Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2002 Issue

A Visit with Jeremy Markowitz at Swann Galleries

Swann2

Catalog: 100 Rare & Important Travel Posters


By Abby Tallmer

It is a cold November morning in New York City. I am in a pristine white-walled office, high quality light toned wood shelves and easels everywhere, a central reception desk in the front, a stairway leading to the lower floor space (occupied by art auctions as opposed to book auctions) nearby. I can tell that this room is usually fastidiously clean but today it is filled with orderly clutter as every easel and available bit of fabric-lined wall space is occupied by a brightly colored and elaborately decorated early 20th century travel poster. Everywhere I look these posters lure me to travel to exotic places on this damp and drizzly November day. I am sitting at the head of a long wooden table, accompanied by a jovial dark haired man in his early to mid thirties, wearing a suit that he seems only slightly uncomfortable in. This suited young man is Jeremy Markowitz, Specialist in Printed and Manuscript Americana for Swann Galleries, one of the nation’s premiere auction houses.

I am here to interview Mr. Markowitz on a variety of topics for this month’s AE Monthly. Throughout our interview all around us telephones ring and bids are taken for various upcoming sales, especially for the Travel Poster sale which is the one most immediately pending. I make a conscious decision to block out these phone calls and the lure of the travel posters (which could easily occupy me for an hour or more) and get to the purpose at hand: talking with Mr. Markowitz. This proves to be an easy task as Mr. Markowitz is a brisk and engaging conversationalist. We begin, appropriately enough, at the beginning: I ask Mr. Markowitz what got him into this particular line of work. He answers that as a student, libraries always gave him pleasure, especially when “researching early American stuff.” Markowitz worked briefly at the Rosenbach, then pursued a Master’s Degree in History, then sent off a pack of letters to various auction houses. Swann answered, about five years ago. And so the story goes.

I decide to play devil’s advocate and ask him what his title (“Specialist in Printed and Manuscript Americana”) really means. How do you define ‘Americana’, I ask. He is very patient with me. “Well,” he says, “Americana generally refers to the Western Hemisphere. I guess when we use the word ‘Americana’ we are generally talking about material ranging from Columbus to the Civil War, but at times the date range is way beyond that. ‘Printed’ Americana includes engravings, images, and graphics as well as purely textual materials. Generally when I use the term ‘Americana,’” he says, digging himself a little deeper, “I am referring to material with some ‘guts’ to it. The difference between autographs and Americana is the contextual presence that Americana tends to have to itself. Not that autographs can’t be Americana,” he quickly adds in deference to the sale which we are about to discuss. Soon we are talking about both the upcoming Autographs sale and the 100 Rare & Important Travel Posters sale as Americana. “Travel posters, railroad posters, these are Westward Expansion materials. Typical Americana subjects.” We settle on a grossly general definition: “Americana is a very personal thing. It is collector-driven and collector-determined. Whatever collectors want to include as Americana, in a sense, is.”

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