• <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Pablo Neruda, <i>Canto General,</i> first edition, signed by Neruda, artists Rivera & Siquieros, CDMX, 1950. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> deluxe limited issue, signed, London, 1936. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Sergei Rachmaninoff, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, 3 bars from <i>Piano Concerto No. 2,</i> 1933. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Thomas Edison, Typed Letter Signed, describing preparing first phonograph for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, 1922. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Robert Frost, <i>Collected Poems,</i> author’s presentation copy, signed with <i>Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening</i> inscribed, NY, 1930. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Thomas Mann, Autograph Letter Signed to his children, 3 pages on exiles, 1938. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Alighiero Boetti & Anne-Marie Sauzeau-Boetti, <i>Classifying the thousand longest rivers in the world,</i> limited edition, 1977. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Agnes Martin, <i>Paintings & Drawings,</i> complete set of 10 lithographs, 1990. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Abraham Lincoln, Autograph Letter Signed to Whig activist George W. Rives, Springfield, 1849. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Tolomeo, Claudio. <i>Cosmographia.</i> Ulma, Lienhart Holle, 16.07.1482.<br>€ 50.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Hondius, Henricus, & Johannes Janssonius. <i>Atlas novus, sive descriptio geographica totius orbis terrarum.</i> Amsterdam, Hondius-Janssonius, 1638. €30.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Castiglione, Baldassarre. <i>Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Castiglione.</i> Venice, eredi di Aldo, 1528. € 14.000+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Bayer, Johann. <i>Uranometria, omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa.</i> Augusta, Christoph Mang, 1603.<br>€ 12.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Astronomy]. <i>[Scriptores Astronomici veteres].</i> Venezia, Aldo Manuzio, 1499.<br> € 7.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Aristophanes. <i>Aristofanous Komoidiai ennea. Aristophanis Comoediae novem.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1498. € 7.000+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Herodotus. <i>Hirodotou logoi ennea [...] Herodoti libri novem quibus musarum indita sunt nomina.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1502. € 7.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Tory, Geoffroy. <i>L’art & science de la vraye proportion des lettres attiques, ou antiques.</i> Paris, Vincent Gaultherot, 1549. € 5.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Caterina da Siena. <i>Epistole devotissime de sancta Catharina da Siena.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1500. € 4.500+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Chess]. Gianuzio della Manzia, Orazio. <i>Libro nel quale si tratta della maniera di giuocar' a scacchi con alcuni sottilissimi partiti.</i> Torino, Antonio Bianchi, 1597. € 3.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> Amsterdam, Compagnie di Amsterdam, 1714. €2.500+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Turkish Empire]. Ramberti, Benedetto. <i>Libri tre delle cose de Turchi.</i> Venice, eredi di Aldo, 1539. €1.500+
  • <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
    <center><b>Folium:<br>The Digital Antiquarian Book Fair<br>of Switzerland, Austria and Germany<br>June 10 – 12, 2021</b>
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Fine Literature<br>Online Auction<br>June 8 to June 22</b>
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> CALDWELL, ERSKINE. <i>Tobacco Road,</i> First Edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> ELIOT, GEORGE. <i>Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life.</i> Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1871-72. First edition in book form. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> BYRON, GEORGE GORDON NOEL, LORD. <i>Don Juan.</i> London: the Thomas Davison; John Hunt; John and H.L. Hunt, 1819-24. First edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> [BURNEY, FRANCES]. <i>Evelina, Or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World.</i> London: T. Lowndes, 1778. First edition. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Fine Literature<br>Online Auction<br>June 8 to June 22</b>
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> SHEPARD, ERNEST H. Colored drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, in an autograph letter signed by Shepard. Dated February 29th, 1932. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> CARROLL, LEWIS (CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON). <i>The Nursery "Alice".</i> London: MacMillan, 1890. Second (first published) edition. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> DANA, RICHARD HENRY, Jr. <i>Two Years Before the Mast.</i> New York, 1840. First edition with an autograph letter signed by Dana laid-in. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> FINE BINDING-RIVIERE] HAZLITT, WILLIAM. <i>Liber Amoris: or, the New Pygmalion.</i> London: John Hunt, 1823. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2013 Issue

Your Lying Heart

Tobr

Thieves of Book Row - a great read

Books have for more than a hundred years been common and their principle purpose – to carry information to the interested.   A few among these many volumes have become collectible, the best of them talisman of taste, beauty or priority and sometimes all three.  Such books are sometimes first impressions, others wonderful presentations and annotated copies, others still rare and very rare, the best of them highly collectible.

