Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2017 Issue

Edward Eberstadt & Sons: a story by Michael Vinson

38844321-7878-47a3-b8fe-7daec8a5c8b0

Edward Eberstadt. 1883-1958

Edward Eberstadt & Sons was in the 20th century, to quote William Reese who wrote the forward to Mr. Vinson’s interesting book, Edward Eberstadt & Sons, Rare Booksellers of Western Americana, “the largest and most influential dealer in important books and manuscripts relating to the American West.”  The firm, which was organized in 1908 would continue through two generations of Eberstadts ending in final disposal in 1975.

 

Many of the firm’s important catalogues were reprinted as a set in 1965 and today these records are included in search results in the Rare Book Hub Transaction Database.  Not many dealer catalogues have made this cut.*

 

Michael Vinson, the western Americana specialist, has written a book about the Eberstadts and in particular Edward Eberstadt.  He was a dealer and market-maker in a category of Americana that became a specialist area during the years he was a dealer in New York.  He handled very good books with the aplomb of a storyteller who knew both how to regale and sell.  He was a master and Mr. Vinson has brought him back to life based primarily on his correspondence that was given by his family to the Beinecke Library at Yale after his death.  This is a book well worth the read.

 

Mr. Eberstadt always wanted to be an honest man but when that failed he became a bookseller.  He wasn’t a crook and no, he wasn’t dishonest.  Not at all.  Rather he mastered the arts of finding the best material and charging the highest prices; something that would be harder to do today when copies and prices can be evaluated on the Internet.  So he checked other dealers’ catalogues and bought aggressively.  As I recall we have in our records the simultaneous catalogue runs of Midland Notes, Goodspeed’s and Eberstadt.  And when I looked at Goodspeed’s and Midland a few years ago you could see their copies moving into the Eberstadt stock.  And now it's clear where they often went:  into the best collections at the highest prices. 

 

As to how the Eberstadt descriptions and their determinations of importance have held up we now know for even under the intense scrutiny possible using the Internet, their references still appear.  But all skill sets have their day and the Eberstadts’ are most powerful when seen through the lens of a rear view mirror, the very mirror Mr. Vinson’s has provided.  Here’s how.    

 

Great dealers often have exceptional memories and Edward’s was among the best.  They are also sometimes graceful correspondents.  He was both.  The principal collectors and institutions in the category collected books and papers as well as the conversations, bon mots and ideas of the acknowledged master of the trade.  In some sense, if you were a great collector in his category in the day, you wanted to buy from him.  He was that good and it confirmed your connection with him.

 

His customer list would, in time, include many of the great collectors.  Huntington, Wagner, Streeter, Coe, the Beineckes, Graff, and DeGolyer, all of them serious players, all his customers as were many, perhaps most of the important collecting libraries of the era. 

 

The Eberstadt correspondence with institutions also suggests acceptance by scholars of his scholarship.  That is rare, possibly rarer than any of the books he sold them.

 

He and his sons, Charles and Lindley, today are remembered particularly for having produced extraordinary catalogues that became, even in their own time, essential documents for collectors, dealers, and institutions.  Not many dealers’ catalogues reach memorable status as theirs did.  Interestingly, Argosy, in New York, still has three complete sets of the 1965 collected reprint.  Serious collectors of the American west will, as five generations of readers already have, find them to be a powerful learning tool.

 

How and where to find this book?  On Amazon or Oak Knoll.

 

If you would like to contact the author here is his phone number and email address:

 

Michael Vinson Americana

P. O. Box 608

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

 

307.654.1185

 

m_vinson@silverstar.com

 

Or, meet Michael at the ABAA Fair in Oakland, California February 10 – 12.  He’s at booth 813 and will have a dozen or so copies with him.  Obtaining a copy at the show guarantees your show experience will be a success.

* RBH members, using the advanced search, can select Eberstadt in the Source section to see 21,456 original listings 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions