• <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. Sold for $15,600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. Sold for $3,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. Sold for $26,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. Sold for $2,210.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. Sold for $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. Sold for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. Sold for $1,188.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. Sold for $1,500.
  • <b><center>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Steve Turner Collection<br>of African Americana, Part II<br>December 3, 2020</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> <i>All-Negro Comics</i> Issue #1, 1947. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> Early Memoir of a Black Hairdresser, 1859. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> First Edition <i>Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African,</i> 1782. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b><center>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Steve Turner Collection<br>of African Americana, Part II<br>December 3, 2020</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> Bessie Coleman Aero News Vol. 1 Issue 1, May 1930, Signed by William J. Powell. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> Book of Poetry and Music by Formerly Illiterate Author Thomas Young, 1897. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> Cabinet Card of 24th Infantryman, Tombstone, Arizona Territory, circa 1882. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b><center>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Steve Turner Collection<br>of African Americana, Part II<br>December 3, 2020</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> James Baldwin Portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1955. $3,500 to $4,500.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> <i>The Pacific Appeal</i> Newspaper, San Francisco, 1877. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> Only Known Copy <i>Spreading Joy,</i> Uplift History of African Americans in Los Angeles, 1937. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Steve Turner Collection<br>of African Americana, Part II<br>December 3, 2020</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> 1940 Los Angeles <i>The Official Central Avenue District Directory.</i> $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> GRÉGOIRE, Henri (French, 1750-1831). <i>An Enquiry Concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties, and Literature of Negroes,</i> First American Edition, 1810. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec 3:</b> 1893 Indian Territory Album with Images of Tacky Grayson. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b><center>Gonnelli<br>December 1st<br>Antique and modern prints,<br>drawings and paintings</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli<br>December 2nd<br>Photographs, autographs, musical works and manuscripts</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli<br>December 3rd<br>Books from XV to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli<br>December 3rd<br>Mathematics books</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli<br>December 3rd<br>Art books from Salvador Dalí<br>& others</b>
  • <center><b>Firsts Online Rare Book Fair<br> 27 November to 2 December<br><br> Presented by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association</b>

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2013 Issue

Seward's Folly? – What Happens When a Small Institution Realizes an Old Gift is Extraordinarily Valuable?

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Thomas Cole's painting of Portage Falls on the Genesee.

Bequests may be thought to last forever, but as we know, nothing lasts forever. Books and other valuables left to libraries, museums, universities, and other institutions, so welcome at the time, may become burdensome years into the future. Some may no longer seem as interesting. Others may become costly to maintain. Institutions don't always last forever either and their ability to maintain collections fades as their visitors decline. On the other side, items they possess may grow in value beyond anyone's wildest dreams, making the temptation to cash out irresistible. A copy of the first book printed in America, the Bay Psalm Book, will be auctioned this fall for an estimated $15-$25 million. The Boston church that owns it sees better uses for such value than holding a small book in a safe forever. This is a story about a similar item, a painting bequested to a small institution sixty years ago. Today, it is estimated to be worth around $20 million.

 

In 1823, 22-year-old lawyer William H. Seward, recently admitted to the bar, moved to Auburn, New York. He married, went into law partnership with his father-in-law, and moved into his father-in-law's house. This would be his home the remainder of his life. Seward was a supporter of progressive causes, including education of immigrant children, prison reform (Auburn is home to a state prison), and most notably abolition. His home became a stop on the Underground Railroad. Auburn was a fast growing community at the time, its location near the Erie canal making it a good location for manufacturing. Seward became friendly with political powerhouse Thurlow Weed, which led to his being elected to the state legislature and, in 1838, Governor of New York. The following year, his friends commissioned a painting in his honor. What Seward was given was a large painting called Portage Falls on the Genesee. The artist was Thomas Cole, today generally recognized as the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. It hung in Seward's house the remainder of his life.

 

Seward would go on to have one of the most storied political careers of the 19th century. By the 1850's, he was serving in the U.S. Senate, a leading abolitionist. He joined the new Republican party and by 1860 was their leading name. He was favored to receive their presidential nomination in 1860. However, his radical views made some party members concerned about his electability, and meanwhile, an obscure losing senate candidate from Illinois was garnering a lot of attention with his speeches. The Republicans decided to go with this perhaps safer nominee in 1860. They nominated Abraham Lincoln instead.

