Dr. Frank T. Siebert: Requiem for a Heavyweight
After the sales "Siebert copies" began to trade in the dealer to collector market. Many of them have since achieved multiples of three times the Siebert realizations and a few even more. These days the Siebert sales appear to some as fading scenery in the rear view mirror of a speeding car. Those who think this way are perhaps not thinking at all.
For Sotheby's these sales were important evidence of their commitment to remain at the apogee of the book collecting field. These sales, beautifully and authoritatively catalogued first by Bailey Bishop of Boston and then by Sotheby's staff, have since entered into the pantheon of important bibliographical reference works for the Americana field. For Æ Database members these records are immediately accessible by sale, title and author as well as forming a small portion of the data that today makes it possible to collect in the Siebert manner without the lifelong commitment to research which was Dr. Siebert's bequest to future collectors. No doubt, were he alive today, he would be mining the ÆD for undiscovered materials to further enhance his collection. He was an Americana original.
Bailey Bishop, Richard Lan, Kenneth Nebenzahl, and William Reese, all book dealers, offered opinions and perspective for this piece. Elizabeth E. Fuller, Librarian at the Rosenbach Museum and Library provided analysis of the Rosenbach sales records. Further information about the Rosenbachs can be found at www.rosenbach.org The Rosenbach Co. archives and other collections maintained at the Rosenbach are open for research to anyone who is interested. They require an appointment in advance to ensure that both reading room space and staff time will be available.
* The copy of David Cusick's Sketches of Ancient History of the Six Nations for which he paid Dr. Rosenbach $135 does not appear to be the same copy sold at auction in 1999. The auctioned copy was purchased at Goodspeed’s in 1962. The original copy purchased from Dr. Rosenbach was apparently later replaced by a Goodspeed copy, evidence that Dr. Siebert was long committed to pursuit of the best copies. The Siebert auction copy is today part of the collection at the American Antiquarian Society.
** A complete set of the Jesuit Relations, accounts of the Jesuits in Canada in the 17th century, was offered as 26 separate lots in the first Siebert sale. Joseph A. Freilich acquired the complete set by successfully bidding on each lot. The combined bids, including the buyer’s premium, totalled $352,476. Five hundred and ninety-nine days later, on January 10th, 2001 the same volumes were again sold at auction as Mr. Freilich disposed of these books as part of his magnificant library. Two of the 26 volumes failed to sell. The others realized $234,900. The same volumes brought $327,176 less than two years earlier. The market had changed. Mr. Freilich did much better with his other books.
All errors are mine alone. BEM