Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2007 Issue

Rose's Books and the Cistercians

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The Antiphonarium Cisterciense.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

As booksellers, we've certainly all experienced moments of serendipity -- the chance meeting that results in a wonderful buy or a still better sale, or the good luck of being in the right place at the right time. Our networks of relationships often lead from one good contact to another opportunity.

But during this past summer, something quite extraordinary happened to us at Rose's Books, something that appears to have been the fruit of seeds sown many years before. Something you'd never think would happen to a semi-reclusive scholarly couple, selling entirely on the Internet.

It began with a telephone call from a monastery of cloistered nuns, the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (the Trappists). The sister who contacted us thought, or had heard, that we might be able to help her sell their monastery's choir books. Why us? Our business was named after my doctoral dissertation (as well as a wonderful aunt), "The Clock and the Rose", which centered upon the change of mind that occurred in Western Europe in the fourteenth century. The "Rose" is the rose window in the great cathedrals, and also refers to the Virgin Mary.

Now, the sister had no way of knowing that as part of my doctoral work I had to engage in a practicum, and since I could not return to the Middle Ages, I spent the greater part of 1998 taking voice lessons and studying Gregorian chant.

So, although I really did not know much about this order and its choir books specifically, I certainly had an interest in, and a history of studying, the Rule of St. Benedict and Gregorian Chant. The sister sent us pictures and some more information, and we agreed to go to the monastery to view the books.

The Abbey sat on a hilltop quite close to the state highway system, tucked away in trees and fields. Once the summer home of a major industrialist, the property now housed 48 sisters, who had come from all over the world to live and to pray, following the Rule of St. Benedict.

The books were enormous, elephant-folio sized, bound with brass borders, bosses, feet, and exquisite sacred hearts. Printed throughout in red and black, the chant notation was dimensional to the touch, and included exquisite illustrations and capitals, some extending the entire length of the page. Although the books had been printed in 1947, they seemed very unusual. The monastery was divesting the books because the Latin liturgy had long since been changed to the vernacular, and they now use smaller, modern, more easily-held versions that did not strain their backs.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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