Swann Galleries will hold their spring offering of Fine Books & Autographs on Thursday, June 17. The auction will feature a strong showing of autographs by prominent American political figures, as well as bright minds from both the performing and visual arts. Literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is present alongside a selection of art, press and illustrated books.
In the nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature portion of the sale, James Joyce leads the offering with a signed deluxe limited issue of Ulysses, London, 1936 (est. $15,000-20,000), also by Joyce is a signed first edition, limited issue, of Finnegans Wake, London, 1939 (est. $6,000-9,000). Additional publications include a first edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and Fury, New York, 1929, available with the first state dust jacket (est. $5,000-7,500); a scarce first edition of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, New York, 1923 (est. $4,000-5,000); a first edition of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, New York, 1939, with a signed card and a letter from Steinbeck’s agents (est. $4,000-6,000); and a signed first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, New York, 1936, in the first issue dust jacket (est. $3,500-4,500). Poetry includes an author’s presentation copy of Robert Frost’s Collected Poems, New York, 1930, signed twice by Frost, with the entirety of Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening accomplished by him in holograph (est. $8,000-12,000); and a first edition of Pablo Neruda’s Canto General, Mexico City, 1950, with pictorial endpapers designed by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, signed by Neruda, Ribera and Siqueiros with an additional inscription by the poet (est. $2,500-3,500).
The autographs portion of the sale includes uncommonly inspiring items in nearly every major category of collecting. The Americana section includes an 1849 autograph letter signed by Abraham Lincoln to Whig activist George W. Rives (est. $10,000-15,000); and an 1823 ALS from Declaration signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton writing more than 20 years after the death of his friend, George Washington, that the General’s “great and disinterested services will be revered by every good citizen of these States to the gates of time” (est. $2,000-3,000). Another renowned General who helped create a nation was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who wrote in 1867 encouraging President Andrew Johnson, the members of Congress, and all Americans, to “trample underfoot every kind of individual prejudice in order to maintain intact the unity of the great Republic, the most powerful symbol of liberty in the world” (est. $3,500-5,000).
The post-war exportation of jobs began in the 1950s in places like Gloversville and Johnstown (Fulton County, NY) when glove factories discovered it was much cheaper to ship unfinished leather goods out of the country for completion. The perfect storm of post-war strikes for higher wages accompanied by a shrinking market for leather gloves accelerated the change as manufacturers and their suppliers struggled, and often failed, to survive. The surge in unemployment and economic decline that began in Fulton County was already well-established long before the term “rust belt” had even been thought of. And to give readers an idea of the importance of this “canary in a coal mine” case, consider that while growing up in Gloversville some people we knew looked with condescension on their “poor cousins” who lived in the small city of Saratoga Springs a few miles to the east.
Years later as industries throughout the country began closing in response to cheaper goods being imported from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and elsewhere, factory workers were losing their livelihoods at an accelerated but manageable rate. It really wasn't until the 1990s that the flood of imported products from China, often under international trade terms lacking in reciprocity, that the accelerated industrial decline turned into a rout. Far from being an old Russian-style, Marxist economy based on state ownership of the means of production (with all of its inefficiencies and uniformly low standard of living), China has more in common with the 1930s German national socialist partnership with private businesses operating under close governmental scrutiny and control.
A few of the companies that prospered (often using enforced or slave labor) under German national socialism included Hugo Boss (made snappy uniforms for the Brown Shirts, the SS and other government agencies), Volkswagen, BMW, Siemens, I.G. Farben (manufacturers of Zyklon-B), and others. Also, American companies operating in Germany that …more
PBA Galleries announced a valuable collection of original American Girl Dolls to be included in the Elite Americana & Rare Cartography sale on July 8th, 2021. PBA Galleries is offering the number one autographed copy of each of the five original dolls: Kirsten, Molly, Samantha, Felicity, and Addy. Each doll is signed and numbered number one by Pleasant Rowland and comes with a hardcover copy of her book, as well as a certificate of authenticity.
American Girl Dolls remain the most significant and iconic achievement of doll manufacturing and artistry from the 20th century. In 1986 Pleasant Rowland founded Pleasant Company. On May 5th of that year, the American Girl doll line was released. The original line included …more
On May 12, Hindman Auctions realized over $883,000 in 367 lots in its Fine Books and Manuscripts, including Americana sale. Active and competitive bidding led to the highest sold total for a Books and Manuscripts various owner sale in Hindman’s history and a robust 96 percent sell through rate. Outstanding bidder engagement was seen throughout the entire auction, but particularly with fine collections of Bibles and Currier and Ives prints. Since March, the Books & Manuscripts Department’s auctions have realized over $1.32 million.
