printing of a book commonly referred to as the Massachusett Psalter, translating the Psalms and the Gospel of St. John into a Native American dialect (the Native American text running in columns on the left, the English text running on the right margin, revealing the book’s intent to appeal to Indians as a conversion tool.) This book is described by Kraus’s cataloguers as “…The First Imprint Naming a Native American Printer….After Eliot’s Indian Bible, this is the most important monument of the Massachusett language”, $68,000; a 1555 work by Alonso de Molina entitled Aqui comiença un vocabulario en la lengua Castellana y Mexicana, described by Kraus’s cataloguers as the “First Substantial Book Printed in America With Contemporary Marginalia in Nahuatl Aztec”, $350,000; and a 1558 work by André Thevet entitled Les singularitez de la France Antarctique, autrement nomeé Amerique: & de plus Terres & Isles decouvertes de nostre temps, described by Kraus’s cataloguers as “…a source of the first importance on the ethnography of the native peoples of Brazil, also containing the second French account of Canada after Cartier’s description of 1545”, $75,000.
This display is certainly quite effective. It is almost impossible to avoid clichés when describing my reaction to these books. Although I have handled literally thousands of antiquarian books and manuscripts in my time, these are perhaps the finest examples I have seen of books of this type, material you literally just don’t see anymore in any condition never mind the superb condition displayed in the examples before me. I put down my pen and look for a while, ever so gently of course so as to not leave any impression whatsoever on these pristine objects. After a few moments I drag myself away from these books, though I could have looked at them all day. (Were that I could own them!) The show must go on, and we have a conversation to conduct.
AT: Do you mind if I ask how you acquired these books? They are simply breathtaking.
MAF: Not at all. I think all but the Psalter we bought at auction. The Psalter came from a private collection.
AT: If these are just random books that you can pull off of your shelves, I’d be fascinated to hear about which books or manuscripts you consider your highpoints.
MAF: Well, I think most of the highlights are described in my father’s book. [Editor’s note: this is true: the book is replete with vivid descriptions of acquisitions such as the Gutenberg Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and countless other treasures such as extremely rare illuminated manuscripts and other amazing objects unearthed by a combination of detective work, charm, and persistence by H.P. Kraus. For this reason alone it belongs in the library of any respectable bibliophile.]
AT: Yes, but your father’s book was published in 1978. Surely you have acquired some materials of note between then and now that you’d like to discuss?