Published: November 4, 2016
BOSTON, MASS. There was more than enough to keep a book lover here happy and perhaps make a dent in ones checkbook during what is termed Boston Rare Book Week, which ran October 2830 at several downtown venues.
Skinner Inc. conducted a fine books and manuscripts auction that offered 535 lots of books and manuscripts, including a significant collection of George Washington material, in a sale that grossed $1,476,000. The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair ran for three days and lived up to its billing, with 120 exhibitors, including several from European countries such as England, France and Russia. Marvin Getmans one-day Boston Book, Print and Ephemera show presented another 65 dealers. Within walking distance of each event, the Boston Public Library mounted a feature exhibit marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeares death and legacy with Shakespeare Unauthorized. It included rare first and early editions of familiar plays like A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hamlet, and The Merchant of Venice, as well as all four Shakespearean folios, including the librarys own copy of the first folio, published in 1623.
Skinners Books And
Skinners October 30 sale included a separately cataloged group of 41 lots of manuscripts, books and prints related to George Washington, with all the letters and documents selling. All were from the collection of the late David Spinney, a Chicago collector with a deep interest in American history and Western exploration. The first lot of the Washington material was a manuscript survey map and description of a 437-acre piece of land in Augusta County, Va. It was dated 1751 and sold for $31,980. Washington began working as a surveyors assistant in 1748, at the age of 16, but examples of his surveys are not common.
This group also included a letter in Washingtons hand, detailing a contract with James Donaldson, who was supervising carpentry work at Mount Vernon. It was signed by both Washington and Donaldson and specifies the terms of his employment, his food allowance, states he would have the use of a house on the estate, and that he was to instruct negro carpenters belonging to the estate, if he used any. It sold for $22,140. Catalogs of good book auctions, like this one, are quite informative. They very often print the full text of letters and documents and often provide historical context for items.
Leading the sale was Henry James Warres Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory, with 16 hand colored plates and one map. Published in 1848, Warre had been sent by England to attempt to help resolve a boundary dispute concerning Oregon and this volume was the report on his exploration. By the time he returned to England, the boundary dispute had been settled but Warre retained the rights to publish his findings and illustrations. The illustrations were issued both uncolored, or colored, as in this copy, which realized $65,190.
The auction also included an important, unpublished manuscript regarding the Custer massacre at Little Big Horn. Written by General John Gibbon, one of Custers superior officers who was involved with the planning of the attack, the 19-page document, which earned $18,450, said that Custer did not follow orders. A manuscript letter that Custer wrote while a student at West Point, earned $4,920. All were from the Spinney collection. The sale included letters and documents written and signed by several presidents: John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, Ulysses Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy and more.
Devon Eastland is Skinners book and manuscript department director. For more than 20 years, Eastland operated a retail bookstore in Harvard Square in Cambridge that specialized in books printed before 1700. In my junior year at Harvard, I wandered into one of the several bookstores near the university. I was amazed that one could see and handle books of that age. And I was amazed that for a couple of hundred dollars, I could own books that were over 300 years old. I was hooked.
I went back to Harvard and checked to see what sort of courses they offered about rare books and found several. I took all that I could and I took other courses at the Rare Book School, which is now based at the University of Virginia. About five years ago, I joined Skinner as the department head. Were a small department and I work with consignors to decide how we can help them, and I do all the cataloging for these sales. I really enjoy that because Im constantly learning. After the sale, she said, We are quite pleased with the sale. All the Washington letters sold. Attendance was good, and many of the dealers exhibiting at the book fair were here for the preview and bidding either by phone or through left bids.
For additional information, www.skinnerinc.com or contact Eastland at 508-970-3293.
Antiquarian Book Fair
The 40th anniversary edition of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair opened October 28 at the Hynes Convention Center. The 120 exhibitors displayed some of the finest rare books as well as historical and literary manuscripts and ephemera in a variety of categories. More than 15 exhibitors attended from England, and there were exhibitors from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Russia. Prices ranged from $35 for a first edition of Harper Lees recent novel Go Set A Watchman to more than $100,000 for building blocks played with by Albert Einstein.
Brattle Book Shop, Boston, sold a 1915 program and scorecard for the 1915 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. It was Babe Ruths first World Series, and it was priced at $5,000. Several booths offered childrens books. Peter Harrington Rare Books, London, had an inscribed, first edition of Beatrix Potters first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. When Potter tried to interest publishers in her book, which was illustrated with 42 pen and ink drawings, none were willing to publish it. Potter had 250 copies printed at her own expense, and they were given to friends and family, including Arthur Conan Doyle. Eventually, Frederick Warne & Co, a publisher that had initially refused the book, persuaded Potter to make some changes, including redoing the illustrations in color, and published the book in 1902. The rest is history, with more than 45 million copies of the Peter Rabbit books having been sold. Harrington priced its inscribed copy at $44,000.
One of the international exhibitors represented here was Biblionne, hailing from Moscow, Russia. Many of the books it had at the show were Russian editions of books well known in the West. The first Russian edition of an H.G. Wells title, War of the Worlds, published in Moscow in 1898, was priced at $4,500; the first Russian edition of F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby, published in 1965, was priced at $850. A pamphlet about the Russian tour of My Fair Lady, which visited Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev in 1960, was priced at $250. In 1941, Uncle Toms Cabin was translated and published in Moscow and Leningrad, illustrated by prominent Russian artist Vladimir Bekhteev. A copy was priced here at $350.
Anna Syrovatkaya, the companys rare book cataloger, discussed book collecting in that country. The rare book trade now is more active than any other antique trade in Russia. Russian collectors are interested in several areas, such as classical books from the NineteenthTwentieth Centuries, illustrated and fine press editions, signed and inscribed copies, important documents from the Twentieth Century, childrens books and travel. Business is good and we have just opened an auction house in Moscow. Anna studied the antiquarian book trade at the Moscow University of Printing Art, and then I worked at Moskva, the largest bookstore in Moscow. Someday I hope I will have my own bookstore full of rare and interesting books.
Ken Gloss, proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop in Boston, which proclaims itself as one of the oldest and largest bookstores in the country, is an Antiques Roadshow appraiser, past president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Americas New England chapter and chairman of the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair.
Like the antiques business, the book business was hit by the general economic slowdown. The top end of the market, again like the antiques business, has recovered nicely. Rare books today are selling where they used to and the best of the best are bringing prices we havent seen before. The middle of the market is weak but our shop is able to do very well with the very inexpensive books. Thats because of our real estate situation. We own our building (in downtown Boston) and we own the vacant lot next to it. We use that lot for the $5 and under books, and the heavy foot traffic by the store brings buyers for those books. Many book dealers are not as fortunate as we are with the real estate. Those who have to deal with escalating rents cant do what we can.
Gloss made an interesting observation on the business today. Its like there are two totally different parts of the business. People arent buying many books that provide information, like books on art, or architecture, or gardening or the how-to books. The internet has hurt that part of the market. Much of that information is available free on sites like YouTube but those who are buying the book as an object itself, because its a first or exceptional edition, or by a favorite author, or a favorite subject, like childrens books, are very active. Those books move quickly.
Gloss also talked about what booksellers are doing to interest new collectors. For the first time, the Boston Book Fair offered free admission on Saturday and Sunday, charging only for the Friday night preview. We also distributed hundreds of free passes at the Boston Book Festival in Copley Square a couple of weeks ago. Thats a well-organized family event and draws a crowd that a formal book fair like this doesnt. We have an educational exhibit this year, Collecting the Boston Music Scene. We hope that will bring in more younger people. Weve encouraged our exhibitors to bring special books that we call Discovery. These are books of interest priced under $100, and the participating exhibitors have special signs in their booths indicating they are participating. And we have a number of free talks scheduled throughout the weekend.
For additional information, https://bostonbookfair.com or 617-266-6540.
Boston Book, Print And Ephemera Show
Marvin Getman, who produced the Boston Book, Print and Ephemera show at the Back Bay Events Center October 29, works hard to attract new collectors. Besides giving out many freebie tickets, he actively promotes his shows on social media. Opening at 8 am on Saturday, the show was scheduled to make it convenient for exhibitors from the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair to shop here, which they do. There is a long line before the show opens and dealers are making sales within a few minutes of the opening.
