In the AED there are 77 related records that pertain to the first, second or third editions. It’s safe to say Burr’s New York atlases haven’t been terribly rare and as recently as 1952 Wright Howes in his widely followed USIANA rated all issues an AA, uncommon but hardly rare. Sabin, a hundred years ago, mentioned the first edition but not the subsequent issues.
This was of course before map dealers discovered that atlases as individual maps were worth more than atlases as books. Ever since, whenever a ‘breaker’ has acquired a copy of the atlas the number of individual maps for sale has increased and the number of Burr atlases decreased.
During the past sixteen months I have sold more than seven million dollars of books, pamphlets and maps at auction and have since further intensified my collecting of the Hudson Valley – a collection that today includes more than 2,000 items but not a Burr atlas.
In considering this copy I confront two perspectives – as collector and eventual seller. As a collector, were I younger, I would be tempted to buy this copy. Breakers will continue to thin the inventory thereby creating an increasing shortage. Thus even if I’m overpaying I’ll probably come out whole. But I’m 64, and by the numbers, have at most a decade to collect. In time my material will be gifted to an institution, sent to auction or possibly offered on AE in Books for Sale. I won’t be becoming a dealer. So I have to buy an exceptionally appealing copy at its current valuation or buy no copy at all.
That said, I would like an entirely original copy. The binding may be shaken but I want to it to be original. I’ll prefer the 1829 edition, the first, but understand that each reprinting includes new information.
I would like a copy with a strong provenance. When the history of the owner and the history of the book fit together the sum of these parts can produce truly memorable copies.