Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

Thomas “T.” Craig Scoop McKinney 1941-2021: Book Scout


L to R: T. Craig, Linda M. myself and Thomas C., 1964

T. Craig McKinney, had a life-long love affair with old books and the sundry paraphernalia around them.   He found them in attics, basements, garage sales, at country auctions and antique shops.  It was his avocation.  He was a newspaperman first and foremost but found time on weekends to look for gems to sell to area dealers.  He loved the chase and it was inevitable his shelves would be packed with interesting things when he recently slipped away.


“T.” was my brother and many were the finds we located together in the 1960’s and 1970’s when only one of us was old enough to have a driver’s license.  He was the older brother.  At the Gates of Heaven these days no doubt, he’s bending God’s ear about when “he stumbled on the Nepahwin estate” in Newburgh in Orange County and God would be taking a deep breath saying “Jesus.”  Their private library was to be sold in 1967+/-.  It was advertised in the Newburgh Evening News.  On the morning of the sale the auctioneer, who like most other local auctioneers did not favor books, setting rules for inspection before the sale:  “you get 5 minutes inside to decide how much to bid and, if successful, 3 days to get them out.  Get the damn stuff out of here soon.”  The library ran from the front to back of the house so we also looked through the windows on both sides to decide what to bid.  Craig and I could come up with $300 and figured we’d win.  Lo and behold the bidding starts and the paddles went up to $700.  My God, that was crazy.  After which, we walked over to the winning bidder to congratulate him and he quickly admitted he was financially stretched and offered to sell us anything we wanted for fifty cents a book.  Our interest was local history and bought about 130 county and local histories for $65. For us that was a wonderful day.  That was all we really wanted.  Old books was a fun pursuit.


Over the years since, we would ritually retell that story and every year the library got bigger and the books got better.  The excitement lingers.


Another wonderful opportunity in those days we had were Cal Smith’s auctions in Pleasant Valley.  Cal must have once been an elementary school teacher because he always called his crowds “boys and girls” and that was how he’d open his book sales early to get the bulk lots disposed quickly.  The best part of those sales were the fellas you met who would smile and cajole while trying to pick your pocket if you bought a bargain and would accept a quick double.  I didn’t sell though except to Rad Curdy, who never offered money, only trades and I still have things on my walls I swapped with him fifty years ago.  Rad Curdy was a collector-historian, an absolute maven, who encouraged fellow-sufferers of old book mania.


As well there was a truly once-in-a-lifetime rare book opportunity when the Saint Andrews Monastery just north of Poughkeepsie was being closed and liquidated.  Rad told me about it and I went to see the church father who was managing the disposal of old furniture, bric a brac  and it turned out, their gymnasium-sized library, stuffed, cheek by jowl, with ancient texts and manuscripts.  Power was in short supply but when I went to see the library the church father let me in one late afternoon as the sun was shining across the library from its high windows.  The material was astounding, the volumes and manuscripts deep in dust, and I knew it would be sacrilege to buy any of the religious texts and both Craig and I decided not to be involved with them.  Luckily, there was a separate section, two shelves of local history and later bought them.  I routinely asked for a signed receipt, and the State Police later found a copy at the Monastery and called several months later to learn about the books I bought.  To them I explained we knew the religious texts should not be touched and later bought only the local history.  This satisfied them.  That transaction was for a dollar a piece as I recall.


I believe later remnants of that institutional collection was offered at Freeman’s in Philadelphia as part of the dispersal of some of the St. Andrews material given to St. Aloysius nearby and I bid on a few items for old time’s sake.  That sale is in Rare Book Hub’s Transactions+.  


I was involved in old books before my brother, and in time became a collector and later the founder of The Americana Exchange and Rare Book Hub, but it was Craig who would go on to be a life-long book scout and many were the times years later we’d out exaggerate each other over dinner about the bountiful treasures we found when young for pennies that would some day pay for substantial things.  For him, the real treasure though he found in old books weren’t the gems he could hold, read and describe, rather it was things he could do for others with money he earned when he let them go.


While he was a newspaper writer his real interest was in being an advocate for disadvantaged youth.  He never made any real money.  That made the books he found his “helpful money” and were usually sold too soon and too cheap because he often wanted to help someone.


Ultimately, he become the inadvertent owner of almost hundred years of bound editions of the weekly newspapers in southern Ulster our parents bought in 1951.  The oldest paper dated from 1885 and the others were started in 1890, 1922, and 1924 and 1935.  He took over the Hudson Valley Newspapers from our Mother in 1980 and in the 1990’s sold their bound volumes to the New York State Library, using the proceeds to pay tuition for a family he was assisting. Those volumes can be found online today and the children he helped are living better lives because he invested in their educations.


All those many books and newspapers he touched over his years seem to have a left a lasting glow about his life.

Posted On: 2021-02-02 01:15
User Name: SASB

What a kind and moving remembrance.

