Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2004 Issue

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

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C. B. Richardson, bookseller and publisher of the Historical Magazine, Pollard's "History of the Rebellion," and a number of Southern books, occupied with the old-established firm of book auctioneers, Bangs, Merwin and Company, a building at No. 594 Broadway, near Houston Street. Mr. Richardson suffered a partial loss of his stock in a conflagration on the 19th of September 1864, which at the same time destroyed many rare volumes, the property of Thomas Aspinwall, U. S. Consul to London, the collector of many of the choice books of the late S. L. M. Barlow.

Astor Place was for some time and until quite recently a bookselling and publishing centre. Here were established John Wiley and Son, whose business consisted largely of the importation of books bought to order in Europe. Mr. Lenox obtained through their agency his beautiful copy of the Mazarin Bible, the finest of the only two copies of this monument of typography that have ever been brought to this country.

The figure of "Old Cronin" bending beneath the weight of the ponderous folios and quartos, which were his principal stock in trade, has been for many years a familiar spectacle in the downtown streets of New York. I am told that he still lives and plies his trade, although he has become quite blind. Another original character incidentally and spasmodically engaged in the old book business was "Jimmy" Lawlor, who kept an uninviting little shop at the lower end of University Place. For a time he enjoyed a virtual monopoly of a fruitful source of book supply. He would purchase by the cubic foot the contents of old garrets, and bought many of his books by the pound, together with the household pots, kettles and pans. The valuable books that occasionally turned up in these job lots cost him next to nothing, and were cheap to his customers if he charged a profit of one thousand per cent. Acquisitions from this source required careful collation on the part of the buyer; still it was surprising how much knowledge of books Mr. Lawlor picked up in the course of his business career.

Other dealers in second-hand books in New York thirty to sixty years ago were M'Elrath and Bangs, Calvan Blanchard, Samuel Rayner, Charles B. Norton, and John Doyle, whose signboard modestly declared his place of business in Nassau Street to be "the moral centre of the intellectual world."

The old bookshops of the metropolis before the Civil War were for the most part small and unpretentious; but good books and rare ones were constantly to be found in them by alert, persevering and intelligent collectors, and in those days it did not, as it unfortunately does now, require the bank account of a millionaire to ride the hobby of book collecting or indulge in the kindred pursuit of the gentle art of angling.

Indulgence in fond recollections of bygone days is considered an infallible sign of approaching senility, and we are assured that the present days are a vast improvement upon any that have preceded them. Doubtless they are-with exceptions-for the book-hunter with a slender purse beyond all question has seen his best days in this or any other land. Alike from the Quay Voltaire, Piccadilly and Nassau Street,
"------the fabled treasure flees,
Grown rarer with the fleeting years,
In rich men's shelves they take their ease."
....ALDINE'S BODONIS ELZEVIRS.

Nevertheless, according to Edmund Gosse, there is a pleasure still attendant upon the collector in his poverty—a happiness he shares with gentle Elia (whom for his bibliomania we love the more), namely, "the exquisite pleasure of buying what he knows he can't afford."

When the first of these sketches appeared I was confronted with this query from an old and respected member of the bookselling fraternity: "What is the use of writing about these men? They were simply dealers, and bought and sold books as so much merchandise for profit, and that was all there was to it." Not quite all, my good friend. An old bookshop is a mental tonic to one who merely whiles away an idle hour therein. I am loath to believe that one can pass his entire life among books, even in the way of sordid trade, without imbibing—it may be in only a superficial manner —a modicum of the wit, wisdom and philosophy they contain, and thereby becoming a less commonplace fraction of the mass of humanity. But this may be only a bibliomaniac's fancy, liable to be shattered by the first passing breath of common-sense criticism.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rackham (Arthur). The Old Hag Standing Outside a Cottage, original drawing, signed by the artist, [c.1909]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first printing, signed by the author, original pictorial wrappers, 1997. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Castiglione (Giuseppe, after). Twelve plates from <i>Twenty views of the European Palaces of the Yuanming yuan,</i> 1783-1786. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Antiphonal.- Antiphonal manuscript, [Spain], ca. 1650. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Almanach de Gotha.- Almost complete run 1769 to 1945, 12mo & 8vo, Gotha, C.W. Ettinger [- Justus Perthes]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Bible, Greek.- New Testament [Greek], Novum Iesu Christi D.N. testamentum, ex bibliotheca regia, 2 parts in one, Robert Estienne, Paris, 1550. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Lithgow (William). <i>The Total Discourse of the rare Adventures… from Scotland, to the most famous kingdoms in Europe, Asia, and Affrica…,</i> woodcut illustrations, 4to, I. Oakes, 1640. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Interest.-16th -18th Century. Large collection of letters related to prominent members of the Spanish court and clergymen,; v.s., late 16th-mid 18th century. £1,800 to £2,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Darwin (Charles). <i>The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,</i> 2 vol., FIRST EDITION, first issue8vo, John Murray, 1871. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Loewy (Raymond) ARR. Mickey Mouse, original gouache and air brush illustration of Mickey Mouse, signed by artist., n.p. [1946]. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Potter (Beatrix) & Sendak (Maurice). <i>The Tale of Peter Rabbit,</i> NUMBER 2 OF 250 SIGNED COPIES, WITH AN ORIGINAL DRAWING BY SENDAK, New York, 1995. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Wolstenholm (Jonathan) ARR. Books on Books, original watercolor, signed and dated by the artist, 2005.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> MITCHELL, John (1711-1768). A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. Copperplate engraving with original hand color. London, 1755. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Brown Pelican (Standing), Plate 251. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $175,000 to $225,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London: 1827-1838. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> GONZALES DE MENDOZA, Juan (1545 - 1618). <i>The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China…</i> London, 1588. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623-1688). [World Map] Kun-Yu Ch'uan-Tu. Engraved twelve sheet map with vertical sections joined to form six sheets. Korea, Seoul, c. 1860. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> SANGGI, Chong (1678-1752). Korean Atlas. Manuscript map on mulberry bark paper. C. 1750-1790. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Plate 66. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AKERMAN, Anders (1721-1778). & AKREL, Frederik (1779-1868). Pair of Celestial and Terrestrial Globes. Stockholm, c. 1800. 23 inch diameter, each. $60,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> BENNETT, Lieut. William Pyt (d. in action, 1916). AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904. $60,000 to $80,000

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