Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2008 Issue

History on the Cheap

Minisink

An exceptional tool for dealers and collectors -


By Bruce McKinney

Recently I searched Google for information about a book I purchased this past month - "A History of the Minisink Region" by Charles E. Stickney. It's the gift to posterity of two men who published it in 1867 and whose names are not linked to other known printings [of books]. This volume is their single banner to carry their names to future generations and until recently were holding on by a thread. They have the interesting names Finch Coe and I. F. Guiwits and together make the perfect Google search term. It's how I found them in the first place.

Original copies of this title are uncommon. In the OCLC only eight are recorded and yet on Abe recently there were four, none higher than $40, a mid-range eBay realization. I already owned a copy and was prompted to buy a second copy for $30.

Among the Google search results was a link to The Open Library where 234,857 fully searchable electronic copies of myriad titles are available in a format that presents the material as it actually appears. For those involved with old and rare books this is a useful tool - the opportunity to see real copies, to compare margins and confirm pagination. For those who are writing descriptions it's also the chance to conduct instant research to gather useful details. The world of books has always been divided between sellers who describe only the copy and those who also tell its story. This is a tool for those who have learned you must tell a good story to sell a great book. To make the research easy The Open Library provides a text search that is similar to Google's book search though their format provides a better experience.

Whatever you may be thinking about the quality of online presentations this one will surprise most readers. It surpasses what I have seen elsewhere online and does it in a way that is effective both for those who value the book as object and/or as information source. As presented - it is the book - opened flat. The pages turn one at time in the way you expect. They are in the original type, in look, face and font. To read these copies is to read the original text.

To the right of the open book is a search box to identify references in the text. Where found, a page marker is inserted and the reader can then move from marker to marker to read highlighted entries. It's satisfying and particularly helpful for books that have minimal or non-existent indexes. For book collectors it's a way to preview material you are considering to buy or bid on.

All this said, the text can be a bit difficult to read and varies from one example to the next. For the titles I searched it's possible to download PDFs. You can also order a freshly printed custom copy or install a free DjVu reader, customized software that further enhances the online image.

For dealers in important and high end material it's possible to contribute entire copies [through scans] to The Open Library. The dealer retains both the original copy and the opportunity to link the fully electronic version to their selling description. Only a few years ago this was considered, because of cost, a remarkable but essentialy unatainableable possibility. Today it is a matter of will. The money is no longer material.

The Open Library is free to all who wish to do research.

For those who may want to post material in its full text form a subscription is required. For individuals the cost is $495 for the first year and $125 a year thereafter for support and upgrades. Organizations can subscribe to make upload access available to members. If there is sufficient interest AE can obtain a license for its members to access this remarkable service.

Here is a link to the site: http://openlibrary.org.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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