Stan Shelley
Shelley and Son Books

Posted On: 2021-02-11 03:37
User Name: mairin

A truly moving account of a beloved brother & quite a special person -- a generous person. An inspiring tribute, Bruce. Be assured, brother Craig is smiling!
(And enjoyed the photo.) My condolences to the McKinneys, a sad loss.

- Maureen E. Mulvihill
10 February 2021.

Posted On: 2021-02-23 01:43
User Name: bukowski

Why would it be a “sacrilege” to buy religious books? Why were the police involved? Your writing is unclear. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy this site and thank you for your interesting articles.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> DADA - <i>Cabaret Voltaire.</i> A collection of artistic and literary contributions. Edited by Hugo Ball. CHF 5,000 to 8,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> EXPRESSIONISM - <i>Der Sturm.</i> Weekly magazine for culture and the arts. Almost complete suite from the years 1910 to 1932. CHF 20,000 to 30,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> LISBON EARTHQUAKE - <i>Augsburg collection of copper engravings of Lisbon. CHF 40,000 to 60,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Hamilton, William. <i>Campi Phlegraei. Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies as they have been communicated to the Royal Society of London.</i> Naples, 1776-1779. CHF 50,000 to 70,000.
    <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Leonardi, Domenico Felice. <i>Le Delizie della villa di Castellazzo descritte in verso dall'abbate Domenico Felice Leonardi lucchese fra gli Arcadi Ildosio Foloetico.</i> Milan, 1743. CHF 12,000 to 18,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Zwingli, Huldrych. <i>Von erkiesen und freyhait der speisen. Von ergernusz und Verbößerung. Ob man gewalt hab die speyß zu etlichen zeyten verbieten [...]</i>. CHF 2,500 to 4,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> HENDRIK VAN VULLENHOE, UMKREIS. Benedictional and other texts for Johannes von Venningen, Bishop of Basel. Latin manuscript on parchment. CHF 50,000 to 80,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Gujer, Hans Rudolf. Master typist's book by Hans Rudolf Gujer from Wermetschweil (Wermatswil). German manuscript on paper. CHF 3,000 to 5,000.
  • <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Autograph album leaf signed, 1826. €9,000 to €12,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Franz Kafka: Autograph letter unsigned, 1924. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Torquato Tasso: Autograph poem signed, no date. €12,000 to €16,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Charles Darwin: Autograph letter signed, 1866. €4,500 to €6,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Albert Einstein: Autograph letter signed, 1933. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Heinrich Hertz: Autograph manuscript signed, 1889. €18,000 to €24,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Giambattista Bodoni: Autograph letter signed, 1787. €900 to €1,200.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Francisco de Goya: Autograph letter signed, 1789. €18,750 to €25,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Martin Luther: Notes from his desk, no date. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Ludwig van Beethoven: Autograph letter signed, 1816. €22,500 to €30,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Gustav Mahler: Foto portrait signed and annotated, 1907(?). €7,500 to €10,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Bed?ich Smetana: Autograph letter signed, 1883. €4,500 to €6,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Roman binding.- Pindar. <i>Olympia, Pythia, Nemea, Isthmia,</i> translated by Johannes Lonicer, contemporary Roman binding by Niccolo Franzese, Basel, 1535. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Raverat (Gwen). Comprehensive album of 530 wood engravings, circa 1909-1950. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Hemingway (Ernest). <i>Fiesta,</i> first English edition, first impression dust-jacket, 1927. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Casino Royale,</i> first edition, first impression, 1953. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>Great Expectations,</i> 3 vol., first edition, first impression, Chapman and Hall, 1861. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Campbell (Colen) & others. <i>Vitruvius Britannicus, or The British Architect...,</i> 5 vol., vol.1-3 later editions, vol.4 & 5 first editions, [?1731]-31-67-71. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Geography.- Mela (Pomponius). <i>Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis,</i> Venice, Franciscus Renner de Heilbronn, 1478. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> America.- [?Espinosa y Tello (José)]. <i>Relacion del Viage hecho por las Goletas Sutil y Mexicana en el Año de 1792,</i> 2 vol. including Atlas, first edition, Madrid, 1802. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Australasia.- Péron (Francois) and Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet. <i>Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes,</i> 5 vol. including Atlas, second edition, Paris, 1824. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Botany.- Curtis (William). <i>The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed,</i> 83 vol. in 62, 1794-1956. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Darwin (Charles).- Lecky (W.E.H.) <i>The Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe,</i> 2 vol., Darwin's copy with inscription "Charles Darwin 1865", pencil marginalia and pencil notes, 1865. £7,000 to £10,000.
  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript African Americana:<br>March 30, 2023</b>
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green Book,</i> New York, 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Papers of pianist-composer Lawrence Brown relating to Paul Robeson & more, various places, 1925-54. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Freedom Summer archive of civil rights activist Karen Haberman Trusty, Atlanta & elsewhere, 1963-64. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> New York, 1933. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Archive of letters from the sculptor Richmond Barthé to a close Jamaican friend, various places, 1966-85. $25,000 to $35,000.

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