Over 600 lots of rare, unusual, and valuable material, including books, manuscripts, maps, directories, photographs, graphic items, ephemera, and more will be offered by PBA Galleries in their Americana, Travel & Exploration, World History, and Cartography auction on Thursday, June 29th. The items range from original letters of the California Gold Rush to a rare Russian propaganda poster produced during World War II, with original photographs and travel albums, rare maps from the 17th through 20th centuries, important accounts of travels across the United States and around the World, letters and photographs signed by those who made and dropped the first atomic bombs, a significant archive of letters to and from William Randolph Hearst, and a large selection of Directories of U.S. cities and states.
An important archive letters from the California Gold Rush highlights the sale. The thirty-six letters and notes were written by brothers John and Thomas Emery from California to their family in New Brunswick, Canada. The letters span about three and a half years and present an insightful and uncommon perspective of the great tableau that was the California Gold Rush. The young Canadian brothers were only too eager to leave their difficult lives as farmers and merchants for the lure of quick and easy riches to be found in the Golden State, only to face with unforeseen hardships and futility. Included in the lot is a 19th century vintage tin box where the letters were stored for much of the last century and a half. (estimate: $20,000-$30,000)
Letters and accounts also featured in the sale include the very rare Briefe Relation of the Discovery and Plantation of New England, 1622, an account of the earliest exploration and settlement of New England, with some leaves in fine manuscript facsimile (estimate: $3,000-$5,000); an archive of antebellum letters relating to the horrors of slavery written by a friend of a young James Garfield (estimate: $7000-$10,000); and a manuscript account of the Hiroshima bombing mission by Harold Agnew, an American physicist who was an observer on The Great Artiste which tailed the Enola Gay on its ůmore
John C. Huckans Books. A very small selection of rare, scarce & unusual books in the areas of Americana, Literature, Latin Americana, Utopian Communities, Miscellanea offered for sale by John C. Huckans Books.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) occupies a lofty place in American cultural history. He spent two years in a cabin by Walden Pond and a single night in jail, and out of those experiences grew two of this country’s most influential works: his book Walden and the essay known as “Civil Disobedience.” But his lifelong journal—more voluminous by far than his published writings—reveals a fuller, more intimate picture of a man of wide-ranging interests and a profound commitment to living responsibly and passionately. Now, in a major new exhibition entitled This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal opening June 2 at the Morgan Library & Museum, nearly one hundred items have been brought together in the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the author. Marking the 200th anniversary of his birth and organized in partnership with the Concord Museum in Thoreau’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, the show centers on the journal he kept throughout his life and its importance in understanding the essential Thoreau. More than twenty of Thoreau’s journal notebooks are shown along with letters and manuscripts, books from his library, pressed plants from his herbarium, and important personal artifacts. Also featured are the only two photographs for which he sat during his lifetime, shown together for the first time. [Benjamin D. Maxham (1821–1889), Henry D. Thoreau, Daguerreotype, Worcester, Massachusetts, June 18, 1856. Berg Collection, New York Public Library.] The exhibition runs through September 10. ůmore
The annual Cooperstown Antiquarian Book Fair is a one day event that will take place on Saturday, June 24th from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and has always been held the last Saturday in June. The fair attracts an eclectic mix of antiquarian book dealers offering a wide variety of rare and used books on many subjects, including maps, prints, ephemera and post cards. Admission is $4.00. The fair has been held in the gymnasium of the Clark Sports Center on Susquehanna Avenue in Cooperstown since the fair’s beginning over twenty years ago. The Sports Center has just completed a multi-year renovation and the gym is now air conditioned with plenty of immediately adjacent free parking – a plus in the village of Cooperstown which draws so many vacationers to its museums and the Glimmerglass Festival that parking is sometimes a problem.
Among the dealers this year are several local booksellers including Leatherstalking Books, Wm. Adams Books (Hobart), and ůmore
As we have established the book business is always at heart a “Treasure Hunt”. It's axiomatic that experience will bring success if paired with hard work and a little luck. Remarkably the luck factor tends to increase in direct proportion to the amount of hard work spent, but that's another story. At the annual week-long Colorado Antiquarian Books Seminar (CABS), held each Summer in Colorado Springs, the faculty, all dedicated antiquarian booksellers themselves, advise students to “Look At The Book”! That mantra is repeated ad infinitum throughout the week, yet it is the essential kernel from which all evaluation proceeds. Great advice even for those of us who have been engaged in this business for years. Careful examination of the book speaks volumes, (sorry), in identifying the specifics of the item. Edition, age, in some cases scarcity, provenance, printer, binding designer, watermarks, limitation, importance and value can be largely determined by that initial observation…but sometimes pieces just speak to you.
