It was a privilege and a great pleasure to work with Bradley on the development of his Library and to share his knowledge and love of books. The unqualified enthusiasm and excitement with which this material is now being received by his fellow collectors testifies to his extraordinary achievement.During the year before the sale, when the selected pieces from the Martin sale were touring major cities across the country, the upcoming auction got a fair amount of press. These write-ups were very positive and anticipatory about the coming of what was shaping up to be a major book and manuscript sale. For instance, articles about the tour and the upcoming Martin auction were featured in The Chicago Sun-Times (March 21, 1989); The Los Angeles Times (March 27, 1989); and The New York Times (December 21, 1988, and in “Auctions” by Rita Reif, June 2, 1989). I would quote these articles here except that they are all by and large formulaic and repeat, almost word for word, the Sotheby’s press release previously quoted in this article. Still, they do convey a mix of intrigue and wonderment at both the Martin collection and at the fact that viewing of select portions of it was then available to the general public in their specific localities.
However, like many book auctions the Martin sale was also one not without some controversy. Sotheby’s jockeyed with other auction houses for the Martin Library and walked away the victor, leaving some of the losing houses a bit worn in the battle and at times a bit bitter about certain aspects of the sale. An article entitled “The Imperfect Binding of H. Bradley Martin’s Rare Book Collection” by David Streitfeld that appeared in The Washington Post on June 6, 1989, deals with some of these slightly more divisive issues at length. The general subject is the last will and testament that H. Bradley Martin left behind, and the feelings of disappointment bordering on resentment which some interested parties (suitors, basically, who courted Mr. Martin when he was alive in the hope that they or their institutions would benefit once he decided to disperse of his book collection) expressed when they learned that the Martin Library was going whole to Sotheby’s, where it would be sold in parts to the highest bidder. Streitfeld’s article starts this way:
The numbers on H. Bradley Martin’s final tax return were typed without commas, and are so long and so large that it takes a moment to figure out exact amounts – like the bottom line, $51,640,912.43.
Where all this money will go can be deduced from the “Bequests, etc. to surviving spouse” line: $48,090,267.41. The source of his wealth, meanwhile, is explained in the entry for “Decedent’s business or occupation,” which calls him simply a “Collector.”
That is like identifying Picasso as a “Painter.”….