Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2022 Issue

Christie’s New York is pleased to announce its upcoming auction, The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese, taking place online from 1-14 September.


A few highlights from The Herman Melville Collection of William Reese

Christie's New York is pleased to announce its upcoming auction, The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese, taking place online from 1-14 September.


William S. Reese was the pre-eminent dealer-scholar of printed Americana of his generation, renowned for his scholarship, generosity and the legacy he left on his profession. His private collections of literature were less well-known in his lifetime, although still celebrated. He collected many authors—from James Thurber to Saki—but the two he collected in by far the greatest depth were Robert Graves and Herman Melville. Reese gifted the majority of his collection of Graves to the Beinecke in 2002 and 2015; the Melville he kept.


Of all the great writers of America’s first century, none but Melville so thoroughly represented the eternal wanderlust of the human race—a wanderlust that was arguably more trenchant in mid-19 th century America that it has ever been at any other time or place. And not only is Melville the chronicler of that distinctly American form of wanderlust, but his language is singularly timeless—for example employing Quaker diction and pronouns within a prophetic modernism more akin to Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. A century after it was written, Robert Penn Warren would compare Melville’s epic poetry to T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.


Herman Melville presents a singularly ambitious challenge to the collector. For starters, the Melville family was notorious for burning their own papers. All of Melville’s letters to his mother were burned and nearly all of his letters to his siblings (see lot 676 for a notable exception). One of Melville’s nieces threw his correspondence with her father into a bonfire at Arrowhead, and Melville’s daughter Elizabeth is suspected of destroying all the correspondence between her parents. (See Lepore, “Melville At Home.” The New Yorker, 29 July 2019). “Billy Budd” was very nearly lost to the sands of time and a large portion of the original manuscript for Typee was discovered in a barn as recently as 1983. The physical longevity of Melville’s printed works is not much better. The meager sales of every single work subsequent to Typee meant ever smaller print runs, intermittent pulping, and inexpensively produced books (except for The Whale) which rarely survived and were certainly not “collected” until at least about 30 years after Melville’s death.


The most important Melville collection in private hands, The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese includes rarities like John Marr (lot 659)Timoleon (lot 660), the triple-decker first edition of Mardi (lot 616), and three different copies of the English edition of The Whale (lots 630631, & 632); Melville’s own copies of Obed Macy's History of Nantucket (lot 672) and Dante’s Divine Comedy (lot 677); Nathaniel Hawthorne’s very own copy of Redburn (lot 621); important presentation copies including Typee inscribed to Henry Smythe, the man who enabled Melville to turn his back on writing (lot 654); and, last but certainly not least, letters and family papers, among them a wonderful sign for Allan Melville's New York shop (lot 664) and a letter from Herman arranging his first meeting with publisher Richard Bentley (lot 619).


The sale will be on preview at Rockefeller Center from 9-14 September.



Christina Geiger



Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1937. PRESENTATION COPY OF THE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION PRINTED IN ENGLAND. $50,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [SHACKLETON, Ernest]. –– BROWNING, Robert. <i>Poetical Works of…</i> London: Smith and Elder, 1906. PRESENTED TO SHACKLETON AND THE OFFICERS OF THE NIMROD BY A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York: George R. Lockwood, [1870]. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> ARISTOTLE. Opera, in Greek, parts one and two only: Organon and Natural Philosophy I. Edited by Aldus and others. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1 November 1495–February 1498. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> COOK, James, Capt. [Collected Voyages]. First and Second Voyages: London: W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1773, 1777; Third Voyage: London: H. Hughes for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1785. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (“Mark Twain”). <i>The Writings of…</i> Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1899–1900. $12,000 to $16,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Poems of…</i> Edited by Frederick S. Ellis. Hammersmith: William Morris for the Kelmscott Press, 1893. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> LONDON, Jack. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905. PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY LONDON. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CROWLEY, Aleister (1875–1947). <i>The Winged Beetle.</i> London: privately printed, 1910. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> WILDE, Oscar (“C.3.3.”). <i>The Ballad of Reading Gaol.</i> London: Leonard Smithers, January 1898. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> DRYDEN, John. <i>Fables Ancient and Modern; translated into verse from Homer, Ovid, Boccace, & Chaucer: with original poems.</i> London: John Tonson, 1700. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [MAP]. LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen van. <i>Delineatio Orarum Maritimarum…</i> London: John Wolfe, 1598. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Antiquarian Books<br>Including a series of views of Milan<br>September 27 to October 4</b></center>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Livius, Historia Romanae decades, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1470, contemporary Morocco. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Blaeu, Nieuw Stedeboeck van Italien (Piemont), The Hague, 1724-1725, 8 volumes, marbled calf gilt. €70,000 to €90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Baysio, Rosarium decretorum, Venice, 1481, later vellum. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> [Niccolò da Poggibonsi], Viaggio da Venetia al santo Sepulchro, Venice, 1529, later half calf. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Hieronymus, Epistole [Italian], Ferrara, 1497, blue crushed morocco with the Rocco di Torrepadula arms. €12,000 to €15,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Extensive archive of papers of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> George Catlin, <i>North American Indian Portfolio,</i> 1844. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> The Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures, Carefully Translated…after the Best Jewish Authorities, Philadelphia, 1853-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Wedding book of Eleanor Roosevelt’s bodyguard, Earl Miller, signed by the Roosevelts, 1932. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Textile titled <i>The Resignation of Pres’t Washington,</i> Scotland, circa 1800. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Gideon Welles, Pass for President Lincoln’s White House funeral, 1865. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Confirmation of arms and nobility in favor of the Diez y Mora family, Madrid, 1710. $2,500 to $3,500.

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