Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2005 Issue

Collecting has its Moments

An absurdly rare New Paltz item


By Bruce McKinney

For the past three years we have been building AE. The experience has been tough and fascinating. We thought we were simply going to capture information about books and put it in a database. In fact, we ended up developing a process that encompasses both finding the books in the marketplace, and running them through a filter of data that enables the buyer to make intelligent decisions. The AED (Americana Exchange Database), our original project, provides the data needed to make those decisions. It contains almost 1.2 million records, most including prices. The later project, MatchMaker, enables the buyer to find even obscure books and ephemera from the mass of offerings now available. Here are a few of my own recent purchases on eBay and ABE that further confirm the value of the AED as a database and MatchMaker, our suite of collector premium services, as a process.

On eBay two unique Ulster County [New York] items were offered by a merchant who usually sells lingerie and swimwear. In this case it was the descriptions that were scanty. These pieces are among the rarest Hudson Valley printed materials in existence but were offered with barely a line of description. One is the "History of the Huguenot Church and Settlement at New Paltz" by Rev. Charles H. Stitt, a 29-page pamphlet printed in Kingston, New York in 1863. The other is "Collections of The Ulster Historical Society, Volume I - Part 2" with a Kingston indicia and dated 1860.

The Stitt history is rare to the point of invisibility. The Lefevre History of New Paltz, first issued in 1903 and revised and enlarged in a second edition in 1909, mentions Rev. Stitt's tenure as Dominie of the Dutch Reformed Church but makes no mention of this history in its index. Neither of the historical societies in New Paltz and Kingston have copies or even awareness of it. Neither was it in the AED nor mentioned in the indexes of local and county histories. The item basically didn't exist until MatchMaker found it.

Both items came up as ten day auctions, closing 15 minutes apart, and I saw them both on day one. Until the final day nothing much happened. An occasional eBay bidder placed initial low bids, meeting the seller's minimum bids to open [$8.00], essentially agreeing to buy each item if no one else stepped in. With a few hours to go on day 10 I tested my ability to bid. I placed a small bid on the Stitt's over the then current bid, and soon saw the other bidder go to $20. With a minute to go, I placed a bid for $175 and bought the item for $32.99.

Fifteen minutes later the second item, Part 2 of Volume I of the Collections of the Ulster Historical Society was completing its 10 day run. This volume was described as 177 pages and in fact was not. The pagination begins on 77 and runs to 177 but the seller apparently only looked at the last page number. I suppose this gives me the right to return or to complain but I'm nevertheless satisfied. I knew the print run of the vol. II to be 50 but found no mention in the AED and specifically in Munselliana [Munsell was the printer] for the print run of the first volume. A few minutes later this second piece was sold to me for $42.99 against a bid I placed in the final minute for $200.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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