Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

June 26: The Library & Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey at Dominic Winter Auctioneers

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Editor’s note: On June 26, 2019, Dominic Winter Auctioneers will be auctioning the Library & Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey. The sale features 440 lots arranged in chronological order, beginning with a 15thcentury Books of Hours. Orskey was well known world-wide in the book trade. He made frequent trips to the United States, where he was taken under the wing of the legendary American bookseller and antiques dealer Timothy Trace. In New York he delivered books to the Astors, where, he remarked, ‘even the bellboy carried a machine gun.’ The sale’s catalog can be viewed online here. The following is an introduction to the sale prepared by Nathan Winter, Director and Specialist of Libraries & Collections, Fine Art, Old Master & Modern Prints, Continental Books & Music at Dominic Winter Auctioneers.

 

We are delighted to present the library and picture collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey. A significant figure in the British book trade for over sixty years, he was renowned for his uncanny ability to discover rare books and otherwise unnoticed treasures. Born the only son of Polish Jewish émigrés who moved to England during the First World War, Martin narrowly escaped death at the outbreak of the next war in 1939, when the evacuation ship on which he had been due to travel was torpedoed resulting in the loss of all children on board. Martin had stayed behind at his father’s request to look after his mother, who had broken her arm. He was subsequently interned as an enemy alien in a prisoner-of-war camp on the Isle of Man, but released when it was realised that many wartime internees had as much reason to dislike the Nazi regime as any. After a curtailed national service, and seemingly lacking any obvious academic potential, he tried a variety of jobs without success in the years immediately after the war, including hairdressing and acting. 

 

Following a stint on stage as a spear carrier, the actor Bill Owen (of Last of the Summer Wine fame) advised ‘quit while you’re ahead’. He did, however, purchase six large folio architecture books for £4 at Sotheby’s, selling five of them at a profit. The sixth volume (James Gibb’s Book of Architecture) was abandoned at Leicester Square Station because it was so heavy! This led to similar forays, where he would buy an old volume at one shop and sell it at a profit in another down the road. In 1949, on the recommendation of George McLeish, the affable bookseller at 22 Little Russell Street, Martin applied for the post of book cataloguer at Hodgson’s Auction Rooms in Chancery Lane. He got the job and stayed for fifteen years. As O. F. Snelling the auctioneer at Hodgson’s (and later Sotheby’s) recalled, Martin ‘was completely unmethodical, undependable, hopelessly inaccurate, and inefficient, but … for all his shortcomings, the Hodgsons recognised his value in cataloguing and lotting the books’. According to fellow bookman Peter Brewer, ‘Martin was in his element and there could not have been a finer apprenticeship … they were old-fashioned employers … paternalistic but also indulgent, so Martin was able to make his own decisions. He quickly learnt who were the leading players and who bought what’.  

 

As time went on, Martin’s book-hunting activities increased, as did his knowledge, confidence and contacts. Recognising a need for affordable copies of rare and out-of-print books, he formed the Holland Press with Paul Dinnage, one of the earliest reprint publishers. In 1954 their first publication was a reprint of Vicaire’s Bibliographie Gastronomique. Eventually he left Hodgson’s to set up on his own, initially in a very small shop next to Ciancimino’s antique shop on the King’s Road, then later on the Fulham Road. Drawn by the ‘thrill of the chase’ Martin travelled ever further to purchase libraries or collections: to country houses in Scotland and to the Garrison Library in Gibraltar with Ben Weinreb. 

 

Martin’s book collection reflects his eclectic interests and eye for distinctive and unusual rarities in the fields of science, alchemy, medicine, economics, education, gastronomy, Americana, natural history, English literature, and typography. Notable items include a 15th century Book of Hours, Thomas Milles’ Custumers Alphabet (1608) with the author’s autograph annotations, Pallavicino’s satire on the Jesuits, The Whores Rhetorick of 1683, Patrick Campbell’s Travels in North America (1793), George Edwards’ beautifully hand-coloured Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1743-51), and a rare gingerbread mould in the shape of a hornbook. Martin had a sense of fun and a fondness for the peculiar, so it is no surprise to find a copy of the anonymous 1722 satire The Benefit of Farting Explain’d (usually attributed to Jonathan Swift) among the many 17th- and 18th- century English literary rarities. The pictures and prints collected by Martin and his wife Josie also display a fine eye for quality, and include English naïve paintings and dog portraits, Indian miniatures and Company School botanical studies, watercolours of domestic architecture, a set of five unrecorded Restorationera allegorical prints of the senses, and the rare satire by Sutton Nicholls on the new phenomenon of book auctions The Compleat Auctioneer (circa 1700). 

 

O. F. Snelling called Martin ‘Prince of all the book runners’, adding ‘I know of less than a dozen booksellers who have turned over rarer and more valuable items’. He was a familiar face here at Dominic Winter Auctioneers and he was one of our first 100 clients. He expressed a wish many years ago that his library should be dispersed here, so that others might experience the thrill and enjoyment of buying, owning and collecting, as he had. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.

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