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

  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> The first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Paine, Thomas) <i>The American Crisis. Number I.</i> "These are the times that try men's souls." $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> First printing of the Treaty of Paris, with distinguished contemporary provenance. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> Washington, George. Letter signed as first President-Elect. Washington prepares to embark "again on the ocean of publick affairs." $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Hamilton, Alexander). Manuscript document. The launch of one of the most consequential careers in American public life. $180,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Lexington & Concord). <i>A Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops…</i> $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Yorktown Campaign—Jean-Nicolas Desandrouins). A Yorktown Campaign map from the personal archive of the Comte de Rochambeau. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Strabo. <i>Rerum geographicarum libri septemdecim. A Guilielmo Xylandro Augstano magna cura recogniti…,</i> Basel, Henricpetri, (August 1571). $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Riou, Stephen (1720-1780). <i>The Grecian Orders of Architecture. Delineated and Explained from the Antiquities of Athens,</i> London, 1768. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Mair, Paul Hektor. <i>Geschlechter Buch...der...Statt Augspurg,</i> Frankfurt am Maim, Sigmund Feyerabend, 1580. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.). <i>Historiarum libri priores quinque,</i> Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1549. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. <i>Columna Antoniniana Marci Aurelii Antonini Augusti rebus gestis insignis Germanis simul...,</i> Rome, [1672]. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.

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