For those who collect on faith: How values change

- by Bruce E. McKinney

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A catalogue at the divide between what was to what would be: a gem

Those who collect, collect on faith.  We accept we’re paying up and hope time confirms our enthusiasms and heal our overpayments.  So be it.  It’s such a pleasing field.  I recently re-read Scribner’s 1947 Catalogue No. 135:  Rare Books in all fields of collecting.  We have many Scribner catalogues in Transactions+ because they have long been appreciated as gems of focus, selection and concision but this was a new one to me.  And then I thought I’d like to see how their offers have held up in the 73 years since they committed their thinking to print. And it was interesting.

 

These days acquirers look interchangeably between dealers and auctions.  In 1947 the rare book field was retail, and auctions, by and large, wholesale.  Scribner was very retail, residing at 597 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

 

The timing was exquisite, the War over and the economy beginning to rev.  The auctions once powerful had thinned and would recover as the next generation of dealers would become specialists.  The ABAA was an idea coming into fruition in 1949.  Scribner’s catalogue 135 was issued on the edge of time, aware both of what had been, looking ahead to what would be.  In that spirit I reread their 465 lot opus and I’m sharing how 18 random items have fared.

 

Take care.  It’s a wild ride.  Copernicus’ 1543 [Yes they had one!] will go much higher than our estimates suggest because we follow trends over the past 120 years and Copernicus was less appreciated, even to the point, hard to sell in the first half of the 20th century, while other items would deeply underperform today.  Every dog gets it’s day.

 

What are they?

 

  1. The Education of Henry Adams.  Adams.  1907.  The privately printed first edition.  $450
  2. American Turf Register.  1830-44.  First editions.  $2,500
  3. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.  Barrie.  1905.  First edition in original vellum $150
  4. Grande Sonate Pour Le Pianoforte,  Beethoven.  1805.  First edition $120
  5. History and Present State of Virginia.  Beverly.  1705.  $90
  6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Acton Bell.  Bronte.  1848.  3 volumes, various editions with corrections in the author’s hand.  $1,250
  7. Poems.  William Cullen Bryant.  1821.  Rare in this condition.  $450
  8. The Feminine Monarchie, or The History of Bees.  Butler.  1634.  First edition in phonetic spelling.  $40
  9. Lectures on Coal-Tar Colours [with] Dyeing and Calico Printing.  Calvert.  1863 & 1876.  $90
  10. The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director.  Chippendale.  1755. The second, most sought after edition.  $250
  11. [American] Constitution printed at Poughkeepsie.  1788.  $550
  12. The Last of the Mohicans.  A Narrative of 1757.  Cooper.  $425
  13. De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium Libri VI.  Copernicus.  1543.  $2,250
  14. The Origin of the Species.  Darwin.  1859.  A fine copy inscribed by the author.  $285
  15. The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, together with… $1,250
  16. The Posthumus Papers of the Pickwick Club.  Dickens.  First American edition in parts.  $900
  17. The History of Tom Jones.  Fielding.  1749.  6 volumes.  First editions.  $650
  18. Guillelmi Gilberti Colcestrensis.  Gilbert.  1600.  $675

 

 

Taken together at full retail in 1947 the price was $12,375.  Today selecting comparable [this is subjective!] copies from Transactions+ we find their current estimated value to be $736,488 and their average probability of reappearance to be 14.2 years.

 

To this we add information from Transactions+:

 

 

 

Selected Items

in

Scribner's

No. 135

 

 

Item No.

 

Price in $

Comparables in Transactions +

Estimated Current Value

Probability of Reappearance in years

1

1

Adams

450

13

13,354

12.5

2

6

[Turf Register]

2,500

9

69,662

25

3

14

Barrie

150

3

5,691

25

4

24

Beethoven

120

4

5,204

25

5

32

Beverly

90

14

5,253

25

6

43

Bronte

1,250

9

19,924

2.5

7

51

Bryant

450

98

450

1.4

8

60

Butler

40

33

1,306

3.3

9

63

Calvert

90

2

4195

25

10

72

Chippendale

250

2

8,294

2.5

11

81

Constitution

550

2

22,619

25

12

84

Cooper

425

114

13,421

0.6

13

88

Copernicus

2,250

36

326,581

4

14

94

Darwin

285

10

145,928

3.3

15

95

De Foe

1,250

1

58,264

25

16

100

Dickens

900

10

4,408

25

17

128

Fielding

650

72

5,461

0.5

18

150

Gilbert

675

5

26,473

25

             
     

12375

 

736,488

255.6

             
   

5.76%

     

14.2

 

Taken together, build your collection for the fun of it while being mindful that markets, copies and opinions change.

 

To which I add, it’s great fun.

 

Attached are more detailed files.