Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

Don Heald: A Perspective

Donald Heald in his domain

When Lewis and Clark went west, they did not go alone.  They had a guide.  When astronauts go into space, they have a team.  They are not always sure what they will find but prepare for what they may encounter.  For serious collectors of printed materials, the greatest have also sought guides; Sabin to help William Menzies and Henry Murphy, Wilberforce Eames for James Lenox, George Smith and A. S. W. Rosenbach to help Henry Huntington, Peter Decker for Fritz Beinecke, H.P. Kraus for his brother Edwin, the Eberstadts for Thomas Streeter, Ken Nebenzahl for his son Frank.   These and many others relied on one or a few dealers to chart their collecting paths.

Such collectors are themselves rare.  They embrace a perspective and pursue it for decades. More try than succeed, though, because the pitfalls and chimera are many.  Success requires steely discipline and patience, coupled with the belief that relevant material eventually will come to market.   When less disciplined, collectors often broaden their perspective to accomodate less germane material, and in that way lose focus that once undone, is difficult to restore.

Three years ago, I had a cup of coffee with Donald Heald, the important American rare book dealer, at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles during the ABAA’s biennial show in Southern California.  His memory is storied, but that morning he spoke of an unusual skill—of being able to inhabit a collector’s perspective and, without notes or references, turn the collector’s interests into a sequence of printed items to be pursued over a lifetime, presenting exhilarating challenge, and in time, become a remarkable collection.  Armed early with such perspective, a collector’s first decisions could lay the foundation for serious pursuit.  Without such perspective, the sheer volume of possibilities makes success less likely.

About this, some dealers may say this is not particularly unique, that many competent dealers can outline a strategy and fill in spaces, if not from memory, then from diligent study.  But how often will they place a collector’s interests ahead of their own, suggesting goals and possibilities that defer rather than encourage purchases?  In my experience, this is uncommon but not impossible and is often crucial to collecting successfully.

Such an approach—getting the collecting map laid down early—potentially sets the path, if not the arc.  Along the way, life will intervene, but if the path is true, the other variables, time, opportunity and money, will be simpler to manage.  Absent a plan unchecked collecting ambitions will sprout like weeds.  It's that important then to have a plan. 

Rare Book Monthly

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    Modern First Editions
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    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
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    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
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    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
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    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
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    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
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    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.

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