Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2017 Issue

A Needle in the Hay Stack

702cf014-7b63-4ea0-be8b-0f64e0255246

 

What’s in this story?

 

Recently we were asked for help to find a record in the Rare Book Hub Transaction Database.  This record was for a piece of manuscript ephemera, a signed bill for the sale of four slaves.  The signor was Charles Carroll who, in addition to signing this document, also signed the Declaration of Independence.  When you know what you are looking for such searches are straightforward, typically taking a small fraction of a second.  But you have to be specific because we are providing more than seven million full text records and this research member was looking not only for any records of the item but also a specific auction appearance.  The item was in a Parke-Bernet sale but that was all that was known.

 

A précised description was provided but it turned out to be somewhat different than the printed auction record.  The brief description provided with the lot included some of the details for researching it but others were missing; in particular the year, date, and realized price.  The name of the principal referenced in the document was Charles Carroll, which it turned out was also different from how the actual auction record expressed it:

 

Carroll of Carollton, Charles.  Signer [of the Declaration of Independence] from Maryland.  A portion of the description was included but not enough to identify this specific lot.

 

Why?  Nowhere in the original record does the term ‘Charles Carroll’ appear.  A search for Charles Carroll did recently find 10,966 RBH records.  Charles Carroll in quotes found 623 lots but nothing for this particular lot.

 

So then we looked within the 14,070 Parke-Bernet records [in the Advanced Search] we are currently providing, while being mindful that 2017 is the year we are adding a complete run of PB records [estimated at 400,000].  Do we have this record?  In our off-line inventory we certainly have it but already posted?  It seemed unlikely.

 

But how to find out?

 

Because we use the precise language that appears in auction records we knew that putting a portion of the description in quotes in the keyword search could find it.

 

So, then using the Advanced search to look for Carroll specifically in Parke-Bernet records we found 10 records, none of which matched this item.

 

We then used a five word sequence from the printed description in quotes [Bill for four slaves with] and a single record came up.  Bingo.

 

I’m telling this story because the RBH Transaction Database is immense and requires some skill to track down all related references.  It can be easy to dismiss an item as “not found” but because the research was thorough we did find it.

 

Such experiences are relatively rare as most of the data is straightforward.  But if you experience similar questions simply call us.  It’s what we do.  We try to resolve questions.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Rare JFK Signed Check & Transmittal Letter During Campaign for 1956 VP Nomination, Both BAS Slabbed; Possibly A Unique Combo!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Daniel Boone Signed Receipt as VA Delegate; During His 1st of 3 Terms, Boone Was Kidnapped by British Forces Gunning for Gov. T. Jefferson & Other Legislators.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lincoln & His Civil War Cabinet: 8 Signatures, Beautifully Presented!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> G.A. Custer ALS from Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory to Capt. Yates, Who Also Died at Little Bighorn, Re: Acquiring “good horses” from Kentucky for 7th Cavalry.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lee Harvey Oswald Signed Letter: “if we finally get back to the states…maybe we’ll…settle in Texas,” Warren Commission Exhibit.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions