Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2005 Issue

What we can learn about book collecting from Joel Munsell

The Munsell indicia on an example of fine printing.


I have also been watching for Munsell items on eBay. So far it's a very thin and unpredictable market. The few items that have shown up have tended to be priced with high minimum bids. This doesn't make any sense. What is the difference between a Munsell imprint listed on ABE for $100 and an eBay listing for the same book with a $100 minimum bid? The eBay listing is, comparatively speaking, nonsense. Since when do auctions start the bidding above the high estimate? The answer is you can do this only when bidders are uneducated and unaware. This may sell a few items but it hurts the collecting field long term.

One of the intriguing aspects of Munselliana is that it allows a "postage stamp" approach to book collecting. Conventional collectors go in every conceivable direction because most areas or disciplines have few bounds, a dealer invention that keeps their inventories in front of a collector's eyes. Other forms of collecting, such as stamps and coins, assume that the total number of items is fixed while the quality is variable. Start a coin collection and you'll see what I'm talking about. Some collectors impose strict limits on themselves but for the majority of collectors the boundaries never get set and their collecting focus tends to follow their dealer's inventory rather than collection logic. The Munsell material is very fixed and can be collected as an entire group, by period, subject or form. However you approach it there are clear parameters. And because the printing quantities are available for half of the titles, a collector can gauge the likelihood the other half will come up by comparing their appearances and prices to items with known quantities. It's work but interesting and entirely possible. In short there is enough information to pursue the goal of completeness in this field and to do so with a degree of knowledge that leaves you independent of outside opinion and suasion. You can absolutely know this field.

As to what else can be learned I suspect that there are other, equally interesting ways to collect in the book field where there are clear limits and these limits can be understood by collectors. Such information empowers collectors, builds confidence and perhaps brings a few new adherents into what is a very challenging field.

Whether anyone cares to join me in this specific pursuit, the search for Munsell imprints, is another matter. In this one subject area I find the history of the Hudson Valley, the history of printing and the future of book collecting. As the announcer used to say at Monticello Raceway during summers in the 1960's: ladies and gentlemen, it'ssssssss the trifecta!

Would you like to look at a spreadsheet of the Munsell material that was recently available on ABE? Click here

To search all the listings in Bibliotheca Munselliana in the AED
Keyword:
Year Printed: From: to:
Searched in: Author Title Show me all records
Source
To go to ABE directly to see what is available today click here.

Do you have un-catalogued Munsell imprints? Click here say YES or here to say NO.

If you would like to comment on the availability or non-availability of Munsell material click here: Munsell Message Board Postings.

Rare Book Monthly

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    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
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    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
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    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
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    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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