William (Bill) Reese’s catalogues are notorious for being chock-full of rich as well as rare Americana material, precisely and entertainingly described. In fact, Reese’s catalogues are so scholarly and well regarded that many dealers and collectors use them as reference works long after the material featured in them has sold. The four recent catalogues reviewed below are not exceptions to this rule. Each catalogue is copiously researched, carefully and articulately written, and appropriately and informatively illustrated. They each offer unique and often important material; but over and above that, they each stand as useful reference sources in their particular declared thematic category within the Americana field.
This reviewer had a chance to talk with Bill Reese about the philosophy behind his catalogues and about the primacy and place of printed catalogues within his business and within the contemporary Americana dealing world in general: Here is what he had to say:
“While I’m very much in tune w/modern bookselling and the necessity of modern bookselling on the internet in modern times, it doesn’t make sense to abandon printed Americana catalogues as a means of selling and publicizing material as well as a means of creating your own printed contribution to the Americana genre. Which is to say, catalogues are still an effective sales tools for Americana, though we do sell online on our website as well. Any antiquarian bookseller who doesn’t create printed material themselves is, I believe, engaging in a bit of psychic or cognitive dissonance, as printed materials are still primary and important.”Fair enough. And with these words, our brief reviews of Bill Reese’s catalogues begin:
Pacific Voyages & Hawaii (Catalogue 214, William Reese Company): A 208 item long compendium of books, pamphlets, imprints, broadsides, photographs, and other forms of material related to the stated title, Pacific Voyages & Hawaii. An introductory note to the catalogue reads:
“This catalogue celebrates one of the major new bibliographies in Americana, David Forbes’ Hawaiian National Bibliography, 1780-1900. The third volume of this comprehensive work has just been published, bringing the project up to 1880; two more volumes will deal with the final two decades of the 19th century (we offer the published volumes in this catalogue as items 71 through 73). The Forbes bibliography provides, for the first time, a systematic and thorough reference for the history of Hawaii and the voyages to visit there. We list here ninety-four items included in Forbes, notably one of the earliest imprints in the unique surviving copy, as well as a broad range of Pacific voyages new to our stock.”A typical entry in this catalogue ranges from one paragraph long to those that are several pages in length. All entries include considerable contextual and background material about the items described as well as complete bibliographic citations. Contains many desirable items that any collector who specialized in this area would be proud to display on his or her bookshelves. A must for any collector of Americana explorations and voyages, or for that matter for any collector who wants to learn more about the subject.
The Useful Arts in Early America: Science, Technology, Architecture, Agriculture, Arts & Crafts (Catalogue 215, William Reese Company). A 249 item long collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, imprints, photographs and other forms of materials dealing with invention and arts in America. This catalogue is unusual in that it draws together many “arts” traditionally separated – namely, it groups the architecture and arts and crafts with more “scientific” arts like technology and agriculture. An introductory note to the catalogue reads: