Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2017 Issue

Exploring the World and Collecting Books

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Material coming to auction in Christies' sale of The Martin Greene Library

Editor's Note: On December 7, Christie's will host a sale of Russian America & Polar Exploration: Highlights from the Martin Greene Library. The following is an introduction written by the collector, Mr. Greene.

 

Reading, traveling and collecting books – great hobbies that have filled empty hours and enriched my life. What a privilege it was in 1998 to go with legendary book dealer Bill Reese to the Beinecke Library at Yale to collate four copies of the Sarychev 1802 texts and plate books, two belonging to the library and two of ours. I could not understand why The Library of Congress listed 56 plates, which, if true, meant that all the copies we had were defective. This question sent me on trips to the Library of Congress and to many libraries in the USA and Russia to look at 15 other known copies of this rare work. Sure enough, the Library of Congress copy was the “defective” one, with six plates from another book added to the 50 plates from the Sarychev.

 

My parents’ families came to the USA from Russia in the 1890s, settling in Nebraska and Minnesota. By age 16 I had visited all 48 of the United States, later adding Alaska and Hawaii to the list (admitted as states in 1959). After moving to Seattle in 1969, I visited Alaska many times, climbing mountains and collecting more books. Visits to Sitka, former home of the Russian-American Company, to Fairbanks to see the wonderful collections at the University of Alaska Rasmuson Library, and climbing Mount McKinley (Denali) and other mountains were highlights of my life.

 

In London, in June of 1999, I waited in the queue for the opening of the Olympia Book Fair and went immediately to Reg and Philip Remington’s booth. Philip asked if I would be interested in a Kruzenshtern atlas that had come into their shop the day before. The answer, of course, was a very definite “yes,” and I sat down and spent the next two hours with this incredible set. In time, other dealers wandered by, and soon the whole room became a-twitter that there was a Kruzenshtern atlas at the fair. But I did not let it out of my hands until I confirmed with Philip that I would indeed purchase it. What a find! No other copy of this work has been on the market, to my knowledge, since that memorable day.

 

An enjoyable aspect of collecting for me was that I could make my own rules. I decided to collect books on Greenland, but not on Iceland. With our Russian background, and with two children and a granddaughter who spoke Russian to assist me, I set a goal to acquire the 161 titles in Valerian Lada-Mocarski’s Bibliography of Books on Alaska published before 1868 (New Haven and London: 1969).

 

Lada-Mocarski included books which he considered most important in telling the story of the exploration and settlement of Russian-America before the U.S. purchase of Alaska in 1867. His own collection was sold in 1971 by San Francisco book dealer Warren Howell to Elmer Rasmuson of Alaska. I believe the present sale includes the most extensive privately held collection of Lada-Mocarski titles (135 lots representing 98 of the 161 Lada-Mocarski entries) since that author’s own collection was described and sold nearly 50 years ago.

 

The search for these rarities has been exciting, educational, and a lot of fun. I thank my book dealer friends and the sellers at auctions for helping me along this road. The story of the 1844 Sherman edition of Wilkes’s Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 (lot 295) is fascinating. Apparently, a book scout found this set in a pile of books scheduled for deaccession by the State Library of Iowa in Des Moines. He called Greg Gibson in Massachusetts, who then called me. The bindings needed work but apparently the books had never been opened by the good people of Iowa. All the tissue guards were present and the pages had virtually no wear or foxing. Only one other set, the one belonging to Wilkes himself, has ever come on the auction market. The remaining 71 copies (after an early fire destroyed 27 of the original 100 printed) were given to States or foreign governments, and are very difficult for collectors to obtain. I was very lucky indeed.

 

For this auction, we selected titles that I would like to be in the hands of other collectors. They tell the stories of some great explorations – of Alaska, important Pacific Voyages to America, the Northwest and Northeast Passages, the search for Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition, and of Arctic and Antarctic explorations. I smile when I look at these books, and I will smile when I think of others enjoying them in their collections.

 

Martin L. Greene
Seattle, WA, USA.
December 2017

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b> Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Strabo. <i>Rerum geographicarum libri septemdecim. A Guilielmo Xylandro Augstano magna cura recogniti…,</i> Basel, Henricpetri, (August 1571). $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Riou, Stephen (1720-1780). <i>The Grecian Orders of Architecture. Delineated and Explained from the Antiquities of Athens,</i> London, 1768. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Mair, Paul Hektor. <i>Geschlechter Buch...der...Statt Augspurg,</i> Frankfurt am Maim, Sigmund Feyerabend, 1580. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.). <i>Historiarum libri priores quinque,</i> Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1549. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. <i>Columna Antoniniana Marci Aurelii Antonini Augusti rebus gestis insignis Germanis simul...,</i> Rome, [1672]. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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