Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2008 Issue

The Volkmann Collection Concludes with a Sale May 8th

Dvolk1


By Bruce McKinney

On May 8th, the third and final portion of the Daniel G. Volkmann, Jr. Collection of rare and collectible printed material will pass before the gaze of dealers and collectors and under the hammer of PBA Galleries. This sale brings to a close the long collecting career of Mr. Volkmann who joined the fray in 1969, entering right as his Mother exited left. It was upon her death, upon inheriting her collection that he assumed the burden, responsibity and pleasure of completing what she began: the acquisition of a complete collection of the Zamorano 80, building an extensive collection of Californiana and assembling an unusally complete collection of California press books. In this, the final sale, the dispersal of 448 lots of what is an extensive collection of California press books along with a few items unsold from previous sales and other items retained as personal favorites, the curtain falls and the chapter closes on the career of an inveterate collector.

Mr. Volkmann, an architect by trade, has perhaps built his most imposing edifice in the ephemeral, even ethereal construction of his collections. Together they are an imposing mass, most pieces from previous sales already flown to dealers, libraries and collectors. This, the final part, no doubt will travel the same path, the pieces to reemerge as the "Volkmann copy" one at a time in dealer catalogues, in libraries, at shows and in auctions far into the future. Those who collect books may hope for immortality only to be judged and dismissed. The Volkmann material will make the cut and be remembered for the solid, workman-like approach, employed over thirty-eight years.

In previous sales [2003 and 2005] some reserves were set toward the high side. Mr. Volkmann had more time and patience then for an unsatisfactory outcome. If material did not sell it was "So be it. There will be another day." Bruce McMakin, senior vice president of PBA explained, "In this sale there has been an effort to establish attractive estimates and Mr. Volkmann has agreed that fully ninety percent of the lots will change hands so long as the bid reaches at least half the low estimate." The material, long held, is clearly now intended to be dispersed. For collectors this presents opportunities.

The following items have been identified by PBA as significant, collectible and in some cases potentially inexpensive enough to be accessible to the fledgling collector:

Lot 118. Adams, Ansel Easton. Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras. Printed in San Francisco in 1927 by Jean Chambers Moore.

18 unsigned photographs, 8x6.25; or the reverse, with letterpress captions beneath on sheets measuring approximately 12x9.75, each loose in an individual folio with letterpress title; together with the printed title page, colophon, dedication to Albert M. Bender and plate list. Housed in a restored silk-lined portfolio of black cloth (original front cloth retained but not used in restoration of portfolio). One of a projected edition of 150 copies of which approximately 75 copies were completed. All letterpress printed by the Grabhorn Press. Individual prints unsigned but the portfolio signed by Adams in 1980 on dedication leaf. "[Adams] made all the Parmelian prints on Kodak Vitava Athena Grade T Parchment, a cream-colored, gelatin silver paper that is translucent when held up to the light ... Although Ansel later remembered that he completed about a hundred sets, some were destroyed in a warehouse fire, leaving approximately seventy-five that were sold and delivered" (Ansel Adams: A Biography, pp 60-2). Robert Cahn, writing for Sierra Magazine, offers: "Adams" photographic career took a quantum leap in 1926 when Albert Bender, an enterprising San Francisco friend of the wealthy and of artists, "Discovered" Adams' photographs and decided they should be published. Bender selected a group of the prints and contacted a prominent San Francisco publisher who agreed to produce the portfolios...In a few hours, Bender had sold 56 copies sight unseen, and Adams' first published work...was on its way." GB 95. Estimated $50,000 to $80,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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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