Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

Peeking into the World of Rare Books

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Old books in the era of social media

Rare Book Hub is heavy on old books and paper so it’s reasonable to spend an hour and a half watching a movie on the subject:  The Booksellers directed by D. W. Young.  It was released in September 2019, just a nano second ago in the world of old books.  Nope, I hadn’t been aware but thoroughly enjoyed  it recently.

 

It’s 98 minutes of absorbing dialogue making the case that dealers are the gatekeepers to the great books.  So it has been for 3 centuries.

 

Dealers and librarians have long deserved praise for their efforts to organize and structure the rare book field.  Joseph Sabin was both a dealer and an auctioneer in the second half of the 19th century, when he began his Bibliotheca Americana in 1867 [to be completed posthumously in 1936].  Charles Evans as a librarian created his American Bibliography, adding intellectual structure to the world of collectible books during his 31 year project that completed in 1934.  In the 1950’s Wright Howes, a specialist dealer, introduced Usiana to help the interested to understand and identify early non-fiction Americana.  In his era his book was a boon to understand the relationship between issue, rarity and value.  Such tools have always been essential and widely appreciated.  To dealers and librarians, we owe a profound debt.

 

With  the advent of the internet a different kind of resource emerged; the listing sites that the knowledgeable could initially apply their understanding to look for rarities being offered at low prices.  For this reason during the early years the internet was the skilled dealer’s friend although, since 2001 the garter snake turned into a python as Abebooks alone now lists more than 170 million items.  Scale turned the selling sites into a new kind of reference.

 

Into the transformational year 2019 The Booksellers, filmed between 2015-18, was introduced and spoken of as if the traditional dealer dominated game was continuing, just as Covid-19 was rewriting the script creating a sense of nostalgia for the bookselling world we have long appreciated.  In the juxta-position of the emerging world and the world on view in the film we could see that world was already slipping away.

 

Catalogues and book fairs are now being reconsidered. 

 

Realizing the high expense and limited reach of paper catalogues, dealers are now issuing electronic catalogues. They can now reach everyone everywhere, rather than just a handful of people on their mailing list, and they can update and add to their catalogues in real time. With Covid-19, they opened up virtual fairs, and while with the winding down of Covid-19 live fairs are returning, the virtual fair, with all its advantages in terms of reach and updating, and access any time of the day for any number of days, and lower costs for both dealers and buyers, has become a permanent part of the landscape. And while auctions have eaten into the market, dealers are increasingly responding with an if you can't beat them join them answer by starting their own auctions.

 

So to me this film, wonderfully done, feels out-of-date but can I also say “not-to-be-missed.”

 

I look forward to the next film that will reflect the many changes that are transforming the field:  the first being the surge of both new auction houses and more sales being offered by the established houses; the reliance on auction history as guides to rarity and value; and the intensification of collecting scope based both on what’s possible over variable time frames.  Dealers’ advantage was knowledge and these days information is much more widely shared.  But, as the builder of the largest database of auction and bibliographical history, I want to acknowledge that what separates the facts and the great copies is the wisdom great dealers possess.

 

When you sit down to see the film appreciate that America’s great Americanist, Bill Reese, made his last appearance, in this film.  He was, for more than 20 years, the captain that steered, by suggestion and example, how the principal dealers should be adjusting.

 

It is our tough luck that he passed away 2 years ago.  And our tougher luck that this recent film is feeling dated so quickly.

 

To see this movie on your phone, iPad and computer you have many opinions.. To pursue them search for “The Booksellers”:

 

  1. For free if you are an Amazon Prime member
  2. On Vudu for free
  3. On YouTube from $3.99

 

Here is the story in the New York Times that woke me from my slumber

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/arts/design/booksellers-movie-antiquarian-book-fair.html

 

 


Posted On: 2021-06-02 02:45
User Name: mairin

Always happy to see this 2019 documentary again, Bruce, terrific viewing.
Thank you for this. I knew & dearly loved many of these bibliophilic haunts & destinations; so sad that some are now gone, but a new generation is rising up!
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector
(Brooklyn, 1982-2012)
___________________


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Graphic Design<br>May 19, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> pencil maquette, 1930. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Claude Fayette Brandon, <i>The Chap Book,</i> circa 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Various Artists, a complete set of <i>Das Plakat,</i> set of 10 hardcover volumes, 1912-21. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Javier Gómez Acebo & Máximo Viejo Santamarta, <i>San Sebastian / XI Circuitto Automovilista,</i> 1935. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Ephraim Moses Lilien, <i>Berliner Tageblatt,</i> circa 1899. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Birds.- Gould (John). <i>The Birds of Great Britain,</i> 5 vol., first edition, [1862-]1873. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Canadiana.- Cockburn (Maj. Gen. James Pattison, 1779-1847), After. [Six Landscape of Quebec City and Six Views of Niagara Falls], 2 suites in 1 vol., comprising 12 aquatints, 1833. £30,000 to £40,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses,</i> number 218 of 150 copies on verge d'arches, Paris, Shakespeare & Company, 1922. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> first paperback edition, signed by the author, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Du Maurier (Daphne). <i>Rebecca,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author to her governess, 1938. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Magna Carta.- An exact copy of King John's Great Charter of 1215, transcribed from the fire damaged but legible manuscript in the Cottonian Library, British Library, J. Pine, 1733. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Woolf (Virginia). <i>Mrs Dalloway,</i> first edition, Hogarth Press, 1925. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Tudor exiles opposed to the Marian regime.- Mary I (Queen of England) Letter signed "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, signed at head, titled at head "By the King and Quene", 1556. £8,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> America.- Newfoundland.- Whitbourne (Sir Richard). <i>A discourse and discouery of Nevv-found-land…,</i> second edition, By Felix Kingston, 1622. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cervantès Saavedra (Miguel de). <i>El Ingenioso Hidalgo Do Quixote de la Mancha,</i> 4 vol., Madrid, Por Don Joaquin Ibarra, 1780. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Stubbs (George). <i>The Anatomy of the Horse,</i> first edition, first issue, Printed by J. Purser, for the Author, 1766. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cardiology.- Lower (Richard). <i>Tractatus de Corde item De Motu & Colore Sanguinus et Chyli in cum Transitu,</i> first edition, 1669. £5,000 to £7,000.
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Androuet du Cerceau, <i> Bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br><i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000

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