Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2014 Issue

Books in the News: The First Million Dollar Sports Contract, Bookseller Reports Results, Apple “Agrees” to $450 Million Settlement

Babe Ruth's 1918 contract (from Goldin Auctions).

This is not the typical “work on paper.” Then again, the “Babe” was not an ordinary man. The most expensive sports contract ever sold hit the block at Goldin Auctions last month. It was the first to cross the $1 million barrier.

 

George Herman “Babe” Ruth is undoubtedly the most famous baseball player of all time, and most likely the greatest as well. No one dominated his time like Ruth. After an inauspicious start for the Boston Red Sox in 1914, Ruth quickly developed into one of the best pitchers in the game. While running up seasons with 23 and 24 wins, Ruth showed from his number 9 slot in the batting order that he could also pop the ball. In an era of small ball, when few home runs were hit, Ruth could knock the ball out of the park. It created a dilemma. Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game. He still holds the record for the longest World Series complete game victory – 14 innings. Still, a pitcher only plays once every five days, and his bat was needed the other four.

 

It was with this background that Babe Ruth signed the contract that set the auction record last month. With 24 wins the previous season and dreams of playing in the field too, Ruth, never one to underestimate his value, demanded a large raise. The previous season he was paid $3,500. He was not about to take that again. The Red Sox had no choice but to compromise. They agreed to pay the Babe $5,000. Yes, his contract to play the 1918 season for $5,000 sold for $1,028,500.

 

The rest is history, most well known. In 1918 Ruth would hit 11 home runs, enough to tie for the major league lead, while still winning 13 games. The Red Sox would win the World Series for the third time in four years. They wouldn't win another for 86 years. Ruth would double his salary in 1919 to $10,000, but the Red Sox became a miserable team. Meanwhile, owner Harry Frazee needed money. Some said it was to promote a Broadway play he produced, although it may have been other financial needs, including paying for his purchase of the Sox a few years earlier. Whatever the reason, Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season for $100,000. Ruth would go on to be the greatest baseball player, and the Yankees the winningest baseball team, switching places with the humbled Red Sox. It was the “Curse of the Bambino,” though it might more accurately have been described as the Curse of Harry Frazee.

 

The contract was signed by “Geo H. Ruth,” Boston's least liked owner, “H. H. Frazee,” and American League President Ban Johnson. There were three copies, each signer getting one. This was Ruth's copy and the only one known to survive. It is also the earliest known surviving Ruth contract, and the last one for fewer than five figures. Most notably, it represents Ruth's transition season, from great pitcher to even greater hitter, the best there ever was.

 

Scholium Group, parent of English antiquarian bookseller Shapero Rare Books, recently announced its results for the fiscal year ending March 31. Scholium also owns art bookshop South Kensington and hotel library provider Ultimate Library, but Shapero is its largest business. Scholium now openly reports its results since going public earlier this year. Revenue rose by 13% from the previous year, though the company incurred a small loss, compared to a profit last year. The reason was administrative expenses, particularly in relation to its public offering. Revenue rose from £5.9 million to £6.7 million. The loss was £59,000. The company also declared a dividend of one pence per share. That equals 1% of its initial offering price.

 

The size of Apple Inc.'s settlement in the eBook price-fixing case has now been established. However, it remains to be seen whether Apple will have to pay this settlement. Apple was earlier found guilty of conspiring with six book publishers to jointly set the prices at which their eBooks could be sold. That is not legal, and the publishers all agreed to settlements before trial. Apple, however, persisted in its defense that they have done no wrong, and when they lost in court, Apple promptly appealed. That is where we now stand. However, Apple has also reached an agreement with the various attorneys general as to the amount they will have to pay should their appeal be unsuccessful. That number has now been revealed.

 

Apple has agreed to pay $450 million in damages if it loses on appeal. Most would go to consumers. The total is almost 50% more than the settlements reached with the six publishers combined. Presumably, consumers could expect several more dollars per qualifying eBook from the six publishers purchased roughly during the 2010-2012 time period. A partial overturning of the earlier verdict would lead to a smaller settlement - $70 million – while a complete overturning of that verdict would result in Apple being liable for nothing. The potential cost to Apple is a significant sum of money, but there will be no need to cry for Apple if they lose. With $150 billion in the bank, $450 million is but a drop in the bucket.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Doyle, May 1: Thomas Jefferson expresses fears of "a war of extermination" in Saint-Dominigue. $40,000 to $60,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An exceptional presentation copy of Fitzgerald's last book, in the first issue dust jacket. $25,000 to $35,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The rare first signed edition of Dorian Gray. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The Prayer Book of Jehan Bernachier. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Van Dyck's Icones Principum Virorum Doctorum. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The magnificent Cranach Hamlet in the deluxe binding by Dõrfner. $7,000 to $10,000.
    Doyle, May 1: A remarkable unpublished manuscript of a voyage to South America in 1759-1764. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Bouchette's monumental and rare wall map of Lower Canada. $12,000 to $18,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An rare original 1837 abolitionist woodblock. $8,000 to $12,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An important manuscript breviary in Middle Dutch. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An extraordinary Old Testament manuscript, circa 1250. $20,000 to $30,000.
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: McCarthy (Cormac). Cities of the Plain, N.Y., 1998, First Edn., signed on hf. title; together with Uncorrected Proof and Uncorrected Advance Reading Copies, both signed by the Author. €800 to €1,000.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Stanihurst (Richard). De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, Libri Quattuor, sm. 4to Antwerp (Christi. Plantium) 1584. First Edn. €525 to €750.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Fleischer (Nat.) Jack Dempsey The Idol of Fistiana, An Intimate Narrative, N.Y., 1929, First Edn. Signed on f.e.p. by Rocky Marciano. €400 to €600.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Smith - Classical Atlas, Lond., 1820. Bound with, Smiths New General Atlas .. Principal Empires, Kingdoms, & States throughout the World, Lond. 1822. €350 to €500.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Rare Auction Catalogues – 1856: Bindon Blood, of Ennis, Co. Clare: Sotheby & Wilkinson. €320 to €450.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Mavor (Wm.)] A General Collection of Voyages and Travels from the Discovery of America to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, 28 vols. (complete) Lond., 1810. €300 to €400.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Mc Carthy (Cormac). Outer Dark, N.Y. (Random House)1968, Signed by Mc Carthy. €250 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Three signed works by Ted Huges - Wodwo, 1967; Crow from the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970; and Tales from Ovid, 1997. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: The Garden. An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in all its Branches, 7 vols. lg. 4to Lond. 1877-1880. With 127 colored plates. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Procter (Richard A.) Saturn and its System: Containing Discussions of The Motion (Real and Apparent)…, Lond. 1865. First Edn. €160 to €220.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Ashe] St. George, Lord Bishop of Clogher, A Sermon Preached to the Protestants of Ireland, now in London,... Oct. 23, 1712, London 1712. Second Edn. €130 to €180.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Piccolomini's De La Sfera del Mondo (The Sphere of the World), 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Vellutello's Commentary on Petrarch, With Map, 1525.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Finely Bound Definitive, Illustrated Edition of I Promessi Sposi, 1840.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Rare First Edition of John Milton's Latin Correspondence, 1674.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Giolito's Edition of Boccaccio's The Decamerone, with Bedford Binding, 1542.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of the First Biography of Marie of the Incarnation, with Rare Portrait, 1677.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Aldine Edition of Volume One of Cicero's Orationes, 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Bonanni's Illustrated Costume Catalogue, with Complete Plates, 1711.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Important Incunable, the First Italian Edition of Josephus's De Bello Judaico, 1480.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Jacques Philippe d'Orville's Illustrated Book of the Ruins of Sicily, 1764.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Incunable from 1487, The Contemplative Life, with Early Manuscript.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Ignatius of Loyola's Exercitia Spiritualia, 1563.
  • Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 546. Christoph Jacob Trew. Plantae selectae, 1750-1773.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 70. Thomas Murner. Die Narren beschwerung. 1558.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 621. Michael Bernhard Valentini. Museum Museorum, 1714.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 545. Sander Reichenbachia. Orchids illustrated and described, 1888-1894.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1018. Marinetti, Boccioni, Pratella Futurism - Comprehensive collection of 35 Futurist manifestos, some of them exceptionally rare. 1909-1933.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 634. August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof. 3 Original Drawings, around 1740.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 671. Jacob / Picasso. Chronique des Temps, 1956.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1260. Mary Webb. Sarn. 1948. Lucie Weill Art Deco Binding.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 508. Felix Bonfils. 108 large-format photographs of Syria and Palestine.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 967. Dante Aligheri and Salvador Dali. Divina Commedia, 1963.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1316. Tolouse-Lautrec. Dessinateur. Duhayon binding, 1948.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1303. Regards sur Paris. Braque, Picasso, Masson, 1962.

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