Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2014 Issue

A Diamond in the Coal Mine

46d3e1a2-062e-4379-bc82-5d878999bb6f

Recently, on eBay an item was offered that looked interesting.  The title, Guide Book to Lake Mohonk – New Paltz, Ulster Co., N. Y., and the date, 1875, marked it as very early in the history of the Smiley family’s development of the Lake Mohonk resort that would become over the next four decades the majestic attraction it remains today.

 

The 7-day listing was spare:

 

1875

Guide book to Lake Mohonk New Paltz Ulster County New York State

Many photographs throughout the book

Book shows wear from age and use.  Marks on covers, foxing on pages, wear on edges.

See pictures for details.

The starting price was $14.95.

 

A look in the AED showed a series of records of this book, all from Goodspeed’s, in 1933 and 1935 for sixty-five cents and in 1968 for $10.00.  The two listings in the 1930’s were identical and the 1968 elaborated the listing but was hardly substantial.  It read:

 

[New York]

Guide Book to Lake Mohonk, New Paltz, Ulster Co., N.Y.

Illus.  [mounted photographs]

1875

$10.00

1968

Providence [R.I.]

 

I didn’t initially realize that the “many photographs throughout” referred to images pasted on the pages.  Early, for Ulster County, photography usually merits some touting but the subdued description didn’t leave me expecting anything but printed images that would still be quite interesting.

A look in the OCLC identifieded 16 copies in the system.  That’s a small number but hardly excessively rare.  Here’s the list:

Yale University

American Antiquarian Society

Univ. of Michigan, William Clemens Library

University of New Mexico

Columbia University

Cornell University

George Eastman House

New York Historical Society Library

New York Public Library

New York State History Association

New York State Library

SUNY College at Plattsburgh

University of Rochester

Haverford College

University of Texas, Austin, Harry Ransom Library

 

These libraries are almost all in the first tier of historical printed collections, suggesting experienced professionals have thought the book important.

 

But here is the thing.  At the same time this book was published stereoscopic cards were becoming the next new thing and the images, 30 single images, in the Guide Book, match the double images [and descriptions] of the “first series” of stereoscopic images of Lake Mohonk issued by J. Loeffler, Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N. Y. that, though not dated, appear to be contemporary and identical. 

 

This suggests that although the book is undeniably rare the images, that make the book distinctive, are less so as evidenced by the fact they come up on eBay several times a year and sell for modest prices.  Granted, many of these Mohonk images appearing on eBay are later variations but some identical images also come up as some did recently and sold for about $10 an image in the stereopticon form.  To a collector this all may not matter much but for valuation purposes it certainly diminishes the book’s value.

 

But all is not lost.  In the Thompkins series that matches the Mohonk images, “Scenery of Lake Mohonk and Vicinity” first and second series, there are 62 images divided into two groups 1-31 and 32-62, each set briefly described on the back of the 62 double image cards.  The book, by comparison, contains 30 of these images and most are in near to stellar condition because they have not been much exposed to light.  The stereopticon images by comparison are badly faded, in some cases faintly visible.   

 

As well I have never seen complete sets of these images.  In most cases it’s just a few of them that come up for sale and they tend to be the same images.

 

So the pristine condition of the images pasted into the book and the fact that there are 30 of them restores some of the book’s luster.

 

Finally, there is some light water damage to a few pages and the back cover that does not affect any of the images but that, for some purists, will rule this book out.  For myself, it’s a gem anyway, valuable to me, but not necessarily valuable to others.

 

As to the text in the book it describes the hikes and routes through the Mohonk and Minnewaska holdings.  The descriptions, fresh then, remain durable today because these properties have been maintained in their original state, the roads then built for horses, today still are only horse and hiking paths.

 

For those who know Mohonk the scenery would be recognizable.  The structures have been rebuilt, the hotel is visually transformed and the Skytop Tower replaced, for it was wood in 1875 and in 1911 was rebuilt as a limestone monument to Albert K. Smiley who saw magic in the Shawangunk Mountain setting and brought it to life.

 

So what is its value?  In my view $1,500, a nice markup on the $37.00 I paid on eBay.  And more than that, to an Ulster County collector, it’s simply irreplaceable, even precious.

 

Here is a link to Lake Mohonk today.  It is a world class resort with a stong commitment to its history.


Posted On: 2014-08-01 16:50
User Name: ChristiesNew10

Here's a nice note, Bruce: I looked up an appraisal I did for Mohonk, six or so years ago, and included was an 1875 edition of the guidebook which I appraised for: $1,500. Proving once again, what they say about great minds!


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Rare JFK Signed Check & Transmittal Letter During Campaign for 1956 VP Nomination, Both BAS Slabbed; Possibly A Unique Combo!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Daniel Boone Signed Receipt as VA Delegate; During His 1st of 3 Terms, Boone Was Kidnapped by British Forces Gunning for Gov. T. Jefferson & Other Legislators.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lincoln & His Civil War Cabinet: 8 Signatures, Beautifully Presented!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> G.A. Custer ALS from Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory to Capt. Yates, Who Also Died at Little Bighorn, Re: Acquiring “good horses” from Kentucky for 7th Cavalry.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lee Harvey Oswald Signed Letter: “if we finally get back to the states…maybe we’ll…settle in Texas,” Warren Commission Exhibit.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions