Published: December 2, 2015
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
BOSTON, MASS. — Marvin Getman’s November 14 Boston Book and Print Show opened at 8 am at the Back Bay Events Center with a long line of expectant buyers. The early opening was timed to allow dealers from the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and collectors to shop before the noon opening of the other show. By 8:10 am, exhibitors were writing up sales, and selling in the first hour would remind anyone of the frenzied first hour of Manchester’s New Hampshire Antique Dealers’ show.
Getman’s 65 dealers had booths full of buyers, and attendees were seen leaving the show carrying multiple packages. Dealers offered a wide range of books, photographica, prints and ephemera. One could choose from rare first editions, children’s books, regional histories, military histories, daguerreotypes, stereo views, historical prints, maps, posters and well-organized ephemera.
What is probably the rarest book a folk art collector might seek, Hunting Indians in a Taxi-Cab, was written by Kate Sanborn and published around 1911 (no copyright date appears). It is a small book, only 70 pages, with about 20 black and white plates. Sanborn was a prolific author in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. Most of her books can be bought for less than $50 and some for far less. But not this one. The title, as Sanborn herself noted, should finish with the words “with a camera.”
For some reason, probably having noticed that cigar store Indians, which she personally liked, were rapidly disappearing from the streets of the city, Sanborn took it on herself to document those that were left. She hired a taxi-cab and traveled around, mostly in New York City, photographing cigar store Indians in front of the stores that owned them. Often, the names of those stores appear on the windows or signs above the entrance.
How many copies were printed is not known, but Bill Hutchinson, the Mendenhall, Penn., book dealer who had the book, guessed at around 100, or perhaps more accurately “not many.” He may or may not be right, but the book is certainly the “holy grail” for those assembling a collection of books on folk art or cigar store Indians. This reporter has seen one other copy in 20 years of selling books. Hutchinson had the book priced at $2,000.
A rare and expensive piece of Walt Whitman ephemera was sold during the show. Phil Bishop of Mosher Books, Ephrata, Penn., brought a 30-by-24-inch 1872–73 paper poster promoting Whitman’s books, emphasizing Leaves of Grass. It was priced at $25,000 and sold to another dealer, who may have had a customer in mind. Whitman, who in his early career was a printer, personally selected the eight different typefaces used on the poster.
Bishop told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “The poster reflects both Whitman’s love of typography and his penchant for self-promotion. It’s large and it’s a real presence. Any serious Whitman collector would love to have it overlording their collection. It’s paper and ephemeral, subject to easy destruction, so its survival was problematic. In 15 years only two copies have surfaced. One of those was on linen and it sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for $43,750.” Bishop said his copy had been owned by Charles E. Feinberg (1899–1988), whose Whitman collection now resides in the Library of Congress.
Several other dealers also brought some very scarce material. Richard Thorner, a Manchester, N.H., dealer, had an 1844 illustrated broadside, advertising the first American bowling alley, or salon, as it was called then. He also had a broadside timetable issued by the Dover and Winnipiseogee Railroad in 1870 priced at $1,250 and another broadside depicting “Blind Tom, the Negro Boy Pianist.” He had a copy of the Massachusetts Spy dated November 4, 1784, which had a masthead designed by Paul Revere. It was priced at $600.
In addition to the rare folk art book, Bill Hutchinson had a very unusual, colorful, pre-Civil War broadside for the Boston and Charleston Steamers, printed by Prang. It illustrated the steamer Massachusetts, which was still was using some sails, and it was mounted with a mirror and included prices for traveling to various cities, such as Charlotte, N.C., which would have cost $34.50. Although unusual, Hutchinson showed the back, and it was certainly original. He priced it at $2,500 and it sold shortly after opening. He also had a small two-volume set, School of Art, published in 1838, that was devoted to working with metals. It was priced at $4,500 and also sold quickly.
Curt Wendler, Old Saybrook, Conn., had a small treasure for true-crime lovers. Priced at just $100, was a 1934 copy of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde as told by Bonnie’s mother and Clyde’s sister. The frontispiece was a photo of the pair “taken two months before their death.” Wendler also had a 1933 copy of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes written by Vincent Starret. Starret was considered to be Sherlock’s “biographer” if there could have been one, and this was his most famous work, priced at only $85. At the other end of the spectrum, Wendler had a first edition of e.e. cummings’s No Thanks, from an edition of 900, priced at $475. There were also many choices for collectors of crime fiction, including an uncorrected proof of P.D. James’s A Mind to Murder priced at $1,350 at Harrowgate Books, Brightwaters, N.Y.
There were children’s’ books for every pocketbook. A true first edition of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are was priced at $4,500 by Derringer’s Books. A clean copy of The Knave of Hearts illustrated by Maxfield Parrish was priced at $1,250 at Connecticut River Books, Deep River, Conn. A limited edition of Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Arthur Rackham was priced at $2,500 by Enchanted Books, from Brooklyn, N.Y. Only 900 copies were printed and the book had 13 tipped-in color plates. Also on offer was a selection of children’s books in French. A pop-up Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court was priced $400 at Books End Books, Syracuse, N.Y.
Several dealers had stereoviews, daguerreotypes and other photographs. Greg French is one of the leading dealers in early photography and his booth was full from the time the show opened. His offerings included a half-plate ambrotype in a gutta percha frame of an outdoor Western scene with two hunters, their tent, rifles and some antlers. It was priced at $2,500. Scott Brasseur, Prospect, Penn., had stereoviews of Piute Indians priced at under $100. He also had an albumen print of high-wire acrobats in a South African circus, priced at $145.
There were interesting and unusual items all over the show and priced for every budget. Pendleton Books had a portfolio of Rodin collotypes from Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz’s influential magazine. It included about a dozen collotypes and was priced at $4,000. The Country Bookshop, Plainfield, Vt., had four volumes of Emerson Hough’s comprehensive American Woods Illustrated by Actual Specimens, originally published in 1888. The four volumes were priced at $5,000. A full set of 14 volumes was appraised on the Antiques Roadshow in 2013 at $35/45,000. Each volume includes actual specimens of various American woods, intended to aid in identification. The same dealer also had a ten-volume set of Latham’s History of Birds published between 1821 and 1828, priced at $10,000.
Alexander Rare Books, Barre, Vt., had several first and limited editions of Robert Frost poetry priced between $125 and $1,500, and Books End, Syracuse, N.Y., had a poster for a 1910 performance of Peter Pan at New York’s Empire Theatre, priced at $100.
After the show, Getman told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he was pleased with the results. “Almost all the dealers said they had a good show — some said it was like the old days. We had a good crowd and we’re seeing better and better stuff each time. We saw a lot of young people, which is really encouraging. I’d given out thousands of free tickets at events attended by the younger crowd, like the Boston Book Festival, and it worked. It was also very helpful that we were able to coordinate our planning and promotion with Commonwealth Promotions, managers of the other Boston book fair. We’re looking forward to next year’s show and I expect that most of these exhibitors will be back.”
The event returns on October 29. For more information, www.neantiqueshows.com or 781-862-4039.
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