Published: May 17, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Connecticut River Book Auction
SOUTH GLASTONBURY, CONN. – Connecticut River Book Auction emerged from the former CFA Book Auction in 2017 when its founder, Tom Gullotta, decided to continue the firm’s niche in the world of book auctions – a book auction service that focuses on selling good used books and ephemera – under a new name. Since then, Connecticut River Book Auction has conducted regular auctions of good quality, used, rare and collectible books, ephemera, artwork and other items to a steady clientele of online book dealers, shop owners, museums and individual collectors from across New York and New England. The CFA of the old name stood for Child and Family Agency of Southeast Connecticut and was created to raise funds for that organization. And even today, after its expenses, Connecticut River Book Auction’s profit is given to Connecticut-based charities. On its website, it states, “We are interested in offering the re-sellable book whose value is between $20 and several hundred dollars. Our consignors are individuals downsizing their collections, estates and book dealers.”
There is another aspect to its low-key business model, according to Gullotta. “A Connecticut River Book Auction is as much a social event as it is a sale of books and ephemera, and the May 6 evening was no exception,” he said. “Shunning the trend of relying on the internet, the auction is one of the few remaining that utilizes a model of in-person bidding, absentee bids and phone calls. This approach enables 210 lots to be sold in under two hours much to the appreciation of those in attendance.”
That sale, conducted at South Congregational Church on Main Street, offered collectors of John F. Kennedy material an opportunity to obtain an inscribed copy of Profiles in Courage, which surpassed its reserve to sell for $2,645.
The volume came with an amusing backstory. The year is 1959 and JFK is testing the political waters by crisscrossing the United States meeting and speaking to numerous groups of citizens. He has two advantages over those who also seek the nomination of the Democratic party for the presidency of the United States. Not only does he project a handsome and youthful persona, but he is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for the 1957 book Profiles in Courage. This, his second publication, provided Kennedy with a ready-made platform to speak of defining moments past and project what courage meant going forward in a time of cold war tensions, racial strife and uncertain economic times. On the day this book was signed, Kennedy was in Ohio speaking at the Cleveland Women’s Book Club luncheon. As with nearly every appearance he made, his staff insured that copies of Profiles in Courage were available for purchase, and Kennedy graciously signed them. When Henry Maier approached Kennedy, he recalled JFK bursting into laughter and while boldly signing his book asked Maier how it felt to be the only other male at the event surrounded by so many lovely ladies.
Beyond political discourse, the auction offered a smorgasbord of subject matter. For example, a first edition of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October brought $374. Generating equal bidding interest was a first edition copy in book form of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. Those grappling with the perplexing rise of disinformation in our times will note that when Jackson’s fictional parable first appeared in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker magazine as a short story, it not only shocked and thrilled its readers, in some cases there were readers who assumed it was true. It sold for $357.
“Kinder, gentler reading was also available in the form of Our Hawaii Islands and Islanders by Charmian London,” noted Gullotta. “This, a revised edition, had the unique distinction of including a handwritten letter from the author to her publisher describing the book and her late husband – Jack London – in these words, ‘a love story of a great man, a lovely country and its loving people.'” It brought $230.
For those with an eye towards art and artisans, a first edition of El Greco of Toledo Painter of the Visible and the Invisible by Marias sold for $276, and a first edition of Moses Master Craftsmen of Newport The Townsends and Goddard realized $115.
Gullotta noted that the popularity of Thomas Hart Benton continues among collectors as seen by the sale of a Limited Edition Club (LEC) copy of Life on the Mississippi. Benton illustrated several Twain volumes for the LEC over his impressive career. This copy went out the door for $207. It was joined by another limited edition published by London’s Kelmscott Press. Published in 1893 and written by William Morris, Gothic Architecture A Lecture for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was purchased for $437.
Rounding out the sale were the usual whimsical items that make an appearance at each auction. In that category, a “Smokey the Bear” sign left the premises at $65.
All prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
The next Connecticut River Book Auction is scheduled for Friday, June 17. For information, www.ctriverbookauction.com or 860-908-8067.
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