Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2020 Issue

Sometimes the Mother of Invention is Necessity: Video Conferencing

Interaction and a record

The collectible paper field has been moving online for many years.  But never have there been reasons for auction and dealer catalogues to further reorganize and transform to conform to the law, common sense and decency as reality is being shaped by the Coronavirus disaster.


Auctions recently we have seen wholesale cancellations while others have been suspended.  A few weeks later many are posted, even to the point that April suggests it might be a strong month.  For reference, you can search the auctions for lots of interest through the search box at the top of this page.  Such auctions now posted are the outcome of traditional processes long prepared before the recent imbroglio.  The months ahead will better reflect the multitude of ways auctions will adjust.


Let’s consider how the auction business will be further transformed by the ongoing electronic revolution under the unusual requirements of helping and serving their teams and clients.


At the outset houses are considered for consignments.  Many will employ Zoom or similar services to facilitate electronic interaction via the Internet which is ideal when safety, health and working from a distance are appropriate while creating a permanent record.  Such interactions can be scheduled or requested by email or phone.


For a house they can open a call or an electronic session using the audio and visual capabilities that many up-to-date computers provide.  For the prospect or consignor they will also need a reasonably large screen and a reasonably up-to-date operating system.  Both are important to view and react.  When the house initiates the conference or conversation, the consignor is offered a link to join.  Together an item or items can be discussed and seen by staff working from home or away while the entire session is copied for further reference.


Subsequently a house may make an offer with an exchange of terms.  An agreement signed by both parties can be exchanged electronically, after which the house may select the packer and carrier with an inventory control form shared with consignor and house.


Upon receipt of the material, the house will compare the inventory form and verify to consignor their receipt.  Such steps seem rudimentary but essential as items can be misplaced or misidentified.


At the next stage each item will be collated, cataloged and graded by condition.  A rough description will be built, explaining significance and importance as well as appropriateness to inclusion in various categories of collections.  Once sequenced by control number, author name in alphabetical order, by date or place published, the house may place specific material in a scheduled event.


Cataloguers will then revise and rebuild descriptions to often double and triple check.  Images are then shot, often numbering from 2 to occasionally 12, when appropriate to illuminate complexity or highlight value.


When the sale is organized there will be printed catalogues [in many cases] but the electronic catalogue will become the gold standard.


When appropriate, the interview or interviews by the consignor that have been captured on Zoom or other alternatives, can be edited and included in the electronic catalogue.  For example, for a 50 lot consignment of “my great grandfather Joe” a 3 or 5 minute story would both charm consignors [a factor] and interest and explain to bidders the who that often is relevant to the what.


For managing the editing of the filmed sessions I expect two options, a list of approved free-lance film editors and or, in- house film editors.


As well, dealers may employ similar processes whether to encourage consignments and to bring the catalogues and consignors to life.  These processes will be remarkably similar.


For reference my son Tom and I have made a Zoom chat that is simply a rough cut but captures a substantial part of what a consignor conversation with an auction house or dealer might look like.


A Brief Conversation [a link to youtube]  

As well I’m including an email address for Joe Belk who could edit/review the rough cut and develop one or more brief video insets into electronic catalogues.


Here are Joe’s contact information.

hominid.prod@gmail.com  510 846 8182.


Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
    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
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    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
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    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.
  • 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
    Modern First Editions
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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

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