Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

A Michael Hurley Tribute from the Twelfth Street Booksellers

12thstreet30

A 25th anniversary tribute to Michael Hurley.


By Michael Stillman

Twelfth Street Booksellers, the Southern California specialist in gemology books, has published an unexpected catalogue. It is a combination 25th Anniversary and Tribute to Michael Hurley. As explained by proprietor Lillian Cole, it was the eccentric Los Angeles bibliophile Michael Hurley who gave her a start in the book trade. Not that she ever met Hurley, but then again, not that many people not already booksellers at the time did. He was rather reclusive, living alone with his books.

Hurley came to Los Angeles around 1930, a young man who had been a high school valedictorian back in Iowa. He found a job at the post office, rented a small home, and began a life of book collecting. It seems he did little else for the remainder of his life. He never married, never owned a home, never even bought a car. He bought books, ultimately 35,000 of them. He crammed his small home and garage with these volumes, piled high to the ceilings, leaving little room for anything else. His house must have looked like that of the legendary English collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, only smaller. If he had any purpose to his collecting, other than a love of books gone so wild it could well be described as "bibliomania," it is unknown. Hurley made no provisions for what would happen to his books after he died. He had no heirs. The collection fell to Los Angeles County to dispose of when he died in 1984 at the age of 77. What was determined to be the very best of his collection was turned over to Dawson's Book Shop, which published a catalogue. The remainder was put up for sale at several auctions, where they were sold primarily in mixed boxes. It was hardly the way to disperse a collection of this magnitude, but Hurley evidently was unconcerned about its fate once he was separated from it.

The passing of Hurley crossed with Ms. Cole's entrance into the book trade. She had recently become interested in becoming a bookseller, so she attended one of the Hurley auctions. It was probably the perfect starting point for a new bookseller without a specific field. If there was a particular focus to Hurley's collecting, it escapes me. He seems to have collected everything, more in the mode of the aforementioned Phillipps than any other collector who comes to mind. His auctions must have been a grab bag, but through them, Ms. Cole obtained the inventory necessary to start her business. In time, she moved to her current specialization, gemology books. Those from the Hurley collection not sold years ago went to the back of the bookshelves, almost as buried as they must have been in Hurley's house. Now, with her 25th anniversary in the trade, Ms. Cole has pulled some of them off the shelves, to create this latest catalogue which combines some of the Hurley titles, some purchased elsewhere, and some from her specialty in gemology. Here are a few samples from this catalogue.

Hurley owned his share of bibliographies, but here is an unusual one: The Annals of Murder. A Bibliography of Books and Pamphlets on American Murders from Colonial Times to 1900. This 1961 bibliography by Thomas McDade includes 1,126 entries, meaning it covers a small town's worth of people who disappeared from this life with a little assistance. A quick flip through TV programming today indicates this subject still fascinates us the way it did these earlier generations of readers. Item 27. Priced at $95.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000

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