While books are common the eye to appreciate their finer points and physical attributes is rare.  Everyone has an opinion but only a few have perspective.    For those who ‘know’ the opportunities are many.  For those that don’t the opportunities to make mistakes are limitless.

Such opportunities for the knowledgeable divide between the legal and illegal.  The legal possibilities include browsing books offered for sale, negotiating and buying what you believe to be attractively priced.  More difficult are the situations where the potential buyer is asked to make an offer.  Many dealers prefer that the seller state their price.  At a minimum they want to understand seller expectations and if they can, their perspective on value and price.

Sellers, understandably, will be optimistic and buyers, understandably cautious.  Books sell but not so easily as they once did.  Sellers will refer to their having seen similar things on Abe for thousands and buyers will point out “yes but many other copies were offered for less and, in any event, it is sales, not listings, that matter.”

Because valuing books has always been both an art and a science books have been more subject to theft than objects whose value is implicit.  Gold bars get locked up, iron bars do not and if those working with such material do not understand the difference they may insufficiently protect the valuable objects.  In such circumstances the unethical have historically preyed upon the innocent.  For libraries the primary goal is always to make material accessible while trying to ensure that access is not abused.  The outcome has been increasing security - protecting the material, often the important and sometimes the not, the rare and not and doing so at the expense of the library’s primary mission, to provide access.
  

It is an old problem, probably as old as books themselves and one made more difficult by rising values that incentivize theft.  Into the history of book and document theft we have two books that illuminate the problem, Jeremy Norman’s account of 19th theft [that I wrote about this past month] and now Travis McDade’s account of library theft in the early decades of the 20th century.

Jeremy Norman’s Scientist, Scholar & Scoundrel: A Bibliographical Investigation of the Life and Exploits of Count Guglielmo Libri is the account of the notorious pillager of libraries who enjoyed exceptional access to European libraries in the 19th century and “collected” in the era before consistent documentation existed. He could simply walk off with treasures, often leaving no trace, other times substituting inferior copies for gems.  Collections, in his era [1820-1865] were often defenseless, the Count could not resist and there was no comprehensive system to easily identify a collection’s holdings.  A universal identification system would begin to be implemented in the 1870’s, to make retrieval easier and identify the missing and misplaced.  By that time the Count was retired.
  

Rising concern for security would then require thieves employ more sophisticated approaches.
  

We then cross the Atlantic to New York where in the late 19th century the Astor and Lenox collections were gifted to the New York Public Library and serious efforts made to both provide and control access to what was becoming a world-class collection of old and rare books.  Access versus security would become a long-term issue and the New York Public Library be among the first to try to systematically address the issue.

By the first decades of the 20th century two other factors were altering the stakes.  Institutions were beginning to collect broadly and prices were rising.  The decision to steal is a risk-reward calculation and rising prices made old and collectible books more appealing targets.  Unfortunately prices rose more quickly than institutions responded and it made theft in the early decades of the 20th century a high-reward low-risk undertaking that attracted an attentive audience of thieves.

For insight about this period, we have Thieves of Book Row by Travis McDade.  In it he details the history of book theft in New York and New England beginning with some history of the 1890s and continuing into the mid-1930s.  It turns out that libraries, torn between protection and access, both believed in the honesty of patrons and often did not understand that the street value of their material that was sometimes surging in the low-tax, high reward environment that propelled the 10% down stock market.   America was betting on its future and rare books in the 1910-1929 period a good bet too.  Later, with the onset of the depression and the end of the upward spiral in prices there would also soon be fewer jobs and more desperate men.  Into this downturn rare books also lost value but many were still valuable enough to steal and the crime both un and under-reported and judges, when the apprehended were taken to court, sympathetic to the man who wanted to read too much.

In the downturn, with money tight, libraries did not have money to increase security even as the theft problem was becoming apparent.  So, too often books were there for the taking.  Mr. McDade’s account, a very well written fact filled, intense and highly entertaining account, brings this period to life.

Libraries ultimately, learning of sin in the world, became cautious and rare book prices, after a 15-year side trip to hell [1930-1944], recovered and have since gone on to set records year after year, collectible material now often 50 to 100 times more valuable than it was at the beginning of the 20th century.  And this has left libraries with a predicament.  The material, once freely available, is now subject to high security, limits on aisle grazing, and many rules to limit damage to increasingly fragile material.   But the greater goal for libraries has been broad access and this is impaired and it’s a shame for the number of people who steal is inevitably small and the number of people affected by limited access large.

