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
On Wednesday, June 7, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books, with highlights from the colonization of the Americas, as well as botanical prints and original watercolors. The sale is led by Samuel Baker’s untrimmed and unjoined A New and Exact Map of the Island of St. Christopher in America, 1753, which shows the island, now better known as St. Kitts, divided into parishes with a wealth of early information relating to structures on the island, as well as the surrounding waters. The borders of each of the four sheets are decorated in an elaborate Baroque style; the map is valued between $20,000 and $30,000.
Among other valuable items, the sale offers a trove of rare early maps of the United States. Selections include a 1750 map of Pennsylvania by Lewis Evans, whose publication in Germany helped spark emigration to the state, resulting in the still-traditional Pennsylvania Dutch population ($10,000 to $15,000). John Ogilby and Arnoldus Montanus’s America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World, 1673, will be offered at $10,000 to $15,000. There is also a run of rare island maps by Aaron Arrowsmith, including a 1830 chart of Hawaii, then called "The Sandwich Islands," which, according to an inscription on the back, was purchased in 1832 by a ship’s captain who made a voyage to the area two years later ($8,000 to $12,000). Also available is a map by Henry Briggs showing California as an island, 1625 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 ůmore
On Thursday, May 25, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of Graphic Design, featuring a premier selection of posters, books and magazines by outstanding designers from around the world, including mid-century activism and American pop culture. Early twentieth-century French posters lead the sale, with highlights ranging from A.M. Cassandre’s SS. “Côte d’Azur”, 1911, to Leonetto Cappiello’s Le Petit Dauphinois, 1933, an advertisement for one of the largest periodicals in the Alps at the time ($15,000 to $20,000 and $30,000 to $40,000, respectively). Also featured is Paul Colin’s complete portfolio Le Tumulte Noir, 1927, a tribute to Jazz-Age Paris and the craze for the Charleston, introduced by the actress Josephine Baker (who was also Colin’s lover). Two of the 42 original pochoir lithographs specifically depict Baker: one in a grass skirt, and one in her infamous banana skirt. The present copy, from the original edition of 500, includes the double cover and the rare insert bearing the French advisory “there is no advertising page in this album” ($25,000 to $35,000). Col van Heusen, 1928, by Charles Loupot, one of the artist’s most elegant Cubist designs, which has only appeared once previously at auction, and his verdant Voisin Automobiles, 1923, are each expected to bring between $20,000 and $30,000.
Outstanding works from the Vienna Secession begin with Richardsquelle, 1899, an alluring banner by Koloman Moser promoting mineral water, estimated at $12,000 to $18,000. Two scarce publications on the period will be available: the only comprehensive book on the Golden Age of Austrian posters, Österreichische Plakatkunst, circa 1914, with 24 color plates, and the complete 12-volume set of Die Fläche, the design magazine by the Wiener Werkstätte, 1903-04 ($6,000 to $9,000 and $12,000 to $18,000, respectively). ůmore
On Thursday, June 1st, PBA Galleries presents Part I of The Richard Beagle Collection of Angling and Sporting Books. The auction will consist of over 300 lots of rare and important works on angling and fishing, plus scarce accounts of big game hunting and adventures in the wild, gathered over several decades. The collection includes numerous books containing original specimens of flies, rare limited editions, many signed and inscribed copies, and more, all in superb condition.
Highlighting the sale is The Ristigouche and Its Salmon Fishing, in two volumes, by the American fishing enthusiast Dean Sage published in Edinburgh, 1888 and limited to 105 copies. Arguably the rarest and most beautiful book on salmon fishing, Sage starts with the geography and history of the Ristigouche, one of the best salmon-fishing rivers in the world, before describing the habits of the salmon and the history of fishing clubs, while entertaining the reader with many fishing stories throughout. (estimate: $15,000-$25,000)
Several books with tied flies are featured in the sale including a rare deluxe issue of Leonard West’s The Natural Trout Fly and Its Imitation. Published in 1912, this is one of only a few copies of the deluxe issue containing 13 color plates and 108 specimen flies bound in on sunken mounts (estimate: $10,000-$15,000). A signed copy ůmore
Swann Galleries has announced highlights from their June 13 auction of Art, Press & Illustrated Books, which will feature premier examples of printing that elevate the humble book to a noble art form. The sale is led by an inscribed limited first edition on vellum of Arthur Szyk’s Haggadah, 1939, with 14 jewel-like full-page color plates by the artist. The work was illustrated by Szyk in Poland in the mid-1930s, has been called the most celebrated modern Haggadah and carries an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000.
An outstanding selection of press books by Bernhardt Wall from the Natalie Williams Collection features a number of presentation copies, including the 85-volume magnum opus Following Abraham Lincoln 1809-1865, with over 900 signed etchings ($10,000 to $15,000), as well as the signed complete set of The Etcht Miniature Monthly Magazine, 1948, ($3,000 to $4,000). A selection of Wall’s personal sketchbooks from the 1920s offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist. Further editions by fine private presses of the twentieth century include works from Doves and Gemini to Granary, Limestone and the Limited Editions Club.
A collection of French livres d'artiste includes a signed limited first edition of Henri Matisse’s Cinquante Dessins, 1920, with 50 images of his work, valued at 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
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. 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
(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) 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