Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2016 Issue

An Open Letter to the Trustees of the Armory

Rebecca Robertson, President and Executive Producer

Park Avenue Armory

643 Park Avenue

New York, New York 10065

 

Dear Ms. Robertson;

 

Concerning the Armory and its relationship to the printed word:

 

Trends arc up and down.  Stand too close and there seems no mystery because the data points all point in one direction.  Stand back to see these same trends over decades and it’s apparent public taste both wanes and waxes.  The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America has sponsored an annual book show for over half a century in New York. It is the most important antiquarian book event of the year. It is a New York tradition. But today, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair finds itself in the crosshairs of they who decide policy for the Park Avenue Armory, and who are considering offering the book fair’s slot to another organization. What the hell, who needs books anyway?

 

Should public television replace Nova with the Jerry Springer show because the latter is more popular in the moment? Or maybe we should convert the New York Public Library into a video game arcade. That may make it a more popular hang out for young people, and isn't what appeals to the young all that matters in our society, the 12-29 age demographic?

 

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the passing of William Shakespeare. For 400 years, his legacy has endured. No, it has more than endured. It has been celebrated by generations. Shakespeare represents so much of our shared culture, our love for literature and art, our thirst for knowledge, our appreciation of heritage. After 400 years, should we blow out the candles on Shakespeare?

 

The Armory was the brainchild of many famous and important book-collectors of the 19th century who were also significant national figures.  In walking away from their wishes, intentions, and preferences, you opt for money and convenience over the city’s, the nation’s and the world’s commitment to the printed word.

 

J. Pierpont Morgan, the great banker, industrialist and book collector of the turn of the twentieth century employed part of his fortune to leave New York the great Morgan Library. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie invested much of his fortune dotting the American landscape with public libraries. The man who is the answer to New York's iconic question, "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?" spent the last days of his life feverishly finishing his autobiography. It has undoubtedly been offered to collectors at many New York Antiquarian Book Fairs.

 

That commitment to the book, which to you may seem less if not absolutely unimportant compared to rents and cash flow, will endure long after today's latest fads are forgotten. The ABAA booksellers and the collectors who have kept the book alive through changing times have not forgotten what endures fads and time.

 

In the larger scheme of things the printed word will always have a place.  Whether that place is 643 Park Avenue in April 2017 remains to be seen.

 

It should be.

 

Bruce McKinney

Managing Partner

Rare Book Hub and Americana Exchange

bmckinney@rarebookhub.com

415.823.6678

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions