The sale was set up very wisely, with the strongest material out of the gate with a bang. The Audubon material was its strong suit, and it realized huge prices. They were smart to start things out with a bang, getting the big bucks for the big birds. They definitely started with their best foot forward.
[On “sleepers” in the Martin sale:] In terms of sleepers, there were many throughout the sale. One that I think of is lot 37 in the Audubon sale. This was described as “after Audubon,” but it seemed later on that Audubon might well have had a hand in it. Tom Taylor, an Austin bookseller and the buyer of that lot, made that case pretty convincingly later on. But that’s what happens in a big sale like this; seemingly little things get overlooked, especially in a “name” sale where there are such obvious big-ticket items; it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. This one lot was overlooked by literally everyone, except for the buyer. This goes to show you that sleepers can take place in absolute public, in the eye of the hurricane. Another place where there were many sleepers was in Part V, the mixed Ornithology section. There were lots of great items there, but you had to really know the field and study the catalogue to find them.
[On unsolved mysteries in the Martin sale:] There were some mysteries to the Martin sale, also. For instance, Washington’s copy of The Federalist, one of the top items in the Americana part of the sale. To this day, I don’t know anyone in the book world who knows who purchased this item. Simply nobody knows who bought it. It’s mind-boggling.
[On the environment of the Martin sale:] The atmosphere of the Martin sale was very competitive. All of the Bradley Martin sales – and I think that I went to all parts, at least all parts in New York [one part was held in Monaco, the French Literature part] –were very competitive.
[On bidding and credit at the Martin sale:] Another very interesting aspect of the Martin sale was the willingness the house had to extend very long terms of credit to dealers bidding in the sale. After all, what did they have to lose? It wasn’t like Mrs. Martin was looking for a dollar for her next meal. By extending very long terms of credit to buyers, the house in some way assured that bidding would be vigorous. Of course, some of these dealers who had credit extended to them ended up in credit trouble, but that’s another story and one not for this article…
[On the dispute about the will and the dissolution of the collection:] Bradley Martin lunched out for years on people courting him about getting his collection. He had ample opportunities to place books in collections. There is no ambiguity there. They courted him and so they thought it [his library] was going to them. Some perhaps thought so with reason, like the Morgan, which actually served as a temporary repository for some of his holdings. And in the end, some of these people and institutions perhaps felt aggrieved. But clearly Martin chose not to donate the library to any specific institution, when he clearly could have done so.