Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2010 Issue

A Sale in the Fall to Test the Market

Present-state

Present State of New England. 1677


By Bruce McKinney

In a few weeks Bonhams will announce they are handling my second sale - The American Experience - 1626 - 1850, the second auction of books, manuscripts and ephemera from the collections I've built over the past twenty years. The December sale is to be held in New York. The auction follows, by one year, The De Orbe Novo sale - Exploration of the New World 1492-1625 that was organized by Bloomsbury and raised $3.5 million. For the second sale the cataloguing of more than 330 lots of Americana including Central and South American material, is underway. Sources, purchase dates and prices paid will be included in the descriptions as they were in the first sale. I believed then and know now that provenance and pricing history are an important, even essential part of the story of material.

Books in their own right can be enormously appealing. When their history is attached they become something more; connections linking collectors, dealers and institutions across decades and sometimes centuries. Often for the serious and sometimes for the emerging collector the history of individual copies become the thread that binds disparate volumes into collections that matter. I know that for me it has.

Building collections of specific copies that others have valued is difficult to achieve. Most books these days are bought and sold by harried people consulting online descriptions and generic bibliographies to complete listings and post quickly. In the rush, tell-tale evidence is often lost or ignored and books then slip silently from firmly identified to probable to possible to invisible. Such volumes often have passed through important collections but their ownership details disappeared into the successive retellings of a book's description.

Later reconstruction of provenance becomes a difficult job with an uncertain reward. For other reasons as well provenance is always disappearing. Sometimes sellers remove bookplates because they are embarrassed. Other times buyers wish to eliminate ownership history to obscure sources as well as what they paid. Other cataloguers simply ignore bookplates and signatures. Provenance is in fact always endangered, always subject to removal as a foreign object. So it is marvelous when this information survives. In this second sale the material will be thoroughly explained, its connection to the past documented to the extent we know it, its present value substantiated at auction, its future secure so long as future buyers do not tear away the bookplate that links each book to its past.

In building collections with the help of Bill Reese I have done so with someone who is entirely committed not just to these books but also to their history. This is not to suggest that all or even most of the material has a clear history. What is known, at minimum, is my source, date and price. Where material was purchased at auction I have these auction descriptions. Where Bill Reese has been able to identify copies I include that. When material was purchased at either the Siebert sales in 1999 or the Laird Park sale in 2000 we have the complete cataloguing. Taken together Mr. Reese represented me in the purchase of 78 items at these sales and sold to me or participated in another 135 +/- items that are included in this sale; altogether 2/3rds of this entire collection. The material will be broadly understandable, the upcoming auction important for its clarity.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jul 15:</b> Jessie Tarbox Beals, archive of signed photographs, 15 silver prints, c. 1930. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Maitres Affiches by MUCHA - Papier a cigarettes Job. 202. $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> De Bry - Map of the West Indies (including Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Parts of Central & South America, Sea Monsters, Ships). $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gould - Short-billed Toucan (Ramphastos Brevicarinatus). $5,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Redoute, Folio - Pale Iris - Iris flavescens. 375. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gillray - Light Expelling Darkness or The Sun of the Constitution. $200 to $500.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gerard - Wild Hemp or Weed, Cannabis. 708. $150 to $450.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Shaw & Nodder - Head of The Dodo. 165. $100 to $300.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.

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