The mix of dealers differs slightly from the other book fair, with several dealers offering ephemera and photographica, along with first editions, childrens books, manuscripts, etc. A Thousand Words, Exeter, N.H., featured early editions of the Raggedy Ann books, priced at under $50 and Grabowski Rare Books, Lancaster, Penn., offered two signed Grandma Moses Christmas cards for $425, along with an early bible printed by Isaiah Thomas, founder of the American Antiquarian Society, priced at $1,450.
Several dealers reported brisk sales. New Yorker Emil Allakhverdov sold an original Russian lithograph postcard by Kazimir Malevich for $1,600, while Richard Mori, Milford, N.H., sold a 1628 handwritten journal by a minister from Matlock Bath, England. With 122 pages and a table of contents, it covered such subjects as demonology and witchcraft. Kurt Sanftleben, ReadEm Again Books, Montclair, Va., sold a photo album of a 1921 cross country automobile trip for $2,500.
Peter Luke, New Baltimore, N.Y., deals in wide variety of ephemera and does numerous shows around the country. He started out doing bottle shows in 1980 and gave up his full-time job in 1995 to concentrate on ephemera. Certain categories stuff on patent medicines, New England material before 1800, things relating to Western and Southern states do well. People want unique things like photo albums, diaries and certain store ledgers. Things that were personal, not mass produced. Broadsides do well for me and so do circus and theatrical things. In general, business gets better year to year, but like anything else, there are trends that you have to pay attention to as tastes change.
For additional information, www.neantiqueshows.com or 781-862-4039.
The Boston Public Librarys Shakespeare exhibition, on view in its central library location in Copley Square, runs through March 31. Shakespeare Unauthorized pulls back the curtain on 400 years of collaboration, confusion and even literary deception that surround the plays, poems and life of William Shakespeare, according to the library. Through the pages of these precious books, visitors can experience Shakespeare in his original language and spelling, just as he would have been read by book lovers and theatergoers hundreds of years ago.
The exhibition is in the central librarys McKim Exhibition Hall, 700 Boylston Street. For information, www.bpl.org or 617-536-5400.
John Segal of A Thousand Words, Exeter, N.H., brought a selection of children’s books and other literature. The Raggedy Ann books were priced in the $50 range.
—Boston Book, Print and Ephemera
First editions were available in all price ranges to suit all collectors. First Folio, Paris, Tenn., asked $35 for Harper Lee’s recent follow-up to her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, titled Go Set A Watchman.
—Boston International Antiquarian
The aisles filled up quickly when the show opened.
—Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Anna Syrovatskaya is a rare book cataloger with Biblionne, a Moscow bookseller. Her company deals, among other things, in Russian language books and here she’s holding the first Russian edition of Hemingway’s Death in The Afternoon, published in Moscow in 1934. The price was $3,600. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Bill Hutchison, Mendenhall, Penn., deals in maps, early printed books and reference books.
In case you thought you’d only find books at a book show, you would have been mistaken. Charles Thomas, Stratham, N.H., had three display cases of professionally mounted and identified beetles and other insects. The price was $750 for the three. —Boston Book, Print and Ephemera
Devon Eastland, director of Skinner’s rare books and manuscripts department, with her favorite set of books in the sale, a three-volume set of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, illustrated by Rockwell Kent. —Skinner
Bob Ritchie, Dogtown Books, Gloucester, Mass., holds a personal letter written by P.T. Barnum, priced at $1,500. The dealer had one of the more unusual titles at the show, The Illustrated History of Chastity Belts, 2,000 copies of which were printed in 1935. He was asking just $35 for it. —Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show
Four early Nineteenth Century rewards-of-merit, by the same hand, were priced at $2,000 by Eclectibles, Tolland, Conn., which priced the articulated, dressed, paper matador at $750. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
First Place Books, Walkersville, Md., specializes in fine bindings, antiquarian books, modern first editions and signed volumes. It has been in business since 1994.
—Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show
“Shakespeare Unauthorized” runs at the Copley Square branch of the Boston Public Library through March 31. Dozens of original, and early editions, of works like this rare 1623 volume of Shakespeare’s plays, known as the “First Folio,” are on display.
