Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2005 Issue

Small Victories Make Collecting a Pleasure

Sometimes the connections in collections are obscure


By Bruce McKinney

Building a focused collection is always a matter of discipline and luck. It helps to know what you are looking for but it's impossible to know all the material that logically fits. I personally believe that only about 40% of older material is currently documented in ways that easily identify it as relevant to a collecting focus; in my case the Hudson Valley in New York State. It seems counter-intuitive that so much material would be undocumented but I'm certain this is the case. Because so much material has been well described and the reputations of many bibliographers so established, it is easy to overlook the difference between the world of books in the past and now. Today there is an emerging transparency about printed material. We are not only finding more versions of the same titles. We are also finding more titles. And we are uncovering the speeches, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines that often contained the seeds that later germinated in the books that have entered the canon of printed materials. This material is not less interesting or important. It has simply been very difficult to identify. It now looms on the horizon and AE's MatchMaker is currently the best tool for exploring this nether world.

Recently I wrote about a book I added to my Hudson Valley collection: "Memoirs of the Rev. John H. Livingston, D.D.S.T.P." that is in the AED and comes up in "Poughkeepsie" searches because the AED includes some of the records of Lathrop Harper, who in 1905 described it as "Memoirs (with account of his settlement in New York city, from September, 1770, to 1776, and Albany, Poughkeepsie, etc., to the close of the Revolutionary War), by Alex. Gunn." The copy I obtained from George S. MacManus of Bryn Mawr for $75, is in original boards and was printed by an obscure printer, William A. Mercein, in 1829. It is an interesting book that I will read one of these days. It's also one of the books that falls outside the documented 40% but is nevertheless visible because a dealer thoroughly described and the AED recorded it. In fact dealers and auction houses routinely document material that would otherwise be invisible and it's why it's important for those who are serious about printed materials to carefully follow these emerging information sources. Those who do see first hand the discovery and illumination of the dark side of the moon, a side that is and will remain for some time, larger than the illuminated portion.

Great tools aside sometimes a great find also requires some luck. Six months ago Mike Stillman, in reviewing a catalogue from western specialist Gene Baade, brought a Hudson Valley item to my attention. It's My Life East and West by William S. Hart, the silent firm star and movie director who it turns out was born in Newburgh, New York on December 6th, 1864 and soon after moved a thousand miles west to Illinois to live what would be, for most people, a full life [life expectancy was 49.2 in 1900] after which, at age 49, he upped and headed off to southern California, there to become a legendary silent movie star in which he appeared in 65 films. Later still he had a distinguished career as a director. Seemingly marginal, this is another of the books that falls outside the documented 40% and therefore isn't on anyone's screen as a Hudson Valley item. Give Mr. Baade credit for mentioning Newburgh. It got my attention.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.

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