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>Bibliothèque littéraire<br>Hubert Heilbronn<br>11 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Breton, André. <i>Nadja.</i> Paris, N.R.F., Gallimard, 1928. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> [Stendhal, Henri Beyle dit]. <i>Le Rouge et le Noir,</i> chronique du XIXe siècle. Paris, Levavasseur, 1831. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Dumas, Alexandre. <i>Les Trois mousquetaires.</i> 1844. 8 vols. In 4. Paris, Baudry, 1844. €30,000 to €50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Mallarmé, Stéphane -- Edgar Allan Poe. <i>Les Poèmes d’Edgar Poe.</i> Bruxelles, Edmond Deman, 1888. €18,000 to €25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Le côté de Guermantes II. Sodome et Gomorrhe I. [and] Sodome et Gomorrhe II.</i> Paris, N.R.F., 1921 et 1922. €20,000 to €30,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Westvaco–Inspirations for Printers,</i> 3 volumes, 1938-61. $200 to $300.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Proef van Letteren, <i>Welk gegooten worden in de Nieuwe Haerlemsche Lettergietery,</i> 1768. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Paul Klee, <i>Bauhaus Ausstellung Juli – Sept.,</i> Weimar, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Michel Seuphor & Jozef Peeters, <i>Het Overzicht Nos.</i> 22-23-24, Antwerp, 1922. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Wolfrum & Co., <i>Modern Graphik, Serie I…,</i> complete portfolio, 1909. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Gravure et Fonderie deC. Derriey: Specimen-Album,</i> Paris, 1862. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Mariette (Pierre-Jean). <i>Traité des pierres gravées / Recueil des pierres gravées...,</i> 2 vols., 1750. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> [Bryant, Jacob & William Cole]. <i>Gemmarum Antiquarum Delectus, [Marlborough Gems],</i> 2 volumes, [privately printed, 1780-83], £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Caylus (Anne Claude Philippe, Comte de). <i>Recueil d'Antiquités Egyptiennes, Estrusques, Grecques et Romaines,</i> 7 volumes, Paris, 1756-67, £700 to £1,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Devonshire Gems. <i>Duke of Devonshire's Collection of Gems,</i> privately printed, c. 1790, [one of 8 copies], £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Goltz (Hubert). <i>Le Vive Imagini di tutti quasi gl'Imperatori,</i> Antwerp, 1557, £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Manuscript. <i>An Explanation of Dassier's Medals, by Charlotte Hanbury,</i> c. 1795-1800, £700 to £1,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Paoletti (Bartolomeo and Pietro). A collection of 300 plaster cameos presented in 7 leather-bound double-sided faux book boxes, Rome, c. 1820, £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Mayer (Luigi). <i>Views in Egypt, from the Original Drawings, in the Possession of Sir Robert Ainslie,</i> London: Thomas Bensley for R. Bowyer, 1805, £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Blaeu (Willem Janszoon & Johannes). <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive Atlas novus, pars quarta</i> [England and Wales], Amsterdam: Johannem Blaeu, 1648, £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Reuter (O.M. & Mela, A.J.). <i>Finlands Fiskar. The Fishes of Finland,</i> 12 parts (complete), Helsingfors: G.W. Edlund, 1883-93, £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Lunardi (Vincenzo). <i>An Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England,</i> 2nd edition, London: Printed for the Author, 1784, £700 to £1,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> North America. Jansson (Jan). <i>Virginiae partis Australis et Floridae partis Orientalis,</i> circa 1641. £400 to £600.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>May 12, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> CURRIER and IVES, publishers -- After Frances F. Palmer. The Rocky Mountains. Emigrants Crossing the Plains, 1866. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BIBLE, in English]. <i>The New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated faithfully into English.</i> Rheims, 1582. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BIBLE, in Latin]. <i>Biblia latina.</i> Venice: Franz Renner of Hailbrun [Heilbrunn], 1483. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>May 12, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822). Autograph letter signed ("P. B. S."), to Charles Ollier. Florence, Italy, 15 December 1819. “MY PROMETHEUS IS THE BEST THING I EVER WROTE.” $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> RAMSAY, David (1749-1815). <i>The History of the Revolution of South-Carolina…</i> Trenton: Isaac Collins, 1785. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BINDINGS]. MUIR, John (1838-1914). <i>The Writings of John Muir.</i> Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916-1924. 10 vols. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>May 12, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [CHICAGO] -- <i>Park & Guide Map of Chicago.</i> Chicago: Jas. Van Vechten, 1873. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> CURRIER and IVES, publishers -- After Frances F. Palmer. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [ALLEN PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). <i>Romeo and Juliet.</i> Greenbrae: Allen Press, 1988. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>May 12, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> BEMELMANS, Ludwig (1898-1962). Pencil drawing on paper. 247 x 198 mm, sight, matted and framed. Showing a child shooting at a baby's balloon. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [LOGAN ELM PRESS]. HARVEY, Rebecca. <i>Any Number of Things.</i> Ohio State University, 2013. Single sheet paper scroll. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> BINYON, Laurence (1869-1943). A small archive of letters and pamphlets. $200 to $300.

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