Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2011 Issue

A Personal View of 2010

Missionary heralds

The Missionary Heralds offered my most exciting sale of the year.

The Best Stories

Of last year’s stories, the one on Better World Books got the most hits and generated the most feedback. Vic Zoschak’s comments on the value of bibliography generated the most requests for handouts, and the recent article on 007 Book Values had the best mail, including a letter from a reader in Australia thanking us for running the story and sending a photo of his inscribed Bond books and another shot of him smiling in front of his Bond car - a LOTUS. (For links to a year’s worth of articles see the end of this story)


The Best Moment

The best moment for me as a bookseller came in the fall when the Missionary Heralds I bought at the Lansing, Michigan Book Fair finally arrived here on Maui. Just like the intrepid missionaries, these slim little pamphlets traveled via slow boat and took a long time to arrive in the mid-Pacific.


I got chicken skin as I read these first published accounts giving their first impressions of the place we now call Hawaii. These excerpts from their letters and journals dated 1819 and 1820 were written for the folks back in Boston. Their friends and family had sent them off on a long sea voyage to a far away land and not seen them in over a year.


Until their mail arrived they did not know if they were alive or dead. But they were alive and like good New Englanders busily recording all their thoughts and experiences. They arrived to find the pagan idols overthrown and the royalty and chiefs of the isles receptive to their message. You didn’t have to be a Christian to appreciate these personal historical accounts in their most vivid written eyewitness form.


The buzz I got off these slim little antique pamphlets – the original account in their first appearance - was only exceeded by the thrill of selling this material the next day and at a respectable price.


It wasn’t my biggest sale of the year, but it was my most exciting, the one that turned me on, the one that made it fun and worthwhile to be in this business. I suspect that I, like many of you, relish the thrill-of-the-chase almost as much as the money, though I can assure you that the money does help.


The Best Advice

The best advice of 2010 came from Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis in Portland, Maine.  I interviewed him as part of a story on the ABAA. It was Ian who commented persuasively that it was just as easy to sell a $10,000 book as a $1,000 book.


I took this advice to heart. Not having any $10,000 books in stock, I hung up the phone and listed the most expensive thing I could find in my own inventory: a large, old, lovely and rare map of the Philippines. It sold within days.


He was right, the good stuff sells and it sells rapidly. Selling is not the hard part. Finding is the hard part.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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