Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2009 Issue

Book Collecting in the Modern Era


A Edward Newton: words matter

If you are a collector or someone interested enough to invest a few hours to know more about collecting there is no better place to start than to acquire in AE's Books for Sale:

Books For Sale

There run a keyword search for Newton Book Collecting Game to find copies of "This Book Collecting Game."

It's required reading for what it doesn't say but what we now know. It is an series of essays published in 1928 by a gifted writer and exuberant collector - A. Edward Newton - who has sent to us an unintended cautionary message about the collecting of books and manuscripts. In it he commits the cardinal sin of making judgments in print that have become enduring examples of misplaced confidence. Every book collector should read it for its cautionary message, expressed not in print, but in the readily available facts that have since rendered a somber verdict on his optimism. Make no mistake. A. Edward Newton was a voice, arguably the voice of collecting books and manuscripts of his time. He was very good and also very wrong. The lesson to be learned is not "abandon hope all ye who enter here." Rather, it is to have your wits about you. They who will collect will be knowledgeable.

He trusts and pays a high price for it. He praises Thomas J. Wise as "the great English collector" and quotes from his bookplate a motto which is characteristic of the man:

"Books bring me friends where 'er on earth I be,
Solace or solitude - bonds of society."

Six years later John Carter and Graham Pollard published An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets and established that Wise had forged various items and traded them for real material.

He also speaks with great confidence about book collecting as an investment. In the year the book was published, 1928, most investments made money. A year later the bubble burst. When his collection was sold in 1941 it realized only about 40% of his cost.

In the modern era it is possible to thoroughly research material. It is possible to know how often material appears at auction, the condition of the material changing hands and the prices they bring. With this knowledge it becomes easy to evaluate offers from dealers and listings on the book selling sites.

In this way you can accept from A. Edward Newton his love of the game and, matching his enthusiasm for collecting with common sense about what to pay to collect more efficiently. If Mr. Newton were alive today it is what he would be doing.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
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    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lincoln & His Civil War Cabinet: 8 Signatures, Beautifully Presented!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> G.A. Custer ALS from Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory to Capt. Yates, Who Also Died at Little Bighorn, Re: Acquiring “good horses” from Kentucky for 7th Cavalry.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lee Harvey Oswald Signed Letter: “if we finally get back to the states…maybe we’ll…settle in Texas,” Warren Commission Exhibit.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

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