Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2017 Issue

Weathering the Storm

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Hurricane Harvey approaches Corpus Christi Friday evening August 25.

I woke up on the morning of Thursday, August 24, made breakfast, and turned on the Weather Channel for the 8:00 update on Tropical Storm Harvey. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas, a flat, low lying community on the Texas Gulf Coast. For the previous couple of days, the National Weather Service had been predicting Harvey would become a tropical storm, maybe even a minimal Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds, when it made landfall near Corpus Christi.

 

Minimal strength hurricanes worry no one along the coast, but this one looked like it could bring unusually heavy rains. High pressure to the east, high pressure to the west, and a cold front to the north meant it would be trapped from moving away quickly. There could be rain for days. I live close to a river that drains, but very slowly, the flat land. Add to that an expected storm surge that could reach eight feet in the bay to which it drains and flow might not be able to keep up with heavy rains. My house is only 16 feet above sea level. A flooded house is a disaster, even more so in Corpus Christi's extremely humid environment. Mold spores just wait for the opportunity to move into even the best of homes.

 

The 8:00 a.m. forecast was unchanged – minimal category 1. I debated whether it was necessary to go through the time-consuming, unpleasant chore of boarding up the windows. Probably not. They can handle 75 mph winds no sweat. I waited for the next update, which came at 11:00 a.m. It was different. Suddenly, the forecast was upped to a category 3 hurricane (111-129 mph), maybe even a cat. 4, a 12-foot storm surge, and torrential rains. Houses here are built to survive a borderline category 3. They are not built to withstand an upper category 3. Corpus Christi was the storm's direct target, with arrival time expected late Friday or early Saturday morning. Plans immediately changed.

 

My wife and I set about putting up the boards, several hours of work, as quickly as we could. After that, we moved valuables at floor level to higher ground, to save them from water in the house. Finally, we packed up several days worth of clothes, a few valuables, and left. As much as I wanted to stay to protect the house, this could be life-threatening. We needed to get out, and hoped to beat the crowds that would turn I-37 west to San Antonio into a parking lot. Traffic was slow, but moving. We got out by 5:00, which is just when people who left for work that morning, confident that this storm was no big deal, were returning home, to discover what lay ahead.

 

We checked with neighbors. Some were leaving, some undecided, one chose to ride it out. We would keep in touch.

 

We arrived in Dallas, 400 miles away, at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning. We have family there. They left the door unlocked.

 

All Friday we remained glued to the TV, watching the progress from afar as the storm grew in intensity and inched closer to land, Corpus Christi still in its sights. It was a day of frayed nerves, alternating hopes and fears. Lives were safe, but the fate of home and possessions was unknown. They could all be gone. It's an uneasy sensation. Finally, late that evening, the storm track shifted slightly to the north. After nightfall, it struck, crossing the shore by Rockport and Aransas Pass, Texas. Those communities are on the north side of Corpus Christi Bay, 15-20 miles from Corpus Christi on the south side.

 

Come morning, we began searching for information. We did not know whether our house had been damaged, or even still existed. Fortunately for us, Corpus Christi had been mostly spared. We heard from neighbors who stayed or had friends that stayed. Some even took pictures. Our house appeared to be intact. The river did not overflow, the house did not flood.

 

Harvey had since taken up residence in the area north of Corpus Christi, blocking routes home from Dallas. However, by Sunday, we were able to skirt the worst of it taking a more westerly route home. We still weren't sure what we would find, perhaps damaging leaks from the roof. We had boarded up the doors, but the garage door opener provided access. Electricity had already been restored to our house, though much of the city was still dark. What we found was pure relief. It looked exactly as it did when we left. There was no damage at all. Morning revealed the only casualty to be the fences around the yard, mostly broken and blown over. Add a loose gutter and broken porch screen door and that was it.

 

You have probably seen the pictures of Rockport and Aransas Pass. Large parts of those communities were flattened, houses nothing but a pile of rubble, others just a foundation, remnants of the house sitting across the street. Some places will be uninhabitable for months, and complete restoration will take years. Even as the storm's winds died down, the torrential rains continued. It stalled around Victoria and dumped rain amounts measured in feet rather than inches. That resulted in the incredible record-breaking floods in Houston. Those are pictures you have undoubtedly seen, people being rescued by boat from upper floor windows and roofs in the nation's fourth largest city. Already the victim of numerous terrible floods, this was the worst of all. It now appears likely that damages will be greater from Hurricane Harvey than from any other storm in American history.

 

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi became something of a footnote. Dominating the forecasts before the storm landed, it was practically forgotten in the aftermath. The Weather Channel personalities headed north to Houston (the President did pay us a visit a few days later). That was all well by us. Winds and rain are far worse on the north side of a Western Gulf hurricane, where counterclockwise spinning pulls in wind and rain from the ocean, rather than gentler, dryer flows off the land to the south. Meanwhile, the storm surge to the north sucks water from the south. There was no surge in the bay to slow the draining streams' flow. Twenty miles away, sustained winds reached 130 mph. For us it was the 80s. Rain was like an ordinary storm, not a once in a lifetime event.

 

A little more than a dozen miles made all the difference. It's hard to know what to think. There is relief, but tempered with great sorrow for those not far away who suffered so much. It was supposed to be us, but it wasn't. A last minute jog delivered that terrible fate to others. There is no reason, and it isn't fair. It just happened that way. We will rebuild our fences while others will have to rebuild their lives.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Book of Hours. Illuminated manuscript, Flanders or northern France, c. 1450. With 12 full-page illuminated miniatures. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Zahrawi, Abu’-Qasim, al- (c. 936-1013). <i>Albucasis chirurgicorum omnium,</i> Strasbourg, 1532. The first comprehensive illustrated treatise on surgery. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Milles, Thomas. <i>The Custumers Alphabet and Primer,</i> 1608. Gilt supralibros of 17th-century English bibliophile Edward Gwynn. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Guillemeau, Jacques. <i>Child-Birth or, the Happy Deliverie of Women,</i> 1st edition in English, 1612. The second midwifery manual printed in English. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Rabisha, William. <i>The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected,</i> 1st edition, 1661. Rare. Five copies in libraries. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Royal binding. <i>An Abridgment of the English Military Discipline,</i> 1678. Contemporary red goatskin gilt by Samuel Mearne for Charles II (1630-1865). £1,500 to £2,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Pallavicino, Ferrante. <i>The Whores Rhetorick,</i> 1st edition in English, 1683. Rare anti-Jesuit satire. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>The Benefit of Farting,</i> 1st London edition, 1722. Teerink 19. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edwards, George. <i>Natural History of Uncommon Birds</i> [and] <i>Gleanings of Natural History,</i> 7 volumes, 1743-64. Contemporary tree calf, 362 hand-coloured engraved plates. £8,000 to £12,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Campbell, Patrick. <i>Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America,</i> 1st edition, 1793. Howes C101; Sabin 10264. Uncut in original boards. £5,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Hearne, Samuel. <i>A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay, to the Northern Ocean,</i> 1st edition, 1795. Sabin 31181. Large-paper copy. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edgeworth, Maria. <i>The Match Girl, A Novel,</i> 1808. £1,000 to £1,500
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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