Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2004 Issue

The Old Booksellers of New York and other papers<br>By William Loring Andrews



The first important collection of books catalogued by Mr. Sabin was that of the comedian, W. E. Burton, in 1860. In 1864 he catalogued the collection of the old Scotch antiquarian, John Allan, of pleasant memory. The title on the cover of this catalogue was not composed by Mr. Sabin. In his opinion it was awkwardly constructed, and, not being willing to father it, he signed himself as "Compiler of this catalogue, the cover excepted."

Among the one hundred and fifty or more libraries which Mr. Sabin is said to have catalogued was that of the Shakespearean scholar, Richard Grant White, who remarked, as the result of his observations, that if anybody thought that bibliography was an easy subject he should serve an apprenticeship under Joseph Sabin.

   The book auction sales at which Mr. Sabin officiated included some of the most important that have occurred in this country. The last at which he presided was the great Brinley sale. This was divided into five parts, and the sale of the third part was set for March, 1881, but was postponed on account of Mr. Sabin's ill-health. His family had already been informed by his physician of the fatal character of his illness. On April 4th Mr. Sabin began the sale, and conducted it to a satisfactory conclusion. On this occasion he had the pleasure and high bibliopolistic distinction of selling the only copy of the Mazarin Bible that has ever been brought under the hammer on this side of the Atlantic. The book was bought by the late Hamilton Cole for $8,000, and the sale created a sensation in the book-buying world, which was revived when the two volumes again appeared at auction in the dispersion of the collection of Mr. Brayton Ives, and were taken to Chicago at a ransom of $14,800.

The preparation of the Dictionary was begun about 1860. The prospectus was issued in December, 1866, and the first part was published in 1867. It continued to make its appearance in parts at irregular intervals until the death of the author. It was his "old man of the sea." Early morning hours, the small hours of the night, and stolen moments in cars and on shipboard were devoted to it. At Mr. Sabin's death eighty parts, describing over fifty-eight thousand lots, had been issued, bringing the work down in alphabetical order to the letters Pa. The manuscript left unpublished is now being revised by Mr. Wilberforce Eames, of the Lenox Library, and thirty-six additional parts have so far been printed, completing the work as far as the word Smith. In his process of revision Mr. Eames occasionally must meet with the handwriting of the founder of the institution he serves, as Mr. Lenox was especially interested in this particular work of Mr. Sabin, and rendered him valuable assistance by bringing him titles of rare books in his own collection, which were unobtainable from any other source.

Mr. Sabin was a genuine lover of books and a patient, painstaking student of bibliography. He was a better bibliophile than he was a merchant, and his customers would often find him more eager to discuss the bibliographical points of his literary wares than to effect a sale of them. It is not surprising that he should disrelish having his dictum called in question, and that he sometimes met an assumption of superior knowledge with a show of impatience. A youth once brought him for sale a volume of the Mexican Boundary Survey, published by the United States Government. Mr. Sabin told him that it was not perfect, but should be in two volumes. The young man insisted that the book was perfect until Mr. Sabin closed the discussion by saying jocosely, "Young man, if that work was contained in one volume it would make a book as thick as your head."

Thirty years ago the art of bookbinding was not receiving in this country the attention now bestowed upon it. A step in advance is credited to Mr. Sabin, to wit, the substitution of calf for the cheaper and less durable sheepskin previously so extensively employed by American binders.

Mr. Sabin died in the harness. Against the advice of his physician, he undertook the auction of the third part of the Brinley Library, and his labors in connection with it may have hastened his death, which occurred at his Brooklyn home on Sunday, June 5th, 1881. His funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Dr. Collyer, and he was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery.

They say that there is no money in the old book business; however that may be, there is certainly in this, as in any other honorable pursuit, something quite as much to be coveted as financial success, and that is the regard and good-will of one's business associates. These Mr. Sabin enjoyed. Mr. John Pyne, his near neighbor for many years, said of Mr. Sabin at the time of his death, that he was the acknowledged head of his profession, and was loved and appreciated by all who knew him; and sums up a pleasant tribute to the memory of his friend in these words: "His love for rare books passed into knowledge which he used for the benefit of all who had the pleasure and profit of knowing him."

Old Booksellers of New York Part III


AMONG the Nassau Street "bookshops of olden time," whose alluring signs no longer salute the eye of the passing bibliophile, was that of John Bradburn, who came to this country in 1820 from County Westmeath, Ireland, where he was born in 1805. He began his career as a vender of second-hand books some ten years later than William Gowans, and in the same humble way. Armed with a basket filled with books of travel and works on navigation he invaded the wharves and ships of the city, and drove a thriving trade with ships' captains and mates just home from a cruise and with money burning holes through their freshly lined pockets.