The auction began with strong response to a selection of Bibles, which led to a 98 percent sell through rate for the session, highlighted by a copy of Robert Barker’s “He” Bible, the first edition of the King James Bible, published in 1611 (lot 7), which sold for $52,500 against a presale estimate of $8,000-12,000. A very fine tall copy of the Rheims New Testament (lot 4), the first edition of the Roman Catholic version of the New Testament in English, reached $17,500 thanks to competitive bidding. A copy of Richard Jugge’s Bible, the third quarto edition of Tyndale’s version and the last of Tyndale's New Testament (lot 3) realized $23,750, nearly four times its presale estimate.
The American Prints session, highlighted by a fine selection of Currier and Ives prints from a private collection, saw competitive bidding across all channels and ultimately achieved a 100 percent sell through rate. Leading the session was Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (lot 298) which sold for $22,500 against a presale estimate of $7,000-10,000. A Currier and Ives’ print of Yosemite Valley (lot 311) achieved a top price of $21,250, more than five times its presale estimate. Another highlight from the session was …more
Thanks for your news and Front Page comments. I moved last year and still have my books wrapped and in boxes in climate-controlled storage. I am 69 years of age, now, and living with my cat. During the Covid epidemic he has been a stalwart friend and companion, as is Book Source Magazine. However, I do miss receiving BSM in the mail, and joining in "the hunt" in local stores. Although book internet auctions are helping, I feel that many of the bargain finds may be destroyed during the Pandemic, or lost, to make way for the 'modern world' and its ever changing demands, which relegate the future of the book to collectors, museums, and "libraries".
I enjoyed your 'Reflection on the 2020 Election'. The Democrats in power still have the same mind set from the 60s & 70s, which reflects poorly on their position of power. Maybe they'll eventually find some revelation and wisdom in FDRs ability to realign the country, but with a new perspective for our times.
Today, I'm usually embarrassed for our country …more
Hindman Auctions presented its spring Fine Art sales this week, realizing more than $7.4 million across three days of sales, beating presale estimates, and setting global auction records. A renowned selection and competitive international bidding along with strong engagement with works by artists such as Alphonse Mucha, Edward Willis Redfield, Jim Nutt, Bernard Frize, Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella fueled high prices ensuring the success of the series of auctions. Property from the Collection of Noel and Kathryn Dickinson Wadsworth (Atlanta, Georgia), the Estate of Avis Hope Truska (Scottsdale, Arizona), the Miriam B. Swanson Trust (Chicago, Illinois), and the Collection of Ms. Mavis Staples (Chicago, Illinois), among others, contributed to the success.
The May 3 American and European Art auction fetched over $3.2 million in 136 lots, and featured a significant selection of Impressionist landscapes, and Modernist and Ashcan works. Leading the auction was Alphonse Mucha’s painting Woman with Flowering Branches (lot 136), which shattered its presale estimate of $60,000-80,000, ultimately achieving $456,500. Top performers also included Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita’s Les Deux Amies (lot 72), which realized $384,500 against a presale estimate of $150,000-$250,000. Strong engagement with Pennsylvania Impressionist works was demonstrated, including with Edward Willis Redfield’s The Peaceful Stream in Winter and Daniel Garber’s Near Solebury (lot 51 and 50), both of which realized $150,000, well above their presale estimates. George William Sotter’s Winter Night (lot 52) also saw competitive bidding and realized $118,500, more than double its presale estimate of $50,000-70,000.
Other standouts included Jean Dufy’s Vue de Balcon (lot 74) from 1926, which soared past its estimate of $40,000-60,000 to realize $81,250. Orville Bulman’s In the Jungle (lot 9) and Lê Phổ’s Fleurs (lot 68) also beat expectations, realizing $75,000 and $65,625, respectively. A new record was set by Mary Nicholena’s Looking Toward the Sea (lot 57), which realized more than double its presale estimate, selling for $17,500.
The May 4 Post War and Contemporary Art auction, set new records and realized over $2 million. Leading the auction was …more
It will be a long time before a full and accurate account of the 2020 U.S. presidential election will be published. Passions remain high, wounds are fresh, friendships have been damaged and lost, and one person's facts are another person's unverified anecdotal evidence – both sides claiming ownership of the real truth. And in case you haven't noticed there are few, if any, reliable fact-checkers to check the fact checkers.
Election fraud is nearly as old as the Republic – the origins of Tammany Hall predate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution by about a year, and in all that time we've never looked back. In modern times the Daley Machine, long a fixture in Chicago politics since its founding in the 1930s by Anton Cermak, became world famous in 1960 when late on election night it delivered Illinois' electoral vote to John Kennedy, thus ensuring his election as the 35th president. The process was simplicity itself. Chicago would traditionally hold its vote tally back until the downstate returns were in – then enough newly discovered votes would often be produced to ensure a Democrat victory. By some accounts the Nixon people were well aware of the fraud but in the interest of national tranquility, didn't challenge the results. On a smaller scale Frank Hague (Democrat) and “Nucky” Johnson (Republican) ran dueling election fraud operations in northern and southern New Jersey, according to the late American historian, Thomas Fleming.
Overshadowing everything in 2020 was the Trump factor. Even before the 2016 election he had become a favorite target of hatred and derision mainly because of his unfiltered and bombastic approach to addressing the very real problems facing the nation, along with people he didn't like very much.
As a one time Democrat turned populist with street smarts, Trump understood that the ruling elites of today have moved beyond Wall Street. Today they also occupy K Street, where money and political power have combined to …more
The next virtual Rare Books & Antiques Show will begin at 5 pm on April 30th and run though May 2nd. This will, I believe, be the fourth in a series of virtual events that began late in 2020. At the moment there are 21 exhibitors registered, with more expected to sign up in the days to come. Gadsden Promotions, organizers of Antique Shows Canada events. is a Prince Edward Island (Canada) based company that until recently has sponsored only live events in eastern Canada.
According to Jeff Gadsden, "the recent AntiqueshowsCanada virtual book and antique fair was the busiest one yet. There was a substantial increase in sales (with) a number of excellent booksellers doing the show for the first time. The success of that show has attracted new dealers to the upcoming show on April 30 - May 2. New dealers include David Mason Books (ABAC/ILAB) from Toronto, Norman Stringer Books and Ephemera, Trillium Books, and others. This will be the largest offering of books and ephemera to date."
Visitors to their website will be able to get a good preview of the breadth and quality of the books, antiques and art that will be on offer and also be able to familiarize themselves with the procedures and safeguards that are in place.
Northern New England Antiquarian Book Fair
The Northern New England Antiquarian Book Fair is scheduled for June 5th & 6th at the Everett Arena in Concord, New Hampshire. It will be one of the first, if not the first, antiquarian book fairs open to live attendance since early 2020. More details, as they become available will be reported in the weeks to come. In the meantime, for more information please contact the promoter Richard Mori at (603) 801-7176.
The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy: Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection, on view May 28 through September 12, 2021. The exhibition explores the elaborate stage design drawings produced by the Bibiena family and collected by the internationally acclaimed lighting designer Jules Fisher. It marks the first exhibition dedicated to Bibiena drawings in the United States in more than thirty years. For nearly a century, members of three generations of the Bibiena family were the most highly sought theater designers in Europe. Their revolutionary stage designs were used for operas, festivals, and courtly performances across Europe: from their native Italy to cities as far afield as Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg, and Lisbon. While some of these productions are recorded in engravings, the Bibiena style survives above all in the family’s extraordinary drawings, which demonstrate the range of their output—from energetic sketches to highly finished watercolors.
With representations of imagined palace interiors and lavish illusionistic architecture, this group of drawings highlights the visual splendor of the Baroque stage. Many demonstrate the family’s signature invention: the scena per angolo, or “scene viewed at an angle.” Replacing the static symmetry of earlier theater designs, the scena per angolo used multiple vanishing points to imagine sets of unprecedented monumentality, with a complexity of space never previously seen on the stage. The Bibiena family of artists traces its origins to Giovanni Maria Galli (1618–1665), who was born in the Tuscan town of Bibbiena but moved to Bologna, where he worked under the painter Francesco Albani. Following a common practice of the time, he came to be known in his adopted city by a toponymic surname, Galli da Bibiena (with “Bibbiena” shortened to “Bibiena”). His children and descendants, though born in Bologna and elsewhere, continued to use “Galli Bibiena,” or simply “Bibiena,” as the family name. …more
Booked Up (Archer City, TX). We are a large general bookstore dealing mainly in the humanities. Tel: (940) 574-2511. (New Arrivals)
D & D Galleries (P.O. Box 8413, Somerville, NJ). Founded in 1985, with specialties in British and American literature. Eclectic inventory (mostly English language) ranges from the 15th through the 20th centuries with sub-specialties in Fine Bindings, S.T.C. and Wing books, Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson), Charles Dickens, presentation and association material as well as 17th and 18th century British history. Members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and the Provincial Bookfair Association of Great Britain. Tel: (908) 904-1314.(Featured Selections)
Early Aeronautica (Midland, MI). Vintage books, documents & ephemera relating to early aviation. Tel: (989) 835-3908; (520) 373-2622 (Newest Arrivals)
Gibson's Books (3137 Old Highway 431, Owens Cross Roads, AL). Large stock, specializing in local and southern history, including Civil War, Southern fiction, cookery & ephemera. Also, back issues of Book Source Monthly/Book Source Magazine from 1985-2013. Tel: (256) 316-0054. (Newest Arrivals)
Old Editions (954 Oliver St., North Tonawanda, NY). Rare & Antiquarian Books, Paper & Ephemera/Prints, Posters & Original Art Works. One of the largest antiquarian bookstores in New York State. Tel: (716) 842-1734. (Featured Selections)
Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company (PRB&M/SessaBks) (Philadelphia, PA.). Early Books of Europe & the Americas, varia such as may catch our fancy. PRB&M's extensive, highly illustrated website offers scores of catalogues and lists browsable by topic, language, or century; correspondence is welcome in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, & French. Members ABAA/ILAB since 1984. Books unite us! firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: (215) 744-6734. (Survey a Selection)
Quill & Brush (Middletown, MD). Specialists in first edition literature, mysteries, poetry & collectible books in all fields. Authors of well-known books on book collecting & compilers of over 200 individual Author Price Guides. Visit us on the web, or in person by appointment. Tel: (301) 874-3200. (Newest Arrivals)
R & A Petrilla, Booksellers. (P.O. Box 306, Roosevelt, NJ). Established 1970. Online since 1995. Trading in unusual books, documents, and manuscripts in various fields of interest, including farm life.(New Arrivals)
The Jumping Frog. (56 Arbor Street Suite 107 Hartford CT) 160,000 items of ephemera, selected books & other collectibles. Established 1983. Not currently open for in-person browsing. Tel: 860-523-1622. Use Coupon "FrogBSM" for 20% discount at checkout. (Browse)
W.H. Adams, Antiquarian Books (Hobart, NY). General antiquarian with emphasis on England and early classics. Located in the Book Village of Hobart in the Catskills. Tel: (607) 538-9080. (Newest Arrivals or...)
(Watch this space for more exhibiting booksellers)
Potter & Potter Auctions' March 13, 2021 Fine Books and Manuscripts auction fetched more than $510,000 with a 96% sell-through rate. This exciting, 600 lot sale event featured extraordinary selections of antiquarian to modern titles, including first editions and important letters.
Potter and Potter's early spring literature event was a success by every measure. After a long day of energized bidding, 107 lots realized between $750-1,999; 50 lots realized between $2,000-9,999; and 6 lots broke the five digit mark. Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.
Lot #275, a typed signed letter from Albert Einstein to Mr. Sol Stein, estimated at $4,000-6,000 sold for $28,800. Dated March 10, 1954 and sent from Princeton, NJ, this one page note, written in English on embossed personal stationery, addressed the question, “What do you think about the nature of Communism and what are the best methods of combatting its influence?”
Lot #529, a typed signed letter from novelist James Baldwin including an unpublished essay and literary critique, was estimated at $2,000-3,000 and brought $14,400. This letter, dated March 1956, was postmarked from Paris and included its original envelope. It addressed many facets of the cultural and socio-economic hardships and realties faced by African Americans in early postwar America.
19th century books also did extremely well at this early spring event. Lot #127, J.J. Audubon's three volume The Quadrupeds of North America from 1854 was estimated at $3,500-5,000 and sold for $10,800. Published by V.G. Audubon in New York in 1854, this early octavo edition of Audubon’s final work contained 150 hand colored lithographed plates from the 1845–48 folio edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of America, and five of the plates from the rare …more
The Artists of the WPA were on exhibit at Swann Galleries’ Thursday, February 4 auction. The multi-departmental sale was headed by Harold Porcher, the house’s director of Modern and Post-War Art, and featured paintings, prints, photographs, posters and related ephemera by artists whose careers were sustained by the Works Progress Administration and other agencies of the New Deal.
The sale was led by a selection of 38 vintage silver prints spanning 1932-42 by John Vachon, a record for the grouping, that sold for $37,500. Vachon began his work for the Farm Security Administration as an assistant messenger. As his interest in photography grew, he began to make his own photographs and accompanied Arthur Rothstein on one of his assignments; in 1938 Vachon would have his first solo assignment for the FSA in Nebraska. Other photography highlights included Dorothea Lange, with Hoe Culture, Alabama Tenant Farmer near Anniston, silver print, 1936 ($8,125), and Migrant Mother, silver print, 1936, printed circa 1970 ($7,000); Berenice Abbott with Manhattan Bridge (Looking Up), silver contact print, 1936 ($7,000); and Peter Sekaer with Old Fashioned Kitchen on Virginia Farm, silver print, 1936, which was acquired by an institution ($5,250).
Norman Lewis, who worked sporadically with several entities within the WPA, produced one of the highlights among the prints on offer, with his 1943 lithograph Comrades selling for $9,375. Other lithographs that captured collector attention included Benton Spruance’s The 30’s-Windshield, 1939, which brought a record for the print at …more
(Review of "Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice")
According to the experience of most booksellers I know, Amazon and the internet have nearly trashed the antiquarian book trade – and in order to survive many independent booksellers have become data-entry catalogers for the online giants. I think it was at least twelve years ago when I first heard someone's opinion that antiquarian book-selling had become a rat race to the bottom.
And then there's the crazy pricing. Many of us have seen identical copies of the same title offered on-line for anywhere from 99¢ to $100,000, so when recently published books, especially good ones, become remaindered for whatever reason there are often incredible bargains to be had.
Once in a fit of temporary madness I bought a case or two of Geoffrey Wawro's Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (New York, Penguin, 2010) on the internet (Biblio). Written by a professor of military history at the University of North Texas and published at $37.95, the three or four dollars a copy I paid was actually cheaper than the paperback version, and missionary-like I offered to sell them at cost to anyone interested in the the Middle East. I had already read the book and naïvely thought others would jump at the chance – I thought wrong and except for the few copies I gave away, I still have most of the shipment.
In 2014 another controversial book was published that explored corruption and obstruction of justice within the Department of Justice. The title, appropriately enough, is Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice (Dallas, Brown Publishing Group, 2014), by Sidney Powell. According to her bio “Sidney Powell served in the Department of Justice for ten years” and for twenty years has been a federal appeals attorney. Also, “She was the youngest Assistant United States Attorney in the country and the youngest elected fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, for which she also served as President”.
Much of the book explores in excruciating detail the Federal prosecutions that grew out of the Enron collapse in the early years of the new century (and) the 2008 prosecution, conviction, and ultimate acquittal and exoneration of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. (The Stevens case came at a politically convenient time that changed the balance of power in the Senate). In all high profile prosecutions, the cost of providing an adequate defense places an immense economic burden on the accused, and in a Gogolesque scenario, when threatened with financial ruin many defendants have struck immunity deals and have become witnesses for the prosecution, telling the court what they've been instructed to say, even if they absolutely know it to be untrue or misleading. …more
The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents an exhibition celebrating the remarkable collection of drawings assembled by one of America’s foremost art dealers, Richard Gray, and his wife, the art historian Mary L. Gray. Encompassing works made in Europe and the United States between the fifteenth and the twenty-first century, the Gray Collection represents a stimulating survey of key aspects in the long and distinguished history of drawing.
Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection, on view February 19 through June 6, 2021, includes many outstanding works from the collection, which was amassed over the course of nearly fifty years. While there are many examples of sheets by established artists—Rubens, Boucher, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, Picasso, and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), among others, the Grays were more interested in skill than celebrity, and many of the exceptional drawings in their collection bear the names of lesser-known draftsmen.
In all eras, keenly aware of their place in the history of art, many of the artists consistently engaged in lively conversations with the works of their contemporaries and forebears. Juxtaposing drawings from distinct periods and places, Conversations in Drawing also explores these visual connections, highlighting the continuities and innovations that have emerged over the course of the medium’s evolution.
The exhibition includes a large number of works focused on the human figure, underscoring the fundamental role of figure drawing and the body. Highlights include Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) Two Dancers (1925), which the artist created while observing rehearsals of the Ballets Russes, and Giovanni Battista Naldini’s (1537–1591) Study of a Seated Youth (ca. 1575), a brilliant example of Florentine draftsmanship at the end of the sixteenth century. Naldini’s drawing is a carefully posed serpentine figure, whose …more
Many of you know about or have seen the short film entitled The Last Bookshop which can be viewed on YouTube. (click on the still photo) A little more than 20 minutes long, it features two actors – an elderly bookseller and a young boy whose family's electronic media system has broken down and who discovers a bookshop from the past while aimlessly wandering the streets of a post modern Amazonian dystopia in which shops have disappeared from the streets of towns and villages of a society that has finally gotten what it wished for. The filming was done at various bookshop locations, including Halls Bookshop in Royal Tunbridge Wells (for the exterior shots) and at Baggins Books in Rochester (Kent). Most of the interior scenes, showing endless ranges of shelving stretching from floor to ceiling, were made at Baggins, one of the largest bookshops in England and one of two bookshops (the other being Piccadilly Rare Books in Ticehurst) owned by Paul Minet, who contributed his column, Letter from England, to this magazine for many years. When Paul died in 2012 Baggins was given to the members of staff – which sounds very much like Paul and Sheila.
Speaking of Paul Minet, some of you may remember his column in Book Source Magazine but never had a chance to visit Baggins. It was easy to get lost in the place, as you might guess by watching the film. The actor playing the bookseller in no way resembled Paul, who was a towering figure and eminently capable of any physical task involving having to deal with massive quantities of books (or anything else, I would have guessed). Paul was also a journalist, writing for and editing The New Daily, a Liberal newspaper published in the 1960s, founder and editor of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review (ABMR), editor of both The British Diarist and Royalty Digest, and a long-time columnist for Book Source Magazine. His philanthropic activities mainly involved his family's support and efforts on behalf of Chetham's Library in Manchester, founded in 1653 and the oldest public library in the …more
[Ed. Note: Grondahl's story was first published in the Albany Times Union and then was linked to by "Sheppard's Confidential" (UK) who probably up against a publishing deadline of their own, inadvertently relocated the Hobart Book Village to Hobart, Tasmania (Australia). Last we heard Hobart is still down the road and comfortably nestled in the Catskills, along side the west branch of the Delaware River. We can drive there in about an hour and a half from Cazenovia, NY. Although it's a popular out-of-town destination for bookish day trippers from New York City, it's not as well known in our part of the state as I think it should be.]
Friends recommended that we make a visit to the Hobart Book Village in Delaware County, and on a raw and rainy recent Saturday, my wife, Mary, and I headed west on Interstate 88. Our dog, Lily, curled up in the back seat.
We are book lovers, but I also wanted to learn if a half-dozen used book stores along Main Street could save a down-on-its-luck Catskills village of fewer than 500 people. The original story of the Hobart Book Village resembles the plot of a novel, filled with interesting characters and twists of fate.
Bill and Diana Adams were pioneers. They lived and worked for decades in Manhattan, she as a lawyer and he as a physician. A detour driving back from a wedding in Detroit 20 years ago landed them in Hobart. On impulse, they rented a storefront. Their book addiction overflowed their apartment and they needed space. “It was cheaper than storing the books in New York City,” she said. "We started with three bookcases.”
The likelihood of the return of antiquarian book fairs as we knew them is fraught with uncertainty as of this writing. For one thing, they were already in trouble before the Corona virus hit. And, as everyone knows, Amazon has been wildly successful in destroying independent bookshops as we knew them, along with many of the traditional retail stores of cities large and small throughout the country. To help fill that lacunae antiquarian book fairs, for the past several decades, had provided the traveling road show, the moveable feast of bookish delights where bibliophiles discovered material they never knew existed while meeting up with old friends and colleagues - in short, a wonderful excuse for a road trip. Book fairs, however, are expensive to produce, raising the costs to exhibitors. Add to this the reality that attendance has been falling off in recent years with the resulting decline in bookseller participation. (our own local antiquarian book fair was discontinued many years ago, due to lack of interest)
While the Corona virus may have put paid to most antiquarian book fairs, especially the smaller regional ones, the rise of "virtual" antiquarian book fairs has seen some success. When we think "virtual" these days, many of us with Zoom-fatigue may understandably be turned off by the idea of more of the same. Not really the case, as I discovered, when I logged on to Gadsden's Antiques, Collectibles, Rare Books & Ephemera Show late last year. There were both Canadian and American exhibitors with small, but carefully curated offerings of well catalogued and stunningly illustrated (images of the) books. Easy to navigate with plenty of ways to contact the sellers, and all taking place within a few days. As the items sold, the fact was indicated, and anyone who snoozed, lost.
Our own "Biblio Paradiso" is a low cost alternative, with exhibitors linking to their own online platforms (web sites) where books are catalogued and illustrated according to each bookseller's own standard of description. All sponsors and supporters of this magazine are eligible for a free listing.
Swann Galleries’ Tuesday, November 17 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts saw great success across categories with a 90% sell-through rate by lot, and closed above the total high-estimate at $675,481.
“Literature tipped over to an eye-opening 95% of all lots sold. Steadfast buyer confidence, a constant throughout the entire sale, drove high prices via a multitude of bidding platforms,” remarked John Larson, the house’s specialist for literature and art books. Enthusiasm for Jane Austen proved to be enduring as 100% of the 12 works by the author on offer found buyers.The success comes after the house offered a complete run of first editions of Austen’s novels in rare period binding earlier in the year. Highlights from this sale’s selection included first editions of Pride and Prejudice, 1813 ($75,000), Sense and Sensibility, 1811 ($57,500), Mansfield Park, 1814 ($16,250), Emma, 1816 ($15,000), and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, 1818 ($10,625).
Other nineteenth-century literature of note included an exceptional association copy of Charles Dickens’ American Notes for General Circulation, 1842. The first edition presentation copy from Dickens’ first tour in the United States included an inscription to Richard Henry Dana, Jr., the author of the memoir Two Years Before the Mast, which sold for $35,000. John Keats’ Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, 1820 ($9,375), and an inscribed presentation copy of Oscar Wilde’s Poems, 1882 ($6,250), also featured. Twentieth-century literature saw success with a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960, by Harper Lee with an inscribed leaf laid into the copy ($6,750); and a first edition of the most influential economic work of the twentieth century John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936 ($7,000).
Of the autographs offering specialist Marco Tomaschett noted, “signed books performed surprisingly well: an Albert Schweitzer inscribed book realized three times the high estimate at $2,250; two uncommon books signed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry both exceeded their high estimates at $3,250 and $1,820, respectively; and most surprising was an uncommon pamphlet signed and inscribed by Ezra Pound which realized six times the high estimate at $7,500!” Americana also proved to be popular among autograph buyers. Highlights included partly-printed documents, signed by George Washington as President and counter-signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, granting permission to a ship in 1894 in three languages ($22,500); Abraham Lincoln as President with the 1863 issue ordering New York to furnish 2,050 troops under the Enrollment Act of March 3, 1863 ($18,750); and John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress issuing an uncommon privateer commission during …more
Swann Galleries’ Thursday, November 12 sale of Old Master Through Modern Prints brought in “a strong turnout of new buyers and bidding was aggressive for modern American prints and many other exceptional prices for Old Masters and modern European graphics,” said Todd Weyman, the house’s specialist for the sale.
The sale was led by the record-setting New York, a scarce 1925 lithograph by Louis Lozowick. Only three impressions of the work had been seen at auction in the past 30 years, leading to an auction record for any print by the artist at $81,250. The previous record for Lozowick was set by Swann in 2014 when Traffic, 1930, sold for $42,500.
Other American printmakers included Martin Lewis with two 1930 drypoints of New York scenes: an evening summer scene in Shadow Dance, which crossed the block at $45,000, and a frigid winter moment with Stoops in Snow, which earned $32,500; Edward Hopper’s Night Shadows, etching, 1921, reached $25,000; and Paul Cadmus’s Going South, 1934, at $21,250—a record for the etching.
Rembrandt van Rijn led the Old Master offering with the early etching A Beggar Seated on a Bank, 1630, likely a self-portrait, at $37,500. Also by the Dutch master was The Descent from the Cross: Second Plate, etching, 1633, which saw $37,500, and Christ before Pilate: Large Plate, etching, 1635, at $20,000. Albrecht Dürer was present with Hercules, or the Effects of Jealousy, engraving, 1498, which sold for $25,000.
European stalwarts featured prints by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Maurits C. Escher. Picasso's works featured a portrait of a young woman Buste au Corsage à Carreaux, lithograph, 1957, which brought $32,500, and Les Saltimbanques, a 1922 color aquatint of two young acrobats, at $15,000. Highlights from the Miró offerings included the abstract scenes: Série Noire et Rouge, color etching, 1938, earning $25,000; Danseuse Créole, color aquatint, 1978, earning $23,750; and Les Trois Sœurs, etching, 1938, at $17,500. Escher’s 1944 tessellation Encounter, seemingly demonstrating evolution, realized $17,500.
Not too long ago I caught a PBS broadcast of a production of one of the grandest of French operas, Hector Berlioz's “Les Troyens”. Berlioz himself wrote the libretto based on the Aeneid, a sort of Roman-centered epic poem that Virgil concocted from various sources, including a rip-roaring tale by a blind poet named Homer who may or may not have been blind or who may or may not have even existed. Either way it doesn't much matter because the story is a good one.
The first two acts of the opera center around Cassandra, the daughter of Priam who had received the gift of prophecy and then, according to which story you believe, was cursed by Apollo when she refused his attentions which turned out to be more than Platonic. The curse ran something like this – she could predict, prophesy, rant and otherwise warn about all sorts of bad things to come until she was blue in the face, but no matter what she might say no one would believe her. But that was only the half of it – for her troubles she would be insulted, branded as a liar, a mad woman or all three.
In one of her delusions she thought there was something fishy and not quite right about the gigantic wooden horse that the Greeks had wheeled up in front of the gates of the city. Right off she smelled a rat (or maybe it was the fish) and set out with an axe and a torch to destroy the thing along with any cargo that might be in the hold. �more
"With over an over 80% sell through rate, and with 16 of the top 17 lots selling to collectors, Swann Galleries’s Thursday, October 15, Rare & Important Travel Poster auction definitively showed that the market, and specifically private collectors, has remained robust and competitive,” noted Nicholas D. Lowry, Swann president and specialist for the annual sale.
The auction delivered seven artists records, including the top lots of the sale. John Held, Jr.’s 1925 bird’s-eye view of Nantucket, which earned $21,250 over a $6,000 to $9,000 estimate; and Paul George Lawler’s ad for travel to Hawaii via San Francisco created for Pan Am airlines, which also brought $21,250. The midcentury modern design New York / Fly TWA, 1956, earned David Klein a new artist record at $12,500. Rare posters by Michael Rudolf Wening and Seaverns W. Hilton brought attention from collectors. Wening’s Siam / Beautiful Bangkok / The Jewel City of Asia, circa 1920s, earned a record at $9,375, and Hilton’s Lewis and Clark / Northern Pacific, 1920, at $6,250. Additional records were earned by Charles W. Holmes and Miles W. Sater.
The auction resulted in two discoveries with Frank Lemen’s previously unattributed circa-1952 design for Bermuda, which sold for $1,000, and the unsigned The Palisades of the Hudson / New York Central Lines, circa 1930s, which earned $5,750 and was attributed to Anthony Hansen after research found the image in the New York Central Line’s 1931 calendar with Hansen’s name attached.