Bob Grabowski, Lancaster, Penn., had a 1791 King James bible printed by Isaiah Thomas that had belonged to a cousin of Betsy Ross. It had been bound by a Germantown, Penn., binder and, although it had some defects, it was priced at $1,450. —Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show
Theodora Harrington of Peter Harrington Rare Books, London, holds a first edition of Beatrix Potter’s first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Potter was unable to find a publisher when she started to write. She had 250 copies of this book printed at her own expense, which she gave to friends and family members. This copy was inscribed, and was priced at $44,000. —Boston International Antiquarian Book
Ken Gloss is the proprietor of Brattle Book Shop, Boston, with his wife, Joyce, which is one of the oldest bookstores in the country. He discussed his thoughts on the current state of the book market.
—Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair’s special exhibition, “Collecting The Boston Music Scene,” displayed a portion of the collection of David Bieber, formerly of radio station WBCN. It displayed concert posters, record albums and ephemera covering over 40 years of music history in Boston.
Terri Osborn, William Reese Company, New Haven, Conn., holds a rare pamphlet, The Authentic Life of Billy The Kid by Pat Garrett, “Sheriff of Lincoln County, by whom he was finally hunted down and captured by killing him.” Garret shot Billy in 1871 and his account was published one year later. As Garrett concluded, “Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims.” It was priced at $28,000.
—Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Alexandra Kaczenski, B&L Rootenberg, Sherman Oaks, Calif., explained that the Visual History of the World she is standing next to was published by Adams, in 1871. The 21 folding panels are designed to be a visual history of the world for use in schools. It was priced at $3,000. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
DeWolfe and Wood, Alfred, Maine, brought a painted Masonic tracing board from the Genoa, N.Y., lodge. Scott DeWolfe said that a number of such pieces were done for upstate New York lodges, circa 1820, but few come to the market. The lodge hopes to raise money for needed repairs to its building, and felt this was the best way of raising funds. The artist is unknown; the asking price was $14,000. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Not everything sold for four or five figures. A signed letter written by Connie Mack, baseball immortal, achieved $738. In it, Mack discusses his memories of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and some of the baseball players he knew. —Skinner
A first edition, seven-volume octavo set of John James Audubon’s Birds of North America, with 500 colored lithographs, realized $46,125. —Skinner
An 1875 edition of George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, with 31 hand-colored lithographs, reached $36,900.
Several elephant folio first edition Audubon prints were sold. “The Fish Hawk” was a hand-colored engraving, plate 81, from the Birds of America and it was the highest priced of the group, finishing at $43,050. —Skinner
Alexander Hamilton’s 1792 letter to the president of the First Bank of The United States, asking that they pay $2,000 “for supplying the troops with clothing for the ensuing year” brought $9,840. —Skinner
Selling for $31,980, this manuscript survey and description by George Washington was dated 1751. Washington began working as a surveyor’s assistant at the age of 16 in 1748.
This primitive profile portrait of George Washington is the first known American print of him. It was first used on a 1776 imprint of the Declaration of Independence and here is shown with Horatio Gates on Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack of 1777. It earned $11,070. —Skinner
Talking Leaves, Hooksett, N.H., displays a portion of its books on the Civil and Revolutionary Wars.
—Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show
John Reznikoff, University Archives, Westport, Conn., specializes in autographs, materials dealing the American Revolution, and early aviation items. He’s holding a manuscript written by Fidel Castro, in Spanish, with crossouts and marginal notations. In it, Castro is decrying US attitudes and actions, after the Bay of Pigs invasion failed. It may have been notes for a speech Castro gave to the United Nations. The price was $25,000. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Cliff Wright’s original watercolor illustration for the back cover of the British edition of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was available from John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller, San Francisco, $50,000. —Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Ann and Richard Thorner, Manchester, N.H., deal in historical prints and ephemera. Ann is holding an important print, published in London in 1779, depicting John Paul Jones shooting a sailor. They had bought it at Northeast Auctions earlier in the week and priced it here at $9,850.
—Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show
Bringing the highest price of the sale, $65,190 was H.J. Warre’s Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory, with 16 hand colored plates and map. Published in 1848, Warre had been sent by England to attempt to resolve a boundary dispute concerning Oregon and this volume was the report on his exploration. By the time he returned to England, the boundary dispute had been settled.
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