Martin’s proactive approach to the acquisition of rare books and manuscripts, together with his naturally scholarly nature, lead him from one subject to another, until eventually he had compiled a library that spanned a vast variety of subjects over six centuries and comprised approximately 10,000 volumes. Martin physically divided his library between his two homes: all subjects but Ornithology were housed in his (presumably quite ample) Manhattan apartment; the Ornithological items were kept in a library in his Charlottesville, Virginia, home. At the time that the Martin library went on sale in 1989, its approximate value was estimated at $30 million dollars or more.
As readers may have gathered thus far, the Martin sale was a complex one. On an elemental level, simply the logistical aspects of the Martin sale were fairly detailed, with the sale spread over a year and divided into 9 parts. Selections from all parts of the sale toured major American cities in the months leading up to the sale. [For those who must have all information, the formal full-title names for these 9 sales were as follows (and I warn you, they are a mouthful): Sale 5870/The Martin Library, Part I: Audubon/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/John James Audubon/Magnificent Books and Manuscripts (Tuesday, August 6, 1989); Sale 5871/The Martin Library, Part II: Magnificent Ornithology/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Magnificent Color-Plate Ornithology (Wednesday, June 7, 1989); Sale 5872/The Martin Library, Part III: Selby/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/The Original Watercolors for Selby’s Illustrations of British Ornithology (Thursday, June 8, 1989); The Martin Library, Part IV: French Literature/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important French Literature (Monday, October 16, 1989); Sale 5953/The Martin Library, Part V: Ornithology/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important Illustrated and Scientific Ornithology (Tuesday, December 12 & Wednesday, December 13, 1989); Sale 5971/The Martin Library, Part VI: American Literature/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important American and Children’s Literature (Tuesday, January 30 & Wednesday, January 31, 1990); Sale 5972/The Martin Library, Part VII: Americana/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana (Wednesday, January 31, 1990); Sale 5998/The Martin Library, Part VIII: English Literature/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important English Literature (Monday, April 30, 1990 & Tuesday, May 1st, 1990); and, finally, Sale 6036/The Martin Library, Part IX: Books and Illuminated Manuscripts/The Library of H. Bradley Martin/Highly Important Books and Illuminated Manuscripts (Thursday, June 14, 1990).]
Each catalogue for each part of the sale was a work of art and scholarship onto itself, and each came complete with both a general introduction to H. Bradley Martin the man and to the particular collection in question for that part of the sale. It seems, for our purposes, unnecessary to quote from any of the particular introductions to parts of the sale except for the Americana part, the subject with which most Æ readers are most familiar and engaged. So here is a brief excerpt from the Introduction to the Americana part of the Martin library, just to give ourselves a flavor of that part of the collection.