Mr. Bradburn's first place of business was on the southeastern corner of Fulton and Nassau Streets. In 1852 or 1853 he removed to the northwestern corner of Ann and Nassau Streets, where he remained until he retired from active business in 1868. The old book shops of his day were commonly supplied with outside shelves and counters, which were laden with books and pamphlets. Here loungers with literary tastes congregated the livelong day, sipping knowledge as the bee sips honey, and forming a feature of New York City street life which has passed almost entirely away.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, first issue, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Johannes Jacobus Canis, <i>De modo studendi in utroque iure,</i> first edition, Padua, 1476. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Pope Clemens V, <i>Constitutiones,</i> Nuremberg, 1482. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Panormitanus de Tudeschis, <i>Lectura super V libris Decretalium,</i> Basel, 1480-81. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Michael Faraday, <i>Experimental Researches in Electricity,</i> complete set, first editions, London, 1832-56. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> William Gilbert, <i>Tractatus sive physiologia nova de magnete,</i> Sedini, 1628. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> John Bulwer, <i>Philocophus,</i> first edition of the first book in English on the deaf, London, 1648. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> James Cook, complete set, 9 volumes, London, 1773-84. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Bertrand, <i>Opus de Tholosano[rum] Gestis ab Urbe Condita,</i> with the earliest known view of the city of Toulouse, 1515. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> RATZER, Bernard. <i>Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767.</i> London: Jefferys and Faden, “Jan.y” 12, 1776. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. COCKERELL, Sydney C. <i>Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century.</i> Hammersmith: The Kelmscott Press, 1897 [issued 1898]. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS]. KEATS, John. <i>Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems.</i> Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire: The Golden Cockerel Press, 1928. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center> <b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [GRANT, Ulysses S.— GRANT, Julia, First Lady]. Carved Applewood and 18-karat Gold Jewelry Suite, Browne & Spaulding, Jewelers, New York City, 1865. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [LINCOLN ASSASSINATION]. GARDNER, Alexander. <i>Incidents of the War |Sic Semper Sicariis</i> [caption title]. Washington, D. C.: Philip & Solomons, 1865. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> A COMPLETE COLLECTION of 115 titles published in R. R. Donnelley's Lakeside Classics series. Chicago, 1903-2017. COMPLETE RUN OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING CONTINUOUS SERIES OF BOOKS IN THE WORLD. $5,000 to $7,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> GLEIZES, Albert. METZINGER, Jean. <i>Du Cubisme.</i> Paris, 1947. LIMITED EDITION, number 19 of 20 copies on papier d'Auvergne. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [THE LITTLE REVIEW]. ANDERSON, Margaret, ed. POUND, Ezra, ed. HEAP, Jane, ed. <i>The Little Review.</i> Vol. I, No. 1 through Vol. XII, No. 2. 1914-1929. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [MOUNTENEY, Leonard, binder]. LOUŸS, Pierre. <i>Songs of Bilitis.</i> Chicago: Argus Books, 1931. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [HANCOCK, John]. Partly-printed U.S. Loan-Office Transfer Certificate issued on behalf of Hancock. Sgn’d on recto by William Imlay, as Commissioner of Loans of Connecticut. 28 February 1793. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <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.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DE CORDOBA, JACOB. <i>Map of the State of Texas.</i> New York, 1866. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ARNOLD, BENEDICT. Autograph bookseller's receipt for Dr. John Dickinson, Signed ("B. Arnold"), February 1767. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. 4 Typed Letters Signed ("A Einstein") to Cleveland E. Dodge offering early reports on the meetings of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. Typed Letter Signed ("Dwight D. Eisenhower") to General Henri Giraud written from a secret bunker in Gibraltar on the eve of Operation Torch, November 4 [but 6], 1942. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> Early Broadside Printing of the GADSDEN PURCHASE, Puebla, August 16, 1854. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ALLEN, ETHAN. Autograph Letter Signed to Crevecouer during the Constitutional Debates in Congress, 2 pp, August 29, 1787. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> DARWIN, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> London John Murray, 1859. FIRST EDITION. THE VERY FINE MELLON-GARDEN COPY. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ECKERT, J. P, H. H. GOLDSTINE, and J. G. BRAINERD. <i>Description of the ENIAC and comments on electronic digital computing machines.</i> N.p., 1945. FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY GOLDSTINE. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> EUCLID. <i>Elementa geometriae.</i> Translated from the Arabic by Adelard of Bath. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 25 May 1482. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> [HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON and John JAY]. <i>The Federalist: A Collection of Essays…</i> New York: John and Andrew M'Lean, 1788. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> GALILEI, Galileo. <i>Dialogo...Dove ne i congressi di quattro giornate si discorre sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano.</i> Florence, 1632. FIRST EDITION. $30,000 to $40,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 100 COPIES SIGNED BY JOYCE. $120,000 to $180,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> KEYNES, John Maynard. <i>The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money.</i> London: Macmillan, 1936. FIRST EDITION. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> NEWTON, Isaac, Sir. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society, 1687. FIRST EDITION. $150,000 to $250,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> ROWLING, J. K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. FIRST EDITION, SIGNED BY ROWLING. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> SMITH, Adam. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776. FIRST EDITION. $70,000 to $90,000

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