An Auction in Indiana August 9th
By Bruce McKinney
Once in a while an unusual and entirely unexpected auction occurs in the world of books, manuscripts and ephemera. Even more unusually it occurs off the beaten track. An auction on August 9th that continues through the 12th, in Terre Haute, Indiana is one of these occasions. This is a four day sale of diverse material owned by The Sisters of Providence and Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College that is being sold to raise money for physical plant improvements and scholarships. On the first day, more than 100 examples of fore-edge painting, the gift of Gladys McKenney Molony of Los Angeles, a 1928 graduate of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, go under the hammer. In this obscure category of book collecting this amounts to a trove and is perhaps the largest concentration of such material to be offered since the Doheny collection of fore-edge painted books was dispersed at Christie's in the late 1980s. This sale in fact includes half a dozen items from the Doheny collection. For many years Mrs. Molony purchased examples of this esoteric art from Laurence J. Weber of Jeff Weber Rare Books in LA. He is the leading dealer in the United States in this category. Mrs. Molony inevitably inscribed the books acquired and had them sent directly to the college. Over almost 25 years [1977-1992], through her generosity, the library received more than a hundred items. This material is well worth a careful look.
For the experienced bibliophile the rule is where there is smoke there is a distinct possibility of other fires and the fore-edge painted material is an indication that other books are worth a careful look. This said, only a small portion of the material is catalogued but it's encouraging. A link at the end of this article provides a look at the catalogued material though it represents little more than 5% of what's available. Several thousand books will be sold on Thursday. Bidders will be able to select from shelves of un-catalogued books those volumes they wish to be put up. The balance of the material will be sold in large lots. There are no estimates and all material is offered "as is." Anyone interested to bid should contact the auction house, request images and ask questions. Better still, consider a trip. There's a Hampton Inn in town and a discount available if you say the secret word: auction. Terre Haute is due west of Indianapolis on the Indiana-Illinois border. And for those with a yen for European travel I want to point out that Rome, Dublin, Lisbon, Edinburgh and Paris are all found within the state.
In any event, these books are being sold out of their rare book room. When is the last time you heard that? Here in no specific order are a few of the listed items. I include Canadian and American material and again mention that neither their condition nor completeness is confirmed. There are also some very old European items that the knowledgeable may recognize.