Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2003 Issue

It’s Old, But Is It Valuable?

1kingcover

Worn cover of William R. King's Obituary


King was not a totally boring person, even though he mostly has been forgotten, while some of his contemporaries are remembered as great figures of their time. He served in the senate with the likes of Webster, Calhoun, Clay and Benton, but King was not a great orator. In recent years, about the only time his name has come up is in rumors, typical of today, that he was President James Buchanan’s homosexual lover. Even this controversial claim is focused more on Buchanan, who still has his defenders, then on the forgotten King.

King also had the misfortune of being a southerner, brought in to balance the ticket of 1852, which is to say he was pro-slavery and a slaveholder. This is not a legacy you want to have, as Thomas Jefferson could have attested had he lived another 200 years. Perhaps next time I will write a bit more about him, unless enough people tell me not to, but for now, this article is about his printed obituary. And typical flowery obituaries notwithstanding, King seems to have been a well-liked man, a “uniter not a divider” in a time when the divisions were becoming so wide, and the differences so irreconcilable, that a split was inevitable.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a giveaway in this book I hadn’t noticed when I bought it from a library 35 years ago that it was unlikely to ever be of much value. Right there after the title page is a resolution of the House of Representatives calling for the printing of 30,000 copies of these proceedings. Thirty thousand! That must have been about one for every citizen of the Republic back in 1854. This book is no rarity.

It was a library copy, as I imagine most were. This is not the type of book that would appear on a bestsellers list, so it was probably given to every library they could find. What else can you do with 30,000 copies?

The nice thing about library copies is it’s easy to trace their “provenance.” This book started at St. John’s Circulating Library in Frederick, Maryland, and ended up at the St. Andrew on Hudson House Library in New York State. The original warning from St. John’s remains pasted in the cover: the book may be borrowed for no more than two weeks, and a fine of two cents per day will be charged for late returns. From the looks of the internal pages, I’d say they never collected their two cents. I may have been the first one to open the book.

The second and similar book I found was Addresses on the Presentation of the Sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States…” From 1855, it commemorates a ceremony accepting the sword General and later President Jackson had worn during battle. This one’s a rarity compared to the King book, with only 20,000 copies having been printed. And my copy has its library card still intact, showing that no one ever took it out.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.
  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Focus on Women<br>June 2, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Susan B. Anthony & Ida Husted Harper, <i>The History of Woman Suffrage,</i> first edition set, New York, 1881-1922. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Georgia Douglass Johnson, <i>Bronze: a Book of Verse,</i> first edition, Boston, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Elaine Fried de Kooning, small archive of material. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Focus on Women<br>June 2, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Helena Bochoráková-Dittrichová, <i>Z Mého Detství Drevoryty,</i> first edition, Prague, 1929. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, <i>Cry Out,</i> silkscreen poster, Chicago, 1972. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann June 2:</b> Pearl S. Buck, <i>The Good Earth,</i> first edition, New York, 1931. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <b><center>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Old master, modern and contemporary art<br>Maps & Orientalia<br>8th-9th-10th of June 2022
    <b>Gonnelli Auction House:</b> Giuseppe Aloja, Veduta di Napoli dalla parte di Chiaia. Starting price: € 1650
    <b>Gonnelli Auction House:</b> Abraham Ortelius, Mappa dell'Atlantico del Nord. Starting price: € 280
    <b>Gonnelli Auction House:</b> Max Klinger, Für alle. 1884. Starting price: € 360
    <b>Gonnelli Auction House:</b> Katsushita Taito II, Kacho gaden. Starting price: € 320
    <b>Gonnelli Auction House:</b> Blub, Galileo Galilei. Starting price: € 100
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Androuet du Cerceau, <i> Bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br><i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000

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