Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2012 Issue

George S. MacManus:  a source of inspiration

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Clarence Wolf of George S. Macmanus

Several months ago we approached Clarence Wolf of George S. MacManus Company in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania for permission to include the company’s catalogues in the AED.  He agreed and we have since been building a MacManus resource file.  As of today we have added 24,965 of their records dating from the late 1930’s to the early 1980’s and in time expect to include about 75,000 records reflecting the ebb and flow of their almost 8 decades as booksellers.  These records tell an interesting story of intensifying specialization, growing interest and rising prices.

Mr. MacManus’s history in the trade traces to Philadelphia in the 1930s.  The initial effort was modest, the economy dismal.  You sold what you could for what price you could get.  In 1937 Ben Wolf, Clarence Wolf’s father, joined the firm and the company began a gradual transition from generalist to rare book specialist, a transition whose forward progress can be seen in the firm’s decision in 1949 to become a founding member of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America.  From then on the firm would sell both plebian and patrician volumes and become architect to many of the important American collections built over the following 50 years.

In 1967 George died and the firm continued under Ben Wolf.  Clarence, the firm’s president today, assumed control in 1972 and a stronger, deeper antiquarian thread emerged in the cataloguing, an emphasis that continues today.

Clarence Wolf, in looking back, recalls the salad days - in the 1960s-1980s, “when we could issue a catalogue, sell half within 3 months, another third over the balance of the first year and then sell most of the rest in the second year.  We could do this over and over year after year.  We spent our energy searching, knowing that if we found good material we could sell it.”   “Norman Kane, today an important dealer in Americana, was with our firm for ten of these years, establishing the MacManus presence in important literature.   “The MacManus Company has been fortunate to have a great team.”
   

In the modern era the rules have changed.  “The field has become a world of the impossible to get and easy to sell on the one side and the less appreciated, often overlooked that is selling for modest prices.  Great material is the currency today, the lesser, but not necessarily unimportant or uninteresting material, the loose change.” 

This transition has not been without its benefits.  “In my view it has never been more possible to build complex, ground-breaking collections with greater depth and at lower cost.”  More inventory and complex databases have made it possible to quantify subjects.  “Our challenge has been to find a place in this emerging thinking.”

“We at MacManus have been privileged for 80 years to be part of the history of rare books.  We look to future to be part of its future.”

AE members using the advanced search and selecting MacManus as the source will find the history of the firm and its books on full display.  For others searching the full AED we are providing, at last count, 3,659,647 records, up 160,000 in the recent quarter.
    

On the MacManus website provides the following background:

For nearly 80 years, the George S. MacManus Company has bought and sold rare and important books. Based in the Philadelphia area, our clients span the globe. Our inventory of over 45,000 catalogued titles focuses primarily on 18th and 19th century Americana with specialties such as Voyages and Travels, Local Histories, Indians and the West and the Civil War. Also included in our collection are English and American literary first editions, Limited Edition Club selections and Books about Books. 

We are charter members of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and we are members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. 

We issue catalogues on various subjects several times throughout the year and frequently customize special lists for our clients. Upon request we are also able to generate smaller lists. We are always interested in purchasing good individual books or entire libraries.
 

Here are links to their website as well as their email and telephone number.

The MacManus website

The MacManus email address:  books@macmanus-rarebooks.com


Telephone No. 610-520-7273

Address

12 Water Street
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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