 

The disappointment did not stop Seward from loyally serving Lincoln as Secretary of State. The assassination plot that took Lincoln's life also targeted Seward. He was stabbed several times the same day Lincoln was assassinated, but survived his wounds. He continued his service under President Andrew Johnson, defending him when he was impeached and almost removed from office. It was during this term that Seward made his greatest deal, one not much appreciated at the time – “Seward's Folly.” For the seemingly excessive sum of $7.2 million dollars, he purchased Alaska from Russia. He did not realize there was an ocean of oil beneath its surface, but he nonetheless recognized that this would one day be appreciated as his greatest achievement. He was right.

 

With the end of Johnson's term, Seward returned to his Auburn home. He died there is 1872. He bequeathed his home and its possessions to his son, Civil War Brigidier General William H. Seward, Jr. When the latter died in 1920, he passed the homestead on to his son, William H. Seward III.

 

Family inhabitance of the homestead finally came to an end with the passing of William III in 1951. He left it and most of the possessions within as a memorial to his father and grandfather. It was placed under the care and ownership of The Fred L. Emerson Foundation. Fred Emerson was a successful shoe manufacturer from Auburn who set up a charitable foundation in that community in 1932. William III undoubtedly concluded this charitable foundation would be a logical owner for the home which was to be preserved as a museum. The Emerson Foundation owned and managed the home from 1951 until 2008.

 

In 2008, it was decided best if the Seward homestead officially become a museum under New York State law. The Seward House Museum was established and all of the Sewards' assets were turned over to it, all, that is, except the Cole painting. The Emerson Foundation retained ownership of the painting. It was becoming apparent that this item was of a value far exceeding other assets Secretary Seward once possessed. However, the foundation loaned it to the Seward Museum so it could remain on the wall. The local court, in approving the transfer of property from the foundation to the museum, specified that the foundation could not transfer the painting to anyone other than the museum without court approval.

 

In February of this year, the Emerson Foundation, with the approval of the Seward Museum, removed the painting from the house. They became fearful of such a valuable item hanging on the wall of a small house-museum. Thoughts such as theft, fire, and burst pipes ran through the officers' minds as they thought of this painting, now appraised at $20 million, hanging on the wall. They took it to an unknown though presumably safe location. They thought of securing it in some sort of vault in the house, but this didn't really make much sense. The Seward House just didn't seem a logical place for such a valuable painting. Ultimately, they decided the reasonable thing to do would be to sell the painting, with half of the proceeds to go to the museum and the other half to the foundation.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 30th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1490. Est: € 20,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br> P. Goos, <i>Le Grand Miroir de la Mer,</i> 1669. Est: € 25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>L. Feininger, Letter with woodcuts, 1920. Est: € 25,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 30th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>Latin Bible manuscript, 12th century. Est: € 20,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>M. E. Bloch, <i>Naturgeschichte der Fische,</i> 1782-95. Est: € 40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>M. Chagall, <i>Daphnis & Chloé,</i> 1961. Est: € 90,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 30th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>L. J. Waghenaer, <i>Speculum nauticum,</i> 1586. Est: € 180,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>P. J. de Pannemaeker, Collection of orig. watercolors, 1878-1887.<br>Est: € 25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>G. Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> 1918.<br>Est: € 15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 30th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br><i>Livro dos prestimonios,</i> Manuscript, 1665. Est: € 25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>W. Kandinsky, <i>Klänge,</i> 1913.<br>Est: € 18,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 30:</b><br>J. Miró in J. Cassou, <i>Vingt-deux poémes,</i> 1978. Est: € 8,000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Music, Continental Books<br>and Medieval Manuscripts<br>24 Nov. – 1 Dec. 2020<br>Online</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b><br>F. Schubert. Autograph letter to his brother Ferdinand, 4 pages, Zseliz, 1818. £80,000 to £120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b><br>L. v. Beethoven. Fine autograph letter to his librettist Friedrich Treitschke, about their planned opera, 1815. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b> Hermann Hesse, Highly important series of 62 letters and postcards to Stefan Zweig, 1903-1938. £60,000 to £80,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Music, Continental Books<br>and Medieval Manuscripts<br>24 Nov. – 1 Dec. 2020<br>Online</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Reims, illuminated manuscript on vellum [France, late 15th century]. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b> Armenian gospel book, illuminated manuscript on vellum, seventeenth century, tooled calf binding. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 24 Nov. – 1 Dec.:</b><br>C. Goldoni. Ten autograph letters signed to the Genoese nobleman Cristoforo Spinola, Venice 1742-1743. £7,000 to £9,000.

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