Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2021 Issue

Part I - The Year that Was, the year that Will Be

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Bruce McKinney

2020 for many has been harrowing.  I requested representatives of some of the principal organizations in the rare paper field for their perspectives on what 2020 has meant and what their experience suggests the field will be in the immediate future.  Almost all individuals and organizations that were contacted graciously prepared statements.

 

The Year that Was is in 3 parts in Rare Book Monthly:

Part 1 – This story

Part 2 – Perspectives from the Auctions

Part 3 – Perspectives from Dealer Organizations + Marvin Getman’s Electronic Book Fairs

 

Catherine Williamson of Bonhams,

Christina Geiger of Christies,   

Stephan Ludwig of Forum Auctions,

Selby Kiffer on behalf of Sotheby’s

Nicho Lowry on behalf of Swann Galleries

 

Roger Treglown & Pom Harrington of the ABA,

Susan Benne of the ABAA,

Sally Burdon of ILAB,

and

Marvin Getman of Virtual Book and Paper Fairs have offered their statements about what we went through and what we can expect in 2021.  Taken together they are promising and cautious. 

 

Let’s set the dreamscape

 

The rare book fairs in New York in early March were inadvertently at the hinge where reality and nightmare fantasy went their separate ways.  It was known in February in the scientific community that the illness known to history as Covid-19 was getting out-of-control in China and that random cases were appearing in the United States, Asia and Europe.  Almost immediately the impending epidemic was expressed in political rather than medical terms, causing delays to protect the population and the economy.  New York City soon engulfed, was closed to in-person business and many of America’s auction houses and dealers around the world closed their offices, organizing work from home protocols, operating via online conferences.

 

Book fairs as in-person events came to a dead stop but both the ABAA and Marvin Getman’s Virtual Book Fair took the challenge to offer online book fairs as a renewed experiment that continues to create ever larger footprints.

 

Auction houses in New York and elsewhere responded worldwide by creating online auctions in place of in-person events and as the Covid 19 numbers began to surge, the book, manuscript, map and ephemera buying community slowly joined the bidding.  By year-end, our provisional totals suggest, by every measure, auctions successfully adjusted:

 

                        2019                            2020

Auctions          1669                            1871

Lots                 517,145                       528,239

Lots Sold         395,690                       430,969

% Sold             77%                             81.58%           

 

In previous financial disasters and during World Wars auctions shrank to insignificance.  The difference of course has been the Internet. 

 

Into the fall, as the bidding was strengthening, consignors were finding the time between consignment to sale, had been significantly reduced, providing new flexibility.  Covid has been a human disaster but the rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera component of collectibles has found it possible to rethink and remake a field that has long been rigid in its conformity.

 

As substantial as the growing acceptance for online auctions has been, the changes in book fairs have been a revelation – creating the atmosphere of a fair electronically, with unheard of search efficiency, knowing who has what, to see, inspect, ask and get answered and agree to buy.  Most observers wax wistful for the idea traditional book fairs will be back but as many now believe the electronic book fair is going to always be part of the future even as traditional person to person fairs gloriously rebound.   For dealers, fairs be they online or in-person, are vital.

 

For those dealers whose business has comprised a significant institutional component, they have been in some cases disproportionately damaged as Covid-19 restrictions have altered enrollments and reduced budgets.  They are still expected to be committed buyers but their budgets have been restrained and delayed.  They will be back.

 

Overhanging the expected recovery, Covid-19 remains a question mark.  Wishful thinking that the pandemic would burn itself out has been frequently pronounced and consistently proven to be wrong.  In-hospital treatment has dramatically improved but at the same time the number of cases continue to surge.  Almost mystically, let’s just call it what it is, a miracle, out of the fog of 4 year projections given us last summer, the first vaccines are now being released and projections suggest science will slay Covid-19 later in the year.

 

The health crisis will pass but many citizens will find their finances in tatters.  Inflation after an absence of almost 30 years will in a few years begin to leave a permanent hangover.  Significant tax increases are inevitable.  And we’ll adjust.  Life is an experience and rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera are a wonderful part of it.

 

This completes my overview and I‘m connecting you to Part 2, the perspectives of 5 seasoned auction professionals, and then part 3, the views of ILAB, ABAA and ABA as well as Marvin Getman, the book fair impresario.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Graphic Design<br>May 19, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> pencil maquette, 1930. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Claude Fayette Brandon, <i>The Chap Book,</i> circa 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Various Artists, a complete set of <i>Das Plakat,</i> set of 10 hardcover volumes, 1912-21. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Javier Gómez Acebo & Máximo Viejo Santamarta, <i>San Sebastian / XI Circuitto Automovilista,</i> 1935. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Ephraim Moses Lilien, <i>Berliner Tageblatt,</i> circa 1899. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Birds.- Gould (John). <i>The Birds of Great Britain,</i> 5 vol., first edition, [1862-]1873. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Canadiana.- Cockburn (Maj. Gen. James Pattison, 1779-1847), After. [Six Landscape of Quebec City and Six Views of Niagara Falls], 2 suites in 1 vol., comprising 12 aquatints, 1833. £30,000 to £40,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses,</i> number 218 of 150 copies on verge d'arches, Paris, Shakespeare & Company, 1922. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> first paperback edition, signed by the author, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Du Maurier (Daphne). <i>Rebecca,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author to her governess, 1938. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Magna Carta.- An exact copy of King John's Great Charter of 1215, transcribed from the fire damaged but legible manuscript in the Cottonian Library, British Library, J. Pine, 1733. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Woolf (Virginia). <i>Mrs Dalloway,</i> first edition, Hogarth Press, 1925. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Tudor exiles opposed to the Marian regime.- Mary I (Queen of England) Letter signed "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, signed at head, titled at head "By the King and Quene", 1556. £8,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> America.- Newfoundland.- Whitbourne (Sir Richard). <i>A discourse and discouery of Nevv-found-land…,</i> second edition, By Felix Kingston, 1622. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cervantès Saavedra (Miguel de). <i>El Ingenioso Hidalgo Do Quixote de la Mancha,</i> 4 vol., Madrid, Por Don Joaquin Ibarra, 1780. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Stubbs (George). <i>The Anatomy of the Horse,</i> first edition, first issue, Printed by J. Purser, for the Author, 1766. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cardiology.- Lower (Richard). <i>Tractatus de Corde item De Motu & Colore Sanguinus et Chyli in cum Transitu,</i> first edition, 1669. £5,000 to £7,000.
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Androuet du Cerceau, <i> Bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br><i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000

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