Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2003 Issue

A Collector’s Collection:The Rosenbach Museum & Library

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…A large pile of obviously very old papers was impressively arranged on the table against a background of Jacobean woodwork. The Doctor, with the usual preliminaries to such an event, food and drink, inside him, was keyed up to his role as a super-salesman. What the Doctor was attempting to sell was worthy of his mettle. It was, in effect, a whole archive of the early history of Peru, with the names of the early explorers shining in it like Inca gold. There on the table…was the bill of sale received by Pizarro for the armada of ships which he and his fellows bought from Pedro de Alvarado on August 26, 1534, for 100,000 pesos of gold. There was Alvarado’s transfer to these same explorers of his grant from Charles V to discover, conquer, and pacify the islands and coasts of the South Sea. There was the order of the viceroy of Peru in 1580 calling back the Indian runners who had been stationed along the coast to convey the news of the passage through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean of the English freebooters under Sir Francis Drake. The collection, however, was not merely a choice handful of colorful documents by and relating to a few great figures in history; it was a mass of hundreds of documents telling the story of an epic. The soldiers, the monks, the nobles, the Indians of sixteenth and seventeenth century Peru came alive and filled the dining room with the aura of blood, iron, gold, and incense.


Skillfully, Dr. Rosenbach told Harkness of what tremendous value such a mine of source material would be to the Prescotts of the future. Reverently, he picked up a document to show him the rubric which served as a signature for Pizarro. What a treasured addition the collection would make to one of the country’s great libraries, the Library of Congress! How Mr. Harkness would honor the nation with, and be honored by the nation for, such a gift! The Doctor grew more and more eloquent, his eyes twinkling behind his spectacles, his voice cracking with excitement. “Jesus Christ, it’s the greatest lot of Americana in the world!” he finished, seeming to tremble with awe at the relics of history before him. He wiped the tears of enthusiasm from his eyes and relit the cigar he had permitted to go out in his ecstasy. “Don’t cry, Doctor! I’ll take them,” Harkness said, thinking of no other way, as had others in the same situation, of restoring Dr. Rosenbach’s equanimity. Harkness bought the lot for $550,000 [in 1928], the largest sale the Rosenbachs ever made and the largest sale of its kind, except for whole libraries, ever made in the rare book business [as of the biography’s 1960 publication date].
---Rosenbach, pp.300-301.
AT: Let me switch gears altogether after slipping in that great story. How old exactly is the Museum? When was it founded?

MB: The Museum opened in 1954, just after both Rosenbachs’ death. Our fiftieth anniversary is in 2004.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rackham (Arthur). The Old Hag Standing Outside a Cottage, original drawing, signed by the artist, [c.1909]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first printing, signed by the author, original pictorial wrappers, 1997. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Castiglione (Giuseppe, after). Twelve plates from <i>Twenty views of the European Palaces of the Yuanming yuan,</i> 1783-1786. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Antiphonal.- Antiphonal manuscript, [Spain], ca. 1650. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Almanach de Gotha.- Almost complete run 1769 to 1945, 12mo & 8vo, Gotha, C.W. Ettinger [- Justus Perthes]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Bible, Greek.- New Testament [Greek], Novum Iesu Christi D.N. testamentum, ex bibliotheca regia, 2 parts in one, Robert Estienne, Paris, 1550. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Lithgow (William). <i>The Total Discourse of the rare Adventures… from Scotland, to the most famous kingdoms in Europe, Asia, and Affrica…,</i> woodcut illustrations, 4to, I. Oakes, 1640. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Interest.-16th -18th Century. Large collection of letters related to prominent members of the Spanish court and clergymen,; v.s., late 16th-mid 18th century. £1,800 to £2,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Darwin (Charles). <i>The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,</i> 2 vol., FIRST EDITION, first issue8vo, John Murray, 1871. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Loewy (Raymond) ARR. Mickey Mouse, original gouache and air brush illustration of Mickey Mouse, signed by artist., n.p. [1946]. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Potter (Beatrix) & Sendak (Maurice). <i>The Tale of Peter Rabbit,</i> NUMBER 2 OF 250 SIGNED COPIES, WITH AN ORIGINAL DRAWING BY SENDAK, New York, 1995. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Wolstenholm (Jonathan) ARR. Books on Books, original watercolor, signed and dated by the artist, 2005.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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