Additional highlights included winter scenes by Emil Cardinaux: Zermatt / Matterhorn Schweiz, 1908, which realized $11,875, and Winter in der Schweiz, 1921, which brought $11,875. Powerful train images featured Leslie Ragan’s The New 20th Century Limited, 1939, at …more
Before my maternal grandfather arrived in the United States to seek a new life and job opportunities that weren't available to many young men from the moors of rural Devon (the Hatherleigh and Torrington areas weren't as trendy in the late 1880s as they are now), he shipped out to Argentina which until then had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. His timing couldn't have been worse.
About the time of his arrival or shortly afterwards, there was a major wheat crop failure, a collapse of many of the major banks and all of it leading to the panic of 1893 and widespread …more
by Thomas Fleming (Society of American Historians)
Ed. Note: The late Mr. Fleming, who died in 2017 at the age of 90, was a former president of the Society of American Historians. He and his wife, Alice Mulcahy Fleming, between them have written and published more books than most people have read. The column was clipped from a newspaper (unknown) several years ago and I came across it while cleaning my office in preparation for the monthly meeting of our local Shakespeare Club. Permission to reprint was granted by Mrs. Fleming. (Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose)
Some youthful memories were stirred by the news this week that the president plans to use his State of the Union speech next Tuesday to urge Congress to make voter registration and ballot-casting easier. Like Mr. Obama, I come from a city with a colorful history of political corruption and vote fraud.
The president's town is Chicago, mine is Jersey City. Both were solidly Democratic in the 1930s and '40s, and their mayors were close friends. At one point in the early '30s, Jersey City's Frank Hague called Chicago's Ed Kelly to say he needed $2 million as soon as possible to survive a coming election. According to my father – one of Boss Hague's right-hand men – a dapper fellow who had taken an overnight train arrived at Jersey City's City Hall the next morning, suitcase in hand, cash inside.
Those were the days when it was glorious to be a Democrat. As a historian, I give talks from time to time. In a recent one, called “Us Against Them,” I said it was we Irish and our Italian, Polish and other ethnic allies against “the dirty rotten stinking WASP Republicans of New Jersey.” By thus demeaning the opposition, we had clear consciences as we rolled up killer majorities using tactics that had little to do with the election laws.
My grandmother Mary Dolan died in 1940. But she voted Democratic for the next 10 years. An election bureau official came to our door one time and asked if Mrs. Dolan was still living in our house. “She's upstairs taking a nap,” I replied. …more
Potter & Pottert's October 20th Fine Books and Manuscripts sale did well in every respect. When the hammer fell for the last time, 98 lots fetched $750-2,499; 23 lots bought $2,500-$9,999; and four lots broke the $10,000 mark. Prices noted include the 20% buyer's premium.
Museum quality fine art, paintings, and prints were among the top lot slots in the sale. Pablo Picasso's Le Pigeonneau, was estimated at $10,000-15,000 and brought $37,500. The hand colored and signed artist's proof from 1939 was printed in Paris by Robert Blanchet and was accompanied by two letters of authenticity; David Hockney's Ossie and Mo, was estimated at $1,000-2,000 and made $4,800 - almost five times the low estimate. This signed work, numbered 4/75, was printed by Maurice Payne on Chisbrook handmade paper and published by the Petersburg Press in 1968. William Adolphe Bouguereau's beautifully rendered Study of the Head of a Brunette Woman, sold for …more
The Hobart Book Village located in the northern Catskills, if not the only, is by far the most prominent book village in the United States. Don Dales, a visionary local property owner from Hobart, a once a sleepy village with mostly empty stores, teamed up with William Adams (a retired physician) and his wife Diana (a retired attorney) to reinvent the town along bookish lines, and then set about trying to recruit other booksellers to join them in the project. Both Dales and the Adams would certainly be the first to admit that their inspiration was based on the pioneering efforts of Richard Booth who turned Hay-on-Wye, a small town in Wales, into the world famous destination it is today. Other rural villages have tried to emulate that model, but except for Wigtown in Scotland, and Hobart, few have had lasting success. About a year or so ago, after being the subject of an article in the Guardian, Hobart's story was picked by the NBC morning television program Today, where it can still be viewed.
The Adams, who now trade under the name Wm.H. Adams, Antiquarian Books, previously worked in Manhattan and traveled to Hobart during vacations, weekends and at every opportunity. During that period they bought a property and decided to make Hobart their second home and base of their antiquarian book business.
CGTN (China Global Television Network) is one of several international television services we receive off the air (no cable or satellite required) from WCNY, our nearby PBS station. Very recently CGTN aired a special report on the Hobart Book Village and conducted interviews with the Adams, Dales, other local booksellers, and the owner of the Bull & Garland Pub. If you didn't see the story when originally broadcast, you can watch it by clicking here or on the above image of the creek that meanders through the village. …more