Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2003 Issue

The Historical Auction Series No.1 The Henry C. Murphy Sale March 3-March 8, 1884

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Here’s a brief snapshot from the same auction catalogue introduction as to Mr. Murphy’s bibliophile collection(s) and his interest(s): ….[in adition to being a published author and one mentioned by Stiles, that great chronicler of Brooklyn],
“It is well to state further and more particularly that in general geography, voyages, travels, the [Murphy’s] library is unusually large, and comprises the collections of Hakluyt, Purchas, Grynaeus, Thevenot, Commelin, Abelyn, and Ternaux-Compans….Of the early editions of Ptolmey’s Cosmographia, the collection is not surpassed in the United States….Besides these are the works of other noted geographers, as Strabo, Pomponious Mela, Abulfeda, Edrisi, Aplan, Ortellus, Mercator, [and others]…New France and Canada are conspicuous…..New Netherland, embracing portions of New York and New Jersey, is probably the most complete of any department. Mr. Murphy was learned in the Dutch language and literature, and no book or pamphlet that related directly or indirectly to the Dutch and Swedish settlements in North America is not to be found in the collection.”
The introduction goes on to list many more areas in which the Murphy Sale Collection and Catalogue are complete or nearly complete, including “Works relating to New York; New England; Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, and Louisiana; Indian Dictionaries and Vocabularies; early Spanish and Dutch writers; and miscellaneous subjects relating to Americana and the Americas.” (ibid.)

As for his books, they are the fitting companion to an exceptional life. Here are some of the highlights, drawn from the sales details and infused with the wistfulness and import of our modern point of view (prices are all hammer prices at the 1884 sale):

Jesuit Relations. , n.d., $3,600; DeBry, Collectiones Peregrinationum in Indian Orientalism…1540-1684, $1,785; Eliot, John, Mamusse Wunnectupanatamne…, 1685, $950; Columbus, Epistola Christofori Colom…, 1493, $850.

Today a Columbus Letter will bring close to seven figures, the Jesuit Relations $400,000+ and a complete set of DeBry a very high price for a complete set.

Because Mr. Murphy was one of the founders of the newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle, it is not surprising that the sale of his library earned day by day coverage and page one placement in that periodical. It was of course interesting news and in some sense a celebration of his life. And other newspapers covered the sale as well. The New York Times, though not yet the paper that is respected today, provided coverage as did The New York Herald Tribune. Whether his name was news or the library was the news is less certain. But the printed galleys remain to help us remember the event.

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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