The issue of access will be resolved with online access to full texts.  This is already occurring and will increase and improve so scholars and the interested will find what they seek.  Whether this will help book collecting is another matter and one can only hope.

It turns out that thieves not only stole books, they may have also stolen some of the future for book collectors who without physical contact with the material and the wisdom and perspective of rare book librarians to bring the field to life, may never sense the power of this category of collecting.
        

One is also then left to wonder when the complete texts of collectible books will be accessible on line and then of course the inevitable ‘what’s next.’  Will libraries maintain their collections or dispose of them?  If they are to sell or thin them there will need to an audience open to buying.   With shops closing and access to rare books in libraries restricted building a new audience will be a challenge.

Here are Amazon links to both books mentioned in this article.  Both are important.

Norman's Scientist, Scholar & Scoundrel

Dade's Thieves of Book Row

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [CIVIL WAR] -- [SHERIDAN, Philip Henry]. Personal headquarters flag of Philip Henry Sheridan used when he led the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Spring - Summer 1862. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY]. Half plate daguerreotype of firefighter Walter Van Erven Dorens. [San Francisco]: n.p., [ca 1854-1856]. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [LINCOLNIANA]. Abraham Lincoln banner possibly made for the 1864 presidential campaign. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [REVOLUTIONARY WAR - CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. [HOLTEN, Dr. Samuel]. An archive of letters related to Danvers, Massachusetts, physician and statesman Dr. Samuel Holten. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD]. CARBUTT, John, photographer. Exceptional collection of 27 stereoviews from the series, "Excursion to the 100th Meridian, October 1866." Chicago, [1866]. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [ALASKAN GOLD RUSH]. William Steele West and family, extensive archive of photographs, diaries, correspondence, and personal items. [Ca 19th - 20th century]. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [TAYLOR, Zachary]. Quarter plate daguerreotype featuring the 12th President of the United States. N.p.: n.p., [ca 1845]. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WASHINGTON, George]. Signed Society of the Cincinnati document. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph endorsement signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President. [Washington], 29 September 1862. 1 page, 4to, old creases. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th. Jefferson"), as United States President, to Robert Patterson. Washington DC, 2 July 1805. 1 page, 4to, evenly toned, small tear from seal. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY] -- [ALCOTT, Elizabeth Sewall]. Ninth plate ruby ambrotype attributed to Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. N.p., [ca 1856-1857]. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WESTERN AMERICANA]. RUSSELL, Andrew Joseph, photographer. <i>Salt Lake City, From the Top of the Tabernacle.</i> [1869]
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Antiquarian Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Auction 5–15 June</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 5–15 June:</b> Machiavelli.<br><i>Il Principe,</i> Florence, 1532, later Danish half calf. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 5–15 June:</b> The Sundial of Ahaz, two diagrams on a leaf from Nicholas of Lyra's <i>Literal Commentary,</i> [France, c.1360-80]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 5–15 June:</b> Homer. <i>The whole works,</i> translated by Chapman, London, [1616?], calf. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 5–15 June:</b> Jonathan Swift. Autograph letter signed, to the Duke of Dorset, in support of his friend Thomas Sheridan, 22 March 1735. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> AN EXTRAORDINARILY FINE COPY OF “GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.” SWIFT, JONATHAN. 1667-1745. London: Benj. Motte, 1726. US$ 80,000 - 120,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> PALAFOX Y MENDOXA, JUAN DE. 1600-1659. <i>[Virtudes del Indio....]</i> US$ 80,000 - 120,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> ORIGINAL HARRY HOUDINI TYPED MANUSCRIPT. <i>A Magician Among the Spirits.</i> Autograph corrections by Houdini throughout, c.1923-1926.<br>US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE OF THE RARE HARDCOVER EDITION ROWLING, J.K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> FIRST APPEARANCE IN AMERICA OF MUSIC FOR "(AMERICA) MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE." LYON, JAMES. 1735–1794. <i>Urania.</i> Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1761. US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Cañon de Chelley, 1904. Oversized orotone, 17 x 22in in original Curtis Studio frame. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). 26 cyanotypes, featuring images of Cheyenne tribes from Volume VI of <i>North American Indian,</i> c.1907, made by Curtis in the field. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). The Vanishing Race, 1904. Oversized orotone, 18 x 24in in original Curtis Studio frame. US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Autograph Logs and Journals from his 1927 Alaska Expedition. US$ 7,000 - 9,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> A ONE SHEET POSTER OF <i>IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS.</i> World Film Corporation, 1914. US$ 4,000 - 6,000

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