Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

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

A good idea that didn't last

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

 

Introduction

 

By Denis Carbonneau

 

This edition of the Annual Report of the American Rare, Antiquarian, and Out-of-Print Trade is the first of a projected series whose purpose is to give a picture of  the antiquarian book trade for the year beginning July 1 and ending the following June 30.  These dates were adopted because they coincide with the fiscal year of most academic libraries and because they overlap the dates of the auction season.

 

The full title of this publication defines its direction and purpose.  The phrase annual report is a financial term for a statement of the financial health of tan enterprise.  Thus, readers will find here an appraisal of the financial health of the antiquarian book trade.

 

A purely financial view of the trade would, however, present a misleading and lopsided picture of the American antiquarian book trade in 1978 / 1979. Supporting activities, associations, and scholarship are an integral part of the trade, and in many ways these elements of the trade share responsibility for its success.  Their activities for 1978 / 1979 are also summarized in the Annual Report.

 

The section entitled “Auctions and Auctioneering” and “Review of Specialized Areas” provide information on buying and selling practices, financial trends, and changes in book collecting habits.

 

The dealer-specialists whose articles appear here have recorded their experiences as reflected in the activity of their businesses.  The most important material available for purchase would be likely to pass through their hands – or through the hands of dealers known to them.  So their appraisals can be expected to be an accurate summary of the year’s activity in their fields.

 

Such an approach is not without its hazards, of course, and specialist collectors and dealers may take exception to individual evaluations,  However, dealers were asked to concentrate on trends and relate those trends to the antiquarian book trade itself.  This summary process may distort the picture of a particular field.  Yet, while no claim to scientific accuracy is made here, the articles as a whole do provide a coherent and, I believe, accurate, view of a diverse and to some extent amorphous trade.

 

While the interpretations of last year’s marketplace activity may be re-evaluated in the future, the events that shaped the trade were seen by most dealers in the same way.  This is not necessarily a sign of accuracy.  But can so many dealers with different specialties and different views of the trade be off target?  It seems unlikely.  In any event, such unanimity will certainly play a large part in any future re-evaluation of the 1978 / 1979 trade.

 

The specialties that appear in the “Review of Specialized Areas” were chosen because of their current popularity with collectors, because of their historical importance in any overview of book selling and book collecting, or in eliminating possible bias.  Most of the areas will appear in future reports:  some areas will be dropped and others added as circumstances warrant.

 

Recurring themes within the articles may point to ongoing or developing trends.  For example, the effects of inflation were, not surprisingly, felt by all dealers, and this accounted for the increase in prices in many areas.  On the other hand, some steep increases undoubtedly result from the re-evaluation of the importance of certain areas.  Concurrent with the effects of inflation, the effects of the devaluation of the dollar were felt by dealers who buy abroad.

 

The influence and  importance of the investor-collector are the subject of comment and speculation.  While some dealers accept and encourage the purchase of books as an investment, others prefer not to deal with individuals who buy books for this purpose.  Still other dealers are not altogether sure that this is actually taking place since their specialties seem to be little affected.

 

The influx of new collectors and dealers or of collectors turned dealers proved disconcerting to several writers, especially since these novices are ignorant not only of the financial aspects of their fields, but of the bibliographical aspects as well.  Higher, inflated prices and poor cataloguing practices are the result.  The book collector who is himself ignorant of his field is thus the victim.

 

Finally, the unpredictability of the first editions market was the subject of discussion by dealers in almost every field.

 

The other sections of the Annual Report, the humanistic elements, also underscore trends in book collecting.  “Conservation of Material” will appeal to sophisticated collectors who recognize that their collections, valuable scholarship tools, are subject to deterioration.  These collectors will want to know what can be done to keep their collections from disintegrating even as they are being used.

 

The section on “Libraries and Librarianship” will be of interest to librarians and dealers since it focuses on the interrelationship of these groups.

 

“Professional Associations and Activities” points to the activities that help dealers maintain professional standards and increase their knowledge.

 

“Trends in bibliography,” a section important to anyone in the trade as well as anyone interested in scholarship and in books, is a summary of exciting bibliographical projects underway.

 

Finally, reference information not easily found elsewhere, if it can be found at all, is included in the Annual Report.

 

The section on book clubs will be updated yearly to reflect historical changes in an important segment of the book collecting world and to provide up-to-date information on the clubs themselves.  Similarly, the information on book fairs provides an overview of the development of an important tool of the antiquarian bookseller.

 

Sections on other topics of significance to the trade will be added as needed, and readers are asked to submit suggestions for improvements or additions.

 

This publication is necessarily the product of the work and faith of many people.  To the contributors themselves I extend my sincerest appreciation for their participation.  In addition, appreciation is due to Robert Nikirk and Thomas Lange for their participation as interviewers.

 

Others who contributed to the success of this volume include Evelyn Harter Glick, who designed the title page and assisted in decisions about design problems.  John DiLorenzo, who did yeoman service in assisting with production aspects; Dorothy MacDonald, who indexed the material; Michael Moran, who was asked near the deadline date to write his article, and who did so under  great editorial pressure; and Lawrence McCrank, who undertook extensive writing and editorial tasks.  To all, I owe a debt of gratitude.

 

As editor of this volume, I of course assume responsibility for the book as a final product.

 

Denis Carbonnneau

New York, New York

December 1979

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

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