Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

Remembering an Excellent Effort to Understand the Market in 1978/1979

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A powerful story

I was recently given a gift by an old friend, old enough to have achieved emeritus status both with the ABAA and AE & RBH:

 

Annual Report of the American Rare, Antiquarian and Out-of-Print Book Trade, 1978/1979. 

 

The year being reviewed was the traditional auction and library year from July 1st to June 30th, 1978 to 1979.

 

Talk about exciting.  This volume is a 323 page exercise into market perspective and projection and what makes it interesting is that it was published in 1979.  I do not have a right to reprint it but have taken the liberty to provide its introduction by Denis Carbonneau as well as an essay by John F. Fleming, a well known dealer of that era.

 

It seems good timing to remember that effort, given we, in our own way, are about to release a perspective and analysis on the rare book and paper market for 2020.

 

The Annual Report for 1979 is divided into sections:

 

            Part 1.  Auctions  and Auctioneering

            Part 2.  Review of Specialized Areas

            Part 3.  Libraries and Librarianship

            Part 4.  Conservation of Material

            Part 5.  Trends of Bibliography

 

Altogether, including the introduction, 43 essays were provided.  Many of the essayists were among the who’s who of the American rare book trade in that era.  In many cases however the named writers may not have written their own pieces as those who are credited to contributing do not recall either their participation or, in some cases, to have ever seen the book.  And I did find an explanation within the author’s expression of gratitude to those who interviewed and created accounts.  That may have been the modus operandi:  a call converted into an essay.  However it was created, there is a sense of boots on the ground and this account provides a remarkable perspective.

 

The rare book field in America had been doing very well since the end of WW2 but the number of great copies was thinning.  Fine examples were continuing to appear but genuine knowledge had long been in short supply.  American Book Prices Current, since 1975, was democratizing rare book knowledge.  As well, both Christies and Sotheby’s had recently introduced a 10%  buyer’s premium and dealers were irritated and a sense of that, in my opinion, was expressed in Fleming’s warm embrace of Swann, suggesting they did not seem to be weakened by not charging a buyer’s premium.  The relationship between the leading auction houses and dealers was fraught as auction houses, while acting coquettish with collectors, were relying on dealer bids to sell most of their lots.  The Fleming essay to me suggests dealer patience was running thin.  Whatever, by 1981, Swann was also charging a buyer’s premium.  The market was changing.

 

Had the series of Annual Reports continued over the next 20 years I must say, I suspect neither Americana Exchange nor Rare Book Hub would have been needed.  Our project arose from the rising complexity of the field at a time when crucial factors about rarity, bibliography and probability of reappearance were increasingly needed for collecting institutions and private collectors to quickly assess extensive priced auction history.  As a collector what I needed to make competent judgments for myself I simply assumed the strong majority of serious collectors also needed and would want to do; to be able to gauge value, rarity and relevance to the point the collecting beast could in confidence be released to pillage.  RBH does that today and I believe we are contributing to the market's strength.  RRRRRRHHH!

 

In his way Mr. Carbonneau and his team sought to capture the scale and pace of the many categories of collecting just as we have over the past 18 years [2002-2020].  Our approach has been to be neutral and fact based, while providing every scrap of detail we have been able to find.  I feel we are heirs to their ambitions.

 

Their approach was more personal and quite believable.

 

As AE and its later incarnation, Rare Book Hub, we have developed a service based on the proposition that information is vital to intelligent decision making about buying and selling books, manuscript, maps and ephemera.  That proposition then in 1979 and 18 years ago when we began, appeared to some to be threatening to their business model but many, may I suggest, most book dealers today see the virtue of having a deep neutral database that institutions, collectors and dealers can rely on.  What unites all in our community is desire, what divides is valuation.  When the difference is explicable the differences can be bridged.  When they cannot, collectors tend to try other fields or at minimum, other dealers.

 

Over the decades It has been said relentlessly that there are no new collectors while, as we have broadened our reach to virtually all auctions selling collectable paper worldwide, we are seeing the number of auctions, the volume of lots, and the percentage of lots selling rising.  The market is looking very strong.  To the concern as to whether there are new collectors, the answer is in the number of auctions, lots and turnover.

 

So it’s interesting that I received this precious volume recently just as we’re preparing the annual review for the field for 2020.  I freely admit we don’t have 37 experts to review specific categories of collecting but we do make it possible for all interested to analyze all the data that has comprised the year; 1,857 auctions, 521,422 lots, and the total turnover 430,544 lots, so you can decide for yourself if you are comfortable in the collecting world we are in.

 

Denis Carbonneau’s introduction is page 2 of this article and John Fleming’s “Overview of the American Auction Market” is page 3.

 

If anyone can find Mr. Carbonneau I’d like to have his perspective.  My email is bmckinney@rarebookhub.com and phone number is 415.823.6678 [PST]

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
  • <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.

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