Often there is just something about an obscure book or piece of ephemera that gnaws at you. It demands more attention and I find myself setting them aside for further review. Recently as I was working through a box of miscellaneous old paper, largely publishing house advertisements for forthcoming books all from the 1890s to the 1920s I saw a small bifolium – a bifolium is a sheet of paper or parchment with writing or printing on the recto and verso of a folded sheet, creating four leaves or pages. There was no indication of ůmore
In Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit, Tom Pinch goes to Salisbury to meet Mr. Pecksniff’s new pupil, and with time to spare he roams the streets:
But what were even gold and silver to the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed came issuing forth….That whiff of Russian leather, too, and rows and rows of volumes, neatly ranged within: what happiness did they suggest! And in the window were the spic-and-span new works from London…. What a heart-breaking shop it was.
Mr. Meador in these pages has already taken up my theme with poignant elegance – nay, eloquence; but here I offer just a few nostalgic notes. When I was young and twenty – like A.E. Housman – there was a used/rare/books and china shop here in Kennebunkport – The Old Eagle Bookshop— under the hand of Copelin Day, whose vintage 1770’s house has alas been re-vintaged. Mr. Day had a prodigious limp and was a curmudgeon of magnitude, but each day, weather notwithstanding, ůmore
The Victorian period, especially in England, was a hotbed for architectural follies. In an article on Victorian follies in the July 2003 issue of The Antiquer, Adele Kenny notes several definitions, including the Oxford English Dictionary’s kindly and understated — “a popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder.” Chambers goes a bit further with “a great useless structure, or one left unfinished, having begun without a reckoning of the cost” and the Oxford Companion to Gardens, in case we still don’t get it, says architectural follies are “characterized by a certain excess in terms of eccentricity, cost or conspicuous inutility.” I think the two words “conspicuous inutility” sum it up best, but say what you will a lot of us love them all the same.
Architectural follies began to appear in England during the 18th century but it wasn’t until the early industrial period of the 19th century that wealthy new owners of landed estates were able to indulge their fantasies on a grand scale. ůmore
The U.S. Election of 2016 was a game-changer for all sorts of reasons. To say the populist revolt came as a surprise to party regulars across the political spectrum is an obvious understatement, but the resulting emotional meltdown by people still in shock over the shifting loyalty and unexpected response of traditional working class voters (many of whom had supported Democrats since the Great Depression of the 1930s), only shows that it pays to do your homework. People who follow this column will recall that in July of 2016 we explained some of the reasons why Trump would perform bigly¹ in the 2016 general election. What follows is some observation and analysis that may contribute towards an understanding of recent trends. Or maybe not. ůmore
The literature of the Nakba (expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinian people, starting on or about May 15, 1948) is vast. There are many published personal narratives such as Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon a Country (NY, Farrar, Straus, 2007) and Karl Sabbagh’s Palestine, A Personal History (NY, Grove Press, 2007), unsparing historical accounts such as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, OneWorld, 2006), and countless books and essays focusing on various aspects of the struggle. There is even a significant sub-genre of literature ůmore
Remember Peanutgate? Didn't think so, because I just made it up. At any rate, back in 2012 the grandson of a former president and one-time peanut farmer caused a bit of a ruckus by tracking down the source of a secretly recorded video of a meeting between Mitt Romney with some Florida campaign contributors in which Romney made some candid remarks about the 47% who were unlikely to support him in any case. James Carter arranged to have the 'hacked' video leaked to Mother Jones magazine and according to CNN on February 21, 2013 . . . ůmore
As far as I know, I am one of only two members of the Johnson Society of Australia who are booksellers. I strongly suspect that I am the only one who has ever felt ambivalent, even fraudulent, about his membership. Although I am not, I think, an unclubable man, when I attended my first (and only) meeting of the society, held in the elegant upstairs chambers of Bell's Hotel in South Melbourne, I skulked in the background, feeling like an interloper, an impostor. I was the Great Sham of Literature. Why? For one thing, at the time I had not read more than odd fragments of Dr. Johnson's writings. For another, a lot of what I had read fairly made my blood boil. And yet, and yet. Something about the man, while it repelled me, also attracted me, fascinated me, sucked me in. Enough, clearly, to make me want to join the club, pay my dues and turn up at the meeting. Not as a saboteur or as a heckler but in good faith. Even so, at that Johnson Society meeting ůmore
Strong Showing for Edward S. Curtis Photographs at Swann
On Thursday, April 20, Swann Galleries offered Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks, setting records for early and modern works alike. The sale performed well overall, with 71% of works offered finding buyers.
Swann Galleries consistently offers a varied selection of rare and iconic works by Edward S. Curtis, with nearly all of the offered lots selling above or within the estimate in this sale. Highlights included a striking portrait of Red Cloud, Oglala, 1905, which sold for $32,500, a record for the work, above a high estimate of $9,000. The Scout, Apache, 1906, a dramatic orotone in the original frame depicting a Native American silhouetted on a horse, more than doubled its high estimate of $12,000 to sell for $27,500, a record for an orotone of the image; another orotone in its original frame, An Oasis in the Badlands, 1905, was purchased by a collector for $21,250, above a high estimate of $15,000.
Bastions of the art of photography performed well, with the highest price in the sale going to a group of 60 plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s seminal Animal Locomotion, 1887, at $45,000. Ansel Adams’s iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, printed circa 1976, went for $42,500. Five of the six works offered by New York-based vernacular photographer Weegee (née Arthur Fellig) found buyers, led by Coney Island, 1940, at $13,750.
The cover lot for the sale was an unusual version of Toni Frissell’s breathtaking A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1957—the image was printed in reverse, with the notation “This is backwards” on the verso ($12,500).
Works from the last 50 years performed exceptionally well, with high prices going to Robert Frank’s Sick of Goodby’s, Mabou, 1978, and Zuma #9, 1978, by John Divola ($32,500 and $10,000, respectively). Both offered works by Peter Hujar far surpassed their high estimates: a trio of portraits of Robert Wilson, Ann Wilson and Sheryl Sutton, 1975, reached $27,500, above a high estimate of $12,000, while the striking 1985 Shack, Queens, more than doubled its high estimate of $6,000 to sell to a collector for $13,750. A suite of five photographs by Duane Michals, titled Narcissus, 1985, soared past its high estimate of $9,000 to sell after rapid bidding for $26,000, a record for the work.
Daile Kaplan, Director of Photographs & Photobooks at Swann Galleries, said of the sale ůmore
Laugh about it, shout about it When you've got to choose Every way you look at this you lose...
I think our presidential elections have become perpetual reality television for all sorts of reasons – for one thing it gives steady jobs to political reporters and a lot of advertising dollars for people in the television news business. We might hope it will be over and done with come November 8th, but I suspect this is the nightmare that won't go away. My pretty safe prediction is that barely six months into 2017 t.v. 'news reporters' with little else to do will be stirring up speculation about likely candidates for 2020 and start the cycle all over again. I placed 'news reporters' in single quotes because by now it must be fairly obvious that journalists have all but given up their traditional role of being disinterested professionals and have become enthusiastic and unashamed curators of the news. ůmore
Events of late have made me wonder if Darwin got it only half right. I don't quarrel with the theory proposed in On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), that modern man evolved from earlier primates and the earlier primates from mammals, that in all probability, evolved from even more primitive life forms. Even though I don't pretend to be anything close to a biologist, it all seems to make a lot of sense. Some of us agree with Darwin's theories, some not. Some people argue the subject heatedly, while others simply agree to disagree. That is what civilized people (i.e. those who have evolved intellectually and morally) do. What uncivilized people do is kill others who do not believe as they do. ůmore
The day after the California primary the television news organizations lost little time analyzing the results. My personal bias, shared by many others, is of someone who being unable to support either major party candidate, will be going the third party route for the fourth consecutive election cycle. My respect for Bernie Sanders, even though I disagreed with him on several issues, is now moot. So it might well be 1856 all over again, but more on that later.
Honest television news coverage is hard to come by, but I find the PBS News Hour the least objectionable of the lot – no pharmaceutical ads or breathless celebration of pop culture personalities is a pretty good competitive advantage. Having said that, I was quite surprised (well, not really) by the list of guest analysts Judy Woodruff had on the News Hour the day after the primary. The three she invited to analyze Mrs. Clinton's big win in California and consequent locking up of the Democrat nomination, took turns gushing, giggling and swooning over the prospect of a ůmore
A friend in Germany has been a bit dazed and confused by the American presidential campaign and wondered if I, as an American, might be able to explain the Trump phenomenon. I can't, but here goes anyway...
The front-runners of the two major political parties would head my short list for a Who's Who of weird participants in the 2016 Flying Political Circus. Mr. Trump has no trouble coming up with endlessly reported soundbites that make a lot of people cringe, seems hell-bent on establishing himself as the Andrew Dice Clay of American politics, and then compounds the felony by having a lousy interior decorator. ůmore
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. ůmore