Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

A Michael Hurley Tribute from the Twelfth Street Booksellers

12thstreet30

A 25th anniversary tribute to Michael Hurley.


By Michael Stillman

Twelfth Street Booksellers, the Southern California specialist in gemology books, has published an unexpected catalogue. It is a combination 25th Anniversary and Tribute to Michael Hurley. As explained by proprietor Lillian Cole, it was the eccentric Los Angeles bibliophile Michael Hurley who gave her a start in the book trade. Not that she ever met Hurley, but then again, not that many people not already booksellers at the time did. He was rather reclusive, living alone with his books.

Hurley came to Los Angeles around 1930, a young man who had been a high school valedictorian back in Iowa. He found a job at the post office, rented a small home, and began a life of book collecting. It seems he did little else for the remainder of his life. He never married, never owned a home, never even bought a car. He bought books, ultimately 35,000 of them. He crammed his small home and garage with these volumes, piled high to the ceilings, leaving little room for anything else. His house must have looked like that of the legendary English collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, only smaller. If he had any purpose to his collecting, other than a love of books gone so wild it could well be described as "bibliomania," it is unknown. Hurley made no provisions for what would happen to his books after he died. He had no heirs. The collection fell to Los Angeles County to dispose of when he died in 1984 at the age of 77. What was determined to be the very best of his collection was turned over to Dawson's Book Shop, which published a catalogue. The remainder was put up for sale at several auctions, where they were sold primarily in mixed boxes. It was hardly the way to disperse a collection of this magnitude, but Hurley evidently was unconcerned about its fate once he was separated from it.

The passing of Hurley crossed with Ms. Cole's entrance into the book trade. She had recently become interested in becoming a bookseller, so she attended one of the Hurley auctions. It was probably the perfect starting point for a new bookseller without a specific field. If there was a particular focus to Hurley's collecting, it escapes me. He seems to have collected everything, more in the mode of the aforementioned Phillipps than any other collector who comes to mind. His auctions must have been a grab bag, but through them, Ms. Cole obtained the inventory necessary to start her business. In time, she moved to her current specialization, gemology books. Those from the Hurley collection not sold years ago went to the back of the bookshelves, almost as buried as they must have been in Hurley's house. Now, with her 25th anniversary in the trade, Ms. Cole has pulled some of them off the shelves, to create this latest catalogue which combines some of the Hurley titles, some purchased elsewhere, and some from her specialty in gemology. Here are a few samples from this catalogue.

Hurley owned his share of bibliographies, but here is an unusual one: The Annals of Murder. A Bibliography of Books and Pamphlets on American Murders from Colonial Times to 1900. This 1961 bibliography by Thomas McDade includes 1,126 entries, meaning it covers a small town's worth of people who disappeared from this life with a little assistance. A quick flip through TV programming today indicates this subject still fascinates us the way it did these earlier generations of readers. Item 27. Priced at $95.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>The Sportsman's Portfolio of American Field Sports.</i> 1855. Est: $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Bishop's Birds. Etchings of Water-Fowl and Upland Game Birds.</i> 1936. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting Big Game in Far Northwest British Columbia</i>. 1904. Est: $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Mananaland. Adventuring with Camera and Rifle Through California in Mexico.</i> 1929. Est: $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Grand Canyon Trails.</i> 1924. Est: $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia. A Narrative of a nine months’ journey..</i> 1902. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting in Tanzania [...in Zimbabwe; ...the Sudan; ...in Botswana; ...in Ethiopia; ...in Zambia; ...in South Africa; ...in Kenya]</i>. 1991-2000. Est: $800 to $1200
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hounds and Hunting through the Ages ... with an Introduction by the Earl of Lonsdale</i>. 1928. Est: $600 to $900
  • <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>
  • <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

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