Sotheby's Americana Week Auctions New York
Jan 14-24, 2022
Published: January 23, 2017
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
HARTFORD, CONN. – A midwinter snowstorm snarled traffic and made treacherous going when the 71st edition of Papermania Plus opened at the XL Center on January 7. Many of its longtime dealers found themselves hunkering down in the city that evening rather than risk the drive home and an iffy return the next day. Ultimately, show managers Arlene Shea and Gary Gipstein called early dismissal on Sunday, allowing the dealers to pack out at 2 pm rather than 4 pm. By then, the roads were fine, but many exhibitors hailing from the Cape and other areas of northern New England were eager to get home before dark and dig out. Gipstein said this was only the second time in more than 70 shows that the Sunday hours were truncated.
The weather definitely affected show attendance, although Gipstein said the gate was “better than expected. In spite of the weather and adjustment to the show, buyers and collectors showed up and things went smoothly. Folks that were here knew what they wanted.”
Their wish lists comprised a diverse complement of broadsides, trade cards, newspapers, ephemera, games, autographs, posters, photographs and more – along with a few nonpaper items like pottery, medals and souvenir thimbles.
A standout at Kuenzig Books and Scientific Instruments was a trio of limited edition prints relating to NASA’s Mars Rover missions, which have examined the planet’s surface and relayed science back to earth. The posters were created for Jet Propulsion Lab personnel and fewer than a dozen were made, ensuring their rarity, according to the Topsfield, Mass., dealer. Also on offer was a science fiction-themed original artwork by Victoria Poyser-Lisi (b 1949), known for her fantasy scenes for sci-fi fanzines and calendars. This particular artwork featuring a beatific beauty backed by lunar orbs and crescents had been featured on a Piers Anthony calendar in the late 1980s. Sales were good despite the weather, said Kuenzig, including a “nice Queen microscope in brass with original lacquer” that sold early on Saturday.
Peter Luke is a New Baltimore, N.Y., antiques and Americana dealer who always has a prodigious display of ephemera in bins taking up a sizable amount of display real estate. Here he was offering everything from rare sheet music based on Alice in Wonderland – one of three recorded copies, which sold at the show – to a rich trove of Stephen Foster sheet music, to an unusual piece of advertising for a lumberyard, circa 1870s-80s, that utilized tipped-on photographs of the operation. A blood-chilling rarity was an 1849 account of the trial and November 13, 1849, public execution of Marie and Frederic G. Manning. Marie (1821-1849) was a Swiss domestic servant who was hanged outside London’s Horsemonger Lane jail after she and her husband were convicted of the murder of her lover, Patrick O’Connor, in the case that became known as the “Bermondsey Horror.” It was the first time a husband and wife had been executed together in England since 1700.
According to Luke, English novelist Charles Dickens had attended the public execution, and it no doubt influenced him to later base one of his Bleak House characters – Mademoiselle Hortense, Lady Dedlock’s maid – on that of Marie Manning.
Norman and Doris Sandys – N&D Sandys on the dealer roster – came from Albertson, N.Y., and had much success selling turn-of-the-century herbariums and watercolor albums of native plants. Herbariums are systematically assembled collections of dried plants and flowers, hand done, so they are a marriage of science and folk art. One album that the couple still had in their possession on Sunday contained more than 70 samples. Sales were good, according to the dealers, including a book of cartoons, all hand done, circa 1850-70, as well as another book containing more seriously rendered caricatures of people known to the artist from the 1900s.
Brooklyn, N.Y., dealer Pat Reilly finds herself narrowing her focus to politics, sports and New York subjects, always looking for the graphically bold examples that are key to exhibiting at a paper show. On view she had a colorful group of Currier & Ives cards, a Puck magazine cover, a souvenir memorial handkerchief depicting US President Theodore Roosevelt, an early advertisement for “The President’s Suspenders” and a graphic cover signed Charles Cox for the turn-of-the-century The Bearings magazine that covered all things bicycle.
Everyone, of course, is familiar with the Grimms Fairy Tales version of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault involving a beautiful princess under a sleeping spell awakened by handsome prince. In pop culture, the images are usually Disneyesque, but Resser-Thorner Antiques, Manchester, N.H., was showing what Richard Thorner described as a tour-de-force etching from 1836 by Eugen Napoleon Neureuther (1806-1882), a German painter, etcher and illustrator, for one of the Berlin art clubs. Other standouts here were a bookplate from Robert Louis Stevenson’s library, which came from the author’s library in Samoa and was signed by his stepdaughter, as well as a presidential invitation for the inauguration of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on October 28, 1886, by Tiffany.
Maritime ephemera specialist Greg Gibson, owner of Ten Pound Island Book Company, Gloucester, Mass., showcased a rare clipper ship sailing card, an early form of B2B advertising, promoting passage from Melbourne, Australia, to San Francisco aboard the Louisa – “No Cabin Passengers Taken” – “Positively on July 25th.” Gibson said the show is always a good hunting ground and he was able to acquire the Civil War journal of Joshua Blake aboard USS Preble, July-Sept 1861, as well as the journal of Samuel Walker aboard the US Gunboat Kineo, July 1-August 29, 1863, of which he said the first half “reads like Apocalypse Now.”
Wilfrid M. de Freitas and Susan Ravdin came to the show from Montreal, Canada. The couple are general dealers in antiquarian and out-of-print books, but have some subject specialties, one of which was an 1881 illustrated catalog from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, an American builder of railroad locomotives in Philadelphia whose business bloomed in the Gilded Age. It was illustrated with 18 original albumen photographs and six full-page drawings of the company’s locomotives. The dealers acquired the book from the Montreal Historical Society as it changed its collecting focus. Susan especially liked a five-volume set they had brought to the show, first editions of All About Confectionery Series by Henry Harris and S.P. Borella, circa 1905-15. These were published for the baker’s trade, she said, and were filled with wonderful illustrations and period ads at the rear.
Perhaps one of the most interesting finds at the show was in the hands of Gil Rodriguez, owner of Darien, Conn.-based Gilann Books. It was a sheaf of blank, preprinted personal stationery of American author John Steinbeck on which the writer had also appended his signature. Quipped Rodriguez with a twinkle in his eye, “Now if only had I had a typewriter…”
The summer edition of Papermania Plus will return to the XL Center August 26-27. For information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-280-8339.
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