Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2009 Issue

The Case for Collecting

Tcm.golf

[right] Tom McKinney in the 1940's, an accidental collector


By Bruce McKinney

Everyone collects something. It's a strong human instinct. Most such collections are random and casual, often the initially inadvertent accumulation of seashells or whatever. Something was interesting or pretty and seemed worth retaining. My father was not a collector and again he was. Over his forty years of playing golf he rarely threw away his score cards or bag tags. In time, as clips and rubber bands gave way this ephemera would land in a drawer that became "Dad's golf stuff." It wasn't a collection and yet it was. On a rainy summer Saturday or in the dead of winter he'd occasionally reorganize the material into groups while talking about a course, round, or playing partners. Piles of more than 4 inches, the height of the drawer, were divided by place and era. In time his golf photographs emigrated from the family albums into the golf drawer. It was an inadvertent collection.

My mother would have said she wasn't a collector but she bought a lot of clothes and never seemed to throw anything away. Her sister and aunt shared her passion and locked themselves into her bedroom every few months to try things on. "I'm about five pounds away on that one." Her clothes were not only her history, they were also an element of her discipline. She would not have called her clothes a collection but I think they were.

Neither golf nor clothes ever meant much to me. My interests were history and place. I wasn't born with it but I was introduced early.

By a simple stroke of luck, that would have been arranged by my Mother, I spent an afternoon in 1956 with Bill Heidgerd, then President of the New Paltz [New York] Historical Society. He was an "old book" dealer and I ten. His book shop was his living room, his house one of the "old stones" on Huguenot Street. His books were on shelves, their fragile bindings, aged paper and fecund aroma together the single seed that sprouted into a lifelong interest in old material, their secrets and histories. He showed me some of what he had and spoke of what he dreamed of finding. His dream became mine, the pursuit of the "known to exist" but, for him, the yet to be discovered. His two elusives were pamphlet-books: The Indians by Abraham Bevier, printed in Rondout in 1846, and Tom Quick, The Indian Slayer published in Monticello in 1852. Had he lived a few more decades he would have seen, as I did, these Hudson Valley incunables arrive in the auction rooms and appear on the internet. Today I have three copies of the Bevier and two of the Tom Quick. The Bevier became a study of Rondout and today a collection of this place which today exists mostly in memory.

It might have been different for me if, instead of spending an afternoon with an old bookman, I had spent it with a mechanic. If so, today I might own some old cars or possibly their manuals. Living in a small town fifty years ago the options were fewer but almost everyone 'accumulated' something. The subject interested me and I continued.

These days many dealers are concerned if there is a new generation of collectors. There is. They come and go on AE in an often invisible way. By the time they arrive most have settled on a subject, if not a methodology, and their challenge become the pursuit of it as information and sometimes object. Just a few days ago a collector, who is an AE Monthly reader, was exploring Google Books that I've written about recently. References to an auction catalogue of his family's history led him to search for it online and it turns out to be one of about 1,600 auction catalogues I list in Books for Sale. It's the dispersal at Anderson Galleries in the 1920's of a book collection of a distant family member. It's his Tom Quick.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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