On Thursday, April 27, Swann Galleries will offer Printed & Manuscript Americana, offering historical material from North and South America from the past five centuries. The top lot is a rare 1538 letter by the conquistador Hernán Cortés to the Majordomo Diego de Guinea, instructing him to provide hospitality to a visiting bishop, valued at $50,000 to $75,000. Only one other letter by Cortés has appeared at auction since 1984. The sale features a fantastic array of early Latin Americana, including the first edition of the lavishly illustrated early nineteenth-century Brazilian travel book Malerische Reise in Brasilien by Johann Moritz Rugendas, and a signed manuscript profession of faith by Jesuit missionary Eusebio Kino in 1684 ($15,000 to $25,000 and $20,000 to $30,000, respectively). One of the first Mexican novels, La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte, 1792, by Joaquín Bolaños, contains the earliest known use of skeletons in Mexican literature—these engravings …more
On Thursday, May 4, Swann Galleries will hold their biannual auction of Autographs, featuring personal snippets of the lives of important artists, musicians, politicians, scientists and writers. A highlight of the sale is a love letter from Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich, in which he asks her to visit him at Finca Vigía, Cuba, and tells her about his work on The Old Man and the Sea. On August 12, 1953, he wrote, “Please know that I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always.” The letter, written on four sheets of hotel stationery, comes from Dietrich’s family; it valued at $20,000 to $30,000. From the same consignment come several other letters from the author that open “My dearest Marlene,” sent in the 1950s from around the world. In a 1950 letter from Venice, …more
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, …more
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. …more
Albany Book Fair Revived (submitted by Garry Austin)
Dear Friends & Colleagues:
It is my great pleasure to announce that the Albany Book Fair is back after a two year hiatus! The Albany Institute of History & Art is once again our sponsor and this year’s fair will be held November 26, 2017 at the Polish Community Center, 225 Washington Avenue Ext. Albany NY. The PCC is a well known destination and is home to a number of events, the DAR Antique Show; the Albany Stamp & Coin Show, the Train Show and a number of other well established and well attended fairs and shows. You'll find their exhibition space more akin to a hotel ballroom – carpeted, well-lit and without stairs or other impediments to hinder easy access. …more
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. …more
Delirium: The Art of the Symbolist Book, opening January 20 at the Morgan Library & Museum, explores creative encounters between Symbolist authors and the artists in their circles. The movement coalesced during the second half of the nineteenth century as writers in France and Belgium sought a new form of art—one that referenced the visible world as symbols that correlate to ideas and states of mind. The Symbolists celebrated subjectivity, expressed through a nuanced language of reverie, delirium, mysticism, and ecstasy. For these writers, literature suggests meaning rather than defines it. The Symbolist movement was a revolt against naturalism, …more
The Nationalmuseum, Sweden’s largest and most distinguished art institution, is collaborating with the Morgan Library & Museum to bring more than seventy-five masterpieces from its renowned collections to New York in an extraordinary new exhibition opening February 3. The show features work by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Antoine Watteau, and François Boucher, and is the first collaboration between the two institutions in almost fifty years. Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin runs through May 14. The Nationalmuseum’s core holdings were assembled by Count Carl Gustaf Tessin (1696–1770), a diplomat and one of the great art collectors of his day. The son and grandson of architects, Tessin held posts in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, where he came into contact with the leading Parisian artists of the time and commissioned many works from them. By the time he left the city in 1742, he amassed an impressive collection of paintings and drawings.
Among the fourteen paintings in the exhibition are three commissioned by Count Tessin and exhibited at the 1740 Parisian Salon. Chief among these is Boucher’s Triumph of Venus, which is making its first journey to North America. Other paintings include Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s Dachshund Pehr with Dead Game and Rifle, and a Portrait of Count Tessin by Jacques-André-Joseph Aved, in which the collector is shown among his art, books, and medals. Six works by Jean-Siméon Chardin, notably the Morning Toilette, complete the group. The drawings in the exhibition include works by Italian masters such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Raphael, Giulio Romano, and Annibale Carracci. Northern European artists are represented by Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Anthony van Dyck, among others. The French drawings begin with Primaticcio and practitioners of the Fontainebleau school and include works by Jacques Callot and Nicholas Poussin, as well as Count Tessin’s French contemporaries, Watteau, Boucher, and Chardin. …more
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 …more
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 . . . …more
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 …more
On Thursday, March 2, Swann Galleries’ sale of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings exceeded $3,000,000 and broke ten auction records. The house, which is celebrating it diamond anniversary this year, has enjoyed several record-breaking sales already in their spring 2017 season. The rare deluxe edition of Marc Chagall’s 1948 portfolio Four Tales from the Arabian Nights, of which only 11 were printed, topped the sale. The set belonged to the publisher of Pantheon Books, Kurt Wolff. The vibrant color lithographs include the 13th plate denoting the deluxe edition; still in the original case, the set sold to a collector for $269,000.
