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 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.
  • <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.

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