Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2019 Issue

Newseum Soon to be in the Past Tense

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The future of history will be in its ability to predict the emerging present

We are caught in that particular moment when old men, remembering their dreams, pay homage to them.  In some cases they remember a past no longer anchored in the present.  As a case in point, the Gannett newspaper organization which achieved both wealth and power through the ownership of daily newspapers in the United States in the 20th century, leveraged that success into, among other things, the Newseum, a homage to the printed word in Washington D. C.   It was a splendid, if dated idea, that would have held crowds in thrall in the 1930’s but has rapidly lost ground to the internet, news feeds, and instant messaging.  Of course, it’s not the museum located In Washington D. C. that fell behind, it’s the present that is racing ahead.  So here’s a note to the future.  Museums should focus on the future to anticipate what we will end up living through.  Had the Newseum done that they might have survived.

 

Their end could have been worse.

 

The New York Times had a story in its west coast edition on Saturday January 26th that both announced the sale and sought to explain it in which it came down to this:  insufficient attendance and rising real estate values.  It turns out the real estate market is going to bail out the Gannett Foundation [now called the Freedom Forum] and the building will go to one of the few enterprises that has control over its retail prices:  higher education.  Johns Hopkins, the great Baltimore university, is buying a beachhead in the nation’s capital.

 

Many in the world of rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera will recognize the symptoms:  declining audiences, higher costs, and changing methods of interaction.  Collectible paper faces many of the same issues.  My take away:  explain your material in ways that illuminate the future so you won’t be relegated to the past.  Yesterday’s news has become a hard sell.

 

In time the Newseum will become an entirely electronic institution, live online, see its attendance soar and its archives quoted every day around the world.  We now have to fit into an evolving world because that world increasingly does not remember us, even if the building is pristine and the location at the nexus of power.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
  • <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.

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