Early twentieth-century American prints saw competitive bidding and high prices. Edward Hopper’s rare 1921 etching Evening Wind sold for $149,000, nearly doubling its high estimate of $80,000. The American master was also represented in the sale by the 1921 etching Night Shadows, which went for $33,800. A premiere selection of prints by Hopper’s mentor Martin Lewis was led by the extremely rare aquatint Which Way?, 1932, which was purchased for $42,500, a record for the work. Further highlights by Lewis included the 1929 drypoint Bay Windows and 1916’s etching The Orator, Madison Square, each of which went for $27,500.
Another highlight of the sale was Männlicher Akt (Selbstbildnis I), 1912, Egon Schiele’s first attempt at a printed self-portrait; the work brought $30,000. A 1914 drypoint by the artist, Kümmernis, was purchased for $15,000. Orologi Molli, a watercolor by Salvador Dalí featuring one of his famous melting clocks, surpassed its high estimate to sell for $112,500. Another original, a pen and ink drawing by Paul Klee of prancing bulls, titled Drama in der Kuhwelt, 1915, reached $25,000.
All four offered works by Mary Cassatt found buyers, including the rare circa-1902 drypoint Crocheting Lessons, which sold for $27,500. Another Cassatt, the color drypoint and soft-ground etching The Coiffure, circa 1891, broke its previous auction record to sell for $81,250. Etchings made by James A.M. Whistler during a 1879-80 trip to Venice performed well, including the luminous Upright Venice, at $70,000. Two further prints from the same period each broke their previous auction records: The Garden reached $70,000, while San Biagio sold for $62,500. The complete set of 14 lithographs in Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s Mélodies de Désiré Dihau, 1895, was sold for $30,000, a record for the work. The set was previously in …more
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. …more
(Scarce Photo of Baldwin in His Airship - 1909) Original 10x8" b&w press photo of Thomas Scott Baldwin in his airship over the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Sep 25 - Oct 9, 1909. Numerous pencil identifications and news service rubber stamps on the reverse. Baldwin is a very famous aviator who is not widely known. He held Balloon Pilot License #1, Airship Pilot License #9 and Airplane Pilot License #7. Good condition, some small chips around the edges not affecting the image. $55.00(more on this and other books available from Early Aeronautica)
Roosevelt, Theodore.A Book-Lover's Holidays In The Open. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916. First Edition. Hardcover. Octavo; pp. x,(vi), 373, (ii), appendices, ad leaf for Life Histories; Illustrated; color frontispiece by Ted Pitman, and two additional black and white illustrations; blue cloth, gilt device, top edge gilt. A collection of varied pieces from hunting cougars to Hopi... $125.00 (more on this and other books available from Theodore Roosevelt Books)
Frost, Robert.North of Boston. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 1915. First American edition to be printed in America. Denoted the "third edition" on copyright page but actually the second edition, as the first Holt edition from the British sheets was labeled "second edition." Inscribed "To Walter King Stone -- 1932." Above his inscription Frost has transcribed the complete poem "The Pasture," the first poem in this book, which made its first appearance in this title; and, at Frost's direction, the first poem in all later selections or collections of his poetry. . . $6,000.00 (more on this and other books available from Quill & Brush)
Strickland, Agnes. Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest; with Anecdotes of their Courts, Now First Published from Official Records and other Authentic Documents, Private as well as Public. New Edition, with Corrections and Additions. Philadelphia: Blanchard & Lea, 1855. Revised & Enlarged Edition. 12 volumes bound as six. Bound in half brown morocco and marbled boards, marbled endpapers. $200.00(more on this and other books available from R & A Petrilla)
Solis [y Ribadeneyra], Antonio de.The History of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. Translated from the Original Spanish of Don Antonio de Solis [y Ribadeneyra], Secretary and Historiographer to His Catholick Majesty, by Thomas Townsend, Esq; The whole Translation Revised and Corrected by Nathanael [sic] Hooke, Esq;… The Third Edition. London: Printed for H. Lintot; J. Whiston and B. White, at Mr. Boyle’s Head, and L. Davis, at Lord Bacon’s Head, both in Fleet-street; and D. Wilson, at Plato’s Head, in the Strand, MDCCLIII . 12mo., xvi, 384, folding frontispiece, 2 folding maps, 4 folding plates; x, 386pp., 2 folding plates. Bound in contemporary full calf, double-ruled gilt borders, raised bands, red leather labels intact. SABIN 86491. According to Sabin copies held by the Library of Congress, Library Company of Philadelphia, New York Public Library et al. have only two plates in volume 2. External hinges of volume 1 tender and beginning to crack, o/w a very nice set with plates in brilliant condition. $750.00 (more on this and other books available from John C. Huckans Books)
(Sugar Castles & Fruit Fantasias - early Spanish dessert recipes) Mata, Juan de la. Arte de reposteria, en que se contiene todo gènero de hacer dulces secos, y en lìquido, vizcochos, turrones, natas: Bebidas heladas de todos generos, rosolis, mistelas, &c. con una breve instruccion para conocer las frutas, y servirlas crudas. Madrid: Josef Herrera, 1786. 4to.  ff., 208 pp. $2750.00 (more on this and other books available from Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts) …more