Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2023 Issue

After Fifty Years in the Book Trade, a Swan Song (of Sorts, or Lots)


A few highlights from Rick Watson's upcoming sales

My introduction to rare books and manuscripts happened in 1964, when I was living in Palo Alto and working at Lanyon Gallery, on the periphery of the Stanford campus. A few blocks down from where we lived was the home/office of William P. Wreden where I first saw rare books and manuscript leaves, and was kindly guided through the maze by Carl Zamboni. The art gallery owner, Dr William Fielder, and his wife, Louise, gave me my first Old Masters print: a Hendrik Goltzius engraving of Christ before Caiaphas—as a Christmas present! I was hooked. A year later, living in San Francisco and working in the post office, I met Ray Lewis, and bought Odilon Redon prints from him, and Warren Howell, who was too grand to acknowledge my presence when I tried to buy the facsimile edition of The Book of Kells (he said later he knew I couldn’t afford it, but the USPS was paying well in those days). More importantly, San Francisco was full of great bookshops and booksellers from whom I starting collecting Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, et al. I also began collecting small press poetry by writers I admired, like Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan, and later became friends with Duncan and his partner the painter Jess. 


Fast forward to London, where I started to collect Darwin books that I really couldn’t afford, while working in the original Hard Rock Café. John Chancellor was a neighbor in Kew Gardens and had a floor of his Georgian house full of bulging bookshelves devoted to natural history, horticulture, and Darwin and Darwiniana, where I would spend hours browsing but not buying. John soon ascertained I was not going to be a client, so he offered me a job, liberating me from bartending. He left me in charge of Kew Books while he expanded his business in Germany. We bought a lot from Quaritch and Dawsons at that time as John had some rich German clients for color-plate books (at this time neither firm did any business with Germany, and later at BQs Ted Dring expressed serious disapproval of my attending a German auction in Heidelberg). When John finally became exasperated with me (his charming reproach was ‘I am failing to make any money in Germany and you are here in Kew replenishing the coffers; it is offensive to my amour propre’), he fired me but also recommended me to Quaritch. Quaritch had recently been taken over by Milo Cripps (soon to become Lord Parmoor) and George Warburg, with backing from Simon Sainsbury. Those were great years, and I had great teachers: Nicholas Poole-Wilson, Howard Radcylffe, Arthur Freeman, and most of all Milo.


In 1987 after the success of the Robert de Belder sale a sense of depression set in, and I realized that it was time to strike out on my own. I had some money saved, we had our first house with a huge mortgage (18% interest rate then!), and a child on the way. Ladislaus von Hoffman, who was the major purchaser of the de Belder library, offered me a retainer for being an advisor for my first year, which really helped to get started. Even more, Nico Israel, who I had dealt with a lot while with Quaritch, and Jacques Vellekoop were very encouraging and supportive during my early independence, and I was able to sell some of their stock on commission. Diana Parikian, whom I already knew from Quaritch, became a great friend and companion on book hunting trips to Italy, always combined with time off for museum and church visits, and wonderful meals. She knew every bookdealer going in Italy, and all doors seemed open to her on our travels. Over lunch chez Carlo Alberto Chiesa and his charming wife Elena, Chiesa bemoaned, in doleful tones, the ‘tragedy’ of Nicholas Poole-Wilson violating the ‘tradition’ of incunable collecting, by instilling in clients a taste for copies in original and untouched condition. His lament was so well performed that Diana and I left both laughing and bemused as to whether he was serious or not.


Bookselling has been a sustaining profession and pleasure for many decades. I have made close friends who were also colleagues and clients. I met my friend Allard Schierenberg shortly after starting with John Chancellor, and Allard and I shared careers, sailing holidays in the North Sea with Jeanne and our children, and wild adventures in the marketplace together. There are so many other colleagues I would mention if I could do so, and I only ask their forgiveness for not acknowledging them here. But one last mentor has to be named, Barney Rosenthal, whose charm, erudition, and humor were beyond measure. Now, having turned 75, I want to devote my life to other things, and return my books, manuscripts, and prints to the marketplace that has sustained me, with the hopes that others will gain pleasure and profit from them. I should add that I intend these books to sell, and that reserves will be well below cost (except maybe one or two I’m not quite ready to totally relax my grip on!). Thank you all, and bonne chance!




Christie’s New York is honored to be selling property for Rick Watson in two auctions this month. Mr. Watson is renowned for his erudition, his kindness, and—above all—his exacting standards of condition. It is delightful and truly rare to encounter such a wealth of important scientific books, often in original bindings, which are such fresh and unpressed copies.


The first part (92 lots) of his scientific books and manuscripts is in an online auction closing on 27 January, with additional selections to be sold in June 2023 and perhaps beyond. Old Master Prints will sell on 24 January.


24 January 2023: Old Master Prints


13-27 January 2023: Scientific Books sold on behalf of the William P. Watson Family Trust, Part One  


Viewing times: 

21 Jan, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 

22 Jan, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM 

23 Jan, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 

24 Jan, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 

25 Jan, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM  


Enquiries: Andrew Darlington, adarlington@christies.com, 212-636-2665 

Christie’s 20 Rockefeller Plaza  New York, NY 10020

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Autograph album leaf signed, 1826. €9,000 to €12,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Franz Kafka: Autograph letter unsigned, 1924. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Torquato Tasso: Autograph poem signed, no date. €12,000 to €16,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Charles Darwin: Autograph letter signed, 1866. €4,500 to €6,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Albert Einstein: Autograph letter signed, 1933. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Heinrich Hertz: Autograph manuscript signed, 1889. €18,000 to €24,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Giambattista Bodoni: Autograph letter signed, 1787. €900 to €1,200.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Francisco de Goya: Autograph letter signed, 1789. €18,750 to €25,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Martin Luther: Notes from his desk, no date. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Ludwig van Beethoven: Autograph letter signed, 1816. €22,500 to €30,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Gustav Mahler: Foto portrait signed and annotated, 1907(?). €7,500 to €10,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Bed?ich Smetana: Autograph letter signed, 1883. €4,500 to €6,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Roman binding.- Pindar. <i>Olympia, Pythia, Nemea, Isthmia,</i> translated by Johannes Lonicer, contemporary Roman binding by Niccolo Franzese, Basel, 1535. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Raverat (Gwen). Comprehensive album of 530 wood engravings, circa 1909-1950. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Hemingway (Ernest). <i>Fiesta,</i> first English edition, first impression dust-jacket, 1927. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Casino Royale,</i> first edition, first impression, 1953. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>Great Expectations,</i> 3 vol., first edition, first impression, Chapman and Hall, 1861. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Campbell (Colen) & others. <i>Vitruvius Britannicus, or The British Architect...,</i> 5 vol., vol.1-3 later editions, vol.4 & 5 first editions, [?1731]-31-67-71. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Geography.- Mela (Pomponius). <i>Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis,</i> Venice, Franciscus Renner de Heilbronn, 1478. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> America.- [?Espinosa y Tello (José)]. <i>Relacion del Viage hecho por las Goletas Sutil y Mexicana en el Año de 1792,</i> 2 vol. including Atlas, first edition, Madrid, 1802. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Australasia.- Péron (Francois) and Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet. <i>Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes,</i> 5 vol. including Atlas, second edition, Paris, 1824. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Botany.- Curtis (William). <i>The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed,</i> 83 vol. in 62, 1794-1956. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Darwin (Charles).- Lecky (W.E.H.) <i>The Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe,</i> 2 vol., Darwin's copy with inscription "Charles Darwin 1865", pencil marginalia and pencil notes, 1865. £7,000 to £10,000.
  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript African Americana:<br>March 30, 2023</b>
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green Book,</i> New York, 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Papers of pianist-composer Lawrence Brown relating to Paul Robeson & more, various places, 1925-54. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Freedom Summer archive of civil rights activist Karen Haberman Trusty, Atlanta & elsewhere, 1963-64. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> New York, 1933. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Archive of letters from the sculptor Richmond Barthé to a close Jamaican friend, various places, 1966-85. $25,000 to $35,000.
  • <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> DADA - <i>Cabaret Voltaire.</i> A collection of artistic and literary contributions. Edited by Hugo Ball. CHF 5,000 to 8,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> EXPRESSIONISM - <i>Der Sturm.</i> Weekly magazine for culture and the arts. Almost complete suite from the years 1910 to 1932. CHF 20,000 to 30,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> LISBON EARTHQUAKE - <i>Augsburg collection of copper engravings of Lisbon. CHF 40,000 to 60,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Hamilton, William. <i>Campi Phlegraei. Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies as they have been communicated to the Royal Society of London.</i> Naples, 1776-1779. CHF 50,000 to 70,000.
    <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Leonardi, Domenico Felice. <i>Le Delizie della villa di Castellazzo descritte in verso dall'abbate Domenico Felice Leonardi lucchese fra gli Arcadi Ildosio Foloetico.</i> Milan, 1743. CHF 12,000 to 18,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Zwingli, Huldrych. <i>Von erkiesen und freyhait der speisen. Von ergernusz und Verbößerung. Ob man gewalt hab die speyß zu etlichen zeyten verbieten [...]</i>. CHF 2,500 to 4,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> HENDRIK VAN VULLENHOE, UMKREIS. Benedictional and other texts for Johannes von Venningen, Bishop of Basel. Latin manuscript on parchment. CHF 50,000 to 80,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Gujer, Hans Rudolf. Master typist's book by Hans Rudolf Gujer from Wermetschweil (Wermatswil). German manuscript on paper. CHF 3,000 to 5,000.

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