Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2003 Issue

It’s the (Book) Antiques Road ShowWith Kenneth Gloss of the Brattle Book Shop

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Owners line up to have Ken Gloss appraise their books.


By Michael Stillman

They line up in two separate rows to speak to the man because one line would be too long to fit in the room. Some carry bibles. You would think they had come to see some renowned healer who could bestow great prosperity upon them. In a way, they have. For while this man may not have any supernatural powers, he does have an almost supernatural ability to estimate the value of virtually every book he sees. Meet Kenneth Gloss, proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop of Boston, and book appraiser extraordinaire.

This night happens to be February 27, 2003, and the venue is the Kingston Public Library in Kingston, Massachusetts, but the place could be anywhere. Ken Gloss has spoken for 45 minutes on valuing books, and has entertained the crowd with the many stories he’s developed over four plus decades in the book business. Now the moment has arrived that the audience has been most anticipating, the moment when they can bring the books they have gathered from their shelves and attics and basements to the expert to find out what they are worth.

Ken Gloss works quickly. He has no references or bibliographies with him. There are far too many books to look over tonight for any detailed research. He needs only a few seconds, and then gives an estimate: $35 for the Elizabeth Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese. It’s a nice edition, but not a first, and it’s a little worn. $100-$150 if perfect, he explains. Another book receives a $100 valuation. The next gets a somewhat disappointingly low estimate as Mr. Gloss immediately recognizes it’s only one volume of a three-volume set.

They all leave with a thank you and a certain amount of relief at finally being able to put a number on a book they’ve had for years without a clue as to its value. Some are pleased to know that their books are at least moderately valuable. With others, while smiling on the outside, you can see disappointment in their eyes. You realize that they were dreaming that the book printed in the 1800’s which was handed down from their grandfather was going to be their lottery ticket. One hundred dollars is nice, but it doesn’t make you wealthy overnight. Ken Gloss has warned his audience in the talk that old doesn’t always mean valuable. There must also be demand for the book, and the reality is that there are many very old books that no one particularly wants. Still, once in awhile someone will show up with a book that breaks the bank, and many dream that they will be one of the lucky ones.

If this all sounds like the enormously popular PBS television series the “Antiques Road Show,” that shouldn’t be surprising: Ken Gloss is one of the book appraisers for this show. Last year he appeared at three of their six stops, in Seattle, Kansas City, and Hot Springs. Keep your eyes open for future appearances as he may be there. Ken Gloss enjoys doing the Road Show, but then again, he enjoys just about everything having to do with books. He goes to work at his store at 6:00 in the morning and works until 6:00 in the evening. “My wife says I only work half a day,” he jokes. However, on nights like this, when Ken Gloss goes out on the road, those twelve-hour days can seem short.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Latin Book of Hours, around 1480.<br>Est: € 30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Northern journeys - Collection of around 120 works, 17th-19th century.
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>J. Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> 1922. Est: € 8,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Florilegium, <i>Fleurs du Printemps et de l‘Este,</i> around 1630. Est: € 35,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>T. R. Malthus, <i>An essay on the principle of population,</i> 1798. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: € 2,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br><i>Bulla aurea,</i> 1485. Est: € 40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>A. Verschaffelt, <i>Iconographie des Camellias,</i> 1848-60. Est: € 10,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>M. Duchamp & A. Breton, <i>Le surréalisme en 1947,</i> 1947.<br>Est: € 16,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum,</i> 1493.<br>Est: € 25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>M. E. Chevreul, <i>De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs,</i> 1839.<br>Est: € 5,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>F. Léger & P. Éluard, <i>Liberté j‘écris ton nom,</i> 1953. Est: € 15,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Great Blue Heron,</i> hand-colored aquatint and engraved plate, 1834. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson, <i>A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia,</i> Dalrymple edition, 1755. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>The Birds of America,</i> sign & inscribed to Brantz Mayer, 1840-44. $18,000 to $22,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Vincenzo Maria Coronelli & Jean Baptiste Nolin, Paris, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Henri Abraham Chatelain, <i>Atlas Historique,</i> 7 volumes, Amsterdam, 1705-1720. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Johann Baptist Homann, <i>Atlas Mapparum Geographicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, circa 1750s. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Lowell Mason, <i>Musical Exercises for Singing Schools,</i> Boston, 1838. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Alexander Wilson, <i>American Ornithology,</i> 9 volumes, Philadelphia, 1808-14. $6,000 to $9,000.
  • <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> Acted at the Dukes-Theatre. London: printed for William Cademan, 1673. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD. Panorama of San Francisco, from California-St. Hill. [San Francisco:] Morse's Gallery, 1877. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> BRUNUS ARETINUS, LEONARDUS. <i>De bello Italico adversus Gothos gesto.</i> Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> HILL, JOHN. <i>Compleat Body of Gardening.</i> London: printed for T. Osborne; T. Trye; S. Crowder and Co.; and H. Woodgate, 1757. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> GASPAR DE PORTOLA. Document Signed Twice ("Gaspar de Portola," & "M. Portola"), 29 pp, Puebla, Mexico, December 10, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> VINGTIEME SIECLE. A complete set of the second series of <i>Vingtieme Siecle (XXe Siecle),</i> together with all fourteen special numbers. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN DELANO. Autograph Letter Signed ("F.D.R.") as President, Washington, [1941], to Norman Davis, on White House stationery. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> HAYEK, FRIEDRICH AUGUST. Autograph Manuscript, "Discipline of Civilisation." $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ADAMS, HANNAH; ADAMS, THOMAS "BOOK". Daubuz, Charles. <i>A Perpetual Commentary On The Revelation Of St. John.</i> London: Printed for Benj. Tooke, 1720. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> EMPEROR NORTON. Photograph signed ("Norton I"), albumen print carte-de-visite. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ROBERTS, DAVID. <i>Egypt and Nubia from Drawings Made on the Spot ... with Historical Descriptions by William Brockendon.</i> London: F.G. Moon, 1846-9. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Albert Einstein, typed letter signed, explaining the nature of his personal atheism and belief in God. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> George Washington. Autograph letter signed to Bryan Fairfax, looking forward to the Treaty of Paris, 5 February 1783. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Alfred Swaine Taylor. Early “photogenic drawing,” photograph of a fern, dated 2 December 1839. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> "Departure of Mr. Lincoln—Parting Address" in the <i>Weekly Illinois State Journal,</i> Vol. XXX, No. 1541, Springfield, February 13, 1861. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Benjamin Harrison document signed certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a black Revolutionary soldier. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Front page printing of the Articles of Confederation in the <i>New-Jersey Gazette,</i> Vol. 1, No. 22. Trenton, April 29, 1778. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> George Washington Funeral Procession Broadside. Boston, January 6, 1800. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Philippe Laroque, printed score for “The Heroe of New Orleans Battle.” Philadelphia, 1815. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Report of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle in the War of 1812, in <i>Supplement to the Quebec Gazette,</i> 24th October 1812. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, On Tuesday the Eighteenth Day of November, 1760. London, 1760. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Elegy on the Death of James Lawrence, Esq. late Commander of the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake. [Boston]: A. Bowen, 1813. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's Commission as Major General, signed by John Hancock, 19 February 1777. $30,000 to $50,000.

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