Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2016 Issue

Sendak Foundation Outscores the Rosenbach 252-88 in Battle Over Children's Author's Estate

E3fb5f76-26cd-4d53-aaa5-93ed928e3af0

One suspects Sendak would have wanted to strangle the parties for fighting over his bequest (Virginia tech Hillel photo).

A bitter dispute between two of the heirs of famed children's author Maurice Sendak has come to a conclusion, at least until/unless the Connecticut Probate Court's decision is appealed. The war was waged between the Maurice Sendak Foundation in his hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut, and the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which housed Sendak's papers for many years until his death. It was a split decision, but most observers believe the Foundation won. It would be hard to argue otherwise.

 

Sendak kept his personal papers at the Rosenbach in Philadelphia, which held numerous displays of his material over the years. Meanwhile, in his home in Ridgefield, Sendak kept a personal collection of books other than his own, a quite valuable collection. The Rosenbach and most observers undoubtedly believed Sendak would leave his personal papers to the Rosenbach, which had diligently cared for them over the years. What he did, instead, was a reversal of the obvious.

 

Sendak willed all of his papers, the great majority of which were housed at the Rosenbach, to a newly created foundation in Connecticut. Meanwhile, he willed his rare books, housed in Connecticut, to the Rosenbach. What was he thinking? Obviously, he assumed everything would be just fine between the trustees he appointed to manage his foundation and the Rosenbach. In a display of his expectation of cooperation, his will stated, "It is my wish that the Maurice Sendak Foundation Inc. make arrangements with the Rosenbach Museum and Library for the display of [his personally created writings and artwork] upon such terms and at such times as shall be determined by the Maurice Sendak Foundation Inc. in consultation with the Rosenbach Museum and Library." As one of the trustees reportedly pointed out, this doesn't obligate the Foundation to do anything, wishes not being commands. Cooperation this is not. Not even the Wild Thing would have been so naive in drafting a legal document with many millions of dollars at stake.

 

The Rosenbach quickly packed up the thousands of Sendak items it held, probably with a heavy heart, and shipped them off to Connecticut. The Foundation was not so fast. It held onto the books, resisting the Rosenbach's entreaties to send them south. Instead, it disputed the Rosenbach's claim on many of the items, saying they did not meet the terms of the bequest. In his will, Sendak bequeathed to the Rosenbach, "All of my rare edition books, including, without limitation, books written by Herman Melville and Henry James." It also gave the Philadelphia museum his letters and manuscripts written by persons other than himself, and his "Mickey Mouse collection."

 

Clearly, Sendak thought it would be obvious which items in his collection he intended to leave to the Rosenbach. The Rosenbach did, too. The Foundation took a more nuanced look. It concluded the "rare edition books" had to meet all three criteria, being "books," "rare," and "edition." That last one is a bit of a mystery. What is the difference between a "rare book" and a "rare edition book?" Which books are not "edition" books? I am perplexed by what book is not an "edition," unless, maybe, it is a manuscript. Perhaps Sendak was attempting to distinguish them from his manuscripts, but such would have been unnecessary since the Rosenbach was also getting his manuscripts. Ultimately, the court determined that there was a difference between "rare books" and "rare edition books," but did not say what that was, or whether it moved some books from one side of the fence to the other.

 

The Foundation did turn some of Sendak's books over to the Rosenbach, but withheld 340 somethings (obviously, I can't call them books). Of these, the court awarded 252 to the Maurice Sendak Foundation, and 88 to the Rosenbach. Among those awarded the Foundation were William Blake's very valuable Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence, considered by most in the book trade to be books, but others might see them as collections of prints. This sounds like a victory for the Foundation, especially considering what was being disputed were items that looked like they might belong to the Rosenbach, while all of the material that looked like it belonged to the Foundation went directly to the Foundation. Each side described a certain amount of approval and disappointment with the verdict, with neither saying they would, or would not, appeal. However, the depiction of the verdict by the Foundation's attorneys says it all. On their website, Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe described the verdict as "an important victory."

 

 

Update:  On November 28, the two institutions announced that they had resolved all remaining issues. There will be no appeals. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and it is not known whether any adjustments were made in the allocation of the material as made by the Probate Court.


Posted On: 2016-12-02 18:02
User Name: reeseco

This is all very sad, and totally at odds with Maurice's wishes. He and I became good friends as fellow Melville collectors. Let it serve as a warning to all book people to draft documents like wills using precise bibliographical language, not what lawyers might think of as bibliographical language. Bill Reese


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions