ultimate destination would be the American or Canadian Northwest. In addition to these primary catalogues, another 1,500 books from Boeing's library will be offered through topical lists. Finally, Restoration later plans to issue a listing of 200 Boeing library books in the field of aviation that were donated to The Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Boeing's library included a mix of notable and less consequential books. Restoration decided that rather than just publish one catalogue of his most important books, they would include both the rarest works and some of less significance, though still interesting in terms of their content. Here are a few from Part I.

One of the rarest and most significant Oregon Trail narratives is Journal of Travels Over the Rocky Mountains, to the Mouth of the Columbia River, Made During the Years 1845 and 1846... by Joel Palmer. It is the only contemporary account of settler travel in 1845, which doubled Oregon's white population (by adding 3,000 immigrants). Palmer's detail was so extensive that this book became a guide for travelers who set out on the trail. However, it may be this practical use of the book which explains why so few copies remain today. They were worn out. Boeing's copy is a first edition from 1847, possibly the second issue (it lacks the errata slip). It comes with a letter Boeing received from Chicago bookseller A.C. McClurg in 1915 saying, "It is undoubtedly the rarest book relating to Oregon..." McClurg's price was $90, probably enough to buy an airplane at the time. Currently priced